Luxury hotels and chateaux, Michelin-starred restaurants, and my favorite shops on sale. And excellent company. Talk about a great combination for a summer holiday.
So little by little, our nth foodie trip around France and Spain is getting organized.
There's never enough time to do everything we want, but it's a respectable two weeks of fun, starting in Paris and ending in San Sebastian in Spain, at the height of summer and Europe's sale season.
Today, we put everything in an Excel spreadsheet so that all the details were clear -- down to the reservation numbers for all the hotels and restaurants we had booked.
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WHAT THE PARIS SALE SEASON
DOES TO PEOPLE
Talk about great timing.
I haven't really decided about the shopping part yet, as I've got an amazing holiday in Morocco to finish first, but I already have a tentative itinerary made up in my mind, based on happy forays into previous Paris sales.
My first stop is going to be Christian Louboutin, although we're going to be slightly late for the sales, so I don't know what will be left by then.
When I go to his shop a few days after Day 1 of the sales, I'm always stuck with espadrilles and all the lovely sandals with heels that are so light on the feet are gone.
These are the only heels I buy, as they are the lightest things I have ever put on my feet. No kidding.
MY SHOPPING SECRET:
UNGARO IN PARIS
I also like visiting Emanuel Ungaro's shop near the Plaza Athenee and the Four Seasons George V.
The dresses on sale are reasonably priced, and there's a seamstress inhouse who will adjust the dress to your exact measurements in the most amazing and old-fashioned way, with a wooden contraption only Paris couturier houses ever use these days.
The result is the equivalent of a made-to-order couturier dress for the price of an RTW on sale. Even just for the experience of being measured up ever so precisely by a Parisian master seamstress, it's worth it to buy a dress here.
And especially one on sale.
SKIPPING THE HERMES SALE THIS YEAR
This is just an image photo.
The shopping bags at the Hermes sale are actually nondescript white.
My first stop on Day 1 of the Paris sales is usually the Hermes sale, conducted in a nondescript location far from the glamour of its shops.
Most people in the know line up here very early in the morning, but I just can't bring myself to go out of the hotel until after I've had a proper breakfast; so I always get there at around 8 AM and I have to line up for this for a couple of hours as a result.
The problem with this sale is that you need to go on Day 1 for the Hermes sale, or don't bother going at all.
And if you want first dibs, you need to get there at around 4 AM at the latest -- that's a good four hours ahead of my usual time, and it's way too early for me.
Even for Hermes on sale.
So I'm skipping it this year.
There are never any of the iconic bags I love on sale ever anyway. Although once, I heard they actually had a Kelly on sale.
For some reason, I can never resist buying shoes at the Hermes sale in Paris. I buy at least two pairs because they look so stylish to me, especially at 40% off. But I still have to find a pair that are as comfortable as those made by Christian Louboutin.
Most of my Hermes shoes are still sitting in their cloth bags in my shoes room in Tokyo, unused except for once or twice because my feet ache when I wear them. I've learned my lesson now.
EVERYWHERE I WANT TO BE
As usual, for this summer in Europe, I'm mostly in charge of deciding on the hotels, the private guides, and most of the restaurants.
I've booked a mixture of places to stay -- from the very best places in the city, to a very grand hotel, to a couple of places in the country with famous chefs.
Some of them I've stayed in before and liked, while others are hotels I'm visiting for the first time.
Oh yes. And a lovely chateau known for its excellent restaurant, amazing wine cellar and beautiful rooms. I finally get this off my bucket list.
I've been wanting to stay here for the longest time, but I have never had the time to do so until now. So I finally booked two nights there this time.
SEE YOU AGAIN SOON, SAN SEBASTIAN.
And all the restaurants I wanted to book in Spain are happily confirmed, including one-on-one meetings with famous chefs.
So everything has worked out perfectly.
So everything has worked out perfectly.
So it looks like everything's all set for this chapter in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
Now to have some fun first in Morocco...