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Simone Perele Has Made Your Perfect V-Day Bra

I really like Simone Perele, which sits between the rah-rah ease of Princesse Tam Tam and the pricy luxury of Eres. Enter Simone Perele, founded in 1948 by the Mlle herself, following the receipt of her diploma in corsetry making. She handled the design work, her husband Wolf took care of growing the enterprise, and together, the pair opened their first Parisian studio in the 9th arrondissement, at 8 rue de Montyon. Sixty-nine years later, the label opened its first Simone Pérèle-branded shop, in the 4th, at 84 rue de François Miron. (They have five boutiques in Paris, total — the one in the 4th, two in the 6th, one in the 14th and one in the 16th — plus one nearby, in Neuilly-sur-Seine.)

I love their bras, don’t feel strongly either way about their panties, and think American brands should have a lock on shapewear until Kim Kardashian is starring in The Golden Bachelorette. Ergo, these picks focus on the soutiens-gorge.

simone perele - wish demi bra

Pretty!!! Unlike Eres, which feels to me quite sexy/utilitarian, and unlike Princesse Tam Tam, which to me feels quite sexy/youthful, this is just super pretty. There’s a place for it! Underwire, with floral embroidery on tulle cups. Wish demi bra, $125

simone perele saga triangle bra

Love this in red if you’re into Valentine’s Day-themed lingerie. This is literally the first bra I’ve written about that has any level of padding, and it’s pretty minimal. Saga plunge bra, $140

simone perele demi wish bra

This is the Wish bra above in a different colorway, and if I celebrated Valentine’s Day through color-coordinated underwear, this is definitely the one I would go with. Wish demi cup, $115

Comete Lace Trim Tulle Bralette

As bralettes go, this has very beautiful lace and very little support. Comete lace-trim tulle bralette, $115

simone perele comete

If you’re looking for something equally pretty and delicate but have boobs that would much prefer a little support, consider the Comete, which has been “specially engineered with extra coverage and support for larger cup sizes.” Simone Perele Comete, $120

Princesse Tam Tam Is Entry-Level French Lingerie, and I Love It

I remember when I first started looking to buy a bra in France and walked into Princess Tam Tam. I had been raised on apple pie and Victoria’s Secret — where were the bras with padding? With small pillows, embedded in the stitching? Mais non. It was such a sartorial shift from what I was accustomed to that I think I walked out without buying anything. These were the non-inflated bras I had always dreamed of; I just couldn’t believe they existed.

That was a while ago now, and obviously we’ve collectively moved beyond the trend of B cups dressed up as D cups. I still love Princesse Tam Tam, and all my favorite underwear is from there. It’s definitely not cheaper (there are cheaper options on this list), but it’s a fraction of the truly pricy lines, like Eres. It’s probably no accident that the line was founded by two women, Loumia and Shama Hiridjee, almost 40 years ago (1985, specifically). Like Eres, it feels like lingerie designed by women for women, not by some weird dude in Ohio for really sad girls working overtime to stoke a really specific kind of desire.

Two important notes: I’m including Princesse Tam Tam even though they don’t deliver to the US, just to get them on your radar for your next trip to France. (If you’re super motivated, there’s always reshippers like Easy Delivery, which, for a fee, will forward your package from France to the U.S.)

And as your resident B cup, I want to note that a lot of their bras are unwired or unstructured, so this might not be the best choice for larger cups.

I love the light ‘n’ bright collection shown above, which is from the new spring line — the briefs are 15€ and the bras are 25€.

princesse tam tam - hypnose briefs

Full coverage! Very cute! No thongs! Hypnose briefs, 29€

princesse tam tam - ella bra

A triangle bra with moderate support, no wires, and double straps at the shoulders. The Ella, 59€

princesse tam tam - eden bra

It may not look like it, but of all the choices here, this one has the most support and is fully wired. Embroidered stretch tulle in a very sweet pink. Eden bra, 59€

princesse tam tam - flore bra

I have this bra and it’s basically a bralette, it’s so light. You will know if that is a good fit for you, or nah. Flore bra, 59€.

eres lingerie

5 Excellent Lingerie Selects from Eres

Eres makes some of the world’s most in-demand swimwear — and wouldn’t you know it, some of its loveliest, and priciest, lingerie as well.

Eres makes exceptionally well-made and attractive lingerie, but I don’t think it’s particularly sexy. Or maybe it’s that French brand of sexiness, which is so often not exactly the same thing as American (or even British) sexiness — obvious, over-the-top, “feminine” in the most clichéd way. (See: Agent Provocateur.) Eres is lingerie for the female gaze, if you know what I mean: sexy but not a stereotype, made to last, made to be beautiful.

One big plus in Eres’s column is its quality. If you’re not bothered about quality, I feel like Princesse Tam Tam does a very similar look, it’s just not as well made. With some luxury brands, you are legitimately just paying for the brand, but swimwear (which is the brand’s bread and butter) is activewear, and much has been made of Eres’s commitment to creating performance fabrics. This WWD article reads like #sponcon, but it goes deep into how strenuously the fabrics are tested, so that the colors are fast and so that use doesn’t wear out the fabric. Quite a lot of the brand’s lingerie in fact looks like swimwear, so if that’s your thing, there’s plenty to choose from. It’s not my thing, so the picks below are lacier.

Below, my fave five pieces.

best french lingerie - bodysuit

My favorite part of the product description for this lovely bodysuit is the color: “A dark navy blue like a night sky.” Mais oui! I feel like Siobhan Roy might have worn this to a board meeting? Eres Aérobic bodysuit, $620best french lingerie - triangle bra

I love that very structured cup, which is as structured as it can be while still being wireless. Fragrance bra, $335

best french lingerie - chataigne bra

You probably have a quasi-sheer white blouse that would be perfect for this bra. Chataigne full-cup bra, $410

 

best french lingerie - parfum briefs

Super cute, but also full coverage — quite possibly a winning combination. Parfum high-waisted briefs, $205

best french lingerie - tisane briefs

I mean that’s a very slight revision on the pair above. Personally I love the higher waist and full, non-thong style. Tisane briefs, $190

are veja sneakers comfortable - photo of v-12 mesh sneakers

Are Veja Sneakers Comfortable? No. (But Hold On.)

There’s an easy answer to the question: Are Veja sneakers comfortable? The answer is no. The answer is no! Sucks, but they’re not.

However. 

I love my Vejas — all my Vejas — and I continue to wear them. Let’s dig into this.

First: What are Vejas?

Despite its name, Veja is a French brand of high-end, athletic-inspired footwear. (Is it just me? Before a Veja store moved in down the block from my apartment, I thought it was a Spanish line.) Sustainability was built into the brand from the launch, in 2004, when co-founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion built out a production model in Brazil that made use of sustainably produced Amazonian rubber, organic cotton (farmed in the south of the country), and chrome-free leather, which supposedly means less waste in terms of water and energy. (According to them: “Coming from farms located in the south of Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul), it undergoes an innovative tanning process where no chrome, heavy metals or dangerous acids are involved. By simplifying the tanning process, the use of chemicals and energy is limited, the use of water is reduced by about 40% and the use of salt by 80%. After tanning, the water is recyclable.” I can’t guarantee the value of any of this #greenwashing.)

Coolness was also built into the brand from the beginning: It launched at the Palais de Tokyo (a v. hip Paris museum), and early collaborators included Agnès B. and Comptoir des Cotonniers. Nearly 20 years later, you’ll see a line outside its shops: There are Veja stores in five cities: in Paris (one in the Marais, one in Montmartre), Bordeaux, Berlin, Madrid, and New York.

BTW: Most of the images and sales links below go to Madewell, since they had the best-looking photos, but Vejas are available across the Internet, at shops like Zappos, Shopbop, Free People, Amazon, the Veja store, and many others. They absolutely do go on sale, so have a good look around, and always keep an eye out for their great collabs — I’m obsessed with this Marni collab, now on sale.

So: Are Veja Sneakers Comfortable? It Depends.

It depends on the model. Some are, some aren’t. Here’s a breakdown:

veja campos

The Campo

The signature Veja style is probably the Campo (or the Esplars, which are a little narrower). It’s a low, fairly lightweight sneaker, and they look amazing with jeans, shorts, leggings, almost literally anything. Because they’re (for the most part) mostly white (with some colorful decoration in the logo and heel tag), you have to work really hard to get a pair that doesn’t go with almost everything — they’re super versatile. They’re great for a date where you might need to do some but not a ton of walking, or most weekend activities.

What they don’t have is terrific support, so if that’s a priority for you, try one of the sportier models. They can be quite stiff, and while they loosen up a bit, my two pairs have never felt truly “broken in,” if you know what I mean. Also, they look like sneakers, but they wear, in my opinion, more like loafers, or something with a less cushioned base. Honestly, when I learned that they’re made in Brazil, my first response was that it made sense, because to me they feel like winter-Havaianas: They’re not comfortable, but they’re not awful. You wouldn’t want to hike in them. You wouldn’t want to walk 40 blocks in them. (You could, but you’d have better shoes for the job.) Basically I wear them on days when I want to look cute — and know I won’t have a ton of walking to do.

FTR, this isn’t a question of breaking them in — I’ve had two pairs I’ve worn for over a year. They held up well — but they never became much more comfortable on Day 500 than they were on Day 5.

BUY IT HERE: Madewell

veja esplars

The Esplar

The Esplar is a lot like the Campo, but it’s slightly narrower, and the sole seems a little thinner to me. I bought these for myself originally, and then ended up trading them in for the Campos. It’s a no from me, dawg.

I do like the version in pink, at least from a looks perspective.

BUY IT HERE: Zappos

vejas v-10s with blue and red details

The V-10s

The V-10s are the Vejas made famous by Meghan Markle. On this point, I agree with her choice: Of all the Vejas in my personal rotation, the V-10s are both the most comfortable and the most athletic-looking, thanks to that waterproof mesh between the laces and the toes. (It’s basically the French version of a regular American sneaker.) The Campo and the Esplar, by contrast, have their usual smooth leather there. These are the only Vejas I would wear to the airport (not for nothing did they not make my list of airport necessities, but these are still noticeably better structured and better cushioned than the Campos/Esplars). The problem is that they’re not as sleek as those two, either. Like so many things in life, we have a trade-off: You can get your cushioning and support, but you’ll have to give up a little bit of the style. You’ll know who you are, depending on whether you’re googling “are veja sneakers extremely cute” and “are veja sneakers comfortable.” If the former, go with the Campos. If the latter, I love the V-10s.

Note: The pair at the top of this page are V-12s. If you’re wondering how about the V-10s vs V-12s, the latter is a little narrower, just like the Esplars relative to the Campos. But they’re super similar.

BUY IT HERE: Madewell

are veja sneakers comfortable - dark navy veja condor 2sThe Condor 2

Honestly, I don’t know who these are for: They’re super heavy for a running shoe (which is how they’re marketed), and I don’t find them half as fashionable as the three models above — it’s like someone at Veja saw a Hoka one time and has been trying to recreate it from scratch since then. As a former (two-time!) marathon runner, I literally could not imagine running any serious distance in these. I actually found them less comfortable than V-10s. I think you can make the case for any of the three models above — but these I would skip, unless you just like the look, in which case, have at it.

(DON’T) BUY IT HERE: Madewell

Finally: Are Vejas Worth It?

Yes! That’s the crazy thing. The answer to: Are Veja sneakers comfortable? It’s still no. But I do think they’re worth it. I just wouldn’t rely on them on a 20,000-step day. But a day at a desk, then maybe in an Uber? And you have a new pair of news and want to look cute? Perfection.

vintage makeup

The 15 Skincare Products My French Makeup Consultant Recommended To Me

One of my weird splurges this year was a makeup consult with a verifiable Parisian makeup artist. It was a strange experience — I don’t wear a lot of makeup, and I walked out of there wearing a lot more than I’m used to. I don’t know how much time I need to spend looking at my face, you know what I mean? But I loved her skincare recs, which definitely lean toward the vegan, the pricey, the Euro (especially Austrian!), and the exclusive. I think Gwyneth Paltrow might own everything on this list? It’s very Goop-y.

She divided my suggested routine into three steps: makeup removal/cleansing, more cleansing, and then a soothing eau de rose. They’re all listed below. Wherever possible, I found US-based retailers for her suggestions — where I couldn’t, I included the French retailers. (This will be clear from whether the price is listed in dollars or euros.) Remember that though the prices are obviously correct, the French purchases will mean high shipping charges, so it might be worth considering another product or putting it on your list for the next time you’re in France.

Also, I’ll note that the Paris shop she recommended most was Mon Corner B, which is French but has a built-0ut website for English speakers and is well worth a look.

Final note: She was OK with me sharing this list, but not putting her identité online (so French) — that said, I’m happy to connect you if you’re looking for a makeup artist in Paris.

Cleansing Step 1: Makeup removing and first-level cleaning:

– Eye makeup remover: Respectissime from La Roche Posay.
Purity & Grace from Max and Me. I found this to be like a high-end version of Shu Uemura’s cleansing oil.
Suzanne Kaufmann cleansing milk. I found this very heavy!
Gressa Skin Balancing cleanser ($42)
– Lodesse makeup remover (mais “plus qu’un simple démaquillant, c’est un véritable soin qui combine démaquillage en douceur et en profondeur avec soin et nutrition”) (30€)
Mawena rose moringa cleanser and makeup remover ($49) I loved this.
De Mamiel Restorative Cleansing Balm ($80) — this is literally sold at Goop
– She rec’d a product from Cha Ling, which is Parisian and developed by LVMH and I just can’t — I can do hard to find, and super expensive, but not both at the same time.

Cleansing Step 2! More cleansing!
Nominoé Gentle Foam Face Cleanser (26.50€)
Grown Alchemist Gentle Gel Face Cleanser ($38)
Suzanne Kaufmann Cleansing Gel ($85)
De Mamiel powder exfoliant and cleanser ($24 — for some reason this is only available in a travel size)

And then an “eau florale ou tonique ou eau thermale”

Cleansing Step 3 — this is basically several suggestions for an eau de rose:
Nicole Atelier eau de rose (She also recommended “chez Aromazone,” which is one of my favorite shops in Paris but definitely not fancy)
Lodesse anti-fatigue lotion (25€)
Hevea’s hydrolat de rose de Damas (11.70€)
Eau florale de rose from Ma Thérapie ($16.50 — currently unavailable)

vat refunds france - la samaritaine

Literally Everything You Need to Know About VAT Refunds in France

You think it’d be easy to get free money from the government — but not. Claiming VAT refunds in France can be confusing AF — but the good news is nearly everyone’s confused, which means that there’s a lot of let’s say “gentle instruction,” from retailers and customs officials accustomed to dealing with people who don’t understand what’s going on. There are a ton of restrictions and exclusions, and the amount returned will vary on a bunch of different factors (not least how you want your money refunded, with cash coming at a slightly disadvantageous rate) — but know that if you stick with it, you’ll save about 12% on many of your big purchases. And note that if you’re buying luxury French brands, the savings can really add up — for example, the same exact pieces from Louis Vuitton can be 30% cheaper in France than in the U.S. Get shopping!

What is VAT?

VAT is an acronym for value-added tax. One of the ways governments make money is by taxing goods. In the U.S., that’s done transparently, in the form of additional sales taxes, usually paid to the city or state. In Europe, it’s done via VAT. VAT is included in the “final” price of a product — so when you pay 12€ for a book, you’re paying exactly 12€, not 12€ plus 6% or whatever your local sales tax might be. VAT in France typically makes up 20% of the price of a product. (For a complete guide to VATs around the world, see here.)

What are VAT refunds in France?

Pleasantly, many European governments offer partial VAT refunds to “visitors” to the country. That means you can request a refund for part of what you’ve spent on goods when traveling to France (and many other countries in Europe). There are, of course, all sorts of limitations to this.

How much is the VAT refund?

Knowing that the VAT is 20% of a good’s price, many visitors expect a refund of 20% of what they’ve spent. This isn’t correct: The refund is only 12% (on many/most goods, but not all). The other 8% goes to covering administration costs.

Who qualifies as a “visitor”?

You probably already know if you don’t qualify as a visitor. If you’re just a regular American, traveling to France on vacation, you’re probably a visitor. Unless you hold a residency permit and/or spend a substantial amount of time in France, you’re probably a visitor.

Students who are in France on a visa lasting more than six months are not eligible for VAT refunds.

What kinds of restrictions are there?

There are many, but a lot of them make sense. Purchases like meals and hotel stays aren’t eligible for VAT refunds. Purchases that would be very strange for a visitor to make — like a car — are similarly not eligible for a refund. Other purchases that don’t qualify: weapons, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, postage stamps, and “cultural relics more than 50 years old.”

Another one of the rules is that you must exit the country in question within three months of the purchase, taking the item with you.

The most important restriction is probably the minimum spend: In France, you need to spend 100.01 euros, at the same shop, on the same day, to qualify. This means that the authorities aren’t deluged with a million claims against 5€ purchases. It also means that you might want to be sure that the big-ticket shopping you do is concentrated in fewer shops, if possible — so one 240€ purchase rather than three 80€ purchases.

This can be more complicated than you might think, especially at department stores. There, concessions like Louis Vuitton or Diptyque aren’t fully financially integrated within the department store itself, so they’ll prepare their own tax forms. It means that if you spend 50€ at Vuitton (uh, unlikely, but you get the idea) and 60€ on books elsewhere in the store, neither purchase would qualify for the refund, because they’re considered separate purchases and don’t reach the 100.01€ threshold.

One more thing: Your purchase can’t be used (or worn) (or look like it is used or worn) before leaving. This is most frequently an issue if you buy luggage you want to use for your return trip. Practically, I know a lot of people who’ve bought luggage and claimed their refund, without any trouble.

VAT refunds in France: How does it work?

The most important thing is to go prepared. When making your purchase, you’ll need to inform the sales rep that you intend to claim your refund. You’ll need your passport (as proof of your visitor status). You might need to fill out a form with some of your details (this process is increasingly more digitized, so you probably won’t have to, like, hold or use a pen at any point.) You may also need to show your return plane ticket, as proof that you’ll be going home within the required three months, but it varies from store to store and anecdotally I’ve never been asked for this.

Some stores offer immediate refunds, but don’t count on this, as they’re the minority. More likely, you’ll need to hold on to your forms and deal with it later.

This sounds like a lot of hassle. Are there alternatives?

Yes! There are services for VAT refunds in France that will handle most of the details. The most popular is Global Blue, though there are newer, app-based services like Wevat. If you’re mostly shopping at luxury retailers, many of them use Global Blue, and the process is super quick and all digital.

What’s next?

You’ll need to validate your exit from the EU. Most likely, you’re doing this at an airport. (If you’re visiting multiple EU countries on the same trip, you can do it at your point of departure.) You’ll see signs all over the airport for tax refunds — be sure you have your passport, tax forms, receipts, and the actual goods purchased at hand.

The next part of the process is usually quicker and easier than it seems. First, you’ll validate the tax forms at the PABLO kiosks. (I don’t know why they’re called PABLO.) Everything should be submitted digitally, without the need to mail anything to anyone. You’ll receive your refund in up to a few weeks, though it can be as quick as a few days, either by refund to your credit card or bank transfer/check.

But can I get cash back for my VAT refunds in France?

You can, with Global Blue — basically you process all of your forms except the customs validation while still in Paris, get your cash, use your credit card as a guarantee, and promise to return your validated forms after going through the airport, within 21 days. Global Blue has an incredibly long case study on its website detailing the refund-centric adventures of “Anna from Russia [who] visited Austria with her friends and shopped in Vienna.” See here for more details.

Is Louis Vuitton Cheaper In Paris?

Is Louis Vuitton Cheaper in Paris? is part 4 in an ongoing investigation. Please also see Is Chanel Cheaper in Paris?, Is Sézane Cheaper in Paris? and Is Diptyque Cheaper in Paris?

If you’ve read our previous stories investigating whether famous French brands are cheaper in France — you’ve probably guessed that indeed, the answer to this question — Is Louis Vuitton cheaper in Paris? — is yes.

Unlike Chanel, Louis Vuitton offers online shopping, which made comparing prices easy. Here we go!

Is Louis Vuitton Cheaper in Paris: The Handbag

Let’s start with the Neverfull.

neverfull tote bag

The Neverfull GM is a large tote bag in Damier Ebene canvas and natural cowhide trim — “it is ultra-roomy but never bulky.” (I bet it can get bulky.) In USD, it’s $2100. Let’s say you’re buying it in New York City, so we’ll add 8.875%, the current sales tax. Your total bill is now: $2286.19

So taking things across the pond: Your price is now 1550€. Using the current conversion rate,  that comes to $1,708.50. Maybe you’re paying in cash, but probably not, so we’ll add 3% in foreign-transaction credit card fees, for $1759.75. Now for the good news: We’ll subtract 12% in VAT refund for residents of non-EU countries. (Yes, VAT is 20%, but when you claim your VAT refund, you give up some of it for admin fees, the Frenchest thing in the world.) Our final price, for buyers in France, is: $1548.58.

This means that our final calculations are as follows: Buying it in the US: $2286.19. Buying it in France, and taking advantage of your VAT refund: $1548.58. This means you’ll save a substantial 32.27%.

The Perfume

 

Rose des Vents! It’s the only Louis Vuitton perfume I like, so let’s use the 100-ml bottle as our point of comparison. It retails on the LV US-facing site for $320. We’ll ad some good ol’ NYC sales tax at 8.875$, which means our US total is $348.40.

Obviously we can just buy it in France instead! And I’m betting it’ll be substantially cheaper. It’s up on the LV site for 280€ — at today’s conversion, that’s $308.50.

Now we’ll go through our normal routine of adding 3% (for foreign credit card transactions) and deducting 12% — and the total is: $279.62. Remember, the minimum for the VAT refund is 100€ per shop. Luckily, with Vuitton costing what it does, we’re in danger of falling below that figure.

Long story short: You’ll save 19.8%.

Something I’m noticing is that it looks like once all the fees (for foreign card transactions) and deductions (for VAT refund) are assessed, the price in euros is basically just the same number, but in dollars. (For example, this 280€ perfume ends up being $279 once all is said and done.) We’ll see if that holds true with this final example!

The Wallet

Let’s finish up with something from the petite maroquinerie: the classic Victorine wallet.

victorine wallet from louis vuitton - is louis vuitton cheaper in france

The Victorine, in France, is a tidy 450€. If our calculations hold, it’ll end up being around $450 post-VAT .

But let’s start with the US cost. If you buy the Victorine in the US, it’ll cost $575. For the last time, let’s add New York City sales tax, and it comes to $626.03.

Now let’s head to France, where we’ve established that the cost is 450€. With foreign card transaction fees, that’ll be $463.50. But now we get to do the fun part, which is subtracting the VAT refund of 12%. That means our total is $407.88.

Our final figures: The Victorine is $626.03 in the US, and only $407.88 in France (I note that this is much less than my prediction above, for $450). That means you’d save 34.84% by shopping in France versus here at home!

Honestly, I didn’t think the price differential would be as substantial as it’s proven to be. If you’re debating whether or not to buy big French brands on your trip to Paris, this is some pretty compelling evidence.

emily in paris recap season 1 episode 1 screenshot

Emily in Paris Recap: Season 1, Episode 1

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Welcome to our first Emily in Paris recap: Season 1, Episode 1. Oh là là.

I remember how stressed I was when the show first debuted, in 2020. It was like watching your infinitely more glamorous and better dressed neighbor go on the same vacation as you — only their clothes were better, their hotel was nicer, the beaches that they went to had better sand and prettier views. It was your experience, only better, in every possible way. Mon dieu, I say. Mon dieu.

Moving to Paris feels like a unique experience, but it is not. In fact, the silver lining is that it is infinitely variable, and depending on your experience, talent, ambition, and worldview, it is infinitely possible to make new, vital, and canonical work about it, like Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, and a million more. (Two of my favorites include dyed-in-the-wool Midwesterners: Iowa painter Grant Wood, most famous for “American Gothic,” who painted in France on four separate trips to Europe between 1920 and 1928, and Nebraska-born Alexander Payne, whose contribution to the Paris je t’aime anthology film is a wonderful short starring Margo Martindale, and I think one of the best-ever meditations on Paris syndrome.) All of these stories can live peaceably alongside each other — but here was Emily, and Netflix, with the definitive story of an American woman coming to Paris, in search of love, connection, and a promotion to senior brand manager as soon as she returns to Chicago. I watched it with trepidation, and I didn’t enjoy it much.

Good lord but a lot has changed since 2020, and I decided to rewatch the show, and write about it here. I’m less uptight about my experience in Paris, now that I’m further dividing my time between there, New Jersey (where I’m from), and Iowa (where I’ve been in grad school the past two years). So far, I’m liking it much more.

emily in chicago screenshot - chicago skyline

We begin with Chicago, where we know Emily is young and ambitious because she runs increasingly quickly beneath the Chicago skyline, wears Kenzo to the office, and has a glamorous boss with a masters degree in French who is capable of procreating in her early 50s. World, meet Emily. Emily, le monde.

Tragically, Emily is also provincial, which we understand because her Cubs-loving boyfriend orders her a beer. (“White wine,” Emily says, correcting him. “Anything French.”) Can we stop for a moment to say how Chicago, an amazing and world-class city that has functioned as the birthplace of multiple artforms, including house music, Chicago blues, and many more, should not be used as a synonym for an unsophisticated, un-Paris American city? As Jessica M. Goldstein wrote in Vulture: “I guess they figured she wouldn’t be quite so starry-eyed about Paris if she were from New York or L.A.?” Chicago is great, and Chicagoans fucking love their city, so I’m calling BS on this. BS! (I literally cannot imagine just showing up in Paris and being handed the keys to an apartment. Finding my current place was the hardest thing I’ve done there.)

emily in paris screenshot - palais garnier

Anyway, we know Emily and her American boyfriend are going to break up because he loves the Cubs, and beer, and sports bars. She shows up in Paris for the requisite tour de taxi, passing sights including the Arc de Triomphe and the Palais Garnier — exiting at the Place de l’Estrapade/rue des Fossés St Jacques, in the fifth. This is an extremely lovely part of Paris and well done on Emily for inheriting her boss’s chambre de bonne here. By the way, her apartment looks much bigger than a chambre de bonne, and assuming she got the same apartment Madeline was supposed to have, I am again calling BS: According to Glassdoor (IDK why I am investigating this to this degree but OK), a senior marketing manager (like Madeline) in Chicago (like Madeline) could expect an annual salary of up to $190,000 a year, and according to the rent calculator on apartmentlist.com, 30% of that salary for rent would be about €4500. €4500 a month in Paris can get you a f-ing lot of apartment in Paris, and much more than a chambre de bonne, which are typically very, very small — like under 10 mètres carrés small. (Closet-small. Well, very big closet.) Emily’s rental agent immediately asks her on a date. Fair.

emily in paris screenshot - fifth floor

Also, this is Emily’s face when she’s told that she’s only on the fourth floor, not the fifth, which I am again calling BS on because the whole “the first floor is the ground floor, the second floor is the first floor, etc” is such common newcomer-to-Paris knowledge that I absolutely do not believe Emily doesn’t know this. It’s on the cover of every Lonely Planet guide ever written about any region of France/Europe. But of course, if she doesn’t make this mistake, she won’t accidentally knock on the door of her downstairs neighbor a few nights later:

emily in paris recap season 1 episode 1 screenshot - gabriel

Most of Emily’s drama, however, occurs not within her apartment building (we’ll get back to that in a second) but at her office, which, for the record, opens at 10:30 a.m., not 8:30. (Another mistake I do not believe our hyper-prepared Emily would have made. She is both simultaneously smarter and dumber than the we want or need her to be.) The show wants to have it both ways: to poke fun at her ignorance, and to revel in her command of her chosen field. But people tend to be “do one thing the way you do all things,” you know? It’s perfectly excusable that Emily, who did not anticipate moving to France for her job, would show up not speaking French. It is less understandable that this hyper-American American wouldn’t quickly get up to speed on some of the basics of French life.

That said, I will co-sign Emily’s hot neighbors. There are like ten apartments in my building, and everyone, at a huge variety of age ranges, could qualify as hugely attractive. But then, that is France! Everyone can be hot, in their own weird way. It’s one of the best things about the place.

Back to the office: We meet Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), Julien (Samuel Arnold), Luc (Bruno Gouery), and the owner of the firm, Paul Brussard (Arnaud Viard). Emily’s employment, we discover, was the condition of the sale of the agency to the American mothership, and now she will have the opportunity to teach all these Frenchies how to use Instagram. It makes sense!

Obviously Sylvie becomes a big part of Emily’s story, and I did very much like Emily’s introduction to Paul, which included his breakdown of Chicago’s deep-dish pizza (“like a quiche made of cement”), the American pharmaceutical industry (“So you create the disease, then you treat the disease, then you market the treatment” — yes!) and a very prescient mention from Emily of a diabetes drug that causes weight loss and grew Merck’s profits by 63%. (V. specific.) “Perhaps you have something to learn from us,” Paul concludes, “but I’m not sure if we have much to learn from you.” I bet there might be some cross-cultural, two-direction learning on the horizon!

Anyway, Emily’s coworkers are mean, and no one wants to get lunch with her. Their reaction to this smiling, cheerful, outdoor-voice-at-indoor-meeting pixie is summed up in Julien’s expression, one I know well:

emily in paris recap season 1 episode 1 screenshot - julien

It is the look of a Parisian disappointed in, and confounded by, American cheerfulness.

Emily attempts to convene a meeting of the firm, only to see the woman in charge of its social media flee (in terror, disapproval) when Emily leads it in English: “I did Rosetta Stone on the plane, but it hasn’t kicked in yet.” (That is very funny.) It’s all very Mean Girls, or Méchantes Ados, as it was known in Québec. The only holdout in the be-mean-to-Emily brigade is Luc, with his funny hair, who scooters by her as she sits, despondently, outside a café on the ile Saint-Louis, joining her briefly for a vape and a cultural briefing. “Your ideas,” he says. “They are more new. Maybe they are better. [But] I think the Americans have the wrong balance: You live to work, we work to live.”

“I enjoy work! And accomplishment. It makes me happy,” Emily says.

“Work makes you happy?” Luc says. “Maybe you don’t know what it is to be happy.”

Well, fair enough. Room for growth on all sides.

Speaking of accomplishment, Emily ends the episode by shorting out the electricity in her apartment building by plugging her vibrator into a wall outlet fitted with an adapter. I did the same thing, though with a decidedly less exciting immersion blender. C’est la vie, if you will.

Emily in Paris recap, Season 1, Episode 1 Recap: 

Overall grade: B+
Best line: The dig on Chicago deep-dish (though justice for Chicago deep dish! We can’t all be a quiche)
Second best line: IDK, I just thought it was funny when she said the entire city looked like Ratatouille. (See at top.) 
Most believable cultural note: The French staff going through multiple bottles of wine at lunchtime
Least believable cultural note: That a Chicago boyfriend wouldn’t know his girlfriend wanted a glass of wine rather than a beer. Justice for Chicago boyfriends!

Flodesk Review: My Take as a Flodesk User

My Flodesk review is I love it: It makes building beautiful newsletters easy. Here’s more.

Hello! I’m the author of the Faraway Places newsletter, and I urge you to subscribe, if you like reading newsletters about France and travel. Regardless, whatever your interests are, I am writing this to recommend Flodesk. Use my affiliate code and sign up here.

I’ve used basically every newsletter platform out there: Mailchimp, Tinyletter, ConvertKit, custom-designed systems for large editorial outlets. I haven’t used Substack, but I have an argument against it, which I’ll get to, below. Here’s a primer on what for me were the most important things to know.

What is Flodesk?

Flodesk is a platform for sending email newsletters to your email list. It’s made to be easy to use. I think of it as an email sender for people who are artists, writers, florists, designers, whatever — basically, everyone but marketers. Marketers, I’m sure, would be happier with more “robust” programs like ConvertKit, Mailchimp, AWeber, etc, offering more intense segmentation, retargeting, and stuff like that — but if you’re at the place in your entrepreneurship or creative journey where you want an easy, beautiful way to send email newsletters, I honestly don’t think Flodesk can be beat.

I think Flodesk sits at a really interesting spot on the spectrum of newsletter senders: right between the more marketing-centric offerings like Mailchimp and the more community-based options like Substack. I’ve used them all and they’re all great — it’s just a question of what makes the most sense for you.

How much is Flodesk?

It’s $38 a month — a little cheaper if you pay annually (it works out to $35 a month) and substantially more if you add some ecommerce features, including an integrated checkout ($64 a month).

Flodesk vs Mailchimp

I started out on Mailchimp, and I would likely have stayed with them, but they introduced tiered pricing. I have just under 10,000 subscribers — which is $135 a month on Mailchimp! Yes, there’s more functionality, but I don’t need it. I just want a way to send out a text-based email every week or so to my subscribers. $135 was not going to work for me. (And by the way, that number continues to climb as your list grows — 100,000 subscribers is $800 per month. At Flodesk, it’s still just $38.)

Mailchimp has better customer service than Flodesk — officially with Flodesk, you can get help by email, but practically, the fastest assistance comes via their official Facebook group. Mailchimp, by contrast, has 24/7 support by email and chat support, and if you’re on a premium plan, help by phone as well. Flodesk only recently debuted analytics, and they’re much less fine-grained than Mailchimp’s. Finally, if you have a very small list, the pricing can be quite competitive — if you have 500 contacts and send under 6,000 emails per month (that’s 12 sends to your whole list), it’s only $20 a month. Plus, there are lots of features a growing business might want down the road, including advanced segmentation and behavior targeting.

If you’re building a brand, I think Flodesk is the better choice. If you’re building a business, I think Mailchimp makes sense.

Flodesk vs Substack

As a writer, Substack could make a lot of sense for me. It’s built its reputation as a home for writers and thinkers, and it’s made to accommodate subscription tiers (free and paid). For me, though, I just didn’t want to buy into a platform with its own vibe — does that make sense? People say they have “a Substack,” not a newsletter. I personally wanted to get as far away from this as possible — when you buy into a platform with its own reputation, that reputation commingles with your own. Just consider the recent controversy (“Substack Says It Will Not Ban Nazis or Extremist Speech“). I want nothing to do with this. I work hard on my newsletter and refuse to let it become tainted by someone else’s bad morals, bad taste, or bad decisions.

I do feel a little #girlboss-y (not in a good way) having a “newsletter” rather than a Substack, which I think is the “cool” option, especially for writers and artists. And I miss the opportunity to have a sense of community around my newsletter, which you’ll see on the best Substacks.

Substack is free for readers and writers — unless you’re selling subscriptions, in which case it charges fees that add up to about 13% of your price. I think this is the biggest difference between Flodesk and Substack: the monetization. Substack is primarily subscription-based (as in subscriptions to the newsletter itself), while on Flodesk, if you’re selling anything, you’re selling something other than the newsletter. Personally, I’m more of a product maker than a subscription seller — I like buying and selling things (did you want to buy some postcards??) versus subscriptions to my musings. Probably this is something I should work out with my therapist — but I like the idea that if people want to support my work monetarily, they get something material in return. I’d rather sell tote bags than subscriptions — which isn’t a value judgment, I just think making tote bags is fun. But if you’re the sort of writer (and I say “writer” because that’s Substack’s vibe) who’s turned off by this late-stage capitalistic tote bag selling, then Substack’s the place for you.

For all these reasons, I’m happiest on Flodesk. But there’s a program here for everybody.

plane flying above earth with glow of sunset on engines

15 Things a Travel Writer Takes on Every Flight

I think a lot about how to pack a carry-on — and indeed, how to dress — on the plane: Planning well can be the difference between a mini-retreat, with entertainment and snacks, and a freezing-cold brain prison. Below, you’ll find everything I bring to keep it more in the former vibe than the latter.

I will add here that of course you want all your essentials in your carry-on, rather than any checked bags: medication, wallet, etc. etc. One thing I often pack by accident into my checked bag is charging equipment: cords and battery packs and wall chargers. Of everything here, the thing I forget most often is cables: a USB cord to charge my phone, a full laptop charger, and a cable to connect my headphones to the plane’s entertainment system.

A quick note about budgeting, as several of the items below are expensive. As a freelance travel writer, my income varies hugely from year to year: It stabilizes when I take a staff job, and then occasionally craters when I’m freelancing, including some years when my income fell under the poverty line. (Freelancing is not for the faint of heart.) While I’m fully employed, I try to buy quality gear that will last through the rough periods — during my last staff job, I bought the Away bag and both pairs of headphones below, and I’m hoping I’ll have them for years. I’ve had the same Gregory backpack since 2012, I only replace my phones when they’re lost or destroyed, etc. And I’ll add that I’m happy to travel with well-used gear — it’s less of a target for thieves.

Affiliate links below. 

Gear

gregory backpack

1. A 30-Liter Gregory Backpack

I much prefer to travel with a backpack versus a suitcase. You have total mobility, whenever you want it: Stairs? Elevators? Who cares!

The size is important. I wanted a 30-liter pack — I just looked and that size is rated for 1-3 day(!) trips. (I routinely use mine for month-plus-long stays.) The fastest way to make a trip miserable is to overpack, and it’s virtually impossible when your bag is this small. Another huge bonus is that it can fit under an airplane seat, which means you’ll never have to check a bag — or, even better, worry about overhead space.

The model I have — an older version of the Gregory Z-30 — is no longer available, so I’m suggesting the next size up: the 45-liter Facet. Gregory has other 30-liter bags, but now they’re structured more like daypacks — I like having more side pockets, and lighter materials, of this slightly larger size.

BUY IT HERE: Gregory

away suitcase

2. For Nice Trips, An Away Carry-On

Sometimes, when I’m not traveling solo (or I’m writing about a hotel where it will matter if I show up looking like a ragamuffin), I’ll bring this nice Away carry-on. It’s fine. I suggest waiting for one of their limited-edition colorways — I loved their no-longer-available Aura collection.

BUY IT HERE: AWAY

hawks in flight design nalgene bottle hanging from tree

3. In an Era of $5 Diet Cokes

Empty on the way through security, then filled with water before the flight. Obviously there are a thousand different models and color combos, but I love this “Hawks in Flight” version from Bird Collective.

BUY IT HERE: BIRD COLLECTIVE

Electronics

google pixel

4. A Google Pixel

I’ve weirdly been in the Android phone world since I gave up my iPhone 3 for a gifted Samsung Galaxy a million years ago. I’ve loved my Pixel, though recently I’ve felt like I’m seeing nicer photos on my sister’s iPhone. But I’m one of those people who won’t give up their phone until it’s lost or destroyed, so I’ll be getting by with my Pixel 7 for a while.

The best thing about Pixels is that they’re made for Google Fi service (note you can use an iPhone, or any other phone, on Fi as well). Its international service can’t be beat: “unlimited” international data — though they’ll throttle you at a certain point, and it’s a violation of the terms of service to use it only overseas (a dilemma if you’re traveling with it as a digital nomad), though I don’t know how much this is enforced. Calls to the U.S. from overseas vary by country; from France, they’re 10 cents a minute, though it’s pretty rare I pay that since wifi calling is free, and texting both ways is free.

BUY IT HERE: TARGET

macbook air on white background

5. Macbook Air

I cannot believe anyone here is going to base their laptop choice on my rec, but I will say that after my Macbook Pro was stolen (out of my apartment, by a thief who came in through an open fifth-floor window), I downgraded to a new Air and didn’t notice a difference, even though I’m doing moderately heavy lifting (video editing, etc.) Go, Air! Don’t forget about educational discounts if you qualify, and refurbished models if you’re looking to save.

BUY IT HERE: AMAZON

bose 700 headphones

6. Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones

There’s no better way to reduce airplane noise (which is considerable!) and isolate during a long flight than with these headphones. After too many hours using a sander with no ear protection (don’t get me started), I can barely hear my phone or laptop on a plane without jacking up the volume. These headphones mean I can tune everything out for up to about 18(!) hours.

I’m obsessed with these Bose headphones and once rescheduled to a later flight when I realized I’d left them at home. I have an older version of these, the 700s. These have 11 levels of noise cancellation and free two-day shipping from Bose. One thing I’ll say is that after two years I’m noticing some wear in the “protein leather” (a pleather, but very soft) covers, which has me slightly concerned. I do use them constantly — not just for flights but at the gym, on walks with the dog, etc.

BUY IT HERE: BOSE

pixel ear buds pro

7. Google Pixel Buds Pro

I feel like a princess when I do this, but I always switch from the Bose headphones to earbuds when we land — it’s too easy to lose all sense of spatial awareness in the larger ones. These, from Google, have great noise cancellation while not limiting my understanding of where I am in space. (Read: I’m less likely to walk into things wearing these.)

BUY IT HERE: AMAZON

fjallraven greenland jacket

8. The Best, Heaviest Coat I Can Afford

I feel like many of these picks somehow involve not being cold. There’s nothing worse than getting somewhere and realizing you don’t have proper protection from the cold, because you’re not going to want to buy an emergency new coat, and it sucks, gutting it out when you have a chill. You don’t want to do anything but stay inside, wrapped in a blanket.

Of course, since you’ll be on the move, you want to optimize for both cold protection and packability/weight. This Fjallraven coat is filled with down and warm enough that I can wear it in the middle of winter in Iowa with just a T-shirt underneath (handy for going to the gym). I have a heavier wool coat from Sandro, but it’s super bulky, and not good for travel. In fact, I’m wearing this Fjallraven right now, on a plane, and I am extremely warm, and I could not be happier.

BUY IT HERE: FJALLRAVEN

Clothing

nike daybreaks

9. Walkable But Not Too Sporty Sneakers

What I want is something between my Nike Metcons (my choice of gym shoe, I love them) and Vejas, which are very stylish but which I also don’t trust to be comfortable on 10,000-step days. The best answer is colorful and vintage-styled Nike Daybreaks — they’ve been discontinued for the moment, but they’re available everywhere but Nike.com — like the ones shown above, which are on sale at ASOS.

BUY IT HERE: ASOS

american vintage cardigan

10. American Vintage Cashmere Sweater

Just something warm and blanket-like for when the air conditioning is on too high — I have this one from American Vintage.

BUY IT HERE: AMERICAN VINTAGE

jamie jeans from topshop

11. Topshop Jamie Jeans

They’re not what they used to be, before Topshop was sold to ASOS, but I still love the Jamies, especially for traveling: They’re high-waisted and slim, and the fabric is stretchy enough that it’s comfortable on the plane. I used to prefer leggings but just got tired of looking like a pile of laundry in the airport. Respect if you can pull it off, but I couldn’t.

These go on sale all the time, so just keep an eye out for your preferred color and/or embellishment.

BUY IT HERE: ASOS

Entertainment

When I’m on top of it, I have a very strict regimen for my on-board entertainment. Otherwise, I just stare out the window.

11. Downloaded Comedy Specials

I take a lot of short flights — mostly between Cedar Rapids and Chicago — so I prefer entertainment that I can dip in and out of without ruining something more in-depth. Comedy specials are perfect for this — this year, my favorites included Beth Stelling’s If You Didn’t Want Me Then, Mo’Nique’s My Name Is Mo’Nique, John Mulaney’s Baby J, and Sam Jay’s Salute Me or Shoot Me.

12. Downloaded TV

So comedy is Tier 1. If I have a longer flight, I want something I can dig into, which is where actual television comes in. This year, my favorite shows were: Beef on Netflix (obsessed — Rolling Stone called it “this oddest, darkest of dramedies,” which I co-sign), Barry on Max (weirdly, that same description applies), Succession on Max, and a zillion more. All are downloadable (the Max shows depending on your membership level — it’s only with the no-ads service.)

13. Downloaded Audiobooks

I save this for the longest of flights (and road trips, of which I am a master, having done the 1000-mile trip between New Jersey and Iowa about a dozen times by now). The right audiobook can make the difference between a smooth and successful trip and a slog — and the right audiobook, I’d argue, can make the perfect book even better. I actually did a little post on this a couple years ago and I really did get to some of the best: The Handmaid’s Tale (read by Claire Danes), Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, which is read by Nicole Kidman and absolute perfection. To that list, I’d add World War Z: The Complete Edition: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which includes voice actors like Martin Scorsese, Mark Hamill, Alan Alda, and the author, Max Brooks, as well as Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages

14. Actual Books

The best books for long flights are big, epic books with lots of intense world-building. My favorites in this category include: Pachinko, obviously the entire Game of Thrones series, the His Dark Materials trilogy, Outlander, The Standand a million more.

Miscellaneous

15. United Club Infinite Card

I have more credit card debt than I should, and I don’t recommend that anyone irresponsible (like me) take out additional credit if they can avoid it — it’s too easy to overspend. That said: I love this credit card. It has a high annual fee ($525), but the perks may very well make up for it. United lounge access is free, as are up to two checked bags. If you’re flying on someone else’s dime, or if you have elite status, that might not be so exciting, but it is for me. Even outside of just “lounge access” (not a necessary thing!), I save so much money eating (for free) in the lounge that it makes up for the cost. Eating in the lounge also means I’m less likely to get by with sugary snacks or fast food — it’s a total win. Here’s a link — it’s the one on the right.