When I packed for France it was a nightmare! With the weight limits and bag limits I repacked a solid 8 times, took over the living room, kept standing on and off the scale, and just about pulled my hair out. I wasn’t sure what to take! After living there for a year I feel like I have a pretty solid understanding especially for an American traveling to France for an extended amount of time. Here is my ultimate packing list with what to bring, what not to bring, and what you might want to throw in a box and ship.
1. Food Products/Cooking Ingredients that are Hard to find in France. Take a good look at what you’re eating now. When you get to France your diet will change drastically and consist mostly of bread, pastries, cheese, butter and wine. Yes wine is a food group. Everything is fresh and the produce is top notch (just try the eggs..), but you might find yourself missing a couple of things. There are a couple expat stores (Thanksgiving, The Real McCoy) but be prepared to pay 10 euros for a small bag of chocolate chips ~crazy!! (do what I did and cut up bars of chocolate instead….) I’ve read a lot of posts that say- Bring Peanut Butter! – but you’ll be able to find it easily in the supermarkets. For me it was Almond Butter, Luna bars, and pumpkin puree that I asked my friends to bring when they visited. Here are a couple other things that are hard to find:
Red Pepper Flakes
Energy Bars (Luna Bars!)
2. Clothing Packing Tips. The Frenchman once told me “You will always look like an American” after I’d told him I was trying to wear more black. And it’s true- it’s not a bad thing but you will probably stand out from the French people around you because of your wardrobe and your facial features. You’ll probably easily trick the tourists though. Within a matter of weeks I was being asked for directions, first by tourists then by Parisians. Here’s a couple tips on what to pack:
– Pack neutrals with pops of color. In the summer/spring it’s common to see a lot of color. I once saw a lady rocking a mustard shirt and red pants~and it was awesome! In the fall/winter, a great black coat and scarves are your friend. The shades change too to more browns, grays, and blacks.
– Make sure all the items you bring can be mix and matched with other items in your wardrobe for all seasons. That cute summer dress could be worn with tights and a sweater in the fall. You’ve got limited suitcase space and it’s possible that you might move more than once while you’re there and moving with a lot of clothes is not fun.
– 2 to 3 good pairs of jeans. Dark colors and a pair of black. All I wore were skinny jeans.
– Shoes: Ballet flats, Boots, Booties, a pair or two of heels, and sturdy sandals for the summer. Don’t pack anything you couldn’t walk around the block in, and don’t spend a lot of time looking at the comfortable, yet really ugly pair of walking shoes (you know what I’m talking about). You probably won’t wear them. Your feet will adjust to all the walking. It also helps to change the types of shoes you’re wearing regularly to give your feet a break. You’ll also notice shoe repair shops are prevalent.
– Raincoat! For the rainy days when you can’t stay inside and an umbrella combined with walking a couple miles will leave you drenched. I also had a small umbrella I’d throw in my purse as I left if there was the slightest hint of rain in the sky. And go for that cute umbrella! You’ll be playing the “rain game” with the other people in the street and might as well have a cute one! :-D
– Don’t bring anything you haven’t worn in awhile or anything that doesn’t fit just right. Laundry in a big city is a hassle and that’s even when you have a washing machine in your apartment. Just about everything is air dried unless you’re going to the laundromat so those skinny jeans won’t stretch back and it becomes necessary to have an iron. Also, laundry day turns into a three day please oh please dry everything is laid out everywhere kind of ordeal when it’s the least bit humid outside.
– Layers, layers, layers!
– The best brands I could say the style was similar to is J.Crew, Banana Republic, MadeWell, and Anthropologie. I usually dressed as if I was going into work in the US which for me is a marketing agency. You’ll also only see people wearing workout clothes when they are working out.
3. Products/Toiletries/Medicine: In France, you’ll have everything you need at the pharmacies in terms of products and toiletries. The hard part comes when you know you need something and you don’t know the name in French! It’s frustrating and not really something you want to be worried about for the first couple of weeks when you’re adjusting. You will see a lot of familiar brands for some things- like lotion (Neutrogena) and contact solution (Opti-Free). Other things though are more difficult. For me it was finding a face wash and a shampoo I liked. Here’s what I would suggest bringing and buying there:
– If you have room in your suitcase, bring larger sizes of shampoo and conditioner. This will buy you a little time to find one at the store that works for you. I brought a full container of the face wash I liked and then replenished my stash when I went home halfway through because I was just not finding one that I liked! You’ll also find that bottle sizes are much smaller than what you find in the US. This mostly has to do with portability- it’s pretty painful to lug a full sized shampoo plus other groceries home, even if it is just walking a couple blocks.
– Appliances- probably best to buy them in France because of the electrical connection. :-D Shop at HEMA for an inexpensive hair dryer and other great home items.
– Nail Polish – oh just because it’s fun and pretty expensive in France.
– General Note- you’ll find some products that you need in the supermarket (shampoo, conditioner, hand soap) but the place to go is the Pharmacy. They’re extremely helpful and it’s a ton of fun! Here’s just one of the many articles you’ll find on the internet about shopping at the pharmacies – City Pharma: A User’s Guide.
– Makeup- Here’s the golden ticket- there’s a Sephora just about everywhere (yay!). So no worries here! If you can get it at Sephora, you’re good! Otherwise, bring a full sized container until you find a good substitute.
– Medicine- Bring what you think you’ll need. It’s a lot easier to sift through some things you’ve brought when you’re not feeling well than try to explain what’s wrong to the pharmacist in a foreign language. For prescriptions, get your US doctor to write down the ingredients and amounts of each in the medicine. If the pharmacist in France can find the exact same medicine, then they will fulfill the prescription (no guarantees though).
– Vitamins are crazy expensive. I take Vitamin D and Magnesium and when refilling it was 28 euros for a bottle of 100… ouch!! As an upside though, prescribed medicines are wayyyy cheaper than what we’re used to in the US (5 euros for antibiotics…?!).
And that’s that! Well at least all I can think of for now. :-D Maybe I’ll be packing for a return visit soon… crisons les doigts.. :-D
What would you add to this list?
I have told you a million times how clueless I am at baking bread- I’ve pleading with Ian from the Baking Chin to move down to Texas and make my bread, especially his Pain de Campagne… But since he’s in Indonesia helping open a Patisserie, I’m stuck with his videos and forced to pester him with questions at every opportunity. Including this week’s tip!
The right way to Store Bread! You’ve gone to all that work to make a homemade loaf of bread and now you want it to stay as amazing as possible, for as long as possible! Here’s what Ian told me- uncut bread can be kept just hanging out on the counter top. It will help keep the crust crunchy! You should have seen his apartment when we were in Paris- the shelves were lined with baked bread. Once you’ve cut into it, DO NOT store it in the refrigerator, this will dry it out, and quickly! If it’s a hard crust, turn the cut side down on a cutting board and keep at room temperature. The crust will help protect the chewy interior. A softer crust, throw it in a bag and keep it out- no refrigeration here!
How long will it keep? Not very long! Around four days is normal for a sandwich bread. So eat it quick (but will that really be a problem?)! Use the stale ends for bread crumbs, croutons, garlic/herb crostini…
I want your baking tips! Have one? Email me, or post it in the comments. I’d love to do a post on it!
I’ve pretty much decided that the best trips involve lots of wine, good food, and great people. :-)
My friend Jen is getting married in December!! Since all of us are so spread out around the US, and because what is better than a fun trip, we all met in Portland for her Bachelorette party.
The weather was gorgeous! We missed out on the Texas heat and the rainy days of Oregon and were hit with sun and digits lingering around the low to mid 80s. Perfection!
Portland has a cool weird vibe- just watch an episode of Portlandia and you’ll get the idea. Amazing restaurants. Here’s just two that stood out: an Indian street food place called Bollywood Theater with hung lights and an open kitchen in the center. Unbelievable ice cream flavors at Salt and Straw – I would have tried all of them but settled on one scoop of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Yes!) and Strawberry Balasmic. So different!
The highlight of the trip was the winery visits on Saturday- three- each with rolling hills and vines for miles. We headed out from downtown in a stretch limo with the cutest 80 year old driver named Jake or Jack. I think I called him the wrong name toward the end of the day. hahaha At one stop Jessie had the idea of rolling down the window and taking paparazzi pics- this one was totally taken when the driver was heading back from a visit to the port-a-potty. tehe
The first winery- Elk Cove Vineyards
I want to say we tried 5-6 wines. There was a fundraiser for the local animal shelter going on so dogs were all over the place. Peanut would have fit right in!
Up next was my favorite- David Hill Winery. The tasting/selling room was inside a beautiful house surrounded by flowers and rolling hills.
Or maybe it was because we stopped for lunch and made by Jen’s cousin Lauren– which was cheeeeeeese!! and the best tuna salad I’ve ever had! and I don’t even really like tuna salad! I actually asked for the recipe the day after I got home and made it um about 3 hours after she emailed it. We also had tomato salad and whoopie pies- could it get any better?!
I pretty much ended up with a massive plate of food- and promptly decided the tasting wine was not going to be enough. I mean with this view, a full glass of wine is absolutely necessary. Can I move in? I’ll bring my own squirrel chasing dog.
The Andiri Winery & Vineyard was pretty gorgeous too with a patio area surrounded by vines.
I brought out some hand models to take pictures with some cookies I’d brought along. They say “Last Fling before the Ring!” and there might be some gold bling on the bling bling. :-D
We tasted 4 different types of Pinot Noir and they were Fabulous!
We could see the mountains over the vines!
I loved Portland and being able to spend time with such close friends! So much fun! Congratulations Jen & Russell! You can invite me to drink wine any time!
Ian is here! With more bread baking tips!
I ask Ian a billion questions whenever I’m thinking about making bread or just randomly. One important question came up when I was making a loaf of bread, while giving updates via Facebook at each stage to Ian. I was taking a peak in the oven with 10 minutes to go and it was looking pretty brown. Having not thought ahead, I rushed to my laptop and asked Ian- How do I know when my bread is done!!!!!
There are three signs to a baked bread! The first (and my favorite), it will sound hollow when knocked on. The next, and one that I’m very familiar with, stick a toothpick in and it should come out clean! Then, if all else fails, take it’s temperature! Baked bread will be at 200ºF or about 93ºC.
My bread was hollow sounding, and at right about 170 when I tested it (but it had been out of the oven for about a minute so the temperature had dropped quite a bit), and the toothpick was clean! Can’t wait to cut into it tomorrow!!
Be sure to check out Ian’s baking vlogs over on YouTube on The Baking Chin!
Have a tip? Let me know! I’d love to feature you on the next edition of “Baking Tips!”
One of the things I love about summer is berries! Especially blueberries-myrtilles in French. I even bought two blueberry bushes two years ago in hopes of having bushels of blueberries on my doorstep. Apparently they are pretty finicky. After producing a grand total of 10 berries they magically disappeared while I was in France. I still have hope for blueberry bushes in the future though, a large vegetable garden, a cow, and maybe a pig. Peanut will be there too of course. :-D
While I daydream of blueberry bushes, I will make these muffins. This is my favorite recipe, usually I’ll throw in blueberries that are in the freezer from going blueberry picking in west Texas. If that isn’t the case, frozen wild blueberries are amazing, or in this case, a mix of berries.
Tips Tips! To avoid the berries sinking to the bottom, toss them with a bit of your dry ingredients. This will help them stick in the batter.
Another tip: Frozen berries will bleed in the batter. I was using all fresh for this batch so I didn’t have this problem. But if you do use frozen, fold in quickly with a spatula just until incorporated. The more you stir, the more purple your batter will be. (Totally fine with me though… Go Frogs!)
And since I can’t resist- there’s more tips after the recipe title. Happy Muffin Baking!
Epic Mixed Berry Muffins
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.
This recipe is SO good it’s my go-to muffin (when I’m not feeling a pumpkin muffin). A couple quick tips: Sprinkle the top with raw sugar for a crunch. Use whole milk for the best flavor. Toss berries (either a mix, or not!) with a little of the dry ingredients to keep them from ending up on the bottom of the muffin.
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups berries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
raw sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare your muffin tin. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until combined.
Measure the milk and add a glug of vanilla to the measuring cup. Set aside.
In a bowl, toss the berries with a spoonful of the dry ingredients.
Now let’s combine it all! Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix just until combined. Scrape down the bowl. Then add the milk/vanilla beating until combined. Don’t overmix!
Remove the bowl from the mixture and fold in the berries with a spatula.
Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top with raw sugar. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.