Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Savon, et Livres

Originally posted on La Vie En Fifi, 6 April 2009

Two things I cannot do without (or rather cannot refrain from purchasing) are lovely soap, and books. Not when on a strict(ish) budget, and apparently not when travelling.

On my 3½ week European trip several years ago, where I took a backpack because I thought that’s what you do (imagine me checking into the Millenium Hotel in Kensington, London. The Concierge’s face was something else. So unchic). I bought stacks of delicious olive oil soap in Paris and books in London.

What was I thinking? Both purchases were near the beginning of my trip, and I really regretted their impulsive acquisition when trying to fit everything into my bag in Rome.

But when I arrived home, the half a dozen bars of soap, very old fashioned and very French looking, with a vaguely medicinal fragrance took me back to the little side street chemist in Paris I bought them from, every morning in the shower for months afterwards.

The books, not so much. I could have bought them at home, and eventually I sold them to a second hand shop. It hasn’t cured me though, and the bookshelves are constantly being rearranged to fit my new purchases.

I’m very particular these days though on what I spend my money and bookshelf space on. If it’s a novel I can read it from the library. Only keepers make their way home for good. Either favourite fiction, or non-fiction I think I will reference in the future.

Op shops and the Salvation Army are a great place to browse for books too. I have found so many that are on my wants list. Books that I wouldn’t have gone into Whitcoulls to buy, but when they are 50c or $1 I’ll give them a good home. And others that are out of print so aren't even available from new bookstores, even better.

And as for my soap addiction? My husband has banned me from buying any more until I use up my stock. Currently I am enjoying Crabtree & Evelyn lavender. Not just for old ladies! The scent of Provence in my own bathroom - a serene way to begin my day.

Image of edible (not really) French soap from


  1. We have similar addictions. I have been better about the books--trying the library first but there are certain books that will always have a home on my shelves. And what did I buy yesterday? Three bars of soap made in France (2 lavendar and 1 rose scented). They were packaged so beautifully that I thought they would make great additions to the guest bath upstairs. When I took them up there, I was "surprised" that I already had about 5 other such soaps that had not been used. So I quickly took a couple off "display" to hide in a drawer--only to find more such soaps. I really need to go upstairs more often. And I really need to not buy any soap for awhile.

    I laughed out loud about the backpack fashion/chic debaucle. I made a similar error in dressing on my first trip to London/Scotland by wearing a BRIGHT yellow rain/all-weather jacket (in the fashion of LLBean or LandsEnd circa early 90s). Everytime I see photos with that jacket I cringe. I can happily report so such loud color was present on my trip to Paris.

    xxBliss (sorry so long)

  2. This is a great post, because it inspires me to branch out. I've never been a soap collector/buyer. I've always spent my money other ways--and not because I didn't notice the soaps, as I've been researching and sniffing them for years, just never took the plunge. But this is something I want to remedy after the move in Oklahoma. I'm particularly drawn to Linden French soaps and the Vetiver/Brigade soaps from Frederic Malle parfums.

  3. I'm loving all your recent re~posts! I'm a book collector too but I need to remember to peruse the library a little more often since I'm running out of shelf space. I need to focus on only purchasing the absolute treasures I want to keep in my library forever.

  4. Lavender is one of my favourite scents. I also love the bodyplash from Puig, a Spanish mark, Aqua Lavanda, so refreshing, and it is sold (cheep) at supermarkets in plastic bottles. But the scent on your skin on hot day is perfect.
    Crabtree and Evelyn is wonderful, the shops make me want to buy expensive roomspray and soapbars and lots of other goodies, it is very addicting!

  5. Fiona,

    I so relate to your love of soaps...
    I have this habit too.
    French milled soaps last a long time so it may take you many months before you are able to purchase some new bars...unless you sneak them in without your husband seeing!

    I have been going to the library more often as my book cases are overflowing...there are so many great books out there!

  6. Great reminder post!! A few months ago I compiled all the various gift lotions and body washes and realized I could have opened by own Bath Shop with all the items I had. I have a box now that I am working my way through before I buy anything else (including lip balms. They're infinite!)

    And I have to agree on the books! While I'm a total bibliophile, you can end up being forced out of home by the stacks. I've started donating my new books to the library after I read them, as there are far too many to tackle. However, if the binding is beautiful, I see it as art and keep it. My favorite used book discovery is finding copies with small cursive notes in the margin from a past reader, specifically etiquette books. The notes the previous bearer had are charming, and often relatable.

  7. Luckily I have L'Occitane shop here in Seville where I can stock-up on gorgeous soaps from Provence (I put them in my linen cupboards between all my linens) and in my guest bathroom (only). On the reverse side to this, second hand shops don't exist in Spain; never mind second hand book shops! The library only has books in Spanish so I have no option but to keep the postman fit with all the book deliveries he makes to my house weekly.

  8. I go to L'Occitane for my soap and lotion fix. I am also afflicted with a book addiction and happily so! Have a beautiful week! xxoo :)

  9. I have a problem with books, too. Sigh...but I am better about checking the library first now as well. ;)

    I love the backpack reference as well. When I went to Europe in the 9th grade with a student group, we all had backpacks, of course, but we also had to wear these lanyards with our names on them EVERYWHERE...classy, right?

  10. I only buy books that I either really love, or are reference books that I will want to access over and over again. But sometimes, I can't find the book I want at our library (actually, it's most of the time these days). So I look to to find what I want - I bought the Colin C. book you suggested the other day from It should be here any day!
    As for soaps, I find some very nice Italian and French soaps inexpensively at Marshall's and TJ Maxx.
    I just remembered I bought some soap in Italy last year...a big block of olive oil soap that we shlepped home. Where is that thing?

  11. I need to invest in some really good olive oil based soaps. I love the linen scent soap I picked up in the UK, and we have an awesome pumpkin spice scent left over from the fall. But I would love to find some nice lavender soap.

    I think it's not a bad thing to invest money in, they last and can look so pretty for guests, or make a quick gift for a friend who needs a lift.

  12. Do you use the Marseilles soap for your face too? What were the results?

    I recently purchased my first bar of honest-to -goodness, made-with-the-same-methods-as-in-the-1800s Olive oil soap (Marius Fabre) and I love it! It's the only one I could find without glycerin, which causes massive breakouts for my sensitive skin. So I am curious if you use it on your face, as the shop keeper advised it is very good for faces too.

    Thanks and a bientot,

  13. Jeanne, I do not use soaps on my face. I have used Marius Fabre soaps before and they are lovely. If I thought about it, I probably would use good quality soaps on my face. My dad always said 'soap and water' when I spent money on fancy skincare products. I started out on Clinique soap in my early teens.

    Bliss, I think yours wins the prize for funniest comment. Finding soap everywhere you turn!

    Bliss and Ani, I love your embarrassing travel stories. They make me feel not so bad about dragging an enormous hiking backpack across the marble floor of a lovely London hotel lobby. If only I'd had a yellow raincoat and a lanyard with my name on it to match.

    Vanessa, I can't believe there aren't secondhand book or tat shops in Spain. I bought a shabby chic style bedside lamp from the Salvation Army for $8 last week. Small pleasures like that make my day.


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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