Friday, May 10, 2019

One of my favourite ways to travel

In the past month I've travelled out-of-town four times, one driving and three on an airplane.  Only within New Zealand though, not overseas.  Sadly two of those times were for funerals, but my trip last week was purely for fun - tagging along on an overnight work trip with my husband.

I love the minimal completeness of packing for travel.  You have to consider carefully what clothes you'll need, what toiletries, which book, my Kindle and journal, and I always look forward to choosing a single perfume to take with me.  Lately I've bagged a few samples from various new perfume releases so it's a wonderful treat to have a 'new' perfume for a trip and without the bottle to carry home too, as I'd finish up the sample over a few days.  And I love that samples come with an atomiser now too; so much nicer to use than the tiny glass tubes where you pull the top off.  I always used more than I wanted to with those!

What I also love about packing for a trip is that you have only what you've chosen to take with you; it's like the ultimate decluttering.  There is something very freeing about having only a fraction of your possessions with you; a carefully curated inventory of the things you love the most and which you think you will need.

But today's post is not about *actual* travel, it's about armchair travel.  I borrowed a fabulous library book called 'Intimate Chanel' (on Amazon here) and it's a serious contender for my home library.  It is different to other books on Coco Chanel in that it was written in conjunction with her great-niece and god-daughter.  She said she and Chanel were close for over forty years, from her birth until Coco's death.  Imagine being able to call Chanel 'Auntie Coco'!

So, I wrote down a quote from this book which I've never heard about Chanel before, and it's this:

'Coco Chanel had a wandering spirit but lacked the curiosity to travel the world, preferring the world of armchair travel, of journeys of the imagination and daydreams, and prompting her to declare: "I make all my best trips on this couch." '

This is me!  As much as I enjoy going away, I don't do it that often.  I love being at home and having a simple and routine life.  Aah, but that doesn't mean boring, no, because I am always travelling in my mind, just like Coco did.

Even as I say these words though, there is a secret shame, like I should 'do the real thing' and want to travel.  That I am hiding out, making things up and not living my fullest life because I prefer to keep my travel plans small and instead live my best life in familiar surroundings.  I know it's an odd thing to voice, but perhaps you feel the same?

I know there are those who live to travel, but I am not one of them.  And with my limited study of Coco Chanel (I adore her style and to learn more about her but have not read every single book of her life), it seemed that she didn't go far either.  To England is about the extent of her travels from what I've seen, but likely she traveled within Europe because everything is so close.  Not like New Zealand where you really have to make an effort!

I have a great aunt who met Chanel (you can see my post about this here), and she said she never spoke English, only very, very fast French.  And I mean, if you lived in Paris, would you want to go far?  I wouldn't!  Everything is right there.  The beauty, elegance, elan, panache, and inimitable French style.

I always loved the scene in the Sopranos when Carmela visited Paris (handily it's a clip on YouTube here). "Who could have built this?" she whispered, as she gazed around in wonder.

I have been to Paris once, and I know I will go again - I have definite plans for my 50th! - but you can live an equally fulfilled and elevated life I believe, by traveling in your imagination, just like Coco did.  She had her cozy Paris atelier and her creative life.  That's what I try to create here at my home.  I write my books, I love to sew and have been doing more of that lately, and it's wonderful.

So please tell me, are you a traveler of the imagination like Coco, or do you love to hop on a plane.  I think you can be both, so you don't have to choose.  And please, tell me something else:  have you ever been to Paris?  What were your thoughts?  Or if you have somewhere else which cast a magical spell over you, please share where :)  I want to travel there in my mind with you!

For me, when I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, it was wonderful to be surrounded by people speaking French, like it was a normal everyday thing!!  I know, I'm just being silly, but it really lifted me up.  Then, as I caught the train into the city with my friend to see homes we passed and then the city buildings.  It really was like a dream, and to stroll along the Champs Elysee (no doubt with all the other tourists), it was very happy-making.  I know when I return it will be different, and yet completely the same.  I can't wait!

PS.  If you haven’t read my book Thirty Chic Days yet, I’d love you to!  It’s all about putting on your French-tinted spectacles and approaching your life in a whole new way.  My approach is to make little improvements every day that are fun and easy.
Life is too short to do all the things we ‘should’ do – where’s the enjoyment in that?  I prefer to make mini upgrades by enticing myself along in an elegant and pleasurable way.  It’s easier to stick to and you get better results too.
You can read Thirty Chic Days on Kindle or in paperback, and it’s available on Amazon here.


  1. I feel like I know exactly what you mean, Fiona. Is it partially a function of being an introvert and also a homebody? I wonder that. I do enjoy watching travel shows and even reading about travel, but I don't think I'm the type to want to be on the go all over the world. I do have some places I'd like to see - including Paris - but at the same time there are many places I have no interest in visiting. Don't get me wrong - I like to visit new places, but at the same time there are many places in my own country I have yet to see (the US). One thing I'd like to do is take a European river cruise. One of these days.

    1. I would love to do a cruise as well, Jeannine! I've not done one before but I think I'd love it. A European river cruise, and also a Mediterranean sea cruise wouldn't be too shabby either :)

  2. Hi sweet Fiona! I love to travel! I'm fortunate to have gone to Paris 3 times (2 on my own) and I could live there. I have a spiritual connection to the place that is like a magnet. I feel pulled back all the time, like there I'm aching to go home, and that's where I belong. My husband dislikes travel & he thinks Paris is old & the buildings are dirty. He's right. There are very slummy parts. It's not a perfect place. I need to be more satisfied with armchair travel! I know you'll enjoy your 50th birthday trip. Planning is half the fun. Learn all you can and visit all the places that interest you. You might like "Paris: Through a Fashion Eye" by Megan Hess. You are good at this - SAVE your money. Take all the extra you can. Dine well, and - shop! Consider a new bag, fragrance, lingerie, fashion or real jewelry. Museums, boat tours and fountains are to die for, give yourself permission to splurge & plan for that, too. Paris is all about pleasure. Take an extra day or two to enjoy!

    1. Hi Missy, thanks so much for your Paris tips, they are wonderful!

  3. Hooray, You're going to Paris! I'm so happy for you :) I've been twice but probably will not go again since I've developed an anxiousness about being abroad and being on long flights (it's more than a 10 hour flight non-stop to Paris from my home). I try not to be sad about it and I know if I really want to I can medicate myself to do it - but that sounds terrible.

    You reminded me of arriving at CDG airport for the first time and hearing mostly only French spoken around me. It was so exciting, I loved it - I felt like I was in a dream.

    The second time I went to Paris I went with my daughter about 5 years ago when she 15 years old. I wanted Paris to be the first destination she ever traveled to, especially since she had become fluent in French.

    You're going to have a wonderful time, I know it! And happy 50th birthday too :)


    1. Hi D, it's not *quite* my 50th yet, not until late next year, so I've got plenty of time to save up and make plans to look forward to.

      How fab that your daughter got to go with you as a teen. What special and chic memories!

  4. Armchair travel is great, there are so many wonderful places to go on this planet, how could we possibly get to them all? I am 'having a break' from overseas travel for a while. And am okay with that. You look amazing as you travel.

    1. I like to make my everyday life as much like a staycation as possible, and armchair travel definitely helps with that! Sounds like you are the same :)

  5. This is delightful that you have actually voiced this because it's how I feel. I have to really want to go somewhere to actually travel. Paris is one of those places that was worth the effort. Flying, to me, is not fun. I'm not afraid of flying, it's just so crowded, cramped and uncomfortable. I much prefer to drive and don't mind a road trip though for closer destinations. It feels luxurious to be able to be comfortable in your own car and not surrounded by strangers on a plane. I am exposing my extreme introvert here but it's simply what I prefer. But being at home is simply wonderful to me and I like the idea of being an armchair traveller.

  6. I did a lot of traveling when I was young, but nowadays I much prefer staying closer to home. I'd rather treat myself to tickets to a Broadway show that has traveled to Sacramento (CA, only 40 miles/64 km) from my town, or to a day of museums in San Francisco (only 125 miles/201 km) away. In fact, since I'm fortunate to live so close to the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, which people from all over the world love to visit, why would I need to travel much farther?

    So I agree with you, Fiona. Armchair travels are delightful. I do understand your feeling of "secret shame," because I've felt it too. Making the most of what is right around you probably seems boring to many people. But it makes me happy.

  7. Good morning Fiona your post was rather synchronistic as I just sent out an itinerary for pilgrimage to my female friends and told them even if they just take an armchair voyage by reading the itinerary it will enrich them. I do love to travel and I have found the older I get I am 52; One of my favorite forms of Travel is vicarious... I love to meet with friends who have just returned from a meaningful trip. They share pictures and stories feelings and being with them is like being there through their eyes. ( they also bring me a rock or stone back from where they have gone )It seems to me the older I get the more I realize there's no place like home as Dorothy says. And that by going away it makes me appreciate home. Also by traveling I appreciate that the whole earth is my home and all of the inhabitants are my people. Blessings, have a Chic day, Dallas

  8. Hi Fiona! I love reading all your posts! Sometimes my favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon is to curl up on my sofa with a cup of tea, fire up Google Earth and explore somewhere random. I feel like I've been on a mini adventure! That said, I do love France as for me, it's the easiest place to travel to and feel like you're abroad. I live near London so it's an short road trip or train journey from here. I get that same feeling that you had in the airport when I'm in a French supermarket / market, surrounded by an abundance of seasonal produce and imagining what it would be like to shop there every day :)
    Paris is beautiful, but I actually prefer other cities in France that don't always get so much attention, such as pretty Strasbourg, foodie Lyon, the vineyards of Bordeaux, the beautiful Cote d'Azur in summer and snowy Alps in winter. The French are lucky to have so many landscapes and climates, not to mention the cultural and gastronomic influences from surrounding countries. So I guess my top tip for when you come back to Paris for your birthday (if you have time) is to set aside a day or two to explore another French city (the TGV is super fast) or simply rent a car for an afternoon and drive around the cute countryside villages. Much love, Lolli

  9. Still waiting for another audio book...I almost have Thirty Chic Days memorized! I enjoy listening to your soothing voice when I go for walks, clean house, cook dinner or get ready in the morning...really, anytime!

  10. I grew up moving every 2-3 years (dad was Army) so have been to Norway, where my brother was born) and Germany. We stopped traveling by my Sophomore year in high school and I missed it so much I continued a little bit of travel after I left college. I loved it but now am more than ready for armchair travel! As long as I have a private place to write and read, I'm happy! Of course, France is on my list because I have an e-friend there who gives tours, especially to places I can buy vintage china!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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