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What to Bring and What to Bring Back? That is the Question

At the end of the week, I’ll be winging my way west toward Southern California to visit with my daughter for a week (who has taken up a temporary residence there) plus old friends — some friends from the years we lived in Los Angeles, and others I’ve made since, as a result of living in France! (Lots of Francophiles live in California!) I have been looking forward to the glorious weather in Southern Cal, but Paris weather has rivaled it all this past week with gorgeous sun, blue skies and warm air. For once, I have no complaints!

Naturally, my suitcase is already packed up with a list of things my daughter wants from France. There is always an exchange with each excursion to the U.S. I bring things from France they can’t get there or are expensive, and return with things from the U.S. for the same reason. What do I bring…and what do I bring back, you ask? Here are my favorite things to bring to friends in the U.S.:


Fragonard Glycerin Soaps

Jacques Jenin chocolates

Plastic freezer bags from IkeaRevlon lipsticksBloc Notes

Biafine: “BIAFINE is a water-based emulsion formulated for the dressing and management of superficial wounds, minor abrasions, dermal ulcers, donor sites, 1st and 2nd degree burns, including sunburns, and radiation dermatitis. When applied properly to a wound, BIAFINE provides an optimum moist environment for the healing process and isolates the wound from harmful germs and other external contamination.” But, Biafine is THE ANSWER to gorgeous skin. If you want to do away with all those little age lines in your face, then apply Biafine every day under your make-up. I swear, it’s a miracle. While a tube here in France is about €5, it can be purchased in the U.S. for $45! So, bring it to all your friends!

Fragonard: Fragonard everything. Fragonard makes the perfect gifts from France and their scents can’t be beat. I have a long list of favorites, but a few among them include the glycerin soaps ($10 in the U.S., €5 in France), the gels douche (shower gels), $18 in the U.S., €10 in France) and the lait corps (body lotion, $25 in the U.S., €15 in France). They happily gift wrap and include samples. The choices are endless.

Chocolate: Ganache squares by Jacques Jenin, to be specific. There is no shortage of great chocolate in France, so it’s tough to go too wrong, but the little squares by Jacques Jenin of many flavors that come in little flat silver tins win the price for impressionable delicacies. He’s been called “The Chocolate Rebel” by Lennox Morrison in the Wall Street Journal and fortunately, one of his two boutiques is a stone’s throw from my apartment.

Things I bring back from the U.S.?:

Zip lock bags and plastic wrap: Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know that plastic isn’t environmentally healthy, but the better the bag, the more it can be used and re-used. If you can’t make a trip to Ikea where the zip lock bags are one of the best things they sell, then stock up on them while you’re in the U.S. They almost don’t exist in France except at Ikea. I pack my clothing in zip lock bags, making it really easy to unpack and sort the clothing in or out of the suitcase. Plastic wrap is another one of those things they haven’t perfected in France. The first time you struggle with a French brand of the insidious stuff, to the point of throwing the whole box across the room after you’ve wrapped-up your fingers into a tight knot, you will never touch it again. Fill your suitcase with both of these light and unbreakable American products.

Revlon lipsticks: I’m addicted to the original formula and best colors of Revlon Super Lustrous™ Lipstick (“The world’s most iconic lipstick brand lipsticks”). It’s creamy and stays on. All the American drugstores carry them and often have promotions so they can be purchased at a bargain. My three favorite shades of red are #720, #725 and #740.

Pens, paper goods and office supplies: Office Depot exists in France, but paper is a small fortune and some things just aren’t the same. There’s something satisfying about writing on a lined yellow legal pad with pages that tear off at the top, compared to a French “bloc notes” – even if the paper isn’t the same size. Pens in the States are a bargain, too, particularly when purchased in bulk…although no one does fountain pens as brilliantly as the French!

No doubt, everyone has their personal lists…we go with a stuffed suitcase and we return with a stuffed suitcase, trading off each country’s best products.

BTW, while I’m in Los Angeles, I will be doing a few person-to-person consultations, so if you are in the area and wish to take advantage of this opportunity, be sure to contact me now to schedule it.

Days after returning from Los Angeles, I’ll be on the train headed west to Bordeaux (if the transportation strikes don’t prevent it!) where we will be filming another House Hunters International episode (our 33rd). We’re looking for apartments or homes in which to tape, so, if you have a one- or two-bedroom property in the heart of Bordeaux and would like to see it immortalized in this popular TV show, please email me immediately! should I bring back some wine from the Bordeaux region?

What do you think?

A la prochaine…

 Adrian Leeds Paris, France - (By Tom Marquardt)

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Hotel MOSCOW - By Talia Carner

P.S. Make your plans now to be at May’s Après-Midi with Talia Carner, author of Hotel Moscow, speaking on THE MORNING AFTER—WHEN A NATION WAKES UP TO “DEMOCRACY,” her experiences of being caught in the 1993 Russian parliament uprising against president Boris Yeltsin, about the plight of women when this world-superpower went through a transition. Details on our Après-Midi page. Don’t miss it!


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