The Great Parisian Underwear Hunt
Paris is many things: romance, history, art, beauty…etc. Paris is not underwear-friendly.
Allow me to explain.
I arrived in Paris on a Wednesday night, after the “biggest snowfall we’ve had in seven years,” according to one bona fide (and very cold) Parisian. Due to the few inches of snow (which actually stuck to the ground – a novelty in these parts), apparently all of the airport workers had to go home early. As such, there was no one at Charles De Gaulle to remove our luggage from the plane – naturally. No one on my flight, or any other flight that evening, received their luggage. Mind you – I packed light for a week in Paris. Still, they wouldn’t let me bring my carry-on-sized bag on to the plane, as it was over their 12 kg weight limit when combined with my purse. And so commenced my week in Paris – snowy, luggage-less, and just barely making it on to the last RER train to the city at 1:00 AM.
I went one day in the same underwear I wore on the plane, then a second day in that same underwear turned inside out, and then by the third day, well…let’s just say it was a breezy day for me.
I went three days with no underwear. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I went one day in the same underwear I wore on the plane, then a second day in that same underwear turned inside out, and then by the third day, well…let’s just say it was a breezy day for me. I had worn the following on the plane ride: a loose, comfortable skirt, stockings to keep warm, a knit shirt, and (thankfully) my winter coat, to save space. That, plus the earmuffs, gloves, and scarf that I happened to throw into my purse, was all I had for three days, after which I finally received my luggage. For that time, I also happened to look a bit like a hobo in my comfy airplane skirt and sneakers. So much for fashionable travel.
And that’s not to say I didn’t try to find underwear. We (my husband and I – it was a surprise honeymoon trip, awwww, okay but not so awww when all you have is the outfit you wore on the plane ride), were staying in the 9th arrondissement, which is a residential area (read: an area where any civilized city should sell underwear every few blocks or so). We definitely searched. I tried the pharmacies first, with their inviting neon green crosses doing techno dances every half a block. No dice. Someone needs to get a Duane Reade over there, fast. Then we tried a few women’s clothing stores–nothing doing. We passed by a couple of fancy lingerie places (this is Paris, after all), but I couldn’t bring myself to spend upwards of 20 euro on a piece of pink lace. I just wanted some good old cotton undies – is that too much to expect?
By the third day, I considered wearing the same underwear, just with a liner in it. Of course, I had no liners. Back to the pharmacy I went, in the hopes of finding this very basic feminine product. There they were! I bought them, brought them back to the hotel feeling extremely resourceful, opened up the package, and – wetness. Wet panty liners. Probably some form of women’s cleaning apparatus that I would have never bought had I been able to read the French label accompanying the picture of a pantyliner on the box. Once again, fail.
We passed by a couple of fancy lingerie places (this is Paris, after all), but I couldn’t bring myself to spend upwards of 20 euro on a piece of pink lace.
So my basic warning when travelling to Paris is this: pack an extra pair of underwear in your carry-on. They don’t sell them in any convenient locations. And if you need liners for some reason, make sure they’re not actually strange European wipey things before buying.
Other than the underwear hunt, we did your basic Parisian tour of all the classics. No need to list them here seeing as you can find that on any travel site. Just a few tips and warnings:
1. If the forecast is snow, Paris will shut down.
2. If you walk down Rue Pigalle at night (Paris’s red light district, which we happened upon purely by accident – no underwear there either), men will think you’re looking for a good time.
I’d suggest either walking with a guy you know, or simply avoiding it completely at night. I got looks even walking hand in hand with my husband, and they were not all that savory.
3. The Metro felt perfectly safe to me at all hours.
Then again, I’m a New Yorker, so take that with a grain of salt. I’m used to taking the subway well into the post-midnight hours.
4. Don’t make eye contact with the rose sellers.
This one especially applies to those ladies traveling with a man by their sides. Once your eyebrows even lift for a moment, those roses will be in your faces until they are bought. By you. For too much money. Just to get them to go away.
5. Heels in general – not a good idea.
Paris is very cobblestone-y. If you’re going out for the night, wear flats. Or be very good at balancing.
The Great Parisian Underwear Hunt