The Notebook Aisle
The French do a lot of things well. A few things that immediately
come to mind are art, architecture, literature, fashion, the Paris
Métro, technology (yes, technology), and of course,
food and cuisine. I would also throw in the French art de vivre,
in other words, their style of living. They work to live rather
than live to work, and they take time for life in the midst of life.
By the same token, there are some things the French don't do so
well. Examples include habitual cutting in line, the notorious less-than-friendly
Parisian, innovation-numbing bureaucracy, terrible hair highlights,
and politicians living like monarchs.
is an even more mundane item I would add to the French 'do well'
list: school supplies. You can see the French talent for organization
in all its glory during la rentrée (back to school
time) in the fall. The same gene that endowed the French with a
spectacular eye for symmetry and order in architecture shows up
in the tools students use to étudier (study). Enter
any papeterie (stationery store) or the school supplies rayon
(department or aisle) in Monoprix (the French equivalent of Target)
or Galeries Lafayette and you will experience un régal
(a fabulous treat) of the organizing kind.
(notebooks), agendas (calendars), blocs-notes (notepads),
chemises (folders), and classeurs (binders) of every
size and shape line the shelves. Many notebooks and pads take on
a mathematical air as the French prefer graph paper to lined paper.
As I wander the aisles, I am on the verge of dreaming up projects
to organize just so I have a reason to buy some of the paper goodies.
And then I spy the signature orange covers of the Rhodia brand
of pads. Every time I am in France, I stock up on the simple yet
oh-so-useful pads. I like the small ones that fit in the palm of
my hand for grocery and to-do lists. The medium-sized ones are handy
to keep in my purse for meeting notes or the spur-of-the-moment
brainstorming ideas. And I adore the large ones (close to our 8
½" by 11" size) for major projects. Did I mention
they are made of graph paper?
recently made a major find in the Rhodia section of Galeries Lafayette
in Nice. Not only did they have a smorgasbord of pads, they also
carried bound notebooks. And they even came in black. My favorite
travel journals are of medium size to fit in my purse, black so
they look new despite the wear and tear of travel, and thick enough
to handle my musings on the highlights and lowlights of multiple
days on the road. But at 14 euros apiece, I allowed myself only
two of the fantastic journals-and crossed my fingers that I'll come
across some more the next time I am in France.
October 15, 2008
Return to list of archived articles