The Parisians have always created pretty papeterie or stationery, particularly notebooks, handmade writing paper and greeting cards, all things we once took for granted, yet which we rarely use in this digital age (notebooks aside for me, which I use on a daily basis). I think this is why I find stationery shop souvenirs even more appealing now, because they’re almost a luxury.
You can find every conceivable kind of stationery in Paris, from the old-world elegance of the bespoke invitation cards and papier à lettre (writing paper) of Stern, which specialises in handsome cartes de visite (calling cards) to the exquisite bound notebooks, fountain pens, and desk sets of Cassegrain, a favourite of the rich, royal and famous. Then there’s Marie Papier, which has paper in hundreds of different colours and bright coloured notebooks, diaries and address books, and Trait, with its funky notebooks, fabulous greeting cards, and hip Paris gifts, like tiny flipbooks and fun stamps.
When I wrote travel guidebooks, I’d fill a notebook each research trip, but for Grantourismo I’m going through a notebook a month, so I didn’t need an excuse to buy a couple. Although I love Italian products, I’m probably the only writer in the world who is not a fan of Moleskines (mine have fallen apart by the time I’ve filled a book), and instead, prefer to use simple spiral bound notebooks. I realise they won’t last forever, but I like to staple business cards inside and need them to expand, and I like a completely flat page to write on. I’ve always loved Mark’s retro-looking Carnet de tous les jours and plastic edition le+zippé with handy plastic storage pockets (both above). Mark’s began in Japan, however, they co-produce some beautiful products for concept store Colette in Paris, as well as the gorgeous Editions de Paris books.
STAMPS & STAMP PADS
I was obsessed with wooden stamps and stamp pads as a child and would get quite cross when the stamp pads dried up. While I’ve well and truly grown out of stamping flowers and love hearts on my legs and hands and all over my exercise books, I firmly believe there should be a return of both personal thank you notes and bespoke signature stamps. I love this ‘Merci’ stamp by Aladine, which is made in France. I also liked their sets of seasonal rubber stamps in tubs, such as this Christmas set here, however, unfortunately I can’t afford to carry around something I’m only going to use for one month of the year. I’m determined to get some use out of my Thank you! stamp although as you can see from the photo above, I haven’t got around to buying some nice envelopes.
Terence may store his recipes on his iPod, but if I cooked I’d be keeping mine in the cute cahier de recettes or recipe book (above) — the one with the rabbit ‘burger’ on the cover. I love the surreal, retro feel of what’s essentially a school exercise book — again, it takes me back to my childhood. (Do kids still use these things?) It may not be as practical as the iPod or last long enough to become a family heirloom but it will come in handy when you’re doing your cooking classes in Paris.
Paris has postcard stands on every street corner selling the usual Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe cards, but I’ve always preferred to buy my postcards (yes, I still send postcards) from stationery shops, art galleries and museums. Trait has a huge selection of Parisian-made cards (the French manga style is very popular), but I bought the cards above from the giftshop at The Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute).
This year we’re not using traditional mainstream guidebooks like Lonely Planet and the like, but we’re relying on advice from locals instead. In line with that philosophy, in each place we visit I’m on the lookout for unique guidebooks produced by locals. I just loved these tiny (and cheap!) books written by Parisians and produced in Paris, Paris gratuit (Free Paris; Editions First) and The Best Places to Kiss in Paris (in French and English; Parigramme.) (I’m going to write more about local guidebooks in a future post.) You won’t find these in all stationery stores, although I found them at Trait and saw them at newstands and in bookshops.
If you like these, see more take-home tips from around the world here.