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I had a bit of a Garbo moment last Wednesday. I was not feeling stellar, did not really want to be in the office trying to keep busy in an unusually slow week and most of all, I just wanted my own company. These moments are rare for me and I am not generally known for indulging them but with little work and plenty of annual leave left, I gave into it and took a half day off.

If I had wanted to be alone, the chance of that was not very likely. It was Wednesday 12 January and in Paris that only meant one thing: the first day of the Soldes (or sales). Unlike in the UK where retailers seem to discount their goods on a permanent basis, sales are regulated in France. As, however, I am completely out of the French retail loop, I did not know that there would be a throng of people out taking long lunch breaks and leaving work early in order to snap up the best bargains.

In need of air, a walk and a bookshop I headed into Le Marais. Before long I hit the shambling masses of shoppers on a mission! Random bargain hunting is not my thing at the best of times and as I am currently making a concerted effort to minimise consumption even further, I felt I was swimming against the tide, literally.

As my walk to The Red Wheelbarrow – an English language bookshop on rue St Paul where you can browse and stumble across tantalising gems – took me past the department store BHV and I was in need of some new notebooks, I did end up rubbing shoulders with the bargain hunters, at least in the foyer of the store. Whilst others were rushing to the floors with clothing and home goods, I made a bee-line for the virtually deserted stationery department.

A couple of hours later, after a short queue in BHV, a good browse in The Red Wheelbarrow and a leisurely stroll past imposing maisons particulières, I was sitting in Café Charlot – just opposite one of the cutest markets in Paris – with a strong espresso, eyeing up my non-Soldes purchases: a three-pack of the maroon red ruled medium-sized Moleskin notebooks for project planning and general ramblings, a two-pack of turquoise large ruled Moleskins for note taking during my course and a Nancy Mitford novel.

As I opened one of the new red Moleskins, got my fountain pen out and started jotting down details of a possible business opportunity, I celebrated my decision to give into my Garbo moment. Thanks to the simple pleasures of a good walk, the pristine first page of a brand new notebook, a leisurely coffee and the prospect of a good book I was my old self again.


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