After the tickets and the accommodation and the insurance comes the shopping list. I don't care how many galleries and museums and monuments you throw at me - and I'll take them all, I'll take them all - one of the greatest thrills of overseas travel is the chance to snag something that you can't get at home. Yes, with chain stores opening up in Australia and online stores starting to ship to our shoes this is getting harder. But luckily there are a few little bits and pieces that seem to have slipped through the clutches of globalisation. Such as COS, that beautiful, beautiful high-street store full of minimalist separates and chunky shoes and lace knickers. And specialty French teas, so beloved of my mum, and always guaranteed to put me in the good books when I return, jet-lagged and exhausted and and with a suitcase full of washing. And how could I forget porselli ballet flats. They're hard enough to get your hands on in Europe - either at A.P.C (who they collaborate with) or at their specialty stores, where they sell out regularly within minutes. Forget Repetto. Here are some authentic ballet flats made by a family company based just behind the Scala in Milan, with a softly softly leather sole, tiny little tie threads hanging loose at the top and a long toebox, which I've always thought is more flattering on the foot. These are, hands down, the best ballet flats, comfortable and simple and easy, and I always stock up when I'm overseas.
I remember reading a December issue of Vogue America once, ages and ages ago, where three editors discussed their gifting methods for the holidays. One was going chain store, getting everyone presents on the cheap. Another was going for a recycled theme, scouring vintage scores and antiques markets for the perfect present. But the last - my favourite - bought all her relatives their gifts when she was in Europe at the shows. Some people got small things; little squares of chocolate from Mazet or tiny wardrobe scent blocks from Diptyque. Others got larger, more special things. Personalised stationery from the historic paperie in the Marais, an antique wooden shaving set (purely decorative, of course), tiny little baby booties hand-knitted in Venice. And someone got a pair of Porselli ballet flats - "the original and the best" - because they were young, and lovely, and mad about ballet. The editor who wrote that article was Sally Singer, the then Fashion Features Director at Vogue, and totally brilliant. It was a great piece, because Singer managed - as she always does - to walk that fine line between that breathy, holier-than-thou glamour of Vogue and the breathy, starry-eyed glamour of a true romantic. So you need to have money and position and place if you want to run around Europe buying antique shaving sets and personalised stationery for everyone in your life. But porselli ballet flats... well, you can just be a normal girl on holiday, stumbling into a store on a search for ice cream and trying a pair on and suddenly, swiftly, completely falling in love. Love at first sight.