Le Moleskin

I’m back, and since I was out exploring the world, I was thinking about, dealing with and actively using maps. I love maps. Maps and guidebooks. I have been accused of being a  guidebook geek. I get guidebooks even for brief weekends that need nothing more than a quick Google search, so guidebooks with great maps, well, they send me over the moon. You can imagine my nerdy excitement when Moleskin started publishing City guides that featured fantastic maps, some great tabs and lots of empty space for you to create your own guide. In the blink if an eye, I’d bought tw.o; Paris, of course and one for a pending trip to London. That was nearly a decade agoIt turns out I’ve barely touched the Paris version. Living here quickly made it irrelevant, but my London Moleskin is my treasure. It has an envelope in the back and this is where I store all the cards of people we’ve met and may like to visit again, people like shop owners, tour guides, the guy who grills sea scallops wrapped in bacon at the Borough market and specialists on one subject or another.

Then there are all those empty tabbed sections where I can note which hotels we stayed in, what we loved about it, what was annoying and the rates we paid so that I can compare when booking subsequent trips. I do the same for the restaurants we’ve really enjoyed. That’s all pretty standard use, I imagine, but I do two things with the Moleskin that I really depend on.

1/ I keep a running list of all the places that we pass that we would have loved to have tasted, seen or explored but simply couldn’t for one reason or another. The title of this list is Next Trip and every time we return I tick off a line item or two. This trip I finally got to check off a visit to the Apsley House (the Duke of Wellington lived here), Mr French’s shave and lunch at The Only Running Footman pub while I added a visit to the record shops in Soho, lunch at Tayyab Indian restaurant in the East End and ordering stationary from Smythson’s on Bond St.

2/ The guides come with tracing paper post-its that I stick over the (very well done) maps, drawing symbols of places of personal interest. I’ve sketched a parasol over James & Sons umbrella shop, a stiletto over Senderson’s glorious shoe store. There are teacups and frames and books and canes and crosses. As we walk out of a museum, leave a park, or finish dining, I take a quick glance at the map and I know in an instant if there is something else we may like to visit in the area and exactly what it is.

I also keep a brief travel journal, which is fun to read and particularly helpful for reminding me of little details, like my favorite cocktail, you have to rent the lounge chairs in Green Park and where the best toilets are hidden. I also write funny conversations we’ve over heard, which can be some what embarrassing as I sit in the Eurostar, reviewing my notes prior to our arrival. Embarrassing because the restrained French and staid Brits are invariably shocked when a loud guffaw escapes me.

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