When I travel, which is what I like to think of as simply living, I usually carry a custom, home-made “guide” of sorts. For the past year or so, I’ve carried around a graph-paper filled Moleskine journal, which is perfect for writing dissertation notes, drawing knitting patterns, and jotting down other notes and diagrams. The back pocket is a temporary holder for my stash of business cards, recipes, post cards, and sudoku puzzles (to name the objects in there right now). I’ve taped in a metro & bus map and a small French calendar (with all the saints’ days, of course) that I got for free at an antique jewelry shop on the Ile Saint Louis.
My organization system is pretty primitive: I take dissertation notes beginning in the front, and starting from the back, I jot down all my phone numbers, knit patterns, “favorite wines” lists, random monthly calendars I’ve drawn myself, and notes. I even have our wedding reception seating chart in there somewhere. The organization is a mess, but still better than I could do with a plain old paper journal, which is often wide-ruled and doesn’t usually have a pocket or a handy elastic band to go around it.
When preparing for a trip, I have been known to create my own book – binding and all – to include all the pockets, blank pages, lined pages, and maps I require (that’s what I did for our 2003 Trans-Siberian adventure and our 2005 trip to Costa Rica). Why couldn’t a book publisher do this for me? Am I the only one who wants to do more with a journal than just write?
Moleskine has read my mind, and answered my question. The company that brought back the legendary journal of Ernest Hemingway, Henri Matisse, and Andre Breton (and surely many other famous white men) has just come out with City Books. I bought the Paris version yesterday at the Centre Pompidou and have been drooling over it ever since.
At just 5.5″ tall and 3″ wide, it is compact in size, making it an addition to (not a replacement of) my beloved grid-patterned Moleskine. It begins with a metro map and station index, followed by tables of measures and conversions (including really useful information like shoe and shirt sizes), and even a page that has a ruler at its edge. Next are the glossy, colored pages of city maps with a complete street index. In the middle are 96 blank pages for notes or sketches or whathaveyou, and at the end are tabbed pages divided by visual symbols into categories like restaurants, wineries, cafes, sleeping, people, information, shopping, books, music, and film. There are six tabbed sections that you can personalize with stickers they include with the book. At the very back are two pockets, tracing paper, and small detachable notes. If it sounds like too much to keep track of as you flip between sections, there are three ribbon bookmarks to hold your place, instead of the standard single strand.
I would have included a couple of other things: a page of sticky dots to attach tickets and other paper souvenirs to the pages, and several sturdier plastic envelopes for other findings. My dream journal would also have a place to keep 12 miniature colored pencils, but that is really asking a lot of a company that is appealing to a wider market than Ms. CraftyRachel.
With all of the features of the City Book, it’s easy and fun to make my own Paris guide as I live here, including only the places I enjoy and frequent and for which I’ve received recommendations. We’re spending this weekend in Madrid and I just may have to go buy the City Book for that Spanish capitol!