Optical trade shows are held yearly in many places – Las Vegas, New York, Milan and Paris are the most well known. I was able to go to the Milan show in 2022 and it was mind-blowing, 8 full convention centers full of everything related to eye care. I loved the experience and really wanted to go to the Paris one next. A good friend of mine had lived in Paris for a few months, so I asked if she wanted to meet me there. It was a resounding YES! So September 28, we found ourselves meeting in the Charles de Gaulle airport, I’ve never been so happy to see a familiar face! All my worries about my phone not working, etc, were unfounded. We hopped on a taxi to our Air BNB, giddy with excitement – even while exhausted.
The taxi ride ended with a bit of drama as I didn’t think to bring euros, credit card was all I had and the driver’s system was dependent on wifi which was non-existent in that neighborhood. An awkward 20 minutes ensued while Zoe hoofed it looking for bank to no avail, the driver kept trying his machine and finally we heard the successful beep of my card going through! Whew. I couldn’t even tip him as they don’t do tips….and I had no cash! He immediately went into a cafe for a drink, haha, stupid americans, and we found our sweet little apartment for the week. We slept for 12 hours that night, woke up that morning and I blew up the electrical trying to use an american blow dryer on full blast. Definitely felt like a “stupid American” but we were never treated that way. Our entire trip, we found nothing but kindness and courtesy.
We headed to the convention center, a bit of a fiasco going to the wrong address but made it just in the nick of time for my 1pm appointment with VUE DC. The SILMO event was more manageable than the one in Milan felt, for me. Only 2 buildings, with one being filled with all of the lines I wanted to see. We wandered up and down the vibrant yellow carpet, drinking espresso and champagne and eating Belgium waffles. Turns out my other appointments were scheduled for the first day, but my phone kept them in California time. Another lesson learned, change phone schedule settings, but was so grateful my reps fitting me in and working it out. “stupid american, haha!” me to myself.
We spent a total of 2 days at the optical show, I ordered A LOT and made wishlists of what I eventually want to bring back to Atascadero, but couldn’t afford yet. It’s fun to set goals and also be happy with where I’m at!
We spent the next 2 days being tourists in Paris, I fell in love with a city like I never have before. I was full of ooohs and ahhhs and wow around every corner! We found vintage street fairs, did lots of cafe sitting, laughing and talking about everything under the sun, people and dog watching (we decided French dogs are very very cute). We walked over 50 miles in the streets of Paris and I enjoyed every moment, except for the one with the guy peeing in a water bottle and purposely trying to block our way? Weird.
One of our “rest” days, we took a 45 minute train ride to Giverny, and rented bikes – rode the remaining 4 miles to Monet’s Garden where I literally cried with happiness. If I can imagine heaven, that garden was it. Monet was obviously an amazing artist, but HIS GARDEN BLEW MY MIND.
We packed up and said farewell to our little Paris abode and got on the train to Antwerp, Belgium, where we had arrangements to meet the Theo crew at the frame company’s headquarters. Little hiccup with my train ticket, I don’t know what went wrong, but a random man on the phone scanned his ticket for me and kept walking so I could enter the station. I could have hugged him! The train ride was smooth and FAST, it was fun watching the European countryside fly by. We arrived in Antwerp, found our next Air BNB, then had dinner with the original owners of Theo and the rest of the group assembled for the next few days, an international assortment of opticians and optometrists. We learned Theo’s story and about their company culture, as well as how we can bring back their joy and inspiration to our own shops. I am so grateful for their hospitality and time!
We left Antwerp wishing we had more time there! Gorgeous ancient buildings, quiet narrow streets filled with the most beautiful shops. I took lots of shop photos for inspiration, simple clean modern lines with vibrant natural elements. We had one last night in a Paris hotel near the airport, no bedbugs thankfully, we said a tearful goodbye full of gratitude to share this experience.
I’ve been home for 2 weeks now, and I still feel like my head is in the clouds. It was such a dreamy trip! Thanks for supporting my love of beautiful eyewear and letting me go on this adventure to bring back pieces of Europe to our little town on the Central Coast. Thanks to JoAnna who covered the shop and my husband who single-parented his way while I was gone, taking soccer/kid/pet/house duty.
j’adore les lunettes!