Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ponte Vecchio

ponte vecchio at nightWe arrived in Florence at 12:00 noon on a sublime Italian summer day.  We took a taxi to our two bedroom apartment on Corso Dei Tintori near the Piazza Santa Croce to meet Sid.  Our handsome, charming, young Air BnB host dressed in a linen shirt and white trousers would lead us up the marble staircase to our new Italian digs which would be our home base for the next six days.  My worst fears were flung to the four winds when we stepped over the threshold to discover that the apartment was just as pictured. Better even. Google “Tintori II” and take a look for yourself.  Go ahead. I’ll just wait here until you’re done…

Take your time…

See what I mean?  Bam!  It was the petite balcony that sold me.  Across the street was a divine market which was a mini tourist destination unto itself.  Shelves lined with beautiful pasta, bread, wine, pastries, and the most gorgeous produce imaginable would keep us occupied for hours if we weren’t careful.  We were just a stone’s throw from the Fiume Arno behind the apartment building and after stocking our kitchen, napping for a few hours, and studying a city map we headed that way for our first evening stroll.  We walked westerly along the northern bank with scores of other tourists and joggers.  Not really sure where we were headed, it’s almost impossible to walk for long in this city without bumping into something spectacular.  The sunset over the Ponte Vecchio is enough.  On our right we soon arrived at the south end of the Uffizi Gallery.Florence03_Uffizi Gallery08Good to know because we would be visiting the art gallery the next day upon strong advice from our British friend Pippa.  She said the frescos alone were worth the price of admission.

IMG_5408She was right, of course.

A few steps further and we had reached the Ponte Vecchio where things really began to get festive. This is probably the number one tourist hangout in the city and the overpass was as busy as Times Square in NYC.  We were in search of our first Tuscan dinner but also taking our time and drinking in the sights and sounds along the Arno.  We stopped for a bit to listen to a singer/guitarist who had drawn quite a crowd at the center of the bridge.  As we headed over to the other side we began our search in earnest for a restaurant.  But, not before I had a chance to gaze into the windows of a few shoe shops on the via de Guicciardini.  As it turns out, the first shop to catch my eye would be one of the best I found in all of Florence.  I had to come back two more times before finding it open for business.  But, when I did, I tried on these and fell in love…IMG_5873 IMG_5872 IMG_5874The name of the shoe store was Guido Longinotti and I absolutely loved every single pair of shoes in the place.  The owner helped me to narrow down my choices.  It was between these and a pair of green and black sandals.  I said I only had enough room in my luggage for one pair and I was leaning toward the sandals (they were green after all).  She asked where I lived and I told her, “New Hampshire.”  She said, “Better go for the red ones.  You’ll only be wearing the sandals two months out of the year in that climate.”  I didn’t have a good comeback for such an astute observation. I told her to wrap up the maryjanes and I fished around for my Euros.

When I asked if they had a website she decisively declared that they did not have one and they never would.  Nor would they have a Facebook page.  She explained they were weary of competitors stealing their designs.  Fair enough.  Here’s a bit of info about the store itself if you want to go looking for it while in Firenze.

IMG_5877 IMG_5879Only twenty steps from the “Old Bridge” says the brochure.  If that’s true then our dinner spot was 30 steps from the “Old Bridge.”  We dined al fresco and I had a simple dish of spaghetti, olive oil, and fresh parmesan along with a most excellent glass of wine. It couldn’t have been more perfect.  My dinner companions and I raised our glasses in what would be the first of many toasts to one of our best family vacation trips ever.

Sensible Shoes

IMG_5846IMG_5847Certain occasions call for sensible shoes.  Take these, for instance.  Theses puppies have been indispensable for me this summer. I walked all over Florence and Paris in these in August.  They’re made by Naot, a shoe company in Israel.  Here they are on the website…

Koru Reka They are called Reku and are part of the Koru line.  Holy cow, this brand has really grown.  I remember a few years back picking up a pair of sandals.  They reminded me of Birkenstocks only slimmer and a bit more stylish.  Something along the lines of these…

MadisonStardust_12-20-2013-10-49-35.jpg TAHOEBuffaloSee what I mean?  I particularly like some of their more elevated sandals…

FASOMetal RomeRumbaThese are great for getting around in.  The anatomical footbed, the cushiony rubber sole with a bit of a tread, the blister free uppers all add up to the perfect shoe for roaming city streets and country lanes.  The last thing I wanted to wear around Florence was a pair of American sneakers.

This was a trip for the ages.  Italy had been on our family bucket list for several years.  This summer was our daughter’s last before she would head off for college.  We haven’t taken a proper summer family vacation trip for two years.  It was time to go. Because of work and school schedules we had a block of about 10 days to work with.  We decided to focus on one Italian city; Florence.  Because of the way we booked our flights, we were routed through Paris.  What the heck, let’s spend a few days in Paris as well.  I found the PERFECT two bedroom apartment in the Santa Croce neighborhood through Air BnB.  In Paris we booked a small hotel in the Latin Quarter.  At the end of our trip we spent one last night in New York City at the Algonquin Hotel.

We did a lot of walking over the ten days.  We walked along the Arno and the Seine.  We walked every day to find the perfect cup of coffee and the most divine gelato.  We walked to find the best bistros, restaurants, cafes and brasseries.  We walked to see the frescos, the art and the amazing sculptures. We walked to cross the bridges, stroll the gardens and feed the birds. We walked to hear the music at night in the Palazzos and to see the lights of the Eiffel Tower.  This was a time for just the four of us to be together and to make new memories.  Definitely wear your sensible shoes.

More stories from Florence and Paris to come.

And, yes, I bought some shoes over there.

Ask and you may receive

Chie green sandal

Here’s my latest shoe purchase.  These are sandals from Chie Mihara which I found on Amazon.  I stalked them (as my daughter would say) all summer as they went from full price down to 67% off.  It’s possible they could have gone lower but I’d held out as long as seemed reasonably safe.  It’s helpful that with each price slash you can see how many are left in stock in your size.  For some reason, these weren’t selling like hotcakes.  I have a rule of thumb for buying discounted shoes on Amazon. The price must be 50% off or lower before they go into the cart.  Well, really I have two rules (because I have two thumbs).  I will only buy shoes on sale if I would have considered buying them at full price in the first place.

There was a time in my life when I would only buy an article of clothing when it was on sale.  Walking into the Casual Corner at Westroads Shopping Mall and buying a sweater at full price seemed indecent somehow.  I barely had a dime to my name in my twenties and early thirties.  Being thrifty came with the territory.  It was some kind of noble challenge to see how much I could get for how little. “I found these Calvin Klein jeans in this interesting shade of mauve at Filene’s Basement for seven dollars and fifty cents,” I would declare. “They practically gave them to me.” Never mind that nothing in my wardrobe would go with them or that they were missing several teeth in the zipper.

Now days I shop the whole store and believe that the best bargains are found in clothes that make me look and feel my best because they are flattering, fit my body and are well made.  Maybe I don’t need everything in my closet but my goal is to wear everything in my closet or learn from my mistakes.

I will leave you with these brief stories of times I received discounts simply because I spoke up.  It’s one of the perks of growing older and wiser.  You come to realize that it never hurts to ask and it can quite often pay off.  I’ll add that it helps to do it nicely and heap your salesperson with all kinds of gratitude afterwards.

  • A few years ago I found a cute grey cropped jacket on the sale rack at Anthropologie which had been deeply discounted.  They had one in my size and it fit like a glove.  The original price was $188 but it had been discounted four times and was now down to $32.  I couldn’t believe it. Upon closer inspection I could see where several threads had noticeably popped out of the loose textured weave on the front collar. It would be impossible to fix but I imagined the flaw could be easily covered with just the right sized brooch or pin.  Luckily I had several back at home.  I was with my  teenaged daughter and as we approached the counter I mentioned to her that I planned to point out the loose threads to the salesclerk.   “NOOOOHHH,” she wailed.  “Don’t do that!”  When it came time to check out I casually speculated with the salesperson that the  jacket had landed in the sale room because of the defect.  “Hmmm,” she intoned as she took a closer look.  She turned to punch something into her computer, then returned to meet my gaze and declared that she could take off an additional 15%.  BAM!
  • J.Crew came to town awhile back.  They had a grand opening one snowy February day with lots of eager sales people in cashmere sweaters and skinny jeans.  I strolled in to take a look and picked up a basic cardigan sweater that I had been eyeing in the catalog.  I perused the jewelry and was drawn to a crystal encrusted heart pendent on a long chain.  It was offensively overpriced and so I quickly set it back down.  When I went to check out the salesperson asked me if I had found everything okay… yada yada.  I answered honestly.  “Well, I noticed that you only stock pants up to a size 10.  You are probably catering to the college crowd but there are lots of us in town who haven’t been a size 10 for a long time and would love to shop here.”  She didn’t have a good explanation but mentioned how important my feedback was and she would relay this to her regional manager.  As she bundled up my sweater she slipped a little square box into the bag and said it was an “appreciation gift” for my willingness to share my concerns.  When I got home I opened the box and found the crystal heart pendent inside.  BAM!
  • While at L.L. Bean and shopping for boys’ t-shirts I came across a display with several tables full of them.  One table had a sign that said 35% off boys’ t-shirts.  I decided to stock up and picked out four.  When I went to check out I noticed that some of the shirts were ringing up at full price. I questioned the sales clerk.  She explained that only one table of t-shirts were meant to be on sale. “Boy, that’s not very clear from the wording on the sign,” I remarked.  “I don’t think so either,” said the salesclerk defiantly.  “So, I’m going to give you 35% off on all of them.” BAM!

I wore the green sandals twice but will have to put them into winter storage soon.  No worries, they’ll get lots of wear next summer and they were well worth the wait.

The Mid Life Musing Part

IMG_5825IMG_5822How do you like these beauties?  They are by an Italian shoe maker called Moma.  I purchased them last spring thinking that they could easily transition into fall and winter.  More orange than brown and more loafer than pump, they stood out to me.  So far they have worked well with both pants and skirts.

I’m working on my blog photography skills.  Turns out it’s hard to take a shoe selfie.  I may need to get somebody else involved like my husband but I haven’t mentioned it to him yet.  He’s a good photographer and pretty supportive about my shoe lust.

By now you may be asking, “What about the whole mid life musing thing?”  For me, thinking and writing about shoes has been part of a mid life phenomena .  I began this new found passion somewhere around my 50th birthday.  Before that, I never gave much thought to my shoe wardrobe other than I had to have a modest assortment to get me through the days, weeks and months.  I had an awakening of sorts; that my feet were a pretty big priority in the grand scheme of things.  Comfort and style did not have to be mutually exclusive. Maybe quality plays a part. Maybe you get what you pay for.  Maybe you deserve better because you’ve earned it somehow.

Around the age of 31 I realized some of these same things about eyewear.  At 19 my parents bought me my first pair of glasses and I used those frames until I was 23.  When I finally broke down and bought new ones I was shocked at the sticker price.  This was back in my day care center days in Boston (think crappy synthetic pointy toe shoes).  I was visiting my family in Omaha and went straight to one of those eyeglass outlet places to find the cheapest pair of frames I could.  I was so proud of my frugality.  A few years later, when those broke, I found a pair of wire rims at a friend’s antique store for $25.00 and had them fitted for lenses.  Being both delicate and ill fitted to my face, they only last a year or so.  I eventually started wearing contacts but still used glasses as a back up.  I would try on pair after pair only to discover that my favorites were always the most expensive.  I would settle for second or third choice because the price was lower.

I’m not sure exactly when it was or what brought it on but one day I suddenly understood that how I looked mattered to me and my face was a big part of that.  I took care of my hair and my skin.  I spent all kinds of money on make-up and hair products and the magazines that would tell me how to use them.  I spent money on clothes, jewelry, perfume like any other female.  Why wasn’t I willing to spend a few extra dollars to get the frames that made me look and feel my best? After all, I would wear them every day… on my face.  I gave myself permission to walk into the nicest eye glass store in town and pick out my favorite frames regardless of price from that point on.  I felt I was really onto something.

The same thing happened a few decades later regarding shoes and a lot of other intangible things I hope to explore on this blog.  Having a few decades under your belt can be very liberating.  Middle age can be about loss and disappointment so much of the time but I think it’s important to celebrate the little personal awakenings that come along with the AARP cards in the mail.

In the meantime, there’s some great shoes out there just waiting to be discovered.

If The Shoe Fits, Wear It

I wasn’t always this enthusiastic about shoes.  I’ve had different shoe phases.  For a very long time I simply gave up.  I had convinced myself that I had problem feet and that shoes were not made for me.  It’s only in hindsight that I realize I had a fit issue.

In my early adulthood I staunchly believed I was a size 7.  Somewhere along the line I got measured with one of those shoe store gadgets and I took it as gospel.  I would try on shoes in size 7 and if they didn’t fit I would move on.  I have a wide foot but somehow didn’t connect it as a factor.  Nor did I consider that different brands might vary in size or that my foot might change as I aged.  I would buy the 7 and assume that there had to be a “break in” period before I could expect reasonable comfort.  The blisters would turn to calluses which would in turn protect me from the shoe.  Shoe comfort was a process not unlike breaking in a wild horse.

Pointy toe flats were in style in the early 80’s.  I was living in Boston as a recent college graduate from University of Nebraska. I was an assistant teacher in a small day care center.  I made enough money to pay the rent for the two bedroom condominium I shared with 3 other BU students.  I had a car but mostly kept it parked while I made use of public transportation.  I had few possessions as the condo came fully furnished.  We shopped at the Hay Market on Saturday mornings to fill our fridge for mere dollars.  Filene’s Basement was my go-to for clothing bargains.  I found a discount shoe store on Commonweath Avenue that had a stylish and inexpensive pair of bone colored pointy toe flats.  I bought them in size 7 without trying them on.  I guarantee they were not made of leather.

Those shoes were pure agony.  I suffered through the “break in” period like a wounded Civil War soldier biting down on a stick  during a bullet extraction convincing myself that if I could just steel myself through the pain the shoes would eventually bend to my will.  Every step I took would cram my pudgy little toes deeper and deeper into those synthetic points and the skin on top would scrape, tear, blister and bleed.  And it never got better.  I was destined to give up and return to the softer confines of a  sneaker or the safer sanctuary of a roomy clog.  If only I had tried a 7 1/2 or maybe an 8.  Why didn’t I just size up?  It didn’t even occur to me.

I’d like to say I learned my lesson with these shoes but it would be many more years before I would.  A few years back we had a fabulous shoe boutique in town which stocked excellent quality European shoes.  I found this pair of pointy toe flats with just the right bit of a heel.  With the help of the knowledgable sales person I found the perfect size.  You see, the toes aren’t meant to occupy the point but rather the part of the shoe just before things start to narrow out.  And they weren’t a size 7.  My shoes haven’t been a size 7 for a long time.  Anyway, here they are.  They are from Italy.  I love the color (very light burgundy) and the buckle. I wore these regularly back in 2010 when I was auditing a Spanish course at a local college.  They made me feel younger and a little more hip around my twenty-something classmates.  And they never gave me a blister.  Not a one.  It’s time to bring them out again now that it’s fall.

I really miss that shoe store.

 

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Just Begin…

Welcome to my blog called “Sole Searching.”  This is the beginning of a project that has been in my head for a long time. I love to write and I love shoes.  Each entry will include bits about shoes but I hope to expand into other topics as well.  I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me.  My good friend Lorene gave me a little push and suggested I open an account on Word Press.  I did that back in June.  Then I froze.  Recently I came across a quote which goes something like this:

Don’t make change too complicated. Just begin.  

So here goes…

Here’s the thing; I really love shoes.  But not just any shoes. I love shoes that are both functional and unique, exquisitely constructed to support the female foot, and beautifully crafted of high quality materials. Color is important.  More is better.  I’m way beyond my black and brown days.  My current favorites are almost exclusively from Spain, Italy, Canada, and Israel.  However, a few are from Mexico and California.

These shoes are not cheap.  But, neither are they the most expensive out there (I’m looking at you Prada and LouBouton). You won’t find them at Payless, Target or even more upscale department stores.  They most often reside in well curated boutiques who specialize in European Shoes.  You may be lucky enough to have one of these in your town.  But, likely not. You can find them in NYC but also in cities like Portland OR, Seattle WA, San Francisco CA, and Toronto.  And, like most everything else, they can be found online but it helps to know what you are looking for.

They are not the crazy, spiky, high heeled type nor are they of the sensible Birkenstock and Dansko ilk.  My favorites are often kitten or cuban heeled no higher than 3 inches.  I’m also a sucker for a fantastic oxford.  I don’t like flats so flat that they are one with the floor.  I require at least a 3/4 inch heel.  Patent leather can make me swoon.  Shades of blue or green make me weak in the knees.  I have a few red shoes but they have to be just the right shade.  I often prefer Mary Janes over pumps but I’m trying to branch out.  Lately I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect pointy toe leather ankle boot in cognac brown.  And sandals.  I have lots of sandals.

So I search.  I search for the perfect soles to add to my collection.  I will pay full price for a shoe that hits all the marks.  I will pay for shipping from Spain and England.  Alternatively I’ve been known to stalk a pair online while monitoring discounts as the season wanes (always a risky business).  For awhile I was having a lot of luck on ebay (more on that later).  

Do I have more shoes than I need?  Yes.  Does that stop me from buying more?  No.  No it doesn’t.  However, my stash is reasonable.  I wear my shoes.  Some I wear the heck out of and some I wear once a year but I wear my shoes.

I will close this post with a photo of my favorite pair of shoes.  They are by Chie Mihara.  I think this pair is what started it all.  Notice that they are Mary Janes, they have a reasonable 2 inch heel and they are an amazing shade of greenish blue. They go with everything.  No, I mean it…everything.  In my world green is the new black.

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