This is a guest post from Catherine Lavinia. Are you a compulsive souvenir collector? Do you spend far too much of your holiday combing the visitor gift shops for souvenirs and presents to bring back for friends family and work colleagues? If so you have our sympathy; it is a very difficult habit to break.
However many times we visit Paris there is always something we feel compelled to bring back home; though far too much of it seems to have an image of the Eiffel tower printed or embossed on it somewhere, especially if you bought it from one of the many souvenir shops anywhere near the rue de Rivoli. And all those models of the Eiffel Tower that are on sale: have you ever considered how many billions of them must have been made? Almost certainly none of them are made in France. They have become ubiquitous; look closely and you are likely to find a discrete ‘made in China’ label.
Then there is the food. Before modern culture became what it is today, there was always the fascination of wandering though French supermarkets seeing what sort of food items were on display that we would never find in British supermarkets; nowadays it seems that supermarkets are much the same whoever they are located. The same goes for kitchen implements. It used to be cool to find French cooking pots to bring home and show off to your friends; nowadays it is pointless; you can find them in Tesco’s. If you do venture into a French supermarket be sure to take your own bags; they don’t supply bags anymore.
So, what about some different things to bring back from the City of Light – things that don’t have an Eiffel Tower anywhere in sight?
The flea markets are a great place to find some more authentic French souvenirs. For instance you can find some old French vinyl records such as original recordings of Edith Piaf; there are few things more Parisian than that. Browse the antique stalls for something old and distinctly French. You will find an abundance of trinkets and jewellery, gadgets and antique clothing.
You can also seek out some local art. Avoid the sellers in tourist traps like Montmartre; there is little that is French in their art. Far better to visit one of the converted artist squats such as 59 Rivoli where young and as yet unrecognised artists create and sell their work. You are almost certain to find something you like at a reasonable price, but be prepared to haggle a little. You might find something there that will be of great value one day; Picasso once sold his work from a squat for peanuts.
Then you can always visit some of the haute couture outlets. A great place is the Triangle d’Or where you will find such fashionable shops as Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Prada, Valentino, and as we say in Britain “Uncle Tom Cobley and all” – you get the picture, but borrow husband’s credit card first!
There are some great things to bring back from Paris ‘sans la Tour Eiffel’ and if you do spend too much money you can always use iDBUS bus travel to get back home.
Catherine Lavinia works as a freelancer in advertising and marketing. She prefers to travel with like-minded friends, and enjoys photography and reading classical English literature.