Monday, June 3, 2013

12 Unusual and Unexpected Souvenir Ideas for Your Next Trip

A favorite and not-so-unexpected souvenir:  cheesy photo op!
If you've ever been to the store Kiosk in Soho, you've seen my favorite types of souvenirs.  The owners of that store described their offerings in The New York Times as “traditional goods that have been developed over generations or anonymous design found in general stores, D.I.Y.s and kiosks: products designed not around one personality but the result of local aesthetics and needs.”  I wouldn't be surprised if they ever sold this 5 euro doorstop, which is one of my favorite souvenirs from our Paris trip.

Rather than buy something purely decorative, which is what most souvenir shops offer, I like to buy things that are useful and local, reminding me of their origins when I'm back home. So, I love to visit the hardware stores, general stores, kitchenware shops, flea markets and grocery stores when we travel.  The best souvenirs can also be ideas, meals you recreate from your trip at home, a crayon rubbing of a fancy old manhole cover in Paris.  It's fun to think up ways you can remember your trip in more ways than buying keychain or snow globe, although those things can be lots of fun, too.

Here are some favorite souvenirs from our recent trip to Paris, in no particular order.  Maybe it'll give you some ideas for your next trip!

1.  I like Croque Madames, so I had three of them while we were in Paris.  I've never made them myself, even though they're easy to make.  When I made Croque Mesdames at home this weekend, I was transported back to Paris!  It's a souvenir you don't even need to pack.  The top two Croque Mesdames are from Le Campanella and Café de Flore.  The bottom is mine.

 2. Some cheap thing that they've been doing there forever, but you'd never find in the States.  There is a brand of yogurt that sells their yogurts in ceramic cups, which is something you'd never see at a regular grocery store in the U.S.  At Monoprix, sort of like Paris's Target but more groceries, a package of 2 yogurts costed 2.60 euros.  An idea I found online was to fill the empties with french salt as gifts.  I did that, and I'm keeping a set of four gray cups to use for juice.

3.  Go to a hardware store!  The basement of the department store BHV is like the Home Depot of Paris, but cooler.  We got a a bunch of simply designed useful things like magnets and a hammer for Greyson and a doorstop that we thought was really pretty.  We also got some silly things.  Like, a little plaque that says "poussez" (push) that we put inside our closet door.  Only Rob and I will see it, but it makes us smile.  We also got our address numbers in French ceramic tiles.  Just for fun.

 4.  A concept can be a great souvenir!  We really liked this display that we saw at an Agnes B. store in Paris.  So, Rob's making it!  We're putting it in our guest room/office.  The top picture is at the store and the below is our version in progress.  We'll use the mini bungee cords we bought at the BHV in Paris!

5. Awesome things that are way cheaper there than here.  Le Creuset seems to cost double in Paris what it does here, but the pharmacy stuff, especially if you go to CityPharma, costs half or less what it does here.  I get that Mustela stuff for $14.50 for 10 oz and at City Pharma, they're selling two 16 oz bottes for 8.50 euros.  Liquid is heavy stuff, but I couldn't pass up the deal for something I use and love.

6. Art that you make during your trip! 

7. Cute clothes you buy for your future baby!  Affordable American baby clothes are generally heinous.  The colors are gross, there are ruffles and cartoons on every patch of fabric and the quality is poor.  I got the below at Zara baby, where there was not a single princess graphic to be found.

8. A book about the city for your toddler.  We loved Trotro in Paris, which showed all the sites we saw.

9.  Cute beauty products

10.  Food you can't get at home.  I had read about this butter, which I froze and wrapped in foil to bring home (don't try it in the summer, though).  Also, when I saw this Banania packaging, I knew there was some kind of history there.

11.  The regional cooking thing.  I couldn't help but buy the madeleine pan at E. Dehillerin even though I've never cared to make madeleines.  I also bought a paella pan in Barcelona and never regretted it even though I just make eggs in it.

12.  The funny thing you don't see at home.  I thought the pink toilet paper was cute.  That's all.

What are your favorite souvenirs??  I'm always looking for ideas in this area!


  1. We are going to Paris next month, def going to check out the stores you mentioned !

    1. Lucky you, Michelle! I definitely loved CityPharma, Monoprix (note that the monoprix stores all seem to have different selections of stuff...some even only have groceries, so check out a few), E. Dehillerin for kitchen, and Merci and Colette for designy, cool stuff. Also, if you love food shopping, give yourself atleast an hour at Le Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marché.

  2. I just came back from Paris! But I just saw your reply now...because your reply only show on this post, not directly to my email.
    But I did go to Monoprix, bought tons of chocolates, cookies, mustard, jams...etc. We went to Reims and bought a couple bottles of Champagne, our suitcases are too heavy! I have been to those Pharmacy, didn't buy much, because my house is already overflown with cosmetic and skin care products.

    I definitely need to go to Paris again with a gf, just to go shopping and people watching =)