What would you consider the best (non-tacky) souvenirs to bring back home from Paris and London???
In Paris I would buy a picture of the Eiffel Tower on black velvet.
Okay, kidding - that would be a tacky souvenir. I like to buy scarves in Paris. Also a calendar is a good gift. Neither one of those things take up much room. Don't know about London. I ran out of room (and extra money) by the time I got to London. Of course they have calendars in London too...
Paris, scarves, or wine. If one likes to spend alot of money on stuff( I personally do not, and I hate wasting my time shopping, but, I digress.I realize others love that stuff, LOL ) I would buy and bring back some nice table linen.. they seem to have an amazing variety I don't see at the Bay or Sears here at home, LOL
I did get the ladies at work a nice box of Godiva Chocolates to enjoy,, they cost more then a few scarves,, but trust me,, chocolate is always the right color and size, LOL ( besides I already got them scarves on another visit, and before that ET keychains,, I am running out of options.. LOL )
London,, I had a hard time there, ,, I got a few of these little books from the gift shop at the Victoria and Albert Musuem.. reprints of brochures given out to service men during WWII , one was for British Service men who go to France, one for Americans in Britian etc etc. customs etc what to expect etc . There were about four different ones. Really interesting , little hard covers,, only about 4 by 6 inches.
I just don't make a point of shopping on vacation.. it bores me,, and usually people just go oh thanks, and throw whatever you give them in the junk drawer or rec room,, unless you can afford really nice gifts.
Ditto on the clutter that goes into a draw. We plan to purchase wine, let family and friends experience a great tradition of Europe - which raises a question; will any merchants ship wine bottles back to the states?
London- bring back a selection of Cadbury chocolates. I don't know about Canada, but many of the varieties on sale in Britain are unavailable in the US.
Scarves.... get them at the outdoor markets. President Wilson or Saxe Breteuill.The markets have other neat trinkets, too, in the household area like neat little Brie cheese keepers, and other real French things. Also, in Paris , on the Rue Cler, there are some wonderful linen towels that I use for napkins,that come in wonderful colors ,in little sets of 4 or5.
My favorites are the checkered kitchen towels from Monoprix in Paris; I've gifted them to many people and use them myself. Everyone loves them. And on the way home thru Heathrow, I load up on Fortnum and Mason marmalade, after clearing security. I don't give this wonderful marmalade away; I eat it myself. I know it's time for another trip to England when I'm out of marmalade. Of course, our American marmalade is good, too. I just like the F & M as a souvenir.
Hi Bee, in London you could purchase leather bookmarks from different places. Most places (Westminister Abbey, Royal Mews, St. Paul's Cathedral, etc) have them and it says where it is from. People who read especially enjoy getting them and they are not expensive £1.50-2.00.
I don't know why you dismiss tacky souvenirs. They bring the most joy. I found a terrific fridge magnet of Queen Elizabeth on the Union Jack. The printing was offset, and her eyes look like Linda Blair's on the Exorcist. Priceless.
Sometimes a souvenir can something completely different. My one and only souvenir from London is a dress that I bought for £ 5 at a vintage store in Greenwich. And that's actually quite typical for the atmosphere in Greenwich.
Got a lot of Money? A Hermes scarf in Paris. That would be my #1 choice. A small print of Paris street scene or Eiffle Tower. A pin to wear on a jacket.
London: I always buy something in a Fornum and Mason crock (cheese, jam) and something in a Harrod's tin (tea, biscuits, coffee). Then I use the containers and have fond memories of my trip. I also have a couple of little banks (phone booth, one with a map of the Tube line) one with a that I trhrow my change into. I also like the little mint tins.
Calendars have different holidays than US holidays and US holidays are not on the calendars.
If you collect things, like thimbles, creamers, salt and pepper shakers, etc. you can add to your collection with something typical from places you visit.
I like getting fridge magnets from everyplace we go. They are useful and cheap. It is fun to have a pretzel magnet.
About those scarves at all the markets. As great and cheap as they are, I would hazard a guess that the majority of them are made in India or China. Not that it takes anything away from the fun of having all these pretty scarves that only cost 2 euro, but they aren't French.
I never go with a plan about what to buy and often don't buy anything. It is more of a spontaneous thing. If I see something that looks cool and is very typical of where I am, then I get it. The only people I gift are my kids, or my husband if he isn't with me, or my employees.
I have found food items and small things we don't have at home to be the favorite items from my trips...
From London, they include jams (strawberry w/ champagne) and dark chocolate macadamia nut biscuits (cookies) from Fortnum and Mason. Boots and other pharmacies carry small little tins of Vaseline that is different than what we can get here at home (all my girlfriends ask me to keep bringing it back). I also go to a grocery store for Cadbury hot chocolate and candy items as well as Roundtree fruit gems (the ones with the sugar on the outside).
In Paris I usually hit up the food market across from the Le Bon Marche department store. From my last trip, the different herb combinations and salts with herbs were the biggest hit. There are such unique items at the markets. Also, I don't buy the most expensive items - the best ones are often the least expensive.
For gifts -- I love buying stationery. Small, flat, easy to pack, it's always the right size and color when you give it to someone.
For ourselves -- we've started buying little miniature buildings to add to our Christmas village that we put up on our mantle each year. Now, in addition to the charming little cottages and churches, we have a Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, the Eifel Tower, a British telephone booth, and the Parthenon! My one regret that I was too cheap to pay $12 for the Roman Colosseum! sigh I'll just have to go back!
As for "non-tacky" souvenirs, we enjoy buying things that we will actually use. I have a brass cannister from a flea market in Paris that I keep my sugar in, a lovely vase from Dresden, and silver spoons from Poland. Lovely memories...that are useful too1