My husband, 10yr old son and I are taking our very first trip to London in March, with a small side trip across the chunnel to see Paris. Since this is our first trip, I was wondering if any one knows where we can find things on the cheep to bring back for friends and family?
I'm sorry but have you read how miserable the $ is doing against the pound or the Euro? You think our economy is bad here? Just wait and see how expensive London is because our dollar is worth less than 50 cents right now. Finding something "on the cheap" is going to be tough. Then again you have the money to take the Chunnel to Paris which is VERY expensive so I don't get the logic.
Like in the states you can always pop into stores that have nothing but souvenirs (magnets with the Elizabeth's photo, keychains with crowns, etc) but cheap (like Big Lots, Wal Mart, etc) just isn't something you are going to find easily. Most museums in London are free. Both Paris and London are walking cities so you'll be able to see the "sites" and by reading Rick's guides you'll be able to travel relatively "on the cheap" Enjoy your first visit.
In London this past summer, I was able to get Pashmina scarves in all colors in the Bayswater area for 2£ a piece. In Paris, check for soaps from Provence, they were inexpensive and came in all different scents. Also brought back Fleur de Sel salt for my cook friends. Anytime you can find a street or farmers market, you can find fun and unique gifts.
In London, check out Petticoat Lane market (Sundays) - there are dozens of stalls selling t-shirts for £3, hats, sweatshirts, scarves, tea sets, pretty much anything you could ever want. I like to pick up a few t-shirts for friends/family from the guy selling 4 for £10. Not the greatest quality, but lots of cheap fun things. Also try Camden market.
There are also lots of little souvenier places set up along the southbank near the Eye in nicer weather, and there are 2-3 souvenier shops in Leicester Square, althought not cheap!
Another idea would be the supermarket. I brought back grilled beef and chili chicken flavored potato chips for my friends. As I recall they were about 60p at the airport. The candy bars there are also different from what we have here and some have funny sayings on them.
I saw pretty compact mirrors sold along the Seine by the Lourve for 4e to 8e. Granted, they may have been made in China. There are loads of bookstores. Buy graphic novels(bandes dessinees) written in French. They are very popular in Paris esp in the Latin Quarter and some of them are not expensive. The Eurobear designed by Caroline Lisfranc is another European/Parisian thing. It's a 8in stuffed bear w/extra long arms. It comes in a variety of colors. You use the arms to hug other bears. It's a cutsy thing for girls. It's not that cheap; maybe 18e. It definitely is different.
Check out the charity shops (their version of a goodwill store) in London or other cities in England.Ive found some really neat things in them that were cheap
I heartily endorse what Sidney says. In London try the charity shops. Look for names like Oxfam, Scope, British Heart Foundation, Mencap and Barnados to name but a few. They contain lots of odd quirky things and you're bound to find something that takes your eye, plus everthing that is sold in these shops makes a profit for a very worthy charity. You'll find plenty of them on, or just off, Kensington High Street.
Museums and Windsor Castle have gift shops, with inexpensive bookmarks, postcards, and other small things. The shops at Heathrow (after security) have a variety of gift-type things. I like to bring home English marmalade (I know, I could buy it at home), which is sold in the duty-free shop at Heathrow.
Whenever I pass through the UK, I load up on Cadbury candy bars. You might say "They sell those here", to which I would reply "Not exactly". Chocolate bearing the name "Cadbury" in the US is made under contract by Hershey. I once tried a blind taste-test between UK and US Cadbury Dairy Milk bars. Not even close, the UK version tasted much richer! They also make several delicious varieties not sold in the US.
The first time I took my kids we pulled them out of school for two weeks to go -- we brought back all of the kids in both their classes a British penny and two pence piece (actually we didn't even pay for those, my sister's college buddies all emptied their pockets and purses and donated that), small Cadbury chocoaltes, and books of postcards so each child got one. Grown-ups got real chocolates or a bottle of wine. Among my favorite personal souvenirs is seasonal stuff -- every time we have Easter dinner or pull out Christmas decorations we talk about where we bought this or that.
I often bring tea towels back, and if you happen upon one of the many farmer's markets you can find handmade soaps, and things like shortbread and tablet. Also, there are great second book shops, so you might find something fun and inexpensive for a book loving friend.
In London, you can get fun Tube stuff (the, 'Please Mind the Gap' t-shirts are popular. Also, if you visit a National Trust site, their gift stores tend to be reasonably priced and have fun stuff.
With foods, just remember that you cannot bring anything with any meat product in it (whether or not it's cooked/smoked etc.) to the US and no fresh foods.
Best to stick with candy, biscuits etc. And the liquid rules make wine/booze a bit tricky, especially if you are connecting in the US on the way back.
Mary, once you get there you will find no end of ideas for what to bring back to your friends and family. Food, tea towels and decent cheap tea. Whatever you son likes his friends would like as well. Go to the grocery and buy those every flavored beans Harry Potter and his friends eat AND chocolate frogs too. I went to the travel fesitval at ETBD last saturday and went to the Travel Skills seminar. Some good stuff. What came out of it was that, yes the dollar is down, and it will stay that way for awhile...get over it.
Also, those decoratively shaped candy tins from the place you're at. They make a nice little gift, but they do take up space in your luggage.
Yes, Tom is right about Cadbury.I forgot about that. I like the Eclairs best.
in Bayswater are many souvenir shops. Mugs are 2GBP, mini union jack flags, shot glasses that I use as bud vases, tea towels, golf towels etc. paper weights lots of stuff at a reasonable under $5 price.
I agree with the Cadbury. Chocolate in England is different than here - richer, fuller, more caffeine maybe? But better all the way around.
When I was in London I bought jellies and jams from Fortnam & Mason - big mistake - my suitcase felt like it had rocks in it. So, go to F & M for tea which is wonderful.
I also purchased nice quality leather bookmarks which were sold everywhere. I still have mine from Westminster Abbey and they are lots lighter than Jam.
Have a great time. I don't know if Brown's hotel is still open but in years past they were known as having the very best afternoon tea in London.
Since my son is in grade school, and in some very popular clubs we have to bring back things for his class mates and fellows at his clubs. The tally stands around 60! So getting over the dollar thing like someone said is not an option for him! I like the idea of the petty change, that would certainly be new for those kids to see and the book marks for teachers would be thoughtful or soap or even tea towels. I'm not sure if the class would be allowed the candy, but it is worth me asking his teachers. Thanks all!
The "Bouquinistes" stalls in Paris along the Seine sell more than just antique books. I found one guy who sold very small (4" x 6") watercolor and pen & ink drawings that were nicely matted and mounted under glass for 5 Euros apiece - I bought 4 off him and asked him if he'd give me a discount and he knocked a couple Euros off the total. Same with the compact mirrors (cute, and yes, probably made in China but a nice souvenir for women) and fridge magnets - they will all give you a discount if you ask and buy multiples.
I recommend walking the whole length of the river and checking out who has what and for what price - you'll find that the stalls in the center (near the big tourist sites) charge the most and the ones that are further down the river are cheaper and more willing to barter with you.
I also found good bargains in Notting Hill/Portobello Road Market and Camden Locks Market. Again, you have to barter, buy in multiples and scope out the vendors 1st.
There are lots of "cool" pencils and pens in the souvineer shops. Check out Kew Garden's shop also. The Covent Garden and St. Martin in the Fields markets are good too. Lots of craft items, and bargin if you are buying bulk! We once got 25 miniture porcelin plates at a steal!!! (less than $1.00 each then)
Check out the pound shops they are our equivalent to a Dollar Store.
We always bring back Christmas Ornament for ourselves.They are small and bring back wonderful memories when we decorate our tree.
I still have some free souvenirs from my first round in the British Isles. Okay so I'm cheap.
At Salisbury Cathedral, a stone mason was chiseling out some old stones and replacing them. I picked up a finger sized chip and kept it.
On the hill of Tara, there are sheep wandering everywhere. The bushes often snag tufts of wool. I collected a small bag of the raw wool.
Near Lady's View, I was stopped in a dirt parking lot. I noticed some pieces of peat (formed and dried for putting in fire places) and stuck one in my day pack.
In Oxford, there was a Keep the Pound rally. I got a really nice free pin and some stickers for souvenirs.
I also use a gluestick to paste ticket stubs, pin calling cards, labels, etc. in my journal.
If you're coming home out of Heathrow, and there'll probably be some groans over this, the duty free shopping areas after clearing security have some decent selection of souvenirs. No great deals as in years gone by but still some reasonable stuff in prices from miserly to extravagant. The Harrod's outlet has a good selection but many other shops as well.
I brought back food (chocolate, crackers, candy bars)from the areas I visited to my family. I also bought some of the pashimas which were a great price 4 for 10 pounds I believe.
I made my first trip to Europe in 1968 and really had no extra money for souvenirs...the four of us went all over on the trains and stayed in all manner of accommodations and I collected....toilet tissues from each restaurant and hotel and the train etc. This is still my favorite souvenir! My collection includes a train in Italy sample of sort of wax paper type stuff and it is stamped "Property of Italian Train System"
We shall be returning to England soon but I'm taking souvenirs over there.....our home grocery store "green" bags which we will use and then leave at our rental home! From Haggens in Stanwood WA......
I love all the quirky ideas that keep getting posted! So many off the wall ones that will be the heart and soul of what I consider for "himself" and his many friends! (toilet paper!) I'm definatly going to go for the odd flavors of chips. I am taking a few things from my area, KY so that those in the BandB we're staying in will have a taste of what's here. We all weave, so I am taking a small table runner that my son has made as well as some coasters that I have wove. I'm still debating on what else to take besides Derby pie and burbon balls!
We had to move our trip back a few weeks, so PLEASE keep the ideas coming!
Some fun things I have found for cheap : a paperback book signed by PD James in a used book store ,Harrod's own blend of loose tea , fridge magnets from museums , bookmarks , coasters from the pub , match books,leather key chains , tiny bottles of perfume from Paris , cook books in French. Also why not take your address book and just send postcards? Kids love to get mail [ no one writes letters anymore!] and one from overseas would really be a thrill and save you bringing stuff home!
I saw somewhere that some one mention getting vegetable soap in Paris, or was it London. Can anyone tell me where I saw this listed so I could pick this up. It's certainly different!
Look for a cheap Tesco supermarket, they are everywhere and little 'Tesco Metro' outlets you can find in the city.
You can get bags of traditional English tea for a pound or less. Also, Cadbury's chocolate as many have suggeted. Unique to the UK is the Cadbury's 'Turkish Delight' bar--something we don't have anything like in the US. It is a milk chocolate bar coating Turkish Delight---which is rose flavoured jelly. It is interesting...
Also look for Boots--it's a drug store but much nicer than anything like Walgreens or CVS. You can get soaps, etc. scented like rose, lavendar, royal jelly, etc. I think 'British' toiletries would make nice gifts.
Also, Whittards--a big inexpensive chain of tea stores would have good cheapie gifts for people back home.
Paris souveniers. Cheap.
The Eifel Tower key chains are very popular, but don't buy the first ones you see. Usually, along the Seine, there are kiosks set up. You can get pretty good deals on these key chains (I brought 10 home). You can get them from anywhere from 50 cents to 1 Euro. Great to hand out on your return.
Also, the department store BHV (rather like JC Penny's in the US, or the Bay in Canada), but with a Home Depot type department in the basement has some tables set up outside. This is right across the street from the Hotel de Ville (city hall) in Paris. Great deals on scarves, berets and ties.
London Souveniers cheap.
I got some small jam sets and a variety of teas for a good price at Harrods. Also, look for their pens and pencils - inexpensive and easy to pack - great gifts for kids and co-workers. Make sure you get a Harrods shopping bag as a brag item.
I'd like to thank all for your wonderful sugestions. The street over from Notre Dame was a great find not only for the goodies to bring home, but the goodies to eat. I never would have thought of the crepes had I not read about it here first! Everyone has loved all their things, the paintings I kept, the scarves I gave out as well as the cheep touristy things. My son's class and clubs all enjoyed their Eiffel Towers, erasers, keyrings, candy and chips(crisps)! The stamp club of course loved the post cards and freebie things we picked up all over! In one shop they were so amazed at the quantity of things we got, we even got extras! Thanks again all!
I don't buy souvineers as per say for family and friends anymore.
A good friend told me once that having something quirky with the name of a place on it that they have never been to, means not much to them...You often find trinkets like that pawned off at Garage Sales or they end up sitting row after row at Goodwill. If it means something to YOU, buy it for yourself. But it probably won't mean as much to the person back home.
So now I try to bring back things that are both useful and unique to the area I've visited. Once home, we crack open that special bottle of real Champagne right from the Champagne Region (or whatever) and pass around pictures and post cards and share our somewhat embellished stories of exploration and adventure. That to me, anyway, is a real souvineer...:-)