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What Are Your Favorite Souvenirs?

By: Jen Shoop

Do you collect items from the places you visit? I know some travelers amass postcards, coins, keychains, and even charms for bracelets, but it occurred to me the other day that my favorite items to bring back from destinations are local delicacies (even beauty products!) that, sure, won’t last forever on a shelf or in a memory box, but feel especially redolent of the place. I’m thinking of the beautiful lavender hand soaps I’d brought back from a street market in Avignon and the salted pistachios I carried with me from Aegina, Greece to my tiny mouse-infested apartment in Lyon. (“Madame, il y a une probleme avec les souris dans l’appartement,” I’d stammered to the land-lady (“Madame, there is a problem with mice in the apartment”), who looked up at me blankly before responding: “Bienvenue a France!”, which translated literally as “Welcome to France!” but in actuality meant: “Too bad for you! Leave me alone!”) I remember sitting on the lofted bed of that tattered apartment, shelling the nuts into a small porcelain bowl, missing my boyfriend while reading French Vogue, and the snack made me feel a little less bad about the situation, because — well, I’d been to Greece! And I had stood amidst the ruins of gods and seen the Mediterranean. And I was 19! And my luggage smelled like lavender, and really, the world was not so scary, and everything was going to be OK. In other words, those mementos transported me to the places I’d been, and I clung to those experiences with something like hunger.

A few weeks ago, my brother and his family flew over from their home in Norway to stay with us for ten days. The afternoon they departed, my sister-in-law left bags of Norwegian chocolate on my dresser along with a handwritten note. The gift was so unexpected and lovely, and I was moved by the opportunity to experience a little bit of their world here in the States. The chocolates looked like the kind you might buy in a drug store or grocery store — Haribo-esque wrapping — and it delighted me to be able to try one of the everyday purchases of my sister-in-law’s Norwegian life. Things we don’t have here but are not so out of the ordinary or spectacular to invite, for example, international shipping.

I tucked this insight away for future use. The next time I visit somewhere, I’m going to do the same — bring back a little delicacy from a local grocery store or drug store that I wouldn’t be able to purchase elsewhere. Like the ham chips we loved in San Sebastian, or the gummy candies I ate weekly in Lyon. A little taste of the place, extended.

What about you? What are your favorite souvenirs to bring back from parts unknown?

Post-Scripts.

+I’m so glad I studied abroad. It was one of the best and most formative experiences of my life, even though I felt lost while there.

+When Landon visited me in Lyon.

+And when my parents visited me in France.

Shopping Break.

+Drawn to all the pieces in Lululemon’s new “dark forest” colorway, but especially these leggings and this top — a perfect starting point for fall fitness.

+Fun, DRAMATIC maxi skirt. Kind of love this for a family portrait?

+This quilted jacket is a fantastic buy (currently on sale). Your future self will thank you! I have one that is nearly identical from Talbots from maybe four years ago that I wear CONSTANTLY. I like the length, the quilting, the waterproof element, the hood. It’s a great pick for drizzly/rainy/chilly days, can be worn over athleisure, etc.

+Speaking of: Nordstrom’s sale ends soon! These chic Birks are still stocked in a few sizes, and these Ray Bans are a great buy.

+Ordered myself this fun little hat and this “Paris” sweatshirt, which reminded me of the one from Anine Bing.

+A great way to get the De Gournay look for less.

+One of my favorite children’s boutiques, Shop Danrie, marked down a ton of adorable items and are offering an additional 20% off sale prices with code MAGPIE20! I shared all my top picks here. I let my children select a few items, and they went crazy over the French sweatshirts and tees from Maison Tadaboum — graphic designs I can get behind!

+Apparently these citrus juicers sell out each time they’re re-stocked. Intrigued!

+I cannot get over how CUTE this dress for a little love is. The embroidered sheepdog?! Meep!!!! I was just telling Landon that I am SO happy I really went for it, dressing my daughter to the nines, while she stood for it. I had so much fun dressing her in all the little smocked and embroidered things.

+Love the unusual, vintage-inspired pieces from this capsule collection SEA just launched. This blouse and this dramatic top are beyond!

+Fun statement hair accessory.

+A great sculptural vase.

+Spectacular wedding guest dress.

+Two fabulous children’s books that you must buy for your family: this and this. They’re two of my favorite bedtime books for my children, with great imagery and lovely messages.

+Stocking up on lunch/snack supplies for the school year, and I just ordered these little snack cups. (More back to school finds here.)

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14 thoughts on “What Are Your Favorite Souvenirs?

  1. I love bringing home some ceramics or something else that I can use in the kitchen. Having a collection of mugs, plates, pitchers, etc from different trips always brings back fond memories when we use them!

    1. Love the way these souvenirs can fold a different place into your daily life! Coffee while thinking about Modena, appetizers while thinking of Greece, etc.

      xx

  2. Hi Jen!
    Sorry to bother…I can’t find the post where you mentioned the website for little girls earings. Would you please let me know when you have a mo???

    Thank you!
    Susan

  3. My BF and I buy a Christmas tree ornament from everywhere we visit that require a flight. I’m excited to see our journeys on our tree this year!

    1. LOVE this tradition. Such a clever, meaningful way to outfit your tree over time, with ornaments that have personal value!

      xx

  4. Family trips with the children we always bought an ornament to take home from places we visited. We wanted our Christmas tree to tell a story. The kids would love to reminisce and sometimes squabbled over whose turn it was that year to hang such ornament on the tree.

    On the flip side I love curating a take home goodie bag for house guests and gift it on their day of departure so they have something to nosh on for the flight or road trip home. I fill with local food speciality items, maybe a magazine or two of interest and buy vintage postcards of my state from Etsy to use as a thank you note to tuck inside. I especially love finding vintage linen ones and had a house guest once frame it after.

    1. These are such lovely ideas – thank you so much! Going to copy you on the house guest goodie bag idea!

      xx

  5. We buy a Christmas ornament and a print of the city we’ve visited! A perfect seasonal way to remember our trip; the print hangs in our dining room so we can reminisce. I love visually seeing where we’ve been and it’s fun to show our daughter where we want to take her someday!

    1. Love this tradition!! The Christmas ornament is so clever and thoughtful. Love that you can enjoy so many fun memories just by looking at your tree!

      xx

  6. Hi Jen, As always, I love your musings. Thank you for sharing so generously with all of us.

    I used to collect souvenirs; generally art when I would travel, little pieces I could wrap up in my suitcase. But I think that was a luxury before children because now I end up stuffing my kids shoes in those empty spaces. Or the dreaded stick they can’t part with. I’ve shifted to teaching my kids how to recall a trip associated with an object. However, maybe when they’re a little older and I can peruse shops again, I would bring home pieces of jewelry. I like like wearing a charm from Spain, or pearls from Hawaii, feeling it against my skin and remembering a fragment of that moment, knowing that one day I’ll give these things to my daughter. I still love the art I collected because my husband and I will reflect on it and revive an old conversation.

    1. I love the way your artwork “can revive an old conversation” – so beautiful!

      I completely relate to the way children can change traditions like this, too!!

      xx

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