So, you’ve been to Paris. You’ve seen the monuments, sat on the cafés and walked down the boulevards and the small streets of le Marais. You want to bring back something that reminds you of good times in the city of lights – look no further. I’ve got 10 ideas for you, that doesn’t involve golden Eiffel Towers or ‘I <3 Paris’ t-shirts.
You can’t go to France without trying some good wine, but how about bringing some of it back to your home country? My personal favorites include Riesling and Sauvignon for the whites and Bordeaux for reds, but try some different grapes and see what you prefer. Ask the people in the wine shops, they’ll be more than happy to guide you. Did you know that there are actually vineyards in Paris? They’re located in Montmartre and you can try the wine in october, during the Fêtes des Vendanges – this year it’s between the 5th and the 9th.
You could go for a good Dijon mustard, but if you want a special experience, go to the original Maille shop on 6, Place de la Madeleine. They have hundreds of different kinds of mustard and you can taste several of them before deciding. They also sell pots that can be refilled whenever you come back to Paris.
I’ve met quite a few people who didn’t want to bring cheese back home, because they were scared of how it would make their suitcase smell. If you go to a Fromagerie to buy your cheese, this shouldn’t be a problem as they will wrap it in a special kind of paper that keeps the smell off your other belongings. As a big fan of cheese, I could recommend a long list of must-eats, but my best advice would be to go for hard cheese that matures slowly and generally seek the advice of the people who work in the Fromagerie.
I’ve bought more than 30 books since moving to France, and they’re starting to take up an alarmingly big area of my very small room. There are so many great book stores where you can find all kinds of litterature, old books, new books, French litterature, English poetry…the list is endless. If you’re a bookworm like me, I recommend strolling along the banks of the Seine and browse through the many treasures that are sold by the Bouquinistes. These vendors have everything from giant piles of antiquarian books, old fashion magazines, vintage postcards, fun posters and original souvenirs. They are located between Pont Marie and Quai du Louvre on the right bank and between Quai Voltaire and Quai de la Tournelle on the left bank. You can usually haggle a bit, especially if you buy more than one book.
Paris is filled with museums, galleries and independent shops selling the work of both local artists and people from all over the world. The Bouqinuistes, as mentioned above, often sell drawings and paintings of Paris, but most of the pieces look very much alike. You can often get a good price though, so look around and see if you like something. The area Marais, has a lot of small galleries and there are often open exhibitions during the week. You’ll find photography from all over the world, paintings and sculptures. Ile-SaintLouis, the small island in the Seine also has a lot of galleries, as well as Saint-Germain des Près and around Canal Saint Martin. Montmartre has always been an area filled with artists and to this day you can go to Place des Tertres, right next to the Sacre Coeur and see tons of people selling small canvasses with well-known motives of the Parisian monuments as well as people drawing portraits, both realistic and caricatures. Be aware that a lot of these people are not actually selling their own work and it will often be overpriced. If you want a portrait, don’t be tempted by the people who come up to you and offer a special price, the pushy ones are often the least talented. Always take a look at their previous work before you let them draw you! The best way is to walk around, look at the artists while they are working and then choose someone who’s style you like.
A map of Paris
Yes, I know that you can get free maps og Paris in the metro, but those are not the one’s I’m thinking about. Paris is a city that has changed a lot during the past few centuries and a lot of small shops scattered around the city, sell maps of Paris from different time periods. You can buy contemporary maps with all the monuments on or black/white maps that you can color yourself. If you want to know how Paris looked in the 1800’s, right after the Eiffel Tower was built or when they expanded the city center, this might be an option for you. Plus, most of the maps are very beautiful and make a unique souvenir, that will make you think of Paris every time you look at it.
Your own photos – or photos of you
Most people take hundreds of photos when they go on vacation. But how many of them do you actually look at upon returning home to your daily life? If you’ve got an eye for photography and photos of a fairly high quality, consider getting them printed out as posters, smaller photos or maybe collect them in a book for yourself or your loved ones. If you’re not quite the photographer, but you’re interested in getting some beautiful photos of yourself in Paris, consider finding someone who can take good photos of you. You don’t have to hire a professional, there are a lot of freelancers around Paris who will do photoshoots for a very reasonable price. I personally do freelance photography and you’re welcome to get in touch if you’re interested in portraits, photo series or have other photo ideas that would make a great memory.
If you still want that pink, shiny Eiffel Tower-keyring and a matching ‘I love Paris’ t-shirt, don’t let me hold you back – go get some souvenirs that will make you smile and think about your time in this wonderful city.