Images courtesy of Marvin Shaouni, Cesarastudilo, Quinn.Anya
Just like any other major city, Paris has its fair share of kitschy souvenirs on offer. Indeed, the word souvenir itself is French. And I’ll be the first to admit that I still have the mini Eiffel tower that my best friend brought back for me years ago. In recent trips, however, I haven’t looked twice at the knickknacks on display all over the city. Instead, when the time comes for me to return home from Paris – as it did earlier this month – my suitcase is packed with a different species of souvenirs to enjoy back on American soil. And they basically all have to do with food.
Sel de Guérande – Fritish
Sel de Guérande. This sea salt, collected off of the shores of Brittany, is hailed by many. Both the sel gros (coarse salt) and fleur de sel (fine top layer) are astonishingly less expensive in France than in the US. My last morning in Paris, I woke up to beautiful sunshine and hopped on a Vélib’ to pick up my very own 1 kilo bag of the sel gros from M. Dion at the Marché Richard Lenoir, near Bastille. Thanks to David Lebovitz for the tip!
Moutarde de Dijon. “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” Nope – but I do have Maille, and at just over 1€ per jar at Monoprix, it’s another example of an item considered high end in the States but standard in France. Great for homemade vinaigrettes or even just for dipping your French fries as the natives do.
Cheese. Do I have to elaborate? Wrap it tight and bury it deep in your checked luggage to get it through tricky customs. Many fromageries in Paris will even vacuum-pack it for the trans-Atlantic voyage. This time, my choice import was a wedge of Napoléon, a mild yet flavorful sheep’s milk cheese from Corsica purchased from a fromagerie on the rue Rambuteau.
Maggie Battista – Eatboutique.com
Metric measuring cup. While the rest of the world uses the oh-so-logical metric system, we Americans are stuck with our clumsy cups and ounces. How confusing! My verre mesureur from la Vaissellerie allows me to make all those recipes I picked up in France back here at home. My mother was delighted to receive one as a birthday gift after a past trip, and promptly put hers to good use making a Patricia Wells molten chocolate dessert recipe. Yum!
Crêpe spreader. This T-shaped wooden implement is used by crêperies across the city. I picked mine up in the housewares section of Galéries Lafayette, though you can even get them in the US at specialty stores such as Sur la Table.
Nivea cream. My favorite moisturizer to soothe my poor hands – after all, there are a lot of dishes to be washed once I’ve put all my delightful French ingredients to good use!
Having these items in my home makes me feel like I’m not quite so far away… and lets me share my Parisian life with my friends and family back in the US. They also keep me looking forward to my next séjour in the City of Light – a nice feeling. What are the souvenirs of Paris that you simply can’t do without?
- Travel & Leisure: Sappy Souvenirs
- Navigating the French Cheese Shop
- NY Times, the Frugal Traveler, Finders Keepers: Souvenirs on the Road