You go to Paris, you buy a souvenir Eiffel Tower for a Euro from a street vendor. You bring it home, you put it on the mantle, you coo, you put it in a box in the attic. Nothing wrong with that. But it can be improved.

From wikipedia entry for souvenir:

[quote]The object itself has no real significance other than the psychological connection the possessor has with the object as a symbol of past experience. Without the owner’s input, the object’s meaning is invisible and cannot be articulated.[/quote]

They say, ” … other than the psychological connection the possessor has with the object as a symbol of past experience.” But it’s the connection with the past experience that is the importance, the value, the whole point. Isn’t it? Of course, the little trinket tower has little value or significance on its own, but it’s the memory, it’s the trigger that brings back that time in the past when you were in Paris. You might take a little pause in your day and flash back to the past. Great, fun, neat-o.

Mariage Frères

But how to take it to the next level? How can you bring a little more of Paris home? Not forever, but for a while. How can you taste Paris, smell it, make that memory a little more powerful, a little more useful. How can we keep it out of the attic?

Buy souvenirs from “daily life”

A two-inch-high metal tower that sits on a shelf, a snow globe, a tchotchke (that’s such a great word …), they have their place. Unfortunately, that place is usually where the sun doesn’t shine: in the attic. But what if you shopped less in the pure tourist shops and more in the local shops? Or maybe somewhere in between? A friend told us to visit Mariage Frères near Paris’ city hall. I’m an admitted tea addict and you don’t have to ask me twice to buy tea. I’ve never seen such a place. It was as if we went back two hundred years and had our horses parked out front. It was gorgeous, enchanting, delicious. I’m something of a tea connoisseur, but I’m also a cheap date. In other words, I appreciate tea, but I appreciate most any tea: pretty much hot water that has a bit of taste. I don’t “need” more tea, but that little Eiffel Tour tchotchke isn’t going to even make the cut to deserve a shelf in my house. I have photos from Paris. I like to save silly papers and receipts (metro tickets, etc.), but I can’t smell those, I can’t taste them, I can’t sit and enjoy them.

I especially enjoy smoky teas, lapsang souchong is one of my favorites. I told them that. Did I want extremely smoky, lightly smoky, perfumed, sweet, strong. Wow, no one had ever asked me in such detail. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I bought a variety. You bought by weight, so I just got a bit of each, elegant small bags that didn’t break the bank (although I think it’s somewhere near the same rate per ounce as crack … ) and even my son got into the game and got a little canister that was bright pink with a fruity tea. We bought a few canisters for friends as gifts (they loved them). We spent maybe $70 there. I don’t know, I don’t remember. I also don’t care. Please take note: I don’t spend money frivolously, but I’m happy to spend it if it’s “worth” it. What makes something worth the money? I knew I would enjoy this tea for months to come. I wouldn’t use it every day, but rather ration it so it would last. It’s now about six months later and I just brewed a whole pot this morning. It’s smoky, like a tobacco shop. It’s a dreamy smell that fills my kitchen. It’s Paris in the morning.

The “distance” is relative

I hear you mumbling, “Sure, great, pal. Let me jet over to Paris and buy some tea.” It’s not the distance. It’s not the exotic destination. It’s how you can turn the tables of perspective to bring out the beauty in what you have. You’re going to drink tea (or coffee or whatever), you’re going to buy shoes, dresses, and salad spoons. If you buy them on the road, a little bit of that road dirt comes back with it–with you.

  • Possible: buy Lipton “Eau de Paris” at Safeway.
  • Impossible: live somewhere else and where you currently live.
  • Repossible: live a little bit of somewhere else every morning.

Mariage Frères

Roi Soleil at Home (not in Paris)

Roi Soleil at Home (not in Paris)

[box]Update: been getting some nice emails about this one. More below.[/box]

What souvenirs to get for someone who doesn’t like souvenirs?

The food (or at least perishable or edible or somehow usable) souvenirs can be the best gifts to bring back for those who don’t like the traditional souvenirs. If they still hate it … they can eat it and it’ll be gone. 😉