Paris is full of history, magic, and beauty, and when it’s time for you to leave, you’re going to want to take a piece of that with you. But after spending a lot on hotels, meals, and excursions, what’s a cash-strapped traveler to do? While your budget may not allow designer labels or antiques, there are plenty of souvenirs more interesting than a miniature Eiffel Tower or a felt beret if you know where to look.
Ah, the French butcher. You may not feel a need to venture inside one of these shops during your vacation, content instead with peering into the glass cases behind which are tastefully arranged pig snouts and chickens with their feathers and/or feet still intact.
While you certainly can’t take a hunk of meat home on the plane, you may find that there are non-food offerings such as tote bags with the shop’s name and address on it, usually in a tasteful color and made from strong canvas.
The best part is that these bags are only one or two Euros apiece. Jackpot! Think of walking around your local farmer’s market back home with one of these over your shoulder. So chic, functional, and a conversation starter to boot! And think about it-you’re not really going to wear that beret once you get home, are you? With the exception of a Halloween party, your answer should be no.
This is like the French Target, where you can find clothes, beauty products, even groceries. They are all over the city, and vary in size and selection. A good place to find little luxuries is the bath and beauty products aisle. Here you can find beautifully packaged bars of soap, lotions, and facial products. Many of these offerings are under five Euros, and some are well under. These may be everyday products for the French, but for you and your lucky gift recipients, they will evoke images and memories of Paris even as you’re getting ready for work in the morning.
Walk into any grocery store in Paris, large or small, and you’ll find an array of possible take-home items. Mustard is wonderful here and is often packaged in reusable drinking glasses. If you’re very confident in your suitcase-packing expertise, go for a jar of cornichons or capers.
Sure, you can get all this stuff back home, but it’s not going to have a French label on it or be from France, most likely, and that makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Also check out the chocolate bars and other candies here. Nothing should cost more than a few Euros. One word of advice-don’t even think about one of those dried sausages. Take if from me, customs officials don’t look kindly upon transported meat. I learned the hard way.
You are inevitably going to want some postcards, poster replicas of old French advertisements, or even that miniature Eiffel Tower. Have a walk along the Seine where the bouqinistes have their stalls. There are two things to know about these experienced sellers. One is that, in general, the further up- or downriver you get from the most central tourist area (namely, around Notre Dame), the cheaper these typical Paris souvenirs will be. I’m talking 10 postcards for one Euro versus one postcard for two Euros.
The other is that, unless you’re in Paris during high tourist season, you may find most of them closed except on weekends and perhaps a few weekday afternoons. Get your postcards and knick knacks, but pay attention to their other offerings as well. They sell things like old keychains, letter openers with Napoleon on them, and old books, which are traditionally what they’ve sold since their beginnings. You can find great deals on really unique souvenirs here if you take a bit of time to look, and the sellers are generally polite and speak a bit of English.
So there you have it. Follow these tips and you can bring a bit of Paris home with you without breaking the bank. Bon voyage!