Yes Paris is the city of lights but for many and most Paris is the city of shopping. Of course great souvenirs from Paris could be a Louis Vuitton bag from the champs élysées store or a lancel pouch from the Bon Marché. But there are some other fun gifts that you can bring home to your friends and family or for yourself.
Perfume: Not only is it so VERY french. Your favorite perfume is stronger here in France. It is because French perfumes have a higher concentration of oil so the sent lasts longer. So even if you have a full bottle at home or if you want to try something new buy you perfume in Paris. For a fun activity go find your new sent at the makeup counters at Printemps or the Galleries Lafayette. There you can get professionally sprayed. This sounds odd but there is a particular way to put on perfume that you can’t achieve alone and these people are pros. No more expensive then you would find at Sephora, this makes a GREAT souvenir. Then go upstairs to the rooftop cafe and have a glamourous lunch or coffee. See my blog about it HERE.
Dishtowels: France is known for thier lennins and a set of blue and white dishtowls is a great and lightweight gift. My favorite are these circular towels that you could hang and use in a bathroom or in a kitchen. Any Monoprix will have a GREAT selection of beautiful and essentially french dish towls for something around 5 euros each. 20 euros gets you a great set of 4 and that is a beautiful gift for a mother or grandmother.
Papier D’armine: this is a personal favorite and also something fun that you can mail. Pappier d’armanie are small scented papers that are the size of a matchbox. One little piece of this brown paper burned and left in a small studio can freshen the air and kill any odors in a matter on minutes! These papers actually disinfect the air and kill the oders. They were used in midevil hospitals for cleaning. They dont produce smoke and so are perfect for traveling. You’ll find these awesome little booklets right next to the cash register in pharmacies. They are like 2 euros a pack. Include a pack in your letters home
Opinel pockets knife: running at around 13euros the Opinel is the perfect Parisien knife. Everyone in the city has one. Perfect for cutting a baguette, the foil on a bottle of wine, and spreading cheese; An Opinel knife is a great thing to have to remember your Paris picnic with. They come in TONS of colors and sizes so you could find one that suits everyone.
My very own opinel
Speculos spread: for people who love Nutella this is another GREAT spread that we have here in france. In cafés often with your coffee you get a little cookie; these cookies are speculos. Something like ginger snaps but less snappy and not as strong they are very simply DELICIOUS! And the spread is amazing on creps or just melted over pancakes when you get home.
Carembars: These candies are cheap, don’t melt and are an iconic French symbol. My mom use to bring these home for my brother and I and we would make a giant sized bag last for at least two years. They come in MANY flavors including fruit and what they call “firework” which are chewy and have sour powder in the middle but the original hard caramel are the best. On the inside wraper they have jokes and inigmas (like Laffy Taffys) so you get to take home a little french language. You can give one bag or break them up and divide them by the number of people you have to buy for.
Sel fine: French kitchen salt doesn’t seem like much of a memorable gift at first but when you concider that the cultivation of this purly French product, that is a result of the natural tides in Normandy, has seen a masive decrease in the last few years; to a point where prices have shot-up drastically and it is now concidered a “rare” product of France…well it gets more attractive. Sel Fine can be found in so many different forms mixed with Herbs de Provance or piment D’espillet, even lavendar can make it into the mix so you could really personalise your choices. Sel Fine lasts forever since it is pure salt so a miniscule pinch can salt any dish. It is a gift that will last and that anyone who loves french cuisine will love. Checkout my favorite boutique near the pub saint Germain and the Procope, Première Pression Provence in the Cour Du Commerce Saint André for some of the best gift packages. (http://www.ppp-olive.com/)
Scarves: No matter what the season you need a scarf in Paris. And if you buy them in summer somtimes the price dips. But scraves are a great thing to bring back since they don’t take up too much space. The best ones are going to be your solid color rectangle “pashmina” scarves. I have somewhere around ten of them in all sorts of colors and i use them all year round. Throw in a berret for heaven sakes!
Bonne Maman cakes: Don’t waste your time trying to get Laduree cakes all the way back to the US. For one thing they are really not very good after 24 hours and you can buy them on 6th Avenu anyway. Go to a supermarket and buy Bonne Mamman cakes. The boxes are really adorable with red and white checks and they stay moist for weeks after their purchase so if the person you are buying for and you won’t be seeing eachother right away: no worries, the gift wont be ruined. I am fond of the Madlaines and the orange and chocolate cakes. They also come individually wrapped so if you want to pace yourself after you return and savor you french goodies this is a good choice.
Sugar cubes. My mom loves them and I’m always sure to bring them back. You can buy them in boxes and also with individual papers around them. There are also wonderful tins that are just the exact size of a box of sugar. You could also get a cool sugar dish that makes the presentation of your gift a thing of fantasy.
Picard pastries: If you just can’t live without those macaroons or want to truely tempt fate and try to bring home a dozen écalires I would suggest checking out the Picard before you go. Picard is a grocery store entirely filled with frozen foods. Unlike in the states however it is not in a deep freeze and the things/meals acctually LOOK like the picture on the package. In fact you can buy some pretty gourmet things at Picard. INCLUDING Macaroons and other cakes. They are obviously already frozen so by the time you get home (the underside of a plane is quite cold) you can just pop them in the freezer and hold onto them for a little while longer.
Lavendar: one of my favorite things to bring back. Beautiful dried lavendar from France: smelling it just makes you think of the wind blowing through whimsical feilds of dancing lavedar buds. It is extrodinarily light weight and your suitcase sure smells good after transporting it. You can buy it in little schets in storefronts or in fabric stores and some tourist shops (like in Montmartre) in large bags that you could divvy into little sachets from french fabric scraps. Or buy a bushel of it at a florist and let it dry in your hotel room: that way you have a fresh smelling room in the process!