my case, a small portion of every trip abroad
is devoted to browsing the shops and markets.
I'm always on the lookout for creative and
inexpensive finds to share with my friends
and family back home. Over the years, I seem
to have honed my investigative techniques
and learned to prepare properly so that now
inventive gift shopping takes no effort at
all. In fact, I actually find it relaxing.
It's a great solo activity, the people-watching
is wonderful and it always helps me to understand
the local culture.
following are my tried and tested "don't shop
till you drop" Journeywoman hints. Perhaps
some of them will be of help to you, too...
the tourist shops...
It is hardly ever the tourist souvenir
shops I find terribly exciting. Rather,
it's the supermarkets, farmer's markets,
museum boutiques, drug stores and
specialty shops that offer up the
creative treasure-trove of goodies.
the hot spots...
When I find a shopping spot I really
like, the address, telephone and fax
number is noted in my journal. This
way, I can return on my next trip,
re-order specialties by mail if necessary
and I can share my best finds with
girlfriends when they go off travelling.
Always prepare for shopping. Even
though I might only travel with a
backpack or a small suitcase on wheels,
I take along another foldable bag
to be used as a carry-on for the trip
home. Ditto for an extra small combination
lock to keep your purchases safe in
case they need to be stored along
the way. Carrying some clear adhesive
tape and scissors in one's backpack
generally comes in hand,too.
while the iron is hot...
Many times I buy two or three of an
object that really appeals to me.
When I return, these are stored in
my gift drawer ready for special occasions
and holiday gift-giving. At the market
in Hong Kong, for example, fabulous
cloisonné style teaspoons were
being offered at a ridiculously low
price. I bought a dozen, paired them
with interesting jars of jam at home
and, presto, they became wonderful
gift wrap is boring...
To make presents even more interesting,
wrap them before you come home. Instead
of ordinary gift wrap, use the cartoon
pages from foreign newspapers. Buy
foreign gift cards as well. I sometimes
ask an English-speaking clerk to help
me make my selection. They love it
and it makes the transaction so much
more fun! Old postcards picked up
for a song at flea markets work well
as gift enclosures as do brand new
ones from museum shops.
an eco-friendly shopper...
Remember your eco-friendly string
shopping bag or buy one at your destination.
Some outdoor markets (Munich's Viktualienmarkt
is a perfect example) expect the buyer
to be prepared and most supermarkets
in Europe generally charge for each
plastic bag the customer needs.
can't put it in the car and take it
Shopping abroad is not like shopping
at home. To be suitable, a good purchase
must also be fairly light, portable
and easily packable. It should fit
effortlessly in your small suitcase
or you should be able to mail it home
without breaking the bank on postage.
Small picture frames (everybody can
use at least one more) are high on
my list of suitable gifts. When in
London, I always head for Habitat,
a home furnishings shop where the
prices are low but the styling is
very, very high.(196 Tottenham Court
you aren't used to is a novelty...
Soaps, shower gels and powders sold
in your hometown drugstores are utilitarian
and everybody you know has tried them.
However, a stop at a chemist in the
U.K. or a pharmacie in France, will
yield moderately priced body-care
products that become a novelty when
you bring them home. Au Printemps,
the renown Paris Department store
has a fantastic assortment of soaps,
lotions and creams -- probably the
best in Paris. At Boots, in London,
ask to see their offerings of inexpensive
aromatherapy products. In Israel,
a familiar type of toothpaste (i.e.
Crest) with the brand name written
in Hebrew can be matched with a new
toothbrush and voila... a culturally-correct
present for the young person on your
cookies under $2.00
The same applies to teas, biscuits
and candies on sale in groceries.
While I don't usually look for presents
in my hometown supermarket, I'm never
disappointed with a browse through
foreign food shops. One trip, the
corner store in Edinburgh yielded
delicious shortbread cookies plus
I discovered Stroopwafels (Dutch Tea
cookies) and mouth watering Droste
chocolate pastilles in Amsterdam.
In Instanbul, I was directed to Koska
Helvacisi,the shop that sells the
best Turkish Delight and Halvah in
the city. And, not one of these presents
cost me more than $3.00.
up your purchases...
Foreign markets are always a delight.
This is where one finds the perfect
something for pals who love to cook.
Walking through the Vegetable Market
Clock Tower in Jodpur, India I came
upon Shop 209-B. Here, the merchant
who actually supplies Harrod's Department
Store with their upscale curry powder
and masala spices also plies his wares
to the locals (at a fraction of the
cost). While in Provence I discovered
a herb mix for fish that I still dream
about. Both amazing finds!
Pop into the post office any place
you visit. For practically pennies,
you can always bring back interesting,
colorful stamps for the youngsters
on your list.
back a bit of the culture...
Music shops around the world are a
pleasure to explore and compact disks
or cassettes are so easy to pack.
In Dublin, I happily found the CD
that all the Irish women were quick
to recommend. "A Woman's Heart," is
a compilation of their top female
vocalists singing incredibly poignant
love ballads. I definitely should
have bought more of those!
T's for little ones...
any toddlers to shop for? I usually
head for the local university and
seek out their mini t-shirts. Now
the little ones in my extended family
sport Harvard, Cambridge, Sorbonne
and Oxford T's. The children are seldom
impressed but their parents just love