ondon empties, the Out Of Offices continue and the lucky ones among us go on vacation. Some are beach buffs, others love food trips, but for me vacation is all about searching for exotic treasures that I can’t find back home.
However, holiday shopping can be tactile. Even the best taste-makers are likely to find themselves wild with the thought of being on foreign soil and discovering that they’ve left that carefully honed sense of style at Heathrow.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve come home, opened my suitcase and realized my new finds have traveled as well as the cheap retsina that tastes so crispy on a Greek island and that looks so much like a stripper in London basement apartment.
A tan should have been all I brought back from the trip to Italy instead of a set of acid green collapsible mugs and five dreamcatchers.
But that’s not to say that all holiday shopping is bad – for every dream catcher there’s a wrought iron candelabra or a mouth-blown Venetian glass goblet. I find the best buys happen when I’ve researched local department stores or manufacturers and don’t get carried away with my vacation persona. The most successful souvenir sprees start at a local market. They give a real flavor of the local culture and the types of things that are readily available. They also usually offer the best value for money.
My next tip is to stick to regional specialties. Are you in Normandy? So look for the beautiful French linens. In Venice, it’s Murano glass.
Look for local artisans and try to visit them in their workshops if possible. Buying direct is probably cheaper, and you never know: it might even be worth a few pounds in the years to come.
However, some items transcend location and can be perfect wherever you are in the world. If, like me, you can’t go to the beach without filling your pockets with treasures, why not put your finds to good use? (But don’t collect them in places where the ecological balance is particularly delicate.)
You might have a Linda Barker-shaped alarm going off in your head right now, but I wouldn’t necessarily advise you to attach a shell to your bathroom light cord unless it’s really your jam. No, I am inspired by caves, those shell-encrusted pavilions dear to the aristocrats of the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s a DIY doozy, all you have to do is glue a load of seashells to an old piece of furniture and then varnish it. It rocks ! (Sorry.)