Sunday, November 6, 2022

What Do you Bring Home?


RHYS BOWEN: As you will know from my post earlier in the week, I was recently in England and France. I had left the last three days of the trip for shopping in London. Instead the only thing I brought back from this vacation was Covid!

The annoying thing was that I was the careful one. I wore my mask on buses and trains and in museums. I stayed away from crowded situations. I found a table in a far corner of a restaurant. However when I was in Paris everyone was coughing and sneezing. I tested myself. Negative. I went to the pharmacy. “Everyone in Paris has a cold right now,” the pharmacist told me as she found me cough syrups and decongestants (all herbal. They don’t believe in drugs).

Actually not everyone in Paris had a cold. Some of them had Covid and I caught it. After testing negative in Paris we traveled back to London. When we were planning to visit family members with young children I tested again. This time the red line showed up. So I spent the next few days shut in a hotel room. None of the glorious shopping sprees that I had planned. I always like buying clothes in Europe as they are so different from the ones you can buy in the States. Especially sweaters. I had wanted a couple of light sweaters. And a blazer or jacket. Alas no.

The other things I wanted to buy were foods from home that I crave: pickles (Branson and Piccalilli). Marmite. English chocolates: Crunchie Bars. Smarties. Chocolate buttons. I know you can buy Cadburys in the US but they were bought by Hersheys and the US versions do not taste the same. I did manage to grab a few chocs as we rushed through the airport after an hour in the security line but they didn’t have many of my favorites.

So I arrived home with a fairly empty suitcase—lighter actually, because I had brought books to give to various relatives, friends and the people hoping to make Constable Evans into a TV series. No souvenirs of any kind.  Not that I have found good souvenirs on recent trips. Most items are made in China anyway, and I already own too many things. 

In the past I used to collect boxes: tiny, special little boxes to display in a glass-topped table. In each I’d put a scrap of paper to remind me where I bought it. I have china, wood, leather, bone, mother-of-pearl from all over the world. Sometimes I take them out and admire them. But I haven’t added to the collection for a long while. No more room in the table.. Also less of a desire to accumulate more stuff.

My father and aunt used to bring back dolls in national costume when they went abroad and I have an impressive collection. But again they sit in a cabinet and I hardly ever notice them.

So food seems like a good thing to bring back, doesn’t it? It is used and enjoyed.  Also I usually find an interesting piece of jewelry, or clothing. Again something that can be worn and used. I did buy one scarf before we went to Paris.


Actually I did bring back something meaningful: when I travel I always take my sketchbook with me and here are two sketches from this trip, from Cornwall and from France.

So what about you? What do you like to bring back from trips? Any collectors out there?

PS: The Covid was very mild, not even the worst cold. Some coughing and stuffy nose. And John tested positive when we got home but had no symptoms at all. We are both now fully recovered. Yay for vaccines.

51 comments:

  1. Glad you both recovered soon! Love your sketches!

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  2. I’m so glad you’re both okay! I love picking up postcards.

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  3. I’m glad that you’re fully recovered Rhys.
    I have an appointment for my booster vaccine this morning.

    I love your sketches. The chocolate box one reminds me of the ones we can see on Escape to the Country that I know you love watching too.

    From France, I brought back two scarves : one for my daughter and one for me.
    What could pass for a little collection from travelling are my bookmarks. I always travel on a budget. Some are very beautiful, they are not too expensive and don’t take too much space.
    For example, I like to take one that comes from the same country while reading.
    Danielle

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    1. What a perfect idea, Danielle! Rhys

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  4. Yay indeed for vaccines! My grandmother always brought back dolls in costumes from her international travels. Like yours, mine sit in a glass-fronted cabinet.

    I think sketches, food, and a scarf are the perfect souvenirs, and love your drawings.

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  5. RHYS: Yay for vaccines and very glad that you are both feeling fine now.

    What I bring back from trips has changed.

    When I was working for Environment Canada, I brought back artisan chocolates to share with my research team as well as a plush toy representing an animal native to the country/area. Two-humped camel from northern China, Icelandic horse, mountain goat from Davos etc.

    I have been going to mystery conventions for 30 years now, usually in the US. Besides A LOT OF BOOKS, I do bring back a local t-shirt as well as a packable piece of art (small bowl, carved box, art print).

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    1. Grace, T-shirts and art. Perfect!

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    2. We used to bring back art works, Grace, until we had no more wall space! Rhys

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  6. Rhys, so glad you are well enough to do all the pre-scheduled interviews for your new Royal Spyness book.

    It is horrible to get sick on vacation. (The fact that you couldn't really tell that you were sick until you took the Covid test really understates how this thing spreads.) Years ago, I flew out to Oregon for my nephew's bar mitzvah and missed all of it when I woke up on Saturday morning with a severe 24 hour stomach bug.

    On vacations, we usually buy a small "objet d'arte." Sometimes we buy a painting or print of a local scene, sometimes a sculpture by natives or local artists or a piece of locally crafted jewelry. I also have a small collection of small boxes from our travels.

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    1. Judy, stomach bug would be worse! At least I didn’t feel very ill. We also have quite a collection of work by local artists but no room to keep adding to it. Rhys

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  7. Like you, Rhys, when we traveled I used to always bring back something foodie (cheese, sugar cane syrup, coffee, chocolate, ...) and maybe a tile to put on the plate rail in my dining room. Plate rail's full and TSA regulations rule out much of what I'd have brought back. And of course I try to travel as light as possible. Both ways. Still I love the things in my house that remind me of the trips we took (carved painted animals from Oaxaco, Moroccan teapot, morpho butterfly from Costa Rica...)

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    1. Our favorite piece of sculpture is a black clay figure from Oaxaca! Rhys

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  8. I love your drawings so much Rhys! One day I'd like to buy one from you to have framed. I've taken to bringing back greeting cards, often found in museums. They take up very little room, and then you can send them to someone dear!

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  9. I'm glad you are recovered and love your sketches. Yay for vaccines! I completely agree with you about Cadbury's chocolate in the UK vs in the US.

    When we stayed with the Benedictine sisters in Mexico, they would always take us to visit a women's cooperative. The nuns had helped these women start the cooperative more than 25 years ago. The women hand embroider t-shirts and make earrings and other gifts. The t-shirts are beautiful and have held up well over time. I have about 6 of them. I think I will wear one to church today--the one with the children's faces and the slogan "that we all may be one" in Spanish and English. It seems appropriate for our bi-cultural celebration of All Saints.

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    1. A good sentiment for the upcoming election too! Rhys

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  10. Rhys, I'm so glad you and John didn't get too ill--but sad that you missed shopping in London. Like Hallie and everyone else so far, there are lots of things in our apartment that represent places I've been to, like small Albrecht DΓΌrer reproduction of a Renaissance couple that I'm looking at right now, since it hangs on the wall near my desk; I got that when I was in Nuremberg in my twenties. Or a gourd cup with a metal straw for yerba mate that Peter and I got in Argentina. But in the last ten years I've stopped bringing things back, since--like so many of us--I should be focusing on getting rid of possessions instead! But, oh, Rhys, if only I could draw like that, I'd certainly bring back sketches. What a gift!

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  11. I'm so happy you and John recovered so well from Covid--yes, indeed, yay for vaccines! Love your sketches and I'm with you on the pleasures of food souvenirs! So great to share with family and friends. I used to bring back t-shirts and art--but the best souvenirs were the photos and poems that came from my travels.

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    1. Poems? What a great souvenir!

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  12. Glad you recovered without issue. I bring home a rock from every major place we go, like bringing home an actual little piece of the spot where we were.

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    1. I always collect tiny pebbles or shells as well!

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    2. Just don't bring back a volcanic rock from the Hawaiian Islands-- it's bad luck.
      EllenK

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  13. We were only on 1 trip together in 45 years, and my husband Jack who never buys anything came out of a shop in the Magdalen Islands with a brown paper parcel. This was a family trip with my father who was 90, and my brother and sister and spouses. Since my father was semi-frail we took turns on Grandfather duty, and this was my turn, so he and I went for chocolate ice cream. Jack refused to tell me what was in the parcel, and since his taste is 4/10 on a good day and there are not many of them, and since I had not been in the shop, I had no idea what it might be. I had to wait until we got home. It was a lovely local painting of the houses on the island, and so great a memory of all that we had enjoyed – the Magdalen Islands were one of the favourite places that we visited. It hangs just above the goldfish pond in the sunroom.
    Otherwise, I tend to go the food route. I have everyone trained that if they go anywhere near Britain to bring back proper Cadbury chocolate, and my niece in Amsterdam always brings Milka. She also treated us to prawn chips one Christmas – they were delicious!

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  14. I love it when the perfect souvenir presents itself! Hooray for your husband

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  15. Glad you are feeling better and that you and John are fully recovered! When I lived in Florida, our Publix had a Brit section. Nothing like a real Mars Bar!

    I've gone through numerous collecting phases, mugs, tee shirts, spoons, etc. These days, I'm happy with photos. They reside on my computer and require no dusting.

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    1. We used to have a supermarket with a Brit section Alas no more. Miss those chocolate digestives and Chrunchie bars

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  16. Hank Phillippi RyanNovember 6, 2022 at 8:50 AM

    So glad you are well! And yes, yay for the vaccinations. Are usually bring back, like Grace, a T-shirt from the place. And if it is an elegant place, a gorgeous scarf. Easy to pack, both of them, and remembrances you can use!
    Covid is such a risky thing… People who are vaccinated are much more likely to get a very mild case, but… Not necessarily. So it is so scary to me, still.
    And good morning, everyone, whatever time it is!

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  17. So glad that you and John both had light cases. Steve and I were both down for the count with Covid a couple months ago.

    As you know, I like scarves, and I usually look for at least one wherever I travel. My three daughters and I have a couple scarves each that match, but in colors that flatter each of us. Pashminas from Afghanistan, exquisite burnout silks from France, and so on.

    When we were in Nairobi last year Holly took us to a fabulous crafts mall called Spinner's Web, with hundreds of individual shops selling everything from jewelry to rugs and gorgeous furniture. I discovered the most amazing carved soapstone pieces, and I'm obsessed with them. Bowls, figurines, trays, boxes, all with intricate and beautiful designs. I'm looking forward to adding to the trinket box I got last year and the two plates Holly got me as a gift.

    Six more weeks until we go back.

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    1. I’m so glad you get to travel back to Kenya. I remember the beautiful scarf you bought in Castellina

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  18. Rhys, I'm glad you and your husband are recovered from Covid.

    I don't travel much these days. Not that I travelled much before the pandemic either but I did go to a comic convention in Philadelphia and a concert in Connecticut that required a weekend or at least overnight stay.

    The concert saw me bring back T-shirts of course. And since I met the band, I had signed copies of albums I brought with me.

    The comic convention was something planned for a few months ahead of time (back in 2005 is when this happened). And I brought back a lot of STUFF. Comics I had signed, comics I bought while there, tons of pics and best of all an original piece of art by comic legend Jim Starlin. I couldn't get the money out of my wallet fast enough when he had a fully illustrated and ink drawing of one of his most famous creations, Vanth Dreadstar. I still have it and it remains one of the few pieces of original art I own.

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    1. These are all meaningful items to bring back, Jay! Rhys

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  19. When I first started traveling abroad I bought almost everything: clothing, scarves, jewelry, crafts, you name it. These days I stick to practical items, mainly linen or cotton tea towels. They take up little room, are useful, and remind me of the places I visited. I also buy a pin to stick on a hat that has become a repository of pins.

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    1. My daughter Jane loves collecting tea towels and bought several on this trip. Lovely art-designed ones

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  20. I tend to buy a tee shirt from every place I visit. Since I mostly go to Chincoteague Island VA most of them feature birds. I used to buy bird carvings but it’s kind of hard to put them in a suitcase unless they’re really small. I also always leave room in my suitcase for books. There’s a nice independent bookstore on Chincoteague. I hope it survived the pandemic. I haven’t been on vacation since just before everything shut down. Okay

    DebRo

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    1. Ignore the last word in my reply above. I have no idea where it came from
      DebRo

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  21. I adore your watercolor sketches, Rhys! It's my dream to be able to do that sort of thing in my journal, especially in England. Those are the very best souvenirs.

    For years whenever I went to London I bought a new poster from the London Transport Museum. Alas, there is now no room for new ones! I almost always buy books there, as I find things I couldn't get at home. I did shop more than usual this trip, besides books; a cashmere sweater from Peter Jones (I never buy clothes!), a tote bag in the new Elizabeth Line livery from London Transport, a mug from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Oh, and lots of tea from Whittards, and a pair of Beatles themed Happy Socks.

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    1. Debs, that reminds me. When I was in πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ in 1990, friends and I visited Glamis castle and I bought a Queen Mother mug for a gift to give to my Mom.

      Diana

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  22. I'm with Debs - I like to buy books from local writers that I might not otherwise discover. Ross and I used to collect matchbooks from places we went to, but those seem to be few and far between now that no one smokes anymore!

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    1. Thank you. That reminds me. I bought books by local writers that were unheard of in the USA when I lived in πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§

      Diana

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    2. Julia, I used to always get matchbooks from places I visited, too, and from local places. But, as you say, you can't find them anymore. However, one of my best friends (since I was around 4) put his mother's household goods up for auction online after she died (and after he and his sister had gotten what they wanted), and Gwendy had a nice sized jar of matchbooks. I bid on them and won. I was tickled to get that.

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  23. What lovely sketches, Rhys. They capture the feeling as well as the reality of the places, and the artist's pleasure in them. Brava!

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    1. Susan, agreed that the ✍🏻 Sketches are lovely. Diana

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  24. Yay for vaccines! So sorry that you and John caught Covid. Hope that you both are feeling better!

    Your story reminded me of when my tour group was in Venice or Rome. Someone in our group needed to go to the pharmacy and she had to talk through a door to someone behind the door before she could get the medicine. I thought it was not deaf friendly 😒πŸ₯Ί

    What do I bring back from my European tours? I came home with 1,000 photos! That was before the internet. Last time I was in Europe I travelled light. I bought a Nordic sweater for my mom in Scandinavia. Maybe scarves for Christmas gifts. Most of my purchases were postcards. I bought a kitchen towel in Rome with food πŸ₯˜ illustrations on the towel. Postcards in France. I bought a watch for 19 francs or euros in Switzerland. A blouse in Venice. Postcards in Sweden. A book from a museum in Denmark. I bought tea in London. I love their blueberry tea and it was from the cheapest shops, not the high end expensive tea shop.

    When I lived in England, I bought two ball gowns from a second hand shop in London and sent them home. I bought a cameo three strand Pearl necklace from a country house that was a national trust museum. That was the same summer that I brought home 1,000 photos! I bought books and sent them home.

    Love your sketches. That reminds me. When I visited Althorp in 1990, I sketched this place where Diana, the princess of wales is now buried.

    Sometimes I buy small ✍🏻 sketches from museums like the Victoria and Albert or the Wallace collection.

    Would love to go back to Europe. I thought about going to Icelandic noir conference in November and missed the deadline. Too many things going on. Felt it was too risky to travel now.

    Diana

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  25. Rhys, I'm so sorry that Covid ruined your shopping plans while in England. That would have been so disappointing to me, as it was to you. Covid finally came to visit our house this last week, with my husband coming down with it, not very sick, just like a bad cold and over quickly. I seem to have escaped catching it from him.

    Your sketches are wonderful, Rhys! You are so multi-talented, writing, sketching, playing the harp, and so much else. The little boxes that you've collected are lovely. I have a few little boxes, but they weren't a main collection item for me. For some time I loved finding a piece of art, either a print of a painting or carving or pottery or other expression of artistry. In Hawaii, I picked up some beautiful wood carvings being sold by the daughters of the man who created them. I like there being a story or unique connection to what I buy. I do like the idea of buying food stuff, especially now that my house is full. Oh, and I noticed Julia talked about matchbooks. I used to collect those, but as she says, those are are thing of the past.

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    1. Kathy, I am so sorry your husband caught Covid but glad you’ve escaped… touch wood! Did he take the anti viral? That worked like a miracle for me!

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  26. I always hate it when illness ruins a vacation (been there, done that, too). And those sketches are lovely! We typically don't bring home much from our trips other than tons of photos. Although, on a recent trip that involved a stop in Solvang ('America's Danish Town') we picked up some chocolates. That was on our way north. The chocolates were so good that we made a point of stopping in on our way south and picking up another box for ourselves and a different type for my mother-in-law.

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    1. Chocolate from California. My in-laws always brought os a box of Seas. I would promptly hide it and dole it out v-e-r-y slowly.

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  27. You can order See’s chocolates online.

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  28. Whenever I go to France I visit the home that was built by my 11th great-grandfather where he raised deer. When I was there several years ago others were still raising them. My grandfather of direct decent living in Salem, Massachusetts was for many years the caretaker of the deer park in Massachusetts. I'm always struck by the fact that my grandfather did not know this, and I didn't learn about it until he was deceased. He loved the work and did quite a lot with the Salem Deer Park. I don't know if it still exists here in Massachusetts. I'd like to discover the history of it.

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    1. PS: What I bring home is the memory.

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    2. I'm sorry about my errors in writing here. I have difficulty seeing the method of printing here.

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  29. Glad to hear neither of you got knocked down by Covid. I’m also a reformed box collector. Now I buy mostly things I can use in the kitchen—linens, old tea spoons, tea cups, spices. We only travel with carryons, so I’m always limited. My husband still reminds me that he sacrificed two sweaters years ago when I overdid the book buying in Dublin!

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