Travel Souvenirs – How Not to be Tacky (part 2)

This is part two of a post about how to keep memories of your trips, without collecting tacky crap or overwhelming your home with ‘cool things I got in Spain that were made in China’. You can find Part One, Memories with Photographs, here.

First of all, do NOT be this woman (warning: Watching the entire video may kill brain cells)

On my trips, I sometimes picked up small art prints. I’ve found lovely cards, small reproduction prints, and a $30 watercolors from a street artist. None of these are fine art, but when framed can make nice displays in a nook or hallway. Note: If I buy a reproduction of a painting, I never buy something recognizable.

I’d been interesting is illuminated manuscripts after seeing the BBC series “Civilisation” about 40 years ago! This is a reproduction of a plate from a book in the British Library.

Anyone who has been to my home knows that I don’t own the Mona Lisa. But a reproduction of an illuminated manuscript from the British Library has more of a unique, personal feel, and reminds me of the hours I spent ogling the rare books and hand-penned rhymes by John Lennon or Lewis Carroll at the British Library.

Travel books and maps

Watercolor I bought from street artist on Jackson Square in New Orleans about 20 years ago.

Lately, I’m been keeping my maps, brochures, and ticket stubs in interesting places. The maps may be useful again someday, and the tickets and brochures recall places and plays I’ve seen. Recently I got to see Bryan Cranston in “All The Way” on Broadway, which won several Tony Awards shortly after I saw it with my friend Chris. I also treasure my admission ticket to the Hagia Sophia, which is a place I had been interested in since a child, and never thought I would ever visit.

I just acquired this glass brick, equipped with an opening, which I’ll use to drop in these small items.

Glass brick holds admission tickets to unique places.

I’ve also been collecting matchbooks since I was a teen. I didn’t intentionally start the collection, but somewhere along the way noticed I had a dozen or so. Since smoking isn’t allowed in so many places now, they are a rare find. I use the matches for lighting the grill, but keep the covers. I looked the the jar for the first time in several years, and was reminded about places I went decades ago, and recalled friends and trips.

Club Med, Stavanger, and a place I used to go when first dating my husband.

I do buy locally made items, on occasion. My ex-husband’s family were Norwegian immigrants, and had a lot of folk art and other items inherited from the grandparents who had first arrived in the U.S. in the mid-19 century. My first trip outside of North America was to Stavanger, Norway. I happened to find an artist who still engaged in the nearly-last art of rosemaling, a decorative painting technique that is found on wooden items such as tables, dressers, chairs, trunks, and smaller items. Most of the rosemale items sold in the large cities are mass-produced for tourists, and are painted using stencils. I visited the woman’s studio, and bought the largest piece I reasonably afford, while sighing wistfully over the large trunks and rocking chairs. I can’t recall her name, but she signs her pieces with the initials “H.H.”

A Norwegian tine hand-painted in traditional rosemaling technique.

She apologized for the small inventory for sale, explaning that she had just made a large shipment to the small store in the Norway pavillion at Epcot Center in Orlando. (A year or two later, I was actually in that store, and saw a few of her large pieces…considerably marked up). This piece is called a “tine” (roughly, TIN-eh), that is a sort of lunch pail or cake/cookie container. It is also the logo for the large national dairy corporation in the country.  



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6 replies

  1. love the glass brick idea! ALso I’m glad you did a warning about that young lady. I did find another video she put up where she says she dressed for formal night like Rose from the Titanic, complete with fake necklace. Oh boy….she’s a winner room mate.

  2. Since this is the second post discussing souvenirs, (and the first post was mostly about photos which you know I’m keen on), I thought I would post a comment about the souvenirs I collect.

    Souvenir #1: After receiving a charm bracelet as a wonderful thank-you gift from the fourth graders I taught as a member of Future Teachers of America when I was a senior in high school, I collect charms. I have so many that I have the bracelet and a necklace now. As much as possible, I try to buy charms that are miniatures of places I’ve been or things I’ve seen – an Eiffel Tower, a CN Tower, a Space Needle, Bridge of Flowers in Lucerne (which was destroyed by fire shortly after I was there), a gondola, lots of Washington D.C. monuments, etc. Sterling silver charms aren’t very expense and they don’t take up much space in your luggage.

    Souvenir #2: Christmas Ornaments. Our Christmas tree is a really a celebration of life’s adventures. As much as possible I try to buy ornaments made by local craftspeople in the area I’m visiting that reflect something about the history or nature of the place. Again, these things are usually inexpensive and small.

    I love your map idea, Naomi, but would add the following. Matt and I have lots of antique maps hanging on our walls. Tallis and Lavasseur are two of our favorite mapmakers of the past. The vignettes on the map borders are absolutely gorgeous. Many old maps are works of art. Often times these old maps will have vignettes of places of interest which tourists still visit. A reputable antique map dealer will have reasonable prices. Most of our maps didn’t cost more than $50.00. So, when traveling, look for used book stores or sellers of antique prints. Both types of stores usually hold some amazing treasures. And, they’re still great fun even if one can’t afford what’s on offer, IMO.

  3. I love the antique map idea. The maps I have in my box are maps that I bought and used for navigation (like when Elaine and I drove around northern Croatia in 2013, although we also used a Europe-loaded GPS). I have one wall in my house that is begging for an interesting display. I’ll start watching for those.

    I also do have Christmas ornaments, even though I haven’t put a tree up since the boys moved away. I have some small rosemaled bells that the aforementioned artist threw in as a gift, and I’ve pick up a few here and there.

    • We have 6 antique maps on our stairwell wall, 3 in the upstairs hallway, 4 hanging over our bed, 2 in the family room, 5 in the living room, 2 in a hallway in the master bedroom, and 1 in the office. Some are country maps, some are regional, some are mercator projections, some are U.S. state maps, one is a huge map of London with vignettes of the buildings, and 2 are old railroad maps showing the lines of many different railroad companies which were in business in New York and New England. Very cool! We have had these maps hanging on our walls for many years and never tire of looking at them. I’ll try to take a few pictures and send them to you via e-mail. I think when you see them you will want some for your walls. They really are not only interesting but beautiful.

  4. I share your feeling on the entry ticket for the Hagia Sophia. My trip to Istanbul was the best business trip in my career. I love the glass cube idea for storing cards and tickets. I use them as book marks; it’s a memory trigger to wonderful experiences.

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