A French word for remember describes exactly what we crave from places we visit – a remembrance of a trip or a special place that conjures the spirit of that place or trip in one symbolic item.
My parents bought my nephews cannons from Les Invalides – anything more appropriate than that for warring Napoleon?
I have returned with delightful baby and children’s clothes for god-children from Monoprix. They also have bed linens and useful and memorable tea towels or hand towels.
French made pocket knives from Saillard. A scarf from Hermes.
A postcard mailed from Paris – this is always my favorite souvenir from anyone. For me, postcards are the best to receive and to send – easy, save-able, inexpensive, thoughtful, beautiful/funny/monumental/whatever you prefer and now delivered quickly – sometimes before you could get home from the trip. Most people have everything they need and a postcard is always perfect. If you are at the Rodin Museum and love a particular sculpture, buy a postcard in the shop – you support the museum where you found something you love and you get to share an image of that with people you love. What could be better?
Another great small gift that people seem to love are refrigerator magnets! They are near the tourist spots along with T-Shirts.
Another souvenir that I bought for myself was a book from one of the bouquinistes along the quais. It is a small book of Raoul Dufy paintings. I could pack it easily, tote it around with me after buying it, then, each time I see it at home, I see works by an artist I love and think of Paris and the bouquinistes all at the same time.
Souvenirs are very personal, but the bouquinistes have so many things that make excellent souvenirs. Books are one thing, but they now have reproduced maps, historical menus from ocean liners and fancy Parisian restaurants, magnets, postcards – inexpensive but thoughtful souvenirs that is more interesting than a t-shirt or cheaply made miniature Eiffel Tower.
What You Can Take Home from France —
U.S. Citizens — Returning U.S. citizens who have been away for 48 hours or more are allowed to bring back, once every 30 days, $800 worth of merchandise duty-free. You’re charged a flat rate of duty on the next $1,000 worth of purchases, and any dollar amount beyond that is subject to duty at whatever rates apply. On mailed gifts, the duty-free limit is $200. Have your receipts or purchases handy to expedite the declaration process. Note: If you owe duty, you are required to pay on your arrival into the United States, using cash, personal check, government or traveler’s check, or money order; some locations also accept Visa or MasterCard.
To avoid having to pay duty on foreign-made personal items you owned before your trip, bring along a bill of sale, insurance policy, jeweler’s appraisal, or receipt of purchase. Or you can register items that can be readily identified by a permanently affixed serial number or marking — think laptop computers, cameras, and CD players — with Customs before you leave. Take the items to the nearest Customs office, or register them with Customs at the airport from which you’re departing. You’ll receive, at no cost, a Certificate of Registration, which allows duty-free entry for the life of the item.
You cannot bring fresh foodstuffs into the U.S.; canned foods are allowed. For specifics on what you can bring back and the corresponding fees, download the invaluable free pamphlet Know Before You Go online at www.cbp.gov. (Click “Travel,” and then click “Know Before You Go.”) Or, contact the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (tel. 877/287-8667), and request the pamphlet.