I’ve told you I’m not a shopper, so I’m sure you’re going to raise an eyebrow when you see what I collected on my recent trip to England and Italy. Travel treasures are a bit different, though, don’t you think? Once home, they not only give pleasure by virtue of what they are or what they do, they also serve as a happy remembrance.
The last thing anyone wants (or needs) is a suitcase full of souvenir knickknacks, so I find it helpful to stick to a few guidelines. First, because I never met a gardening book I didn’t like, I limit myself to three selections and I don’t purchase books I know I can get once home. Second, I make an effort to choose quality items that reflect the heritage or culture of the country I’m visiting. Finally, I pick things that fit easily into my daily life, so I see or use them frequently.
How do you think I did with this lot?
As a gift for my husband, Tim, there’s an English-made waterproof vest in dark hunter green, perfect for hiking and dog-walking. Books include an updated copy of The Good Gardens Guide, which is one of my most useful tools for planning trips to the UK, and two fabulous small books that will add to my expertise as a guide: How to Read Gardens and Village Buildings of Britain. I’m a cloth napkin fanatic, so I couldn’t pass up these cuties from the gift shop at West Green House, which features the most upscale chicken coop I’ve ever admired. The small watercolor, depicting a unique bench at Goodnestone Park, was selected from the garden’s tea shop. (For ease in packing, I discarded its inexpensive frame, so the art could fit into a file in my briefcase.)
The big prize from England, however, is the antique majolica plate that caught my eye in the window of a charity shop in Winchester. I’m thrilled with this pass along souvenir, which cost just a pittance and may have made its way to England via a similar trip to France or Italy more than 100 years ago.
The platter, as you probably guessed, is from Italy. Made by a local artisan in Vasto, where I visited my friend Susie, it will provide the ideal presentation for antipasto at future dinner parties.
If you have a special trip coming up, here are couple additional tips to keep in mind. Plan carefully when packing so you leave space and weight allowance in your suitcase; for a two-week trip I aim for 35 pounds or less of clothing. And line the bottom of your suitcase with a layer or two of bubble wrap, so you have what you need to pack breakables for the trip home.