The choice of Paris souvenirs is as personal as the memories they embody. Some women keep cocktail napkins, other girls have to have that Hermès scarf. But everyone wants her souvenirs to keep whispering “Paris.” For that purpose, here are five trusted ideas, all available in central Paris.
1. Paris Honey
Over the last few years, the idea of keeping bees has boomed across the city. As a result, many official buildings have installed ruches (beehives) on their roofs. Since Paris bees are fed on a vast array of fancy flowers, all the honey they produce is coveted and spots like the Opéra Garnier or la Trip d’Argent sell their own. Since their supplies can be spotty, the hurried shopper is better off with miel de Paris from Ladurée—where it’s being stocked for the first time—or at the Bon Marché’s Grande Epicerie.
2. Les Guirlandes!
The Parisian’s number one fetish item for children’s rooms—or one’s boudoir—is a simple paper garland. They’re now treated as works of art. As Paris souvenirs, these have many a plus; they’re light, easy to pack and usually inexpensive. Price-wise, one exception is the ultra-elegant creations of Sophie Cuvelier, the artist behind the Fabulous Garlands (find them also at Bonton Bazar, 122, rue du Bac, in the 7th). But less-expensive garlands are everywhere; just look in the children’s department and in children’s stores. Some of the most charming are from Petit Pan (locations all over Paris). The least expensive I have found come from Laurette (18, rue Mabillon, in the 6th).
3. Parisians’ Favorite Candles
Candles light up the gloom of the Paris winter and have remained essential throughout the city’s history. You can bring back a slice of that past with a purchase from Cire Trudon (“since 1634”) at 78, rue de Seine, in the 6th Arrondissement. At around €65, their candles aren’t inexpensive but their allumettes, or matches (€9), also make a nice souvenir. If you’re on your budget, try the fashion world’s favorite candle supplier, Diptyque (34, boulevard Saint-Germain, in the 6th). Here, the scents are heavenly—especially the new autumn senteurs in noisetier, genevrier and cyprès. A Diptyque mini-bougie costs €22 and the range includes wonderful “perfumes” in a selection of evocative scents. Properly cared for, all the candles last weeks or even months.
4. A Toile de Jouy tea towel from La Cocotte
The Cocotte boutique (5, rue Paul Bert, in the 11th) of cooking books and accessories is an Aladdin’s cave. But my favorite gift is this brand-new, ultra-Parisian design in pink and grays, or red and black. It combines two French motifs, the chicken and the toile de Jouy pattern. Plus, just looking at it makes me happier! (Cost: €14.50.) If you’re a budget shopper, another great idea is la Cocotte’s amusing chocolate lollipop mold (€5.90). Give it with a bar of French chocolate and the recipient can melt it to make treats of his/her own.
5. The Candies Parisians Treasure
If you want to capture a piece of the Parisian soul, forget the designer chocolates of Saint-Germain. Head to the original shop of A la Mère de Famille, at 35, rue du Faubourg Montmartre, in the 9th. This is the oldest remaining chocolatier in town—established in 1761—and it’s amazingly atmospheric. Best of all, it stocks all the classic French favorites like calissons, guimauves, pâtes d’amande, folies d’ecureuil, palets d’or—in wonderful period packaging. The shop prides itself on offering something for every budget, so even chocolates are available by the piece. It also stocks beautifully wrapped gift sets in varied sizes.
Another favorite: The bilingual version of poet Jacques Prévert’s famous Paroles (City Lights, €10), which is usually available from Shakespeare & Co., where you can also have it stamped. The English translations of Prévert’s wonderful poems are by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.