La vie est belle !

Unintentional Souvenirs


I have several magazine subscriptions on my ipad, one of which is “France” magazine. It’s a British magazine geared toward people from Great Britain who travel in France for pleasure. I like it because it has great pictures and ideas for, well, our next trip to France. Because we are going back. I’m not sure when, but we will be back! This month, there was an article entitled “58 Ways to Pretend to be in France.” I thought about that for a minute…

That’s exactly how I feel about my trip to France; it’s hard to let those experiences go into the “long-term memory” bank, to file them away. There’s a desire to keep that spirit active, to find some small ways to integrate the treasures we found there into our daily lives, indeed, to “Pretend to be in France.” In the magazine, they suggest French music, books, movies…but I have found that it is the “Unintentional Souvenirs” that take me back there.

Unintentional Souvenirs…

deux petites cuillèresThe two tiny little spoons and a sugar packet from a boulangerie in Lyon that I found wedged in the bottom of the totebag that I carried all over France. I bought deux expressos à emporter and two pastries so we could eat them while sitting in a green square near Les Halles Paul Bocuse in Lyon.

The facial tissues that I bought at Monoprix which are still in my purse. In fact, I have at least a dozen des mouchoirsof these little packages. They came in a “multi-pack,” and they proved to be great padding in our suitcase to protect the Intentional Souvenirs that we brought back with us.



Goodies from L'OccitaneThere are also the small bottles of shampoo and shower gel that we bought at a supermarché in Beaune. I have them in the suitcase I use for work. Just the smell of these soaps takes me back to Bourgogne because I used them during that wonderful week. The adorable little bottles of lotions and soaps from L’Occitane that my friend gave us in Provence when we stayed with her remind me of that wonderful week. (side note: there was originally a little tube of L’Occitane’s  shea butter hand cream in there. I am now addicted to this hand cream and that is why I knew enough to put a link to their website. The delivery time is fairly quick. But even better than that, it turns out they have a shop in the Denver mall…) 

It is the odd things, the strange things that produce powerful Le soleil de Provencememories! I was going through my closet last week and ran across the dress that I washed while I was at my friend’s  house in Provence and which dried hanging in the soleil Provençal. I imagine that I can still smell the sunshine which dried it.



pièce pour les toilettesThe Euro coin that I found in my jacket pocket where I kept it in case someone needed money for, um, les toilettes somewhere. Of course, the preferred method of finding les toilettes is to go to a café, have a nice expresso and use the ones at the café!



The nylon grocery sacks that we bought to carry things homeMonoprix from the supermarchés and the markets — honestly, those are awesome. They are the grocery sacks that tons of French people use every day for their purchases, not the sacks from the tourist shops with pictures of the Eiffel Tower on them. I carry these smugly into my local grocery store, feeling like I have some “street cred.” To me, I feel like I am flaunting to the world, “Yes, I went to France, and I almost fit in with the locals once or twice!” I am sure that the world is not paying attention, but it makes me “Feel Like I’m In France” or at least like “I Was Just There.”


les sacsThere are also the plastic sandwich bags that we bought in Lyon to put a picnic lunch in. We have a couple of them at home because we put some in our luggage “just in case.” One never knows when a plastic sandwich bag will come in handy!

Or…how about a trash bag directly from Paris? Yes, we “commandeered” a trash bag from the place we stayed at in le sac de la poubelleParis, because we thought we might need a laundry bag, but it stayed in one of our suitcases all the way home to Colorado.




Did we buy “Intentional Souvenirs?” Of course we did! (And I will tell you about them later, I promise!) But really, we didn’t buy much because we simply didn’t have room. Do these “Intentional Souvenirs” produce memories of the trip too? Bien sûr ! However, it’s a different kind of “souvenir.” Interestingly, the word “souvenir” is not only a noun, but also a  verb in the French language. It’s a pronomial verb with the preposition “de” — “se souvenir de…” As in “Je me souviens de vous.” (I remember you) or “On se souviendra toujours du temps qu’on a passé en Bourgogne.” (We will always remember the time we spent in Burgundy.) It means “to recall, to remember, to recollect. The noun “un souvenir” also means “a memory” not simply a knick-knack that one buys at a shop outside a tourist attraction. As in “J’ai un bon souvenir de notre week-end ensemble.” It is this last meaning which gives it’s voice to those “Unintentional Souvenirs.” Unintentional, involuntaire, non délibéré., c’est ça qui rend fort ces souvenirs.

Et vous?  Have you ever returned from a trip with “unintentional souvenirs?”  What were they? What special moment do they transport you to?

Until next time! (A la prochaine fois!)

7 Responses to “Unintentional Souvenirs”

  1. Jennifer G. Knoblock

    So true about the value of those unintentional souvenirs and the memories they trigger. I love my collection of international grocery bags–because we usually stay at a self-catering place when we travel, I have bags from just about everywhere we’ve been. Useful souvenirs!


  2. agnes

    C’est fascinant de voir comment ces minuscules détails te font des souvenirs pérennes…


  3. Celine Jeanjean

    Oh I love unintentional souvenirs (unless it’s sand in the suitcase because then that gets everywhere)! I once brought home one of the little paper bags my croissant had come in. I love the feel an noise of those paper bags, they’re like nothing else and they take me back to that special moment when you’re bringing home a treat from the boulangerie.

    Oh and L’Occitane does the most gorgeous products, that should almost count as an actual souvenir! I treat myself to a little something from them every so often (you wouldn’t believe how expensive it is in Hong Kong!) as a little reminder of home – my family’s from Provence.



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