S is for Souvenirs

Let’s face it, with a hefty 9 year student debt and no full-time employment on the horizon, I’m not exactly one to spend big money or partake in extravagant shopping sprees when travelling. All my carefully saved pennies go towards getting me to my destination, making sure I’m supplied with several meals a day whilst there, and getting me back home again.

Luckily for me, I’m less into souvenirs and more into experience, which generally happens to be free. Walks down cobbled streets, watching sunrises over foreign waters, catching up with far away friends, admiring architecture. These things keep me happy and sustained whilst travelling and frankly I feel I’m rather the better for devoting my time to living the experience rather than wasting it in search of the latest Louis Vuitton handbag.

That said, I do like to bring home with me things that remind me of places I’ve been. Photos are usually the best kind of souvenir, postcards too, but sometimes they just won’t do.

Here’s what I picked up on my latest trip.

Masks of Venice, Italy

You’ll be hearing more about Venice in a later post, but let me just say that this was my 4th visit to the city of love, and it was no less charming than it was the first three times. It is the personification of a place you can enjoy without having to spend a cent, the beauty of it being simply having the opportunity to walk the canals and to get lost in the maze of bridge spotted alleyways. On this trip, however, I decided to take home with me a little piece of Venice in the form of two hand made Venetian masks. The photos don’t really do them justice, but I assure you they are stunning.

Golden Venetian mask

Tragedy and Comedy, Venetian mask

Art of Edinburgh, Scotland

I love checking out local art when I’m travelling. Sadly it is almost never practical to take any of it home with me, but this time I found this beautiful little painting of Edinburgh by Rob Hain and couldn’t leave it behind. I love the vibrant colours and the somewhat fantastical quality of it; the moon in the sky above the castle and the steam engine at its foot.

“Meet me by the Fountain” by Rob Hain

Dragon of Krakow, Poland

As you already know from my past post, Krakow is said to have been built on the ashes of a dragon. Cool huh? So naturally there are dragon souvenirs everywhere. I was disappointed to find that most of them were pretty tacky and sadly labelled ‘made in china’, which is why I was so happy to find this little guy at a local toy maker’s market. He’s wooden, hand painted, has legs and arms that swing and eyes that rattle, and a wire coil to hang him from the ceiling with.

Wooden toy dragon

Life Ring of Hamburg, Germany

I confess, I’m not really sure why I bought this little life ring. Perhaps it’s my deep appreciation for harbours, or the fact that I grew up on a town by the sea. Or it could be that Hamburg surprised me with its canals and massive shipping port. Probably it was because it cost one Euro and I knew it would be light enough to carry home in my suitcase. Either way I picked it up and here it is.

Hamburg Ahoi!

Books of Edinburgh, Scotland

The Folk Takes of Scotland, retold by Norah & William Montgomerie

Edinburgh, the city of literature. Needless to say, here I picked up BOOKS. Oh my, there were just so many pretty ones to choose from. Beautiful covers, rare finds, first editions. But alas, I stayed the trembling hand that willed me to buy them all and restrained myself to these two.

The first is a book of Scottish folk tales and I confess I was wooed by the cover alone. Even so, it is a wonderful collection of beautiful folk stories.

The second is a book, which I think is pretty darn groovy. It’s the Story World Storytelling Kit, and while it may be for ages 4 and up, this 26 year old was enamoured. I kid you not, I opened this thing and fireworks went off in my eyes. Basically, it consists of forty tarot-sized story cards, each with a beautiful image on the front and on the back a one sentence description and three questions. The idea is to get your creative wheels turning to give you story ideas. It also comes with a book that has further card keywords and descriptions as well as tips on how to use the cards and examples of stories created from the cards.

How cool is that?!

But that’s not all. There are EXPANSION PACKS.  The top up packs have more specific cards to add to your collection with themes like “Quests and Adventures”, “Faery Magic” and “Animal Tales”.

I picked up both of these books from the gorgeous Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh’s High Street. Well worth a visit. If, however, you live in faraway lands and don’t own a personal jet plane, apparently you can find these gems on Amazon, so I highly recommend you check them out for you or the kids.

The Man in the Moon storytelling card

Back of the Man in the Moon card

The Story World Storytelling kit

Pottery of Rye, England

As I mentioned in my post R is for Rye, I was rather amazed to find that the pottery trade in Rye had not ceased to flourish with age. With my parent’s house in Australia dotted with the Rye pottery that they brought over from England 15 years ago, I knew they’d appreciate a 2012 addition to their collection, so I bought them Rye Pottery tea cups. They are English after all.

Rye Pottery tea cups for the oldies

Shotglasses of The Earth, Everywhere

Okay, so this is my small indulgence. I’m not entirely sure when it began, but many years ago I started collecting shot glasses as souvenirs from places I had visited. At the time I think I figured they were small and light (important things to consider for a heavy packer such as myself), they can be found in every city, and also because I thought they might be nice to pull out of the cupboard when having friends over for drinks. Ironically, I no longer drink alcohol and don’t remember the last time my friends and I thought it would be a good idea to pull out 40 odd shot glasses and get wasted, but no matter.

The point is, I can’t seem to drop the habit, and continue to pick up a shot glass in every town, city and country I find myself in.

Lots of little shot glasses, lined in a row

There you have it. My small collection of souvenirs from the trip.
What do you like picking up or collecting when travelling?
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10 Christmas Presents for Book Lovers

With just over a week til Christmas, it’s usually about this time of year that I avoid the shops and opt to steer clear of the filled to capacity car parks, long snaking queues, and inevitable widespread Christmas rush.

Whilst online shopping has been a godsend in this regard, this year I am, like many, electing to make Christmas more about people and less about presents.

Despite that, I can’t help but satisfy my inner shopaholic by compiling mental lists of the many things I would love to give and be given, were I and my loved ones in the fortunate position of being ridiculously wealthy.

I’m not gonna lie; Villas in Italy and year long vacations are pretty high on the list. But for all the extravagances money could buy, sometimes it’s the simple things that make me happiest.

With that in mind and not forgetting, of course, my (and presumably also your) reading, writing and book-loving obsessions, I put together a list of ten things that I think many book lovers might appreciate.

Even if you can’t afford it this Christmas, it’s nice to just make believe, right?

Ahem. In no particular order:

  1. Bookends
    No serious book lover can resist a good pair of bookends to keep those books standing tall. Check out this website for 13 Brilliant Bookends.

    Dragon Bookends

  2. Personal library kit
    Okay, so who hasn’t lent a book to someone only to wonder 6 months later who borrowed it and whether it was returned? A Personal Library Kitis the answer! Channel your inner librarian.

    Personal Library Kit from KnockKnock

  3. Bookshelves
    From functional to fashionable to the down right funky. Why not make your own upside down bookshelf? Or check out 15 very cool bookshelves here.

    DIY Upside down bookshelf

  4. Bookmarks
    I’m not averse to the odd folding of corners and using dog ears to mark my place in a book (I know, I know), but there will always be a place in the world for bookmarks and there are some quite creative ones out there. Great stocking fillers too. My favourite is this DIY bookmark:

    Make your own bookmark

  5. Furniture
    Furniture? But of course! From book stools to reading chairs to lazy lounges. We want to be comfortable and fashionable while we’re cooing over our favourite reads, don’t we?

    Book lover stool

  6. Boardgames
    There are some literary specific games out there to challenge your book lover friends with. Just to get you started there is the It was a dark and stormy night board game, the Scrabble Book Lovers Edition and the Scrabble Library Classic.

    Scrabble Library Classic

  7. Books Planter
    Have a green thumb on top of your book addiction? Want to make your garden as good looking as your bookshelf? How about a Book Planter?

    Books Planter

  8. Personalised book
    Sometimes there is nothing better than a hand made gift, personalised to the recipient. I’ve found Apple iPhotoan amazing tool for creating soft and hardcover books with pictures and text.

    Make your own book with Apple iPhoto

  9. Ereader
    They’re not going away any time soon. Kindle, Nook, Kobo. Pick one. They’ll love it. You’ll love it.

    Kindle Touch

  10. Books
    And last, but definitely not least. What would a book lover want more for Christmas than more books? Vintage classics, rare editions, new releases, best sellers, hard cover special editions and the most treasured; those that you make yourself.
    I can’t go past the Book Depository  for their super cheap prices and free delivery worldwide.

    "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~Charles W. Eliot

    10.1.    Jewellery
    Okay, so this list has a 10.1 entry, because I only today stumbled across these cool little charms for book lovers and realised there’s probably a whole world of book-related bling out there. Like the Jane Austen charm bracelet and this book necklace made of vinyl records:

    Vinyl Record Book Necklace

Any other cool book-related gifts you’ve been dreaming about? 

~storytelling nomad~