Tackiest Souvenirs

Pisa Souvenir

Germán Poo-Caamaño/Via Flickr

As I was looking around some websites I was drawn to one asking people what the tackiest souvenir they had ever bought was. I thought I could enter with my Elvis Presley Salt and Pepper shakers from Graceland that said “All shook up” on them or my Colosseum shaped cup-holder. In fact, the article was due to authorities in Pisa, Italy wanting to fine certain stall holders for selling souvenirs which they thought were too tacky. And what has taken them so long to intervene? For years Pisa stall holders have been selling souvenir leaning towers so cheaply made that they are straight, bizarrely decorated boxer shorts, umbrella stands like the leaning tower of Pisa (I made that one up), you get the idea. Really, do these ‘authorities’ not realise that the surfeit of traders selling this stuff is due to the fact that we love buying     it?

For many years now, while entering the grounds at Versailles, I have considered the traders from Senegal selling those wind-up birds that they launch into the sky and that zip around above your head as an integral part of the visit and the place wouldn’t seem the same without them. What visit to Notre Dame is complete without someone sidling up and cheerfully offering you five Eiffel Tower key chains for one Euro? Indeed, when you go to the real thing then part of the entertainment is having dozens of guys approach you offering you a flashing Eiffel Tower. My finest souvenir purchase at the Tower, many years ago, was an umbrella hat. Not being of the highest quality, once you strap it on to your head it diverts rain onto your shoulders or, via the invariable hole in the material, directly onto your head as well as leaving you with interesting rust coloured marks around the forehead. Still, the best several francs I ever spent.

Paul Morin

Via Paul Morin

T-shirts are too easy; you can always find one with the name of the place you have been to so that others know, literally, where you’re coming from. The ‘David’ kitchen apron was always an interesting choice (your head, David’s body). However, for the ultimate in tacky purchases we need to return to headwear. Known as the “See You Jimmy” hat, it takes a certain sort of cool to pass this off. What better way to show allegiance with Scottish kin than to don a tartan (plaid) cap with red nylon hair protruding from it. As I say, only for the very cool, as you can see from the photo of it being modelled by regular blog reader Paul Morin.

Of course, I know you can all do better so I wait with excitement to hear of the purchases you have made or received that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Readers, what is the most memorable souvenir you have purchased or received?

(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Tour Director Paul Mattesini, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)
Topics: Culture, France, Italy

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