Picture the ladies’ shoe department in Nordstrom on a busy Saturday afternoon. There’s a woman cooing, as she plucks pump after pump from the display rack, thrusting them into the face of the glummest-looking fellow in the world, her husband, who’s lolling on a leather settee, braiding peds.
I am that man.
I mean, I’d be that man if I wasn’t a woman. Shopping in a store lights me up as much as colonoscopy prep. I’ve perfected a lightning strike approach that involves scanning racks at 100 yards, nabbing the item I desire (black wool trousers with a slight flare, size 8 tall), getting rung up and back in my car within 15 minutes.
The exception? Vacation. When I travel, I can wander from boutique to home dec shop to flea market for hours on end. And finding the perfect souvenir? Well, it’s my equivalent of summiting Everest.
On a recent trip to Reykjavík I tried on sweater after sweater while attempting to find the perfect Nordic takeaway. It’s really hot inside buildings in Iceland. They use geothermal systems that work well but it necessitates layering and stripping in public. I grew frustrated and sweaty and then… across the street was the Handknit Association of Iceland. I bundled up, headed over and purchased several skeins of Álafoss Lopi. Upon my return, I knit the most wonderful pair of mittens. They’re warm and waterproof and hardly perfect, resembling store-bought mittens only in the sense that they have distinct regions for thumb and hand, but I love them.
And sometimes there is a Herculean effort involved. Try schlepping a rug from Morocco to Madrid and back to the States. Said rug is 5 x 8 but has been folded by a merchant into a dense square that weighs as much as a bag of calcium chloride. I kept rubbing on it, hoping it would fly. Was it worth it? You betcha. Because every time I trip over it, I remember how much fun I had touring Tangier with my sister.
AFAR magazine recently published a list of Favorite Shopping Places Around the World. One of the highlighted shops is the Frozen Fountain that sells modern interpretations of traditional Dutch pottery. I’m headed to Amsterdam this summer and can’t wait to stock up. What about you? Do you have a favorite souvenir? Is there something special you seek on your journeys?