Traveling always brings up the question of what to bring home to remind us of the places we visited. At one time, I lugged all sorts of useless junky things home–keychains, magnets, glasses, socks, whatever caught my eye and had the name plastered all over it to announce to everyone where I have been. I like to take photos and create scrapbooks of my travels. I always included tickets, receipts, brochures, and many, many postcards along with my pictures. The scrapbooks sometimes spilled from one overfilled book to two overfilled book of the same place–just one week of traveling. Then I started to travel more frequently sometimes the same city more than once–London, Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh–I didn’t need nor desire the same junky souvenirs. However, I still created the overfull scrapbook.
I can’t remember on what trip–probably a London trip–I decided to restrict myself to a few small magnets and postcards. I always took hundreds of pictures to sort through for my scrapbooks and that made me happy.
One day I visited the open stall market at Covent Garden in London. It’s not a large market, but it has quality stalls. I browsed through the market throughly for quite a while. I came across an artist selling his watercolor prints of London and the quintessential English countryside. There were great renditions of iconic sites in London, but a bit moodier. I eventually settled on a signed and matted watercolor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in dark purple tones. Perfect. I always make time to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I don’t always go inside. I love the story of how it was a victim of the infamous London fire, but its glory was resurrected with Christopher Wren’s designs. I’ve walked up the 500 something steps to the top viewing tower to see the city views. I’ve sat in the whispering gallery along the base of the large center dome to see if I could hear people’s whispers from across the dome.
My sister and I once sat in the little (park?)–really just some benches in a square to the side and waited for the Queen who was rumored to be inside the Cathedral to come out. We had been just walking around the church and we were considering walking across the new Millenium Bridge to the Tate Modern when we saw several black armored cars drive up and park to the side. We heard people say that it may a royal. So about 45 minutes and 1 ice cream cone later–the Queen came out the side door–looking very sweet in her primrose skirt suit complete with matching hat and the classic 1950s box handbag dangling off her forearm. She was whisked away to her black car by her security team.
My print from St. Paul’s Cathedral purchased at the Covent Garden market for 5 pounds.
That started a tradition that I always try to uphold when I travel. I try to find a watercolor by an artist sold on the street for a steal of a price. I’ve managed to find some great pictures for my walls. However, I’m not always successful getting a good deal or a print that I like. Paris was a challenge. I found plenty of street artists selling their wares, but I wasn’t paying 200 Euro for an oil painting bought off St. Germain Ave. at 10 PM. I settled on a print from an original watercolor, but then I saw it reproduced everywhere. So, it does not have a place of honor on my wall, it resides hidden in the Paris scrapbook. Recently I came back from Amsterdam and I had 3–that’s right 3 watercolor prints to bring home! I couldn’t decide on just one. There were two artists selling side by side and I really like the colors of the prints–I had just about given up finding a print. I found several artists selling their work in street stalls, but no pictures really ever said–“Take me home.” I framed the set and I hung them in dining room as a trio.
I’ve found prints of Budapest, Edinburgh, Prague, Bruges, Brussels, & Dublin. In Prague, the print just struck me as I was passing by on a walking tour of Lesser Town or the Little Quarter where the Prague Castle overlooks Prague proper from across the Vltava River. I was supposed to taking pictures of the Loreto but I went shopping for a print. The tour guide looked on disappovingly as she was stressed to keep on the schedule. But I managed to execute my sale and take great pics of the Loreto. The print is of the Charles Bridge–a pedestrian bridge from Lesser Town into Old Town near the Jewish Quarter. It was constructed in the 1300s and I planned to leave the tour after the castle tour and walk across the bridge instead of take the bus back into town. It was perfect and cheap–I think I paid the equivalent of $5 in the local koruna. I love the darkness–probably because it channels Prague’s bloody history–being thrown out of an open window was a common assassination method if local legend is to be believed.
The Dublin door print was found on the last day of my trip literally hours before I left for the airport. I was staying in the area around Merrion Square–and there was an open stall market on the sidewalks. I was doing other things around town and I took a last stroll through my temporary home neighborhood before leaving for the airport. I found the little Dublin door print. I really can appreciate that as I was in the neighborhood where the famous poster “Dublin Doors” was produced. The others were found without a particular story attached to them. The Brussels pic was from a stand that has a permanent spot in the center of the Grote Markt in Old Town–literally around the corner from my hotel. I browsed through the stand any time I passed the square before I finally bought the print. The Bruges print was an impulse buy on my way out of town toward the Bus Park where the tour bus was leaving from. I almost didn’t make it. The Edinburgh print is of the imposing Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal mile from the Castle to the Queen’s official royal residence in Scotland at Holyroodhouse.
My photo of the Edinburgh Castle print.
So I started a souvenir tradition that I hope I can continue. I may have to buy a new house with more wall space…………