Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Treasure or tat?

A nice thing about Colonia is that although it is very geared up for tourists, and there is some of the usual rather tacky souvenirs, there are also shops selling better quality things. This makes a nice change as we often find the question of souvenirs to be tricky.  Aside from the issues of cost and carrying them which I talked about recently, you have to find something you like.

Whether buying for yourself or as a gift for someone else, it is tricky to find something that is not tacky, but at the same time is typical or traditional enough to really bring to mind the place you were when you look at it in years to come.  Especially if you can't spend too much.  We have long since avoided buying souvenirs of the shell animals or Spanish donkey kind, but we do like to have something as a reminder of our trips. In the past we have tried to buy something that is made locally, ideally something that the area is known for, but that we will happily have on our shelves at home for years to come.

In Prague we bought a piece of Czech glassware, but in a more modern style than the typical pieces, and in South Africa we found a couple of local stoneware bowls that we liked. But often, we struggle.  We have taken to sometimes buying something to use as a Christmas tree decoration.  We figure that you can get away with tacky at Christmas, and you see it once a year without feeling obliged to have it out the rest of the time.  So we bought a polar bear tree ornament from Canada, and various ones from our travels in Europe.

Our other option, especially for other people, is something practical, so they can use it rather than feel obliged to display something they don't really like from somewhere they haven't been to. So what of this trip.  Well I have been unable to resist a few pieces of inexpensive jewellery, and Nic has bought a few of the less tacky t-shirts of things like the Nazca lines monkey and the moai on Rapa Nui.  I also bought a sunhat from the panama hat factory, which I got good use out of in Colombia.

I also decided to buy a little silver charm either in or at least to represent some of the countries we visit and make up a charm bracelet to map our travels.  I have an inca llama from Peru, which can reasonably cover Bolivia and Chile too, a bird man from Rapa Nui, a penguin from the Falklands, a humpback whale from Antarctica, and an Argentine coin.  I need to pick up a coffee bean for Colombia, and will have to think about whether I can get something for Ecuador and Uruguay.

But in terms of ornaments we have found it more difficult.  We bought the sculpture that I mentioned before, a couple of prints in Colombia, that are of some of the beers that we have been drinking a lot of.  And we bought ourselves a Pinguino, which is a penguin shaped jug that is traditionally used in Argentina to serve wine, which we figured covered both Argentina and Antarctica.  And we found a meat fork with a cows head on (it is better than it sounds) which will be both practical and a reminder of all of the steak we have eaten here.  And yes, before you say it, I do realise that most of these connect to food and drink!

So we are happy that we have some things to remind us of this first year of our travels, but bemoaning the lack of good souvenirs also got us to wondering what would be a good souvenir of London.  There are some good prints available, but wallspace is always in short supply.  With the Olympics coming, I noticed the glass tree decorations that include things like a London bus, which I quite like. Again though, I get stuck for an ornament?  What is there that represents London without looking like tacky souvenir or an advert for the city?   I did once see an artwork that was the outline of the River Thames depicted in old glass collected from the river; I rather liked the idea of that, but it was huge and had to be on a wall.

So what could I like enough in its own right that I would be genuinely happy to have on my shelf (when I have a shelf again) for another twenty years?  Do let me know if you know just the thing.

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