Souvenirs, those things we bring back from our travels. The word is French and though it can mean a travel memento, it's most commonly used in French to mean a memory, or to remember (when used as a verb). Souvenirs are this month's topic for The Travel Belles "Across the Cafe Table" chat, more specifically, your favorite souvenir.
I've been known to buy a trinket or three while traveling. I have a collection of Venetian masks that grows with each visit to the floating city. I'm not immune to the cheesy souvenir either; I collect snow globes. I imagine one day when I'm old and my memory is failing I'll shake each globe, of this hopefully massive collection, and the little white flecks cascading onto famous monuments will help remind me of all I've seen, ate and the people I've met in those cities. Whether cheesy or extravagant, my prerequisite for a great souvenir is one that unlocks the door to your best travel memories.
Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart. ~ Thomas Fuller
The best souvenirs aren't really the ones that I've purchased. Some are recipes that take me back to a meal or dessert from "the road." Others are CDs/downloads of Italian music we played during our giro in Sicilia and on the beach in Liguria. Sometimes it's only a word. Just mention "Spritz" and my mind launches the highlight reel of a month's worth of Spritz drinking and summer evenings in Venice.
My very favorite souvenirs are my travel stories/memories and the collage of photos that go with them. The photos instantly transport me back to a specific place, a walk, a vista, a meal shared, a funny mishap, or any of those goosebump moments you get while traveling. Looking at the photo sends my mind into a blissful reverie and my face alights with a faraway glow.
Most of the time the photos that spark the best memories aren't necessarily the most picturesque or photographic and have a completely different story behind them then the photo might suggest. And, they might not always bring back the best travel moments, but instead the funniest.
Some of these travel stories I've shared with you, others I should share with you in the future. Here, I give you a glimpse at some of those stories, aided by my favorite souvenir, my photos:
Night walks in Rome and drinking wine sotto le stelle (under the stars) with friends. One of the best times I've had in Rome was last summer. Two friends and I roamed the moonlit streets, sat in piazze, and sometimes under the shadow of Rome's monuments, sipping wine.
New friends in Salento - My culinary journey in Salento felt a lot like a girlfriends' getaway, full of many goofing-around moments. Both the food and the people of Puglia stole my heart.
Certainly not the most photographic, this photo always makes me smile and think of the bus drivers who helped us in Napoli. The sign says "Don't talk to the bus driver." I'm so glad we did!
My first bite of Neapolitan pizza.
While I showed photos of Carnival in Venice that looked like the one above,
This behind-the-scene look is the one I love and that really tells the story of my mornings during Carnevale.
Summers in Sicily - I've spent many summers near the Castellamare del Golfo area in Sicily visiting my cousins. We'd spend days at the beach or on the boat, which ended in evening dinners on their terrace. Any photo of the coast near Catellamare replays those summer scenes and makes me long for days at the beach and big family dinners on the terrace in Sicily.
Traveling with Dr. Doolittle Dad - The first photo epitomizes my travels with him. Yes, he talks to animals, one of his many qualities I find irritating amusing. Once he passed up a chance to visit the Galleria Borghese in Rome to instead get some carrots and feed the horses parked near the Spanish Steps. As he invites me to dad-sit travel with him yearly, I should really start a "Travels with Dad" series. His quips and antics would rival those "Sh** My Dad Says" stories.
In the second photo, you might see a peaceful night shot of the Cathedral in Cologne. For me it brings on flashbacks of our Rhine River trip and the looooong walk I needed to get away for a bit and restore my sanity.
Traveling with my BFF Shannon - Although she doesn't talk to animals, travels with her are more fun and just as amusing. One of my best friends, and travel buddies, we share nearly a lifetime of travel stories and have countless photos to match each one. This photo is from her visit while I was living in Paris, where she refused to eat the Lapin au Moutarde (rabbit in a mustard sauce) that I painstakingly prepared for her with a little skewer of innards as an accoutrement. Instead she ate a hot dog from one of the stands near Place St. Michel. (I will NEVER let her forget this story.)
Besides walking the streets of Paris with me, we saw a few other sights in France. We tried to remember parts of the Star Spangled Banner while walking the ramparts in St. Malo, got lost among the fountains of Versailles, and were less than reverent in the cloister of Mont St. Michel.
She and I have also binged on chocolate and beer in Belgium & Munich, visited castles in Bavaria, chased windmills and wooden clogs in Holland, were pickpocketed in Prague, sang songs from The Sound of Music in Salzburg, and got lost trying to find Siena when we were already in Siena. There was also the time we were almost banned from crossing through the open-only-once-every-25-years Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica due to supposedly showing too much cleavage. (For me, it was completely a case of guilt by association.) The Holy Door of St. Peter's will now forever be tied to admonishments against cleavage.
Finally, any photo or mention of Spritz immediately takes me to a summer in Venice and some of my most cherished travel memories.
This is the third installment in the "Across the Café Table" series organized by Margo of The Travel Belles. Once a month, Margo asks a travel-related question. We who participate share our answers “across the virtual café table,” on our own blogs, and link to The Travel Belles' post. Everyone is welcome to participate. As Margo says, "Grab a beverage and pull up a chair – there’s always plenty of room!" Why don't you head on over there now, and check out what others' favorite souvenirs are from around the world.
Now, it's your turn: What is your favorite souvenir? What launches the playback reel of travel memories for you?
Munich Day Trip to Neuschwantein Castle (Post for Travel Belles)
We'll Take the Cologne (Germany) the Chocolate, and the Beer Bike in Cologne (Post for Travel Belles)