It’s a lucky person who gets to travel frequently. But with a little less luck, you can still be a person who knows other people who travel frequently. When your friends are away in Tokyo or Paris or London and ask what souvenirs you want, you need to play smartly. Don’t ask for yet another magnet, for that last spot behind the fridge, and what’s the point in getting the same box of Ferrero Rocher that’s now available at the neighbourhood Patel Stores?
There is much more to international destinations than what you can buy from the airport duty free. With a little research, you can find local delicacies, handicrafts and chic, quirky souvenirs.
To help you get started, we put together a list of hand-picked items from popular destinations around the world. You won’t find them in most duty-frees, smuggled goods stores or in-flight catalogues, and most certainly not at Patel Stores. Sure, your friends might have to travel a bit or make a few phone calls. But then what are friends with visas for?
Sydney: Foqi Bent Bottle Opener
Yes, a bottle opener. But what a bottle opener. Australian design outfit Foqi’s “bent” design concept received much acclaim when it was unveiled two years ago. The object is simplicity itself and has lines reminiscent of a 1960s muscle car. However, do ask your friends to order online as soon as they reach the city. While it may be stocked in stores in Sydney, ordering online from the Foqi store is much easier. A glamorous addition to any serious, well-stocked bar. Price, AUS$ 120 (around Rs5,600). For details, log on to www.foqi.com
Shanghai: Shanghai Code Vintage Glasses
Not everything in this alpha city is new and shiny. Shanghai might be the place all other cities aspire to become, but there are pockets of the old thriving there as well. Tianzifang is a popular destination for creative folk with its old Shanghai architecture, bars, cafés and restaurants. Shanghai Code Vintage Glasses is a project by a local entrepreneur who went around collecting old eyeglass frames from shuttered factories around Shanghai. Find designs and styles from the 1940s to the 1980s. There is plenty of other retro memorabilia as well. But most visitors have eyes only for the oversized plastic monstrosities of times past. Prices start at 250 yuan (around Rs 1,800).
Zurich: Freitag luggage
Brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag were beginning to get a little miffed by the damp Zurich weather. Zipping around the city on their cycles, they were wondering how to keep their messenger bags dry. Then they spotted the lorry driving along in front of them.
Since 1993, the brothers have been making cult luggage out of old tarpaulins, tyre tubes and seat belts. While messenger bags remain their forte, they also have a variety of wallets and smaller totes. The flagship store in Zurich is hipster mecca. Prices start from €43 (around Rs 2,700) for a one-of-a-kind iPhone 4 pouch. For details, log on to www.freitag.ch
Paris: Le Petit Atelier De Paris
Paris is known for many things—fashion, the Eiffel Tower-but not so much for its porcelain. Which is exactly the point. Le Petit Atelier de Paris is a little pottery workshop, on Rue Montmorency, that manufactures everything in its basement. Look out for easily packable things such as egg-cups and retro porcelain electrical switches. Prices start from €20 (around Rs 1,200) for the electrical fittings. For details, log on to www.porcelaine-electrique.com
New York: The New Yorker Hard Drive
This is the magazine that sets the bar for all others. Arguably the greatest thing made of paper in the world, ‘The New Yorker’ magazine has enthralled readers for decades with its formidable array of fiction and non-fiction writers, and unexplainable cartoons. From J.D. Salinger to Malcolm Gladwell, the magazine’s archives are a thinking person’s delight. Which is why you must ask, nay demand, that your friend visit The Cartoon Bank on Broadway and buy you a copy of the Complete New Yorker Hard Drive. The slim little 120 GB portable drive contains every page from the magazine since 1925. Update DVDs are periodically released as well. Stupendous value at $179 (around Rs 8,000). For details, log on to www.cartoonbank.com
Cape Town: Imagenius Obama Fabric
Cape Town is a popular tourist destination that is also now developing a reputation for a booming local design scene. Boutiques and design stores dot the city and few are as bewildering as the Imagenius store on Long Street in the heart of town. ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper recently called it “A shop of offbeat genius”. Almost anything in the store would make a good gift. But keeping in mind luggage constraints, we recommend a few metres of the Imagenius’ Shine Shine Obama fabric. Printed on a variety of cotton, oil cloth and linen by a local company, anything made with it is an instant conversation starter. It is priced at South African rand 250 (around Rs 1,700) a metre. For details, log on to www.imagenius.co.za
London: Underground Film Map
The London Transport Museum may sound like the classic tourist trap but it is, in fact, a charming little place that is sadly seldom visited. So do your friends a favour by getting them to go there and buy you an Underground Film Map. The map is a reinterpretation of the classic London Tube map with the station names replaced with those of movies and TV series that were shot at or around the stations. It captures 70 years of London film history. All for £9.95 (around Rs 700). For details, log on to www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk