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August 29, 2011 7:04 AM   Subscribe

What should I ask for from Paris?

My boyfriend's mother is about to depart on her ten-day honeymoon in Paris. She's asked all of us to think of something she can bring back for us. Wine, cheese, butter, macaroons, etc have all been mentioned.

What would you ask for from Paris? Bonus points for things I can only get in France and not New York City.
posted by kidsleepy to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (28 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Fleur scented marseilles soap from the neighbourhood supermarket. I will send you my mailing address.
posted by infini at 7:14 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it makes sense to be practical: ask for something available at the Duty Free shop in the airport. Otherwise, they will have to take time out of their honeymoon to go shopping for you, which I think is a bit of an imposition, plus they then have to carry their booty around for the rest of the day, pack it, etc.

There is a lot of great stuff in the Duty Free--all those wines, cheese, cosmetics, etc. (I was just at CDG last month). However, much of it can be obtained for less in the US--the tax free shopping is attractive compared to the high VAT common in Europe, but not compared to the US. For instance, my fiancee bought the Chanel mascara that she wears when we where there. With the exchange rate, she paid something like $50 for it, but in the US it would have been $39. Or whatever. I don't know what she paid or what it costs in the US, but it was more at the Duty Free.

Personally, if you drink, I would ask her to bring back some nice wines or liquors--probably on the more heavy side of souvenirs, but not apt to get crushed (like macaroons), won't go stale, and there is much available Duty Free that you simply cannot buy in the US. I drink a lot of pastis in the summer, and there were bottles of "special" Pernod that one cannot buy in the US. Same with wines (though I am not a wine expert). Good wine is cheap in France, and really very excellent wine is quite affordable.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:27 AM on August 29, 2011

Response by poster: Admiral - she's insisting on getting us stuff. It's point of pride that she can bring us something nice and I promise, it's not an imposition. But utilizing the Duty Free shop is a good point.
posted by kidsleepy at 7:33 AM on August 29, 2011

Are you sure that discounted items from the duty free shop counts as personal or something special?
posted by devnull at 7:39 AM on August 29, 2011

Sorry, I meant that more of a general proposition, not to call you out. It was more background to the Duty Free option. As to devnull, it depends on the recipient. If my mother were to return from France with a nice bottle of pastis or absinthe I can't get in the US, I'd be delighted.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:43 AM on August 29, 2011

French enamel signs are a nice little souvenir. You can go cute, with a little 'Entree des Artistes' for the side door, or practical, with a 'Toilettes' or such.

I went practical, with some standard French house numbers from centrally-located and totally worth the visit BHV. Signs and house numbers are in the hardware department in the basement. Not too expensive, very nice, and not available in New York without being stupid expensive (I'm ignoring that schmaltzfest at Rock Center, if that's still there.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:45 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

For less expensive choices, send her to Monoprix, a discount department store with grocery items sometimes located downstairs. There are locations all over Paris, and she's sure to walk past one while she's there. She should check out the Bourjois cosmetics, a low end line by Chanel. Also Roger & Gallet and other brands of lotions and almond shampoo. Also check out the scarves. (Pretty scarves are sold everywhere.) In the grocery area, there will be many kinds of mustard, sea salt (fleur de sel), cookies, and many other goodies.

If you like tea, send her to one of the Mariage Freres tea stores. Wonderful.

My personal favorite is a shop called Tuile a Loup near the Censier Daubenton Metro stop. They sell handmade pottery from all over France (including mugs and small items). They will ship, as will many places. It may be a bit out of her way, but if she likes to poke around slightly off the beaten path, it's not too far from the market street Rue Mouffetard.

The souvenir shops on Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre have great aprons for cooks, with pictures of the Mona Lisa, etc.

Seconding BHV.

Sorry I'm inept and haven't included any of those fancy links. You'll just have to Google!
posted by MelissaSimon at 7:56 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Caramel-buerre-salé (butter and salt caramels) from A L'etoile d'Or! Oh my goodness, they are so good. As I remember, about 12 EUR for a small bag.
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tea! Mariage Freres is the best tea! And bring me some. (Their French Breakfast flavor is my favorite tea ever. Ever. Like, I'm thinking of paying the outrageous fees to get it shipped to me from France.)

(Yes, you can get a few flavors at specialty stores like Dean and Deluca or Market Hall, but trust me, this is good stuff and much more fun to get as a present from France.)
posted by maryr at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2011

Hand made candies.
Unusual eau de vie.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on August 29, 2011

To my knowledge, Christine Ferber's Confiture de Framboise à la Violette can't be had for love or money in the US.* Chocolate and Zucchini's rhapsody about it here; available in Paris at Le Bon Marché, 38 rue de Sèvres.

*Note that I would love to be proved wrong on this...if anyone knows of a US source, or even a European source willing to ship the US, I'd love to know about it!
posted by apparently at 8:25 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You have to get macarons. With one o, not two.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2011

I think they're gross, but most people disagree and think they're heaven on earth: Haribo Fraise Tagada. Despite their Haribo provenance, they're only available in France.
posted by atomicstone at 9:24 AM on August 29, 2011

Caramel-buerre-salé (butter and salt caramels) from A L'etoile d'Or! Oh my goodness, they are so good. As I remember, about 12 EUR for a small bag.
posted by quadrilaterals

Pick up Bernachon chocolate bars there too. Bernachon doesn't ship abroad. Also L'etoile d'Or is the only place in Paris that sells them - Bernachon is based in Lyon.
posted by vacapinta at 9:27 AM on August 29, 2011

Mariage Freres tea is amazing but they sell it in NYC.
posted by vacapinta at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2011

Many of the higher end boulangeries provide special canvas bags like this for people who would like to carry their bread home. In general bags and baskets often make an interesting present since the French tend to take them with them to market - and they like something attractive and built to last.

Stuff like spice racks or watercolour paints which are labelled in French make straightforward but interesting presents.
posted by rongorongo at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2011

Votive Candle from Notre Dame.
posted by JimmyJames at 9:50 AM on August 29, 2011

La Droguerie has ribbons and other notions--buttons, etc. Great stuff. I'm also a huge fan of the enameled signs and house numbers--BVH has a very cool hardware dept.

La Droguerie | 9 Rue Jour 75001 Paris | Métro : Étienne Marcel
posted by Ideefixe at 9:51 AM on August 29, 2011

I just wanted to chip in that L'Etoile d'Or is fantastic - as implied by the above comment about the chocolates, they stock lots of specialty cookies and candies from all over France that you otherwise have to travel far and away to buy. They are pricy, but you save the trips to all the little villages and they usually come in a nice tin. I also want to recommend their pate a fruits and the little cassis gummies with the cassis liqueur in them.

If you go when the owner is working, and you are looking to buy and are nice, she will force samples on you. =)
posted by whatzit at 10:06 AM on August 29, 2011

David Lebovitz, an excellent food writer who lives in Paris, has a pretty extensive post on this that might be of interest.
posted by carrienation at 10:37 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unique booze à la francaise; in ascending order of head hardness:

Poire Williams
(Green) Chartreuse
posted by protorp at 11:44 AM on August 29, 2011

An ounce of Mitsouko perfume by Guerlain. I would commit mayhem for an ounce of the real thing!
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2011

protorp, the regular green Chartreuse is readily available in New York. In the full-size bottles, no less.

The V.E.P. Chartreuse, or even the knockout Elixir Vegetale -- I haven't seen them as much. he Elixir Vegetale especially. (It used to be my birthday drink, since it was so special, and also because drinking it more than once a year is probably a Bad Idea. Marvellous, but your tongue shrivels up like a slug under salt.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2011

I have a few standards (previously): stationery, kitchen linen (tablecloths, teatowels), lotions & potions, room scents.

there is much available Duty Free that you simply cannot buy in the US

It looks like it's a direct flight this time, but if you connect on after an international flight, be sure to leave room in your checked bags to stow any duty free liquids after clearing customs, because screeners generally don't give a hoot about the sealed bags.
posted by holgate at 1:22 PM on August 29, 2011

Small bottle of Cedar Oil Incense from The Louvre. Smells just like Notre Dame Cathedral & lasts forever!
posted by bricksNmortar at 7:07 PM on August 29, 2011

I brought back a bunch of stuff for friends when I returned from Paris last year. My brother and another good friend got bottles of Absinthe from this shop in the Marais. Popular gift and a fun shopping experience for me. The Marais had a ton of cool places. I also brought home a bunch of French chocolate, and 2 bottles of wine that I didn't think would be easy to find at home - nothing fancy, but hey it was HAND CARRIED from Paris.

One thing I didn't bring back, but I just have to mention - The T-Shirts at the Maritime Museum by the Eiffel Tower were Gaultier.

posted by Noon Under the Trees at 7:58 PM on August 29, 2011

The one thing I wish I'd brought more of from Paris was chocolate. There are several lovely little chocolateries there, and a selection from any of them will yield great happiness.
posted by amtho at 8:33 PM on August 29, 2011

Get some pastries or macaroons from LADUREE.
posted by cnc at 11:35 AM on August 30, 2011

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