Tag Archives: souvenirs

Moroccan Purchases

26 Apr

Whenever we get back from a trip people are always so curious as to what sort of souvenirs or items we bought while traveling around.  We don’t usually do a lot of shopping on our family vacations (because we all know how much kids LOVE to shop)  but we always try and bring back a few keepsakes for ourselves and gifts for friends and family (read here and here to find what we purchased in Japan).

And of course in Morocco we had to check out the world famous souks off the Jemaa El Fna Square in Marrakesh.  The kids loved getting lost in the winding narrow alleyways full of  interesting shops selling everything you could ever imagine.

I have to admit I’m not a big fan of bargaining and bartering about prices (although I am good at it!).  I’m always scared of offending the shop owner and /or getting colossally ripped off.  In any case, I’m pretty sure we we paid way too much for some of the things we purchased (you can always tell when they quickly agree to the first price you offer).

1-IMG_7804These babouche are by far my favorite purchase.  They are so bright, colourful and actually quite comfortable.  One shopkeeper told us that they are made out of camel leather and are hand-stitched   The kids each picked out a pair for themselves and some pairs to bring back for good friends.  We paid between 5€ and 7€ a pair ($6.50-$9).  Quite a bargain for something so unique and typically Moroccan.  Only downside is that they have a very pungent and distinctive smell.  One of my kids suggested it could be what the inside of a goat’s bowel would smell like.  Over the last months it has improved a bit but it’s still there (despite my constant spraying of Sandalwood perfume).

1-IMG_7829And of course we couldn’t come home without a tagine.  I would have loved to bring back one of the beautifully hand painted larger ones that are available for purchase everywhere but we just didn’t have space in our luggage.  So instead we picked out some of the smaller versions which are usually used for salt/pepper/cumin.  The kids bought some to bring back to their teachers and I brought some to use here at home.  We paid anywhere from 1€-3€ ($1.50-$4).

1-IMG_7837As soon as I saw a tiny shop which sold tassles of every kind I was like a kid in a candy shop.  They had every size and colour imaginable and were available in everything from cotton to velvet to leather.  I ended up buying three leather ones (€2/$2.50) which I’ll use for key chains or to hang on hand sewn purses and bags  and a whole bunch of tiny little cotton ones in the loveliest colours  (0.15€/20¢ each).  I wish I’d bought so many more.

1-IMG_7813The souks of Marrakesh are famous for their leather goods.  You can get beautiful purses of every style and colour (and quality).  I found several purses which I loved and didn’t end up buying due to the “smell factor” that we had with the babouche slippers.  The kids bought these sweet little 3-pocket leather wallets above (3€/$4 each) and a few leather bracelets (3 for €2/$2.50).  There are many many styles of wallets, bracelets, purses and belts to choose from.  Just be careful for quality and how the leather is dyed or painted.

1-IMG_7845You absolutely can’t go to Morocco and not buy their world famous Argan Oil.  These oil is made from the kernals of the Argan Tree which is endemic to Morocco.  It is used for both culinary and cosmetic purposes and is said to have many healing and medicinal purposes (aging, rheumatism, acne, scarring).  We stopped at a Women’s Co-op in the Atlas mountains and bought a few little bottles to give it a try.  I’ll let you know if it changes my life.  I paid about €7/$9 for a small 40ml bottle.

1-IMG_7879I also picked up this gorgeous rag rug while we were traveling in the Atlas Mountains.  I saw it hanging outside a tiny shop at the summit of one of the mountains we drove over on our travels and I knew it would be perfect in our home.  I was tempted to buy the large version but lack of suitcase space made it so that I left with the smaller version (€10/$13).  It looks perfect in my son’s lego corner of our livingroom.

All along the mountainous roads we came across men selling these crystallized rocks that they found in various mines and caves.  My kids fell in love with them and ended up using some of their travel money to purchase some for themselves and friends.  We were told they were all naturally coloured.  In any case it’s quite impressive to open the dull black stones and find these beautifully coloured crystal insides.  Everyone who comes to our house has to admire these stones before getting past the front hall.  They cost between €2 and €4 ($2.50-$5.50).1-IMG_7855We also bought some painting pigments in one of the many spice shops.  These vibrantly coloured powders just need to be mixed with lemon juice and are great for painting or dying cotton clothing (see here what the kids painted). These pigments are sold by the gram  and we paid about €3/$4 total for all of them.

Have you ever been to Morocco and purchased anything special?


Japanese Purchases (part two)

25 Jun

A lot of people have been asking me whether Japan is really as expensive as they all think it is.  When we were there we were really surprised at how affordable it actually turned out to be.  For us the prices were comparable to European prices for many things.  Eating out in Japan was actually even cheaper than eating out in Italy and the museums and entrance fees to temples and shrines were also reasonably priced.

The things that do cost a lot in Japan are the accomodation and transportation.  If traveling to Japan I would definitsly recommend buying a rail pass (only available for non residents of Japan and it must be purchased beforehand) and looking into renting a house instead of staying in hotels.  In Japan you pay per person and not per room in most cases.  So for us, a family of five, staying in a hotel became very very pricey.

I thought I’d do another post with some of my favourite purchases from our trip (see previous post here).  I bought some of these souvenirs at the 100 yen shop (equivalent to the $1 shop).  It’s a great place to pick up little gifts and keepsakes to take home with you.

I couldn’t go to Japan and not buy a little Japanese lunch box.  This one has two little compartments inside to store different foods.  It’s lovely but absolutely too tiny to carry enough food for this family of five.  It might soon become a place to store all my sewing needles and seam rippers.I bought these not knowing what they were but merely because I loved the packaging.  For all I knew these tiny boxes could have been filled with anything from shower caps to thumbtacks.While taking these photos I decided to open one up and it turns out that they are delicious soft caramels.  What a nice surprise!  And I’m so glad it wasn’t anything illegal.These rice crackers come from a specialty shop located near some of the famous temples of Kyoto.  Everything in this shop is painfully spicy.  While in the shop you can taste any of their products and we all tasted these crackers not expecting the burning fire of pain that our poor taste buds had to endure.  Luckily there was a lady waiting with a tray of cold matcha tea to ease the pain.  We still haven’t had the guts to open this pack and give them a try.

I have been collecting Japanese stationary for almost two decades now.  So when I actually got to go to Japan and buy some for myself I was ecstatic.  Surprisingly enough I got these ones above at the 100 yen shop.  They come with a stack of writing paper, envelopes and a sheet of stickers to match.I bought this little iphone case at the same shop my daughters bought their prized purses.  It’s by Wabisuke and Made in Japan (which I love).  Once again, I’m in love with this fabric.Another 100 yen shop purchase are these little paper gift bags.  Oh how I love Japanese packaging!I was surprised to see that in every gift shop you go to in Japan there is always a selection of miniature towels and handkerchiefs to buy.  Apparently it’s one of the number one souvenirs that are purchased and people use them to dry their hands after washing them in the shrines and temples.  My daughter picked out this little one above and it’s made from linen and cotton and is so soft and dainty.

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