We often get asked by our guests for last minute gift ideas to take home to friends and family so here’s a few suggestions (that don’t involve fridge magnets or snow domes).
Stripey stuff – here in Arromanches we have our own little “Saint James” boutique. Now strictly speaking, Saint James is a Brittany brand rather than a Normandy one, but its very French seaside all the same. They produce the classic ‘mariniere’ long sleeve stripy t-shirt for women, men, kids and babies or if you’re unsure of sizes go for the stripey socks and scarves. The baby-wear is gorgeous – they even have an accessories range with stripey beanies, scarves, socks and soft toys.
Smelly stuff – if you’re passing a Carrefour or E.Leclerc supermarket (both are located on the peripherique of Bayeux) head straight to the toiletries aisle to stock up on Marseilles body washes and lotions. There are two brands I really like – Le Petit Marseillais (the lavender hand wash is in all our rooms) and Marsaeille Savon Le Naturel (the orange hand wash truly smells like a bag of oranges). Le Petit Marseillais do a whole range of body lotions, hand lotions, lip balms and hair care products if you want the whole enchilada. If you’re a little wary of having bottles of liquid soap in your luggage, opt for the bars instead. For something a big fancier, the French brands Durance and l’Occitane produce lovely scented toiletries and the scented candles are the gift that keeps on giving (just make sure they’re in your checked luggage).
Gourmet stuff – while you’re in the supermarket, there’s plenty to keep your foodie friends happy. Both of the big supermarkets in Bayeux mentioned above have “Produit de Normandie” sections where you can stock up on tins of biscuits, jams, and honeys and of course, D’Isigny Caramels. I have often sent home to friends bags of French cooking salt from the condiments aisle – it costs a motza in Australia but for a few euro’s here your friends can feel like proper french chefs when they whip out the “Fleur de Sel de Guerande”. Also in the condiments aisle search out the Maille mustards. Founded in 1747, Maille is the mustard of mustards. There is a gorgeous Maille store across from the Madeleine in Paris where Parisians take in their own pottery pots to be refilled with their favourites – oh so French! And if you’re feeling really brave, the Maille olive oil and balsamic vinegars are fabulous.
There are endless French branded beauty products that are available in pharmacies here for a fraction of their overseas prices – many of which are relatively unknown outside of France. Much has already been written about them by others far more expert in the field than me (or Mike). Google “French pharmacy products” and Gwyneth Paltrow or Lisa Eldridge (UK beauty guru) and you’ll find great articles on what the experts stock up on while in France. For me, the absolute must is a great sunscreen by La Roche Posay called “Anthelios” which is factor 50, non-greasy and worked a treat even on my pale skin during Australian summers.
For the little ones – sure adults like to dress kids up in little French outfits – but clothes aren’t much fun as gifts for kids. Starting with the littlest of the littlies, Sophie the Giraffe is a french icon among babies (google “sophie giraffe celebrities” and you’ll see). There’s a whole range of Sophie the Giraffe stuff in the baby aisle at E.Leclerc supermarkets. For kids up to about 10, I look out for sticker books and activity books while I’m in the gift stores at different historical sites. Sure they are in French, but there’s not a lot of words and kids work them out pretty quickly. The Bayeux Tapestry has a good gift store where I’ve picked up medieval and princess themed sticker books and in Paris there’s a great section in most museum gift stores (and particularly the Jacquemart-Andre Museum).
Okay – I’m starting to give away my shopping obsession secret now so I’ll sign off. If you have any questions or suggestions, please send me a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A bientôt and happy shopping!