What's the next best thing to travel to Provence? The souvenirs that help you remember your trip. Of course you can discover fabulous French designs and jewelry in the chic boutiques in the luxury hotspots of Nice, Cannes, Antibes/Juan-les-Pins and St. Tropez.
But here's a list of the top items you can find in markets and at local producers to remember and share the real flavor of the South of France. (Except wine. That's a whole other story). Some are delightful and still inexpensive, while others are a real travel splurge. High or Low end in cost, here are some travel shopping tips to help you make the best of countless choices shopping in Provence.
The characteristically sunny tones and regional prints of Provencal kitchen linens are an ideal gift to yourself or anyone in your life. They instantly brighten up your kitchen or bring the zest of the Mediterranean to outdoor entertaining in the summer. Oddly, the shops have aprons galore, and they're cute, but does anyone really wear them?? Do you? I don't even know any French women who use aprons.
The colors of Provence in linen c BestTrip.TV
Tip: I'm very practical. I opt for things that are very useful: napkins you can offer guests at home outdoors in the summer with Mediterranean canapes and frosty Provencal rose wine, or, my favorite, a quilted square with ties at each corner that, once tied, create a fabric basket for French bread or fruit.
If you have little girls to shop for, Provencal linen dresses are hard to resist! c BestTrip.TV
High/Lo rating: Linens aren't cheap, starting in the tens of euros and going up into the hundreds depending on workmanship or if you get into clothing. But they weigh virtually nothing, so it won't overload your luggage and cost you excess baggage fees.
Every guest bathroom should be honored with the iconic Savon de Marseilles in the scents of Provence. Marseilles soap has set the benchmark of pure, gentle, and delectable soaps since its creation. Buying it is such fun, it's like following the yellow brick road! Shopkeepers must feel like they're kids with Lego again, setting up displays of bars, with different colors for different scents: lavender for lavender (!), delicate pink for rose, mossy green for pure olive oil.
The original color blocking! c BestTrip.TV
Tip: You don't have to buy them in Marseilles, they're all over Provence; I bought some recently in Avignon's market.
High/Lo rating: Pocket change! You'll be tempted to fill a whole suitcase. But the weight adds up even if the price doesn't.
Soap isn't the only way to bring home Provencal olive oil! If you're visiting Provence in the cooler autumn, see if you can visit an olive grove to see the harvest and the pressing first hand. Our production crew was lucky enough to be given a tour and then a tasting of the grassy oil right out of the first press, then properly aged variations. You realize you don't really know what olive oil is supposed to taste like until you've tasted it at the source!
Filming an Olive Oil Tasting at a Family Olive Farm and Press, Provence c BestTrip.TV
Tip: Opt for tin containers, they're lighter than glass and will make the trip home better. And indulge in skin care products made from olive oil, you'll never find a better hand cream or a more soothing bath oil!
High/Lo rating: The oil itself is higher quality and less expensive for the quality than you can get at home. But some of the skin care products can be pretty pricey, even so, my French friends say they're worth the splurge!
Fleur de Sel
Is really just a fancy pants way of saying 'sea salts'. Sea salts from the south of France are justifiably famous, and any foodie friend will be tickled if you remember them with a flavored local salt. Rose scented, lavender scented, the options are countless, and equally colorful. I bought test tubes of various flavors; you can see the delicate colors and bits of rose, lavender, jasmine in the salts.
Tip: Use them where their delicate flavor can really shine: Sprinkled over a pan-fried or gently grilled piece of fresh fish or chicken when they're done cooking, or to scent rice or eggs.
High/Lo rating: Lo! Small gift packets or the test tubes are very affordable. Save, and enjoy!
Truffles may rise out of the category of 'souvenir' and into the category 'investment'. If you're a gourmet, truffles from the source are worth the splurge; and visiting a truffle farm and going out with the (highly trained!) and adorable dogs to find the truffles really puts the 'fun' in 'fungus'!
No Trespassing on this Truffle Farm! Somewhere (secret) in Provence c BestTrip.TV
Tip: Some truffle products are available in very small quantities, which make gifting them to your foodie friends quite reasonable.
High/Lo rating: High! Anything made with pure Provence truffles will be the big market / food producer souvenir splurge of your visit to the South of France.