TBT – Souvenirs from Seville and Castilla-La Mancha (the heart of old Spain)

"If you're feeling fancy free, come wander through the world with me, and any place we chance to be, will be a rendez-vous. Two for the road, we'll travel through the years, collecting precious memories, selecting souvenirs and living life the way we please." ~ Henry Mancini.

Sketchbook painting of ceramic Spanish dolls

As so many tourists do, I come home with a few (and sometimes many) souvenirs from the countries I have visited.

As an example, last fall during our river cruise in Europe, I bought watercolour paintings and Delft pottery in Amsterdam, hand made lace bookmarks and embroidered napkins in Germany, clothes in Austria, wooden hand painted dolls in Hungary, and a few other items I just can't remember at the moment. Most souvenirs were gifts for friends.

At times, my suitcase was so loaded with souvenirs that the zipper gave up and the suitcase was split open on the "arrivals" carrousel at the airport. That was the case on the return flight from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when I purchased two rather bulky 8" ceramic dolls (one for my sister) and several ceramic plates as well.

Then there was one trip to Italy where I brought back ceramics from my grandmother's hometown, a small musical table with the inlaid wood designs typical product of the Sorrento region, linen clothes made in Italy, and jewelry.

inlaid wood musical table from Sorrento
musical table from Sorrento
ceramic plates from Codroipo, Italy
ceramic doll from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Top photos: Inlaid wood musical table from Sorrento. It plays the song "Isle of Capri". Bottom right: Ceramic figurine bought in Puerto Vallarta holding caged parrots. Bottom left: Plates from Codroipo with the dialect Friulan sayings written on them. With its accents on some words (cûr as an example), it looks nothing like Italian, but it is a language I can still understand to some degree today).

In Greece, I bought handmade linens and pillow covers and jewelry as well as ceramic dolls.

O.K. You have discovered my secret. I love to shop when I visit foreign countries.

So today's Throw Back Thursday sketch is from my 2016 travel sketchbook.

Each little bell that sits on my kitchen window sill reminds me of the wonders of the world that I have seen in the past ten years, in this case, in beautiful España.

My souvenir suitcase

“I’m going on vacation. I’ll bring you back a souvenir suitcase. It’ll be full of love, but otherwise appear to be empty.”

― Jarod Kintz, Love quotes for the ages. And the ageless sages.

Spanish Figurine Bells

How many of us bring back an empty suitcase when we travel abroad? That would really be unusual wouldn't it?

When I visit new places, I can't resist wandering into quaint little shops and boutiques where I might discover just the right souvenir to bring home and display on a wall or a shelf.

Each precious item is evidence of having visited faraway countries, of having tasted a culture different from my own for just a few weeks, certainly a remembrance of a special time.

If you are like me, (and I hope I am not alone in this idiosyncrasy), your suitcase is packed tight until nothing more could possibly fit into it.

I have quite the reputation in my family for being an expert at shopping while travelling.

I have brought back a small musical table from Sorrento, a ceramic figurine from Positano, linens, clothes, tablecloths, plates, not to mention jewelry, all in my one suitcase on three separate trips to Italy.

In 2008, my suitcase split open on the baggage carrousel because I had loaded it up with five very heavy Mexican ceramic plates and two bird vendor figurines. I think I had stuffed all my clothes in hubby's suitcase in order to make room for the bulky bubble wrapped plates and dolls.

Whether it is fridge magnets, shot glasses, spoons, posters, most of us will have at least one memento from a faraway place stashed somewhere in our home.

For this post, I am opening up my home to reveal a few select keepsakes from beyond our Canadian border.

I have been thinking of our travels together as hubby winds down his last week in beautiful Australia, a month-long trip he has waited all his life to experience, and a final last leg of vacation in Honolulu. Scratch that off his bucket list!

Cuban figurines

When I travel abroad, I am especially careful to look for those unique items that are particular to the region we are visiting.

And I love having a story to go along with each item I purchase in a foreign land.

Some souvenirs were more difficult to find. We walked far and wide looking for a figurine in Varadero in 2004. I was being very selective, and I waited almost until the last day of holidays before making my purchase. I found these lovely, expressive, wooden musician figurines in a dingy little shop not far from our hotel.

My Mexican plates and figurines remind me of bargaining with shop owners in Puerto Vallarta where I walked away from a selection of plates because the vendor did not want to accept my offer. I purchased the plates elsewhere and I have them, as well as many others, displayed in the kitchen and dining room.

When I wear my silver jewelry from the shops in Playa del Carmen, I remember the collectivo we hailed from the shoulder on the highway near our resort.

We were the only Canadians in a small van filled with Mexicans workers. The seatbelts were of no use and each time the van stopped to drop off or pick up more Mexican workers along the road, our bench seat would slide forward and then back again much like the end of a roller coaster ride. Safety standards? There were none, and hubby and I shared a few meaningful glances, as we counted down the kilometres until we reached our destination.

And then we stayed just a little too late in Playa as I meandered from one shop to another on Fifth Avenue, and we had to return to our resort in the dark. The walk from the highway on the unlit road that brought us to the hotel was an experience I could have done without. My imagination got the better of me. I had visions of being on the nightly news back home. TRAGEDY STRIKES CANADIAN TOURISTS. But we made it safe and sound that night with more memories for our old days.

Mesican bird vendor
Sun and moon mexican plate
sunflower plate
Mexican figurines

We have been to Mexico so many times that I have lost count.

The vibrant colours of my Mexican plates remind me of all the wonderful holidays we have had in this country, of margaritas and colourful toucan drinks, of long chats in the pool with a dear friend, and yes, of feeling just a tad tipsy on that last day of our vacation in 2007.

And I have among other Italian souvenirs, plates from Codroipo in north-east Italy. These are special to me because they come from my grandmother's hometown in Friuli Venezia Giulia, an Alpine region bordering Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, and not generally on any tourist's bucket list.

It was on mine though in 2006, and again, in 2008, and once more in 2010. The plates have sayings in my mother's maternal language, friulian or furlan, a Romance language that dates back to the 11th century and is still taught in some schools. It is, unfortunately, a dying language.

The accents on certain words highlight the Central European influence on the Friulian language.

The first plate states the importance of a happy family, while the second simply says hello or goodbye (Mandi means both) from the heart from our Friuli region.

This very distinct language, is the language that I heard during my youth when my mother and nonna got together for their weekly Sunday visits.

Codroipo plates

The watercolour scenes from Florence were bought from an artist who showed me magazine articles in which he was featured. Apparently, back in the sixties, he achieved some notoriety. I liked the soft colours and the chosen setting for each of his paintings.

Florence scene

More recently, I bought a silver tray and tea set in Morocco in 2014. Both the tray and the teapot and glasses remind me of the sweet mint tea we were offered at each destination along with a variety of pastries, a Moroccan tradition to welcome guests.

I decided to split my set and hang the tray on the wall in my dining room because it didn't fit in my nonna's hutch which I recently inherited from my aunt.

silver plate from Morocco

These figurines were bought in Athens in 2007.

They remind me of marathon shopping sessions with my friend Lucie. Wherever we went, whether it was Mykonos, Santorini, or Athens itself, there were always shopping opportunities, and boy, did we take advantage of that. More lovely memories.

figurines from Greece

And now, I count the days until hubby returns home.

His trip will be memorable for many different reasons.

"I’ll bring you back a souvenir suitcase. It’ll be full of love, but otherwise appear to be empty.”

I scratched my head at this riddle, but then the answer came to me.

His travel suitcase appears to be empty of souvenirs, but really, it is full of.....

...love of adventure
...love of discovery
...love of new friendships
...most of all, it is a suitcase filled with love of home
...and love for me.

So the suitcase is not at all empty.