“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.

6 Responses

  • Allô Louise, Ce que vous avez voyagé, c’est impressionnant !! Et c’est loin d’être terminé, si je comprends bien ! Merci pour ce beau et bon partage de précieux souvenirs !! C’est fameux, comme toujours, tu continues ta carrière d’enseignante ! Marie xo

    • Merci Marie. Ce n’est qu’un petit échantillon des souvenirs de nos voyages. Tu as raison, c’est loin d’être terminé. xx

  • You make me want to go on a trip…..beautifully written where we can dream along with you. The best way for me to travel

    • Anne Marie: you are so sweet. Yes, we are already planning our next trips : on, a river cruise in Europe, and a trip to Hawaii to meet our Australian friends which only Neil met this time in Melbourne. I will not stay home on the next trips! Carpe diem!

  • Louise! You never cease to find a way of bringing a tear to my eye. I loved seeing your amazing collection of souvenirs, like you we have many, but the best of all will be the arms of Neil when he returns, giving you the biggest bear hug and maybe some Aussie souvinirs. ✈️????

    • And YOU have been making me cry too with your Facebook post. I learned something about myself this time and it is a lesson well-learned. The important trips need to be taken with loved ones…that means bucket list trips.

      And I am very hopeful that we will meet one day and hug each other and gab for hours on Waikiki beach. Xx

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