Q When I gave my mother a souvenir from our trip to Paris, my sister looked hurt. Should I have brought back something for everyone in my family?
A Your sister looked hurt? Meaning you presented Mom with her own Eiffel Tower– shaped cake pan while Sis watched empty–handed? I do believe you committed what the French call a faux pas. After all, the grammar school motto "If you're going to share, bring enough for everyone" applies as much to keepsakes as it does to cupcakes.
Does that mean lugging home tchotchkes for every last relative? Absolutely not. This is your vacation—that hard–won, entirely–too–brief period when you leave family obligations behind and actually enjoy yourself. A Parisian holiday is meant for sipping café au lait and strolling along the Seine, not frantically searching for a commemorative Tour de France cheese wheel to give your brother–in–law.
Instead, practice a little souvenir savoir faire. Buy a box of French chocolates and pass it around. Sauté up a shared meal featuring a Continental delicacy. Or take photos of things you know will make your kin smile: coiffed poodles, Parisian plumbing, pesky street mimes. That's all your sis wanted anyway—not a Moulin Rouge snow globe, but the sense that even in the City of Light she was remembered.
This article was first published in July 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.