Travel Treasures: Ceramic Plates From Florence

Poached eggs on avocado toast is a staple in my breakfast repertoire. What makes this breakfast meal particularly special for me is serving it on this pretty dish I purchased in Florence, Italy.

Avocado toast on dish from Florence, Italy

I bought these dishes when we were in Florence several years ago. While Dave rested in our hotel,ย  I used the free time to shop and went to a ceramics store recommended in this adorable shopping guidebook, The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence by Louise Fili. The book is four inches square, so it’s easy to carry with you while exploring and shopping.

Luckily I still have the book because I can not remember the name of the store, but I remember the inside clearly. There were tables and shelves of beautiful plates and ceramics, each more beautiful than the next. It was hard to decide what to purchase, although I was limited by my desire to take the items with me and not ship them home.

I purchased four of these plates to use for small bites, snacks and sandwiches. They are bright, colorful and always bring a smile to my face, and they remind me of our wonderful trip to Florence. I also purchased four small bowls which are the perfect size for serving ice cream at home (unfortunately, while the bowls remind us of Florence, the ice cream is not the same as the gelato we had in Italy).

I recommend purchasing this book if you plan to visit Florence, and you like to shop! There are so many artisan shops listed here, and we also discovered a list of gelato cafes to visit. Those suggestions alone were worth the price of this book!

Here’s the page for the ceramics store from the book –ย Sbigoli Terrecotte – I made notes! Normally I don’t like marking my books, but for this one, I decided to jot notes to help me remember which stores I visited and what I liked about each one.

The Civilized Shopper's Guide to Florence by Louise Fili book on ceramics on Florence Italy

The page for Sbigoli Terrecotte ceramics shop in Florence from The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence (note Lau Lau on the bottom left looking up at me)

The book is divided into walks around different neighborhoods in Florence. Each walk includes a section on eating and drinking, and we used these suggestions to try different gelato shops. Vestri was one gelato cafe we particularly enjoyed (my notes in the book say, “Yummy!! I think best gelato we had.”). There is also an index by specialty in the back of the book, with categories such as Frames & Prints, Children, Linens, and Paper Goods, for example.

Vestri gelateria in Florence Firenze Italy

Dave enjoys Vestri gelato and chocolate in Florence, Italy

Although ceramic plates are difficult to transport while traveling, I realized that I enjoy purchasing items to bring home that I need, rather than a random souvenir. I use these dishes and bowls every week, and it is nice to have a small reminder of our trip in our kitchen.

Have you been to Florence? What special items did you bring home?

Travel Treasures Ceramic Plates from Florence Firenze

 

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Travel Treasures: Budapest’s Christmas Markets

Last December, I made a solo trip to Europe to see the holiday lights, sip mulled wine and shop the fabulous Christmas markets. It was my first time visiting Budapest, and while I had heard wonderful things about the city, I did not know much about the Christmas markets there and what to expect.

What I discovered was a very pleasant surprise – festive markets with mulled wine and delicious food, live performances, and many stalls with local handmade ornaments, crafts, ceramics and more.

My favorite market in Budapest was the one in Vรถrรถsmarty Square. It was large, always filled with people, and featured traditional wooden stalls.

I discovered this booth with felt ornaments, small pouches and pillow covers, and I was in love.

TT Budapest pillow stall 2

These felt ornaments and bags were so pretty. I purchased several of these white and gold star ornaments (on the left in the photo below) and some of the angel ornaments as gifts for my family. I would love to decorate a Christmas tree in red and white ornaments only.

TT Budapest pillow stall ornaments

These felt pillow covers captivated me. It took me a long time to find the right ones to bring home – and what great souvenirs too – they are fabric (and lightweight), they fold, and they won’t break in your luggage!

TT Budapest pillows

The pillows are a great way to decorate for Christmas.

TT Budapest pillows couch

Have you been to the Christmas markets in Budapest? What was your favorite find?

 

Travel Treasures: Roots Canada

I remember becoming aware of the Canadian clothing brand Roots Canada when watching the Olympics – they outfitted the Canadian Olympic team for several years and also created the berets that the US team donned at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. The hats created quite a frenzy as everyone was desperate to purchase one.

While at the Winter Gamers in 2002, we spotted some creative fans at the Super Giant Slalom event wearing their own hand-made “Rootz” gear.

Trav Treas Rootz

Custom-made “Rootz” bathrobe and baseball cap worn by fans at the Super Giant Slalom.

And I even met the Silver Medal-winning Canadian Men’s Curling Team – outfitted in their Roots attire – walking around downtown Salt Lake City!

Trav Treas Roots SLC

The 2002 Winter Olympic Silver Medalists in Curling: Team Canada. I asked to take their picture, and they said, “You should be in the picture with us!” I’m so glad that they said that!

So when our family traveled to Whistler, British Columbia, for a family vacation, I saw the Roots boutique in Whistler Village and had to stop in to shop. My sister joined me and we had a hard time figuring out which things to buy.

We both decided to purchase these cozy sweatshirts. Now that it’s a bit chilly in LA in the morning and evening, I’ve been wearing my sweatshirt to keep me warm. It’s so soft and comfortable – and brings back happy memories of our trip and beautiful Whistler.

Travel Treas Roots Whistler

Sarah and I posing in our new Roots sweatshirts at our rental home in Whistler.

I loved this black t-shirt with the red maple leaf – the leaf is felt and stitched onto the shirt. It is a woman’s cut so the fit is quite comfortable. Koa and Lau Lau are modeling the t-shirt and sweatshirt I purchased for my nephew who was born in Canada while we were on our vacation!

Travel Treas Roots Maple

I normally do not purchase clothes on my travels, but I am so happy with my Roots items – especially the cozy sweatshirt that is soft and keeps me toasty when it is cold!

 

Travel Treasures: Gin and Whisky from Fortnum and Mason in London

During our trip to London this summer, we visited Fortnum & Mason, the classic English department store with warrants from Her Majesty the Queen and His Majesty the Prince of Wales. Fortnum and Mason is popular for their afternoon tea, although we did not take tea there, I wanted to show Dave’s mom the store, especially the main floor with a seemingly endless selection of teas, biscuits and candy.

We explored the main floor, then ventured upstairs to the makeup, perfumes and accessories. Perfumes were on display in an upside-down chandelier, which I thought was quite creative.

Perfume display at Fortnum and Mason

Perfume display at Fortnum and Mason

And the hats, or fasteners, were beautiful works of art.

TT Fortnums hats

I particularly liked the blue one with gold feathers.

TT Fortnum hats 2 editBrowsing the handbags, I saw these beautiful purses by Launer and thought they looked familiar. It turns out Queen Elizabeth is a fan!

Launer handbags. I wish I took a picture of the two-tone styles - they were my favorite!

Launer handbags. I wish I took a picture of the two-tone styles – they were my favorite!

Eventually, I wandered down to the food hall in the basement, and asked about gin, specifically gin that I would not be able to find in the United States. Immediately, the sales clerk suggested Short Cross Gin from Northern Ireland. I had already purchased some Short Cross when I was in Ireland earlier this year, so I asked for additional suggestions (Short Cross is quite good, and I do recommend it!).

TT Fortnum Gin 3The sales clerk offered me a taste of some of the gins on offer, and another shopper joined me in sampling the gin. We were tasting different gins and comparing what we thought of each – it was nice to try the gins before purchasing any and to see the subtle differences in each brand. I decided to purchase Hammer & Son Old English Gin – I liked the look of the bottle as it was packaged differently than the other gins. I think it might be available in the United States, but I liked it so why not purchase some when it was right in front of me?

As you can see, there is quite a selection of gin to choose – going to our local liquor stores here do not offer this selection! I saw Plymouth Gin on the bottom shelf here – I purchased some of the Plymouth Sloe Gin when I was at the Plymouth BlackFriars Distillery in April (read about my visit here).

Some of the gin at Fortnum and Mason

Some of the gin at Fortnum and Mason (the Plymouth Gin and Plymouth Sloe Gin are on the bottom shelf on the left and the Hammer & Son Old English Gin is also on the bottom, fourth from the left).

TT Fortnum Gin 1

Even more gin!

While enjoying the gin samples, the sales clerk asked if we liked whisky – of course we do – and would we like to sample some? We tried some straight, and then he added just a drop or two of water to our cups, which provided a different and deeper taste. We were having quite a lot of fun – soon another couple joined us. The Highgrove Organic Single Malt Whisky was to my liking, and I purchased a bottle.

As the Fortnum’s website describes it:

This single malt whisky was selected and bottled exclusively for Highgrove. The whisky is distilled from Scottish organic malted barley, grown in Inverness-shire and matured in a single, numbered, first-use Bourbon cask.

It was closing time at the store, so our tasting came to an end, the clerk wrapped my bottles in Fortnum and Mason tissue and sent us on our way.

These bottles made it back to Los Angeles, tightly packed and cushioned in my checked luggage. I have yet to open them but when I do, I will remember the lovely tasting experience at Fortnum and Mason!

Travel treasures gin and whisky

Travel Treasures: A Hat from Tallinn

Ten years ago, I was on a Baltic Sea cruise. We spent an afternoon in the lovely town of Tallinn, Estonia, which was beautiful. From high up in the town, we could see the port and all the cruise ships and ferries docked there.

Tallinn portThis is the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in the Old Town of Tallinn.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia.

The onion domes are simple yet so beautiful against the bright blue sky.

The domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia.

The domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia.

After our guided tour, we were allowed some free time to explore on our own before returning to our ship. I wandered the cobblestone streets of the old town, and discovered a lovely shop with beautiful hats and other handicrafts.

The streets of Old Town Tallinn, Estonia.

The streets of Old Town Tallinn, Estonia.

I purchased a simple raw linen hat. It had a wide brim that I could mold up or down, to keep the sun away from my face as needed. It was lightweight, and easy to pack. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the shop where I purchased the hat, which I now regret. I wore the hat in St. Petersburg, Russia, on our next stop on our cruise.

Hat Tallinn

In front of the Church of Spilt Blood, or the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

And then I brought the hat with me on future travels. I received many compliments on it, and I loved that it was perfect for traveling! Here I am wearing it in Kyoto, Japan.

Wearing the hat in hot and humid Kyoto, Japan.

Wearing the hat in hot and humid Kyoto, Japan.

I climbed the old city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia, wearing the hat.

Hat Dubrovnik

Walking the old city walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The hat came with me to South Africa and I wore it when we visited wineries in Franschhoek outside of Cape Town (I’m the one on the far right).

With our group at Haute Cabriere wine cellar in Franschhoek, South Africa.

And then, the hat was gone. I do not know where or when I lost it, but suddenly it was not with me any more. For some reason I think it was lost during an airport security check, but I really do not know. I was so sad – it was the perfect hat for traveling, keeping cool and not taking up any suitcase space. And, it was machine washable!

A few years ago, I returned to Tallinn, Estonia, on another Baltic Sea cruise, and I searched frantically for that shop where I purchased that hat (now you see why I regret not taking a picture of the shop). I found many shops that sold linen goods, but did not find any with simple linen hats. Sadly, we only had a short amount of time in Tallinn, because otherwise I would have visited every shop in the Old Town until I found another hat!

Have you ever purchased an item of clothing while traveling that you then took on a future trip? Have you ever lost a treasured souvenir from your travels? Please let me know in the comments.

Travel Treasures: Portugal, Singapore, Italy and Vietnam

It was a typical “June Gloom” morning here in Southern California yesterday, and I decided to bake some muffins for breakfast to help brighten my day.

I served the muffins on a small plate I recently purchased when I was in Portugal, and I used a placemat that I brought back from Singapore.

IMG_7608I love using items from my travels at home – it reminds me of my trip to a different part of the world, the people I met, the food I ate, and then shop or market where I purchased the item.

The plate I purchased in a gift shop in Fatima, Portugal, outside of the town center. We stopped there before visiting Fatima and the site of the apparitions of three local children in 1917. I love the blue and white colors of this small plate. It is the perfect size for small snacks, a sandwich, or in this case, muffins.

The placemats I purchased along with other printed fabrics in the Little India section of Singapore. I do not remember much other than I bought different sets of placemats and napkins for friends and family.

This morning, the sun was shining, and I used a bowl from Sorrento, Italy, and a ceramic juice glass from Vietnam for my breakfast.

IMG_7616The bowl I found in a ceramic shop run by the artist, on one of the streets in Sorrento. His work had a pale blue color to it, and most of the items had an ocean theme. You can see some of the fish swimming at the top of the bowl.

The ceramic juice cup I purchased in Can Tho, Vietnam, at the Victoria Can Tho resort. When our group arrived to check-in, we were greeted with hand towels and fruit juice in these ceramic cups. I have bowls at home in a similar style – a matte brown glaze on the outside, and the inside muted colors. The cups are the perfect size for a small juice, and they are dishwasher safe. When I have juice for breakfast, I fondly remember my time at this lovely colonial hotel.

What are your favorite treasures from your travels? Do you bring back dishware to use at home?