I just finished up a container of mustard that we got while in France last year and I got to thinking about all the things that we love to pick up while we’re there and you know what….we’re not big souvenir people. When we travel I’m just so happy to be exploring somewhere new that I don’t need to bring home a million souvenirs to remember it by. I’m happy getting a new ornament for our Christmas tree so that we can relive those moments every December. I do love to get something small, useful and unique to the place that we’re visiting though, and most make perfect gifts for friends and family. And I’ve become quite savvy in my shopping over the years.
One of my favorite places to shop in France? Monoprix.
Monoprix is a French retail chain that has everything from groceries to home goods to clothing; it’s a great one stop shop and very reasonably priced. Think of it like a smaller version of Target, French style. There are definitely some items that I like to purchase at certain stores but for the majority of my must buys, Monoprix has the hookup.
Here are some items that I always look for when in France:
Le Petit Marseillais Soap
Yes, you can get some of these products in the US and online but there is a bigger variety in France. This company makes great body wash and soap. Soap has been crafted in France since the middle ages and this cheap bar of supermarket soap is fantastic. Available in a variety of scents, I love the orange blossom. Buy a bar of soap, tie with a ribbon and voila! Perfect and very useful gift.
Monoprix has great kids clothing. The styles are super cute and very reasonably priced. I always check the baby/kids section and stock up on outfits to give as gifts throughout the year.
The French love their mustard and so do I! There are so many varieties to choose from; classic Dijon, truffle infused, spicy horseradish. It seems as if possibilities are endless in the mustard section. Monoprix has plenty of options but it’s fun to explore a specialty shop for moutarde, like Boutique Maille. They even package their mustard up in pretty black paper with their seal, a nice touch and ready to give gift! I’m not a big fan of mayo but the selection of this other popular condiment is quite impressive in France, if you like that sort of thing.
French salt or fleur de sel is ridiculously marked up in the states and makes a great gift to bring home for yourself or someone else. It’s so reasonably priced in France, last time I was at Monoprix a 4.4 oz jar was 3 euro, same size in the States….$10! Right now the Euro to USD difference is 8 cents.
The best place to stock up on beauty products are Monoprix, Pharmacies or Parapharmacies (look for the green cross). I always stock up on Avene sunscreen, it’s lightweight and never leaves a greasy feeling. Nuxe lip balm, so moisturizing, perfect for New England weather. Klorane dry shampoo, you can buy it in the US but it’s double the price! This is perfect for those non shampoo days and gives just the right amount of boost with a fresh smell.
Looks a lot like a Tootsie Roll, Carambars have a more caramel taste to them and a softer consistency. Every chewy bar comes individually wrapped in a yellow and red wrapper and is famous for its jokes written on the inside wrapper. They also have fruity ones and I may have eaten a whole bag in Lille…by myself.
France has some really great tea shops. My brother is a big tea fan so I like to pick him up some whenever we travel. Some favorite teas that I’ve tried are Kusmi Tea– Prince Vladimir and White Anastasia Mariage Frères – Opèra Bleu and Marco Polo Rouge and Dammann Frères– Jardin Bleu. Our friends who live in Paris turned me on to this tea, it’s so good! Many of the teas come in pretty containers that can be repurposed as a nice reminder of from your trip.
You may have noticed that there are no mention of macarons on here. They do not travel well and are best eaten the day you buy them. If you even mention at Ladurée that you are traveling with them, especially by plane they will talk you out of buying them. Even at the airport! They will ship for you but really, they are best eaten in Paris. My favorite are from Pierre Hermé , don’t get me wrong Ladurée macarons are delicious but they’re a little hyped.
If you want to bring back a traditional French treat I suggest Breton Sables. They are a simple salted butter cookie and they are delicious. La Mere Poulard Traditional Sables Biscuits can sometimes be found in a cute tin which makes their survival in a suitcase more likely.
So there you have it, some of my must buys in France. Andrew would also add Le Coq Sportif sneakers because you cannot buy them in the US. They are his must have purchase when in France and one of the first things we google when we arrive.
What are your must buys when in France?