Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is the Pope Catholic?

posted Wed, 29 Sep 2004

One of the hardest parts of traveling is deciding what to buy and what not to buy. Over the years, I have learned that the things I buy I end up regretting. I have Greek table runners I have never used, a Turkish necklace I have not once worn in the 12 years since I bought it (but I still have it because I like it so much), and a Bolivian jacket made from traditional textiles that I wore once. I have given away probably ten sweaters bought in Greece, Peru, and Bolivia. Not sweaters bought as gifts but sweaters bought for me that in the US light just didn’t look so good.

“Beware of the dog.” (Or maybe of the dogs? I don’t speak Latin.) It’s a mosaic in one of the houses in Pompeii.
Source: http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/gaddis/HST210/Aug28/Cave%20Canem.jpg

I have also hauled home – at great trouble – pottery from Mexico and France that I have later found at Pier 1. For about the same price. I have bought Proven├žal textiles that I saw a week later in the window of a department store in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, population 120,000. I have purchased L’Occitane soaps in Lyon and then found almost the same product in Target.

I do not, however, regret having bought the Zapatista doll in Mexico City. It is a little subcomandante Marcos, complete with bandanna over the mouth. Bugs are eating the right leg, so now it leans to the right, which I think is a good thing. I also do not regret having bought my Hand of Fatima, even though I still don’t have a place to put it.

Beware of the cat
Source: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/207/481419247_791759345c.jpg?v=0

My new travel shopping policy is that if I can get it on the internet, at Pier 1 or at Target that I am not buying it abroad. Also, if it is not an item that I will actually use – no table runners – and that I would not buy at home, then I will not buy it. Snob appeal is no longer reason enough to buy something. It used to be just the pleasure of being able to say, “Oh, that? I got that in [Florence, Paris, Guanajuato]” was reason enough to buy something. Now I try to spend my money more wisely.

Unfortunately, this conservatism leads to regretting things unbought. I don’t think I’ll mind not having bought the Murano glass necklace, even though it was made with pink translucent blocks of glass and looked great on me – I almost never wear necklaces, or the pink tweed sweater that was a knockoff of some designer or the many great leather purses.

But I do wish I had bought the little “Beware of the dog” tile that was a copy of the mosaic at Pompeii. They were all over Pompeii and Sorrento, but when I got to Rome, the only one I saw was in the airport for 20 euros – which was way more than it had cost down south. And of course I didn’t decide until Rome that I wanted the tile.

Same thing with the “Attenti al gatto” sign. I didn’t realize I couldn’t live without it until I got to Rome. And then it was too expensive. I found one in a gift shop by the Trevi Fountain. It cost 12 euro. The salesgirl told me it was of excellent quality, made by hand. I asked if there were something of shoddy quality that might be a little cheaper and she turned away in disgust

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