The Art of Travel: Souvenirs

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” - Robert Louis Stevenson
The word souvenir conjures up visions of cheap Eiffel Tower key-chains and "I Heart NY" t-shirts and gaudy Cancun shot glasses. Linguistically though, souvenir comes from the French verb "to remember," a much more lovely notion than its modern consumerist meaning.

While I hope that my mind will always guard the precious details of all my adventures, I do often tote back an object that will help me remember a great trip. Most often that object is a small painting.

In the eighteenth century when groups of wealthy young Northern Europeans flocked to Italy on the Grand Tour, often they would return with a veduta (a view), a detailed painting of the cities they visited. While I cannot return from my trips with a Canaletto in tow like those eighteenth-century British gents, I do aspire to adopt a similar travel practice, even if on a far more modest budget.

As soon as I touch down in a new city, I am in pursuit of local street-based artists, purveyors of watercolors and small artworks. I make it a habit to return from my journeys with at least one original artwork that speaks to the flavor of that location. When searching out a new work, I look for the folks with paint under their nails, with easels propped haphazardly on the sidewalk, painting while they wait.

When I return from my trip, I delight in grouping my newest art acquisition with the others from my previous travels. Now, when I look around my apartment, with each glance, I am reminded of Florence's Piazza Santa Croce or Paris' Pont Neuf or the Bund in Shanghai. Perhaps more than the artworks themselves, I so treasure the memories that each one carries.
Photos by moi (forgive the awkward glare of the glass). Paintings acquired from local artists in Paris, Florence, Barcelona, Shanghai & Beijing.

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is a daily must for me. I return souvent. Souvent/souvenir . . . same Latin root? For me, your blog is a souvenir (a remembrance) not of temps perdus but of temps well spent traveling in fabulous places, enjoying great food and sipping bon vin. Always pleasurable to have an fun, erudite companion like you along the way.


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