I’m not one for collecting titty little souvenirs when I travel. Mind you, what you and I consider tat versus souvenir may be a matter of opinion (I do have a Cuban doll ornament that I stick a ciggie in her butt and she blows smoke out her mouth, but I digress…)
I look for things like coffee table books or hand-woven picnic rugs and more lately paintings. I don’t mind if the painting is done by a 3-year old as long as it speaks to me of the place I bought it.
When I last visited Paris I spent hours browsing the little riverside kiosks to choose a hand painted oil on canvas. I rifled through replicas of Van Gogh and Parisian scenes, finally settling on a still life of a bottle of wine with grapes and bread for €60 that I am now saving up to get framed.
It turns out that this little section of the Seine river walk is an institution in Paris.
Bouquinistes (used book sellers) have been plying their trade along this portion of the Seine for about 300 years from these little green kiosks (about 3 metres long by 1 metre wide) fixed to the stone walls. Wander along and lose yourself in extraordinary souvenirs like paintings, posters and antique books collected from flea markets around the region – and they’re happy to bargain on the price.
The Bouquinistes started selling their “bouquins” along the banks of the Seine in the 16th century and if you take time to rummage you might even find books from those times! It’s not uncommon to pick up a rare leather bound book with exquisite engravings dating from the late nineteenth century along this three-kilometre stretch of the Seine that is now declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
They are obliged to be open 4 days per week and Wednesdays seem to be best.