Stylish Souvenirs

Holiday season has come again – your tickets are at the ready, you’ve got the local currency sorted and you’ve packed – leaving just enough room in your suitcase for precious mementos, those little things that remind you of the wonderful time you had on your trip.

But so often, those knick knacks get put on a shelf when you get home, maybe with all the other things you’ve brought back from past holidays, just gathering dust. What about bringing home a souvenir that you can wear, carry or even take with you on your next trip?

Here are some of our suggestions:

Panama Hats. Photo by flowcomm under Creative Commons Licence

Panama Hats. Photo by flowcomm under Creative Commons Licence

Panama hats from Cuenca, Ecuador

Yes it’s a shock to everyone, but the Panama hat actually comes from Ecuador! They were originally shipped to Europe from Panama, hence the confusion. Now Cuenca in Southern Ecuador produces 90% of all the world’s authentic Panama hats from old-time hat stores to street-front workshops. Make sure yours is created from the ancient Ecuadorian craft and make from toquilla palm straw.

Photo by snickclunk under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by snickclunk under Creative Commons Licence

Fragrances and toiletries from Florence, Italy

Smell is one of the strongest triggers of memory, so what better way to remember your trip than a scented reminder? Florence is home to one of the world’s oldest apothecaries – Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella – and still uses traditional recipes and artisanal scale to produce luxurious Tuscan soaps, shaving creams, toiletries and natural remedies.

Photo by fly under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by fly under Creative Commons Licence

Cowboy boots from Jackson, Wyoming

If you have an inner cowboy or cowgirl, then these are definitely for you. And even better, these boots never seem to go out of style! There’s nowhere better to get your pair than right in the heart of cowboy country – Jackson, Wyoming, a town that still feels like a one-street frontier from old movies. Now though, Boot Barn and Beaver Creek Hat and Leather Company have so many styles of cowboy boots, you’ll have a tough time choosing your perfect pair!

Photo by DavideGoria under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by DavideGoria under Creative Commons Licence

Traditional combs from Tokyo, Japan

Hair combs and ornaments have featured in Japanese hairstyles for hundreds of years – particularly in geisha culture. The secret behind both their and the Samurai’s luscious healthy hair is the tsgegushi – a traditional handmade wooden comb, soaked in camellia oil. The best examples are at Jusan-Ya, where they’ve been making the combs since 1736 – according to legend, it was started by a disgruntled Samurai who realised he could make more money from this than at war.

Five Alternative Places to Visit in the USA

New York, Boston and Los Angeles are probably the cities that pop into your head when you think of the United States. But urban USA stretches far beyond the Venice Beach and Manhattan. Here are some of our favourite alternative places to visit in the USA.



Also known as Music City, Memphis is the country music capital of the world, which is hard to ignore here.  This city’s history is steeped in music and there are lots of museums, music halls and other sights to remind you of this. Head to the Country Music Hall of Fame to see memorabilia of country icons on display or take a tour through the Ryman Auditorium where some of the biggest stars played and still perform today. Your stay in Nashville wouldn’t be complete with a night out on Broadway which is famous for its live music venues.

Downtown Nashville

Photo by Michael Hicks under Creative Commons Licence

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Travel by the Book

Our Travel Directors are avid readers.  They know one of the best ways to soak up the essence of a region or city is through a powerful novel or fascinating account set there.  So we’ve asked for their recommendations of engrossing reads that get you under the skin of the destinations they know so well.


Eve Hand recommends Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

Destinations : Ireland

“…captures the small town feel of a country of almost 6 million inhabitants…encounters reveal the charm and warmth of the Irish.”

After a drunken bet, Tony Hawks literally travelled around Ireland with a fridge. Needless to say, a month spent on the road with his frosty companion provided the perfect set-up for amusing, touching and even surreal encounters with the locals.  Ideal travel reading for those who like a lot of humour – from belly laughs to wry smiles – to go with their insights into regional sensibilities.

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Our Travel Directors’ Favourite Foodie Hotspots

Our Travel Directors are experts in their destination. So they’re always able to point you in the direction of excellent local dining. To put our money where our mouth is, we’ve asked Travel Directors working in very different regions to recommend some of their favourites.


Peter Ray recommends Red Fish Blue Fish which is not your run of the mill fish and chip shop. Located in the beautiful Victoria inner harbour in an old shipping container, this place has taken fish and chips to a new level.  Modern flourishes blended with traditional methods. The halibut and chips is a favourite as are the tempura cod tacones. The spotted shrimp mayo is to die for. Loved by locals and a tourist fave, there is always a queue but it is worth the wait.

tempura cod tacones

Photo by Alyson Hurt under Creative Commons Licence

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South Kensington Museums

South Kensington is home to some of the biggest and best museums in London, and one of the best things about them is that – they’re free! Situated in beautiful open spaces, you could easily spend the whole day wandering around the museums and taking in the great sights, parks and restaurants that South Kensington has to offer. Another great thing is that the museums are all within easy walking distance, so there is no rushing from one to the other on tubes or buses. Take a look at some of the highlights of each museum:

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11 Must See Spots in Italy

I don’t know about you, but Italy has always been top of my bucket list for travel so we thought this week we’d take a look at what you just have to do while you’re there:

 1. Venice

Now you couldn’t possibly visit Italy without making a trip to Venice – arguably Italy’s most romantic city. Make sure you wander through the hidden ghetto, try and spot the leaning bell towers above you and take a trip over to the island of Burano to try the seafood.

Burano Island, Venice

Burano Island, Venice

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Eating around Italy’s Regions

When you think of Italian food, the first dishes that spring to mind are pizza and pasta. But Italian food is much more diverse than that. There are twenty regions in Italy that each has their own distinct way of preparing food and their own culinary traditions. We’re highlighting five of them this week.

Eating around italy's regions


Tuscan food is known for its simplicity and use of locally grown ingredients. Tuscans tend to sprinkle their dishes with rosemary and sage, herbs that grow all over Tuscany. The region is also famous for its truffles, saffron and porcini mushrooms, ingredients you’ll be sure to come across when eating in authentic Tuscan restaurants.

Eating around italy's regions

Photo by Juan Antonio Capo under Creative Common Licence



Being an island, Sardinian dishes are all about the seafood. Besides freshly caught fish, clams and crabs, menus in Sardinian restaurants will most likely feature dishes like cassola, a fragrant fish and seafood soup, burrida which is a shark chowder and oven roasted aragosta arrosto which is a rock lobster half topped with a crunchy, seasoned breadcrumb layer.

Eating around italy's regions


Thanks to the trading power of the Venetians in the past, food in Veneto is heavily influenced by cooking traditions from around the world. This region was the first in Europe to put rice dishes on the table and risi e bisi, riso e trippa and risotto are still staple dishes of the Veneto region. Polenta, which is a yellow corn cake, is also very popular here. It’s a garnish that is paired with many Veneto dishes.

Eating around italy's regions


Abruzzi cooking consists mostly of hearty and filling meals. Dishes that hail from this region are zuppa di cardi which is a soup filled with cardoons, potatoes and pork or zuppa di lenticchie which is a lentil soup with pork chestnuts and tomatoes.  Another Abruzzo favourite is agnello alle olive; slow cooked lamb in a clay pot.


Home to the capital of the country, food in Lazio usually consists of fresh produce, brothy soups and lots of pasta dishes. A meal in Lazio often starts with platters full of antipasti; freshly baked breads, cured meats and grilled veggies etc. Pasta dishes in Lazio typically contain pasta tubes so bucatini or penne all’amatriciana are local favourites.

Eating around italy's regions