When Mark goes to the beach or plays in the sandbox, I often complain he comes home with several kilos of sand with him—in his pockets, in his hair, etc. The joke is on me now—I have just flown with literally two kilos of salt in my luggage.
I must be the only French who crosses the Atlantic Ocean with salt. But hey, why not? It’s not just any salt, it’s “sel de Guérande”, coarse granular sea salt from the salt marshes of Guérande, close to Nantes. I bought one bag in Saint-Brévin and my mum also bought me “fleur de sel”, the fancy version—this is a salt that forms as a thin, delicate crust on the surface of seawater as it evaporates, and it is used as a finishing salt to flavor and garnish food.
When we checked in the two backpacks at Nantes’ airport, I glanced at the number on the scale. Mine was 16 kilos, a bit heavier than usual. Then I realized that two kilos of that was salt and I started laughing.
What else did I bring back from France this year?
Desigual is a Spanish brand from Barcelona, famous for its colourful and funky clothes. It’s expensive though, so I only buy discounted items during the sales period… which, incidentally, ended during our first week in France. Yay! I bought two dresses, a pair of shorts and a pair of jeans.
The dresses are really unique and they are perfect for the summer. The fabric is light yet strong—I have two other Desigual dresses at home and they look as good as new, despite being worn (and washed) a lot when backpacking. In Canada, these dresses are often my summer “work uniform” when I need to go see clients. I only have shorts and jeans in my wardrobe otherwise (one of the perks of freelancing, no dress code!).
The shorts are really cool but I’m a bit disappointed with the pair of jeans. The fabric is very thin, so I though they’d be good for cooler-yet-not-freezing days but after a few hours, it stretches out too much. Lesson learned!
Dugs and beauty products from the pharmacy
Like every year, I shopped at the pharmacy. I restocked my French medicine cabinet with homeopathy, Arnica gel (for bruises), Lisopaïne (for sore throat), Efferalgan and Doliprane.
I don’t wear any makeup but I love skincare products and yes, I went a bit crazy. I bought:
- Soap bars from Ducray (perfect facial soap for sensitive skin)
- Crème fraîche from Nuxe (moisturizing facial cream)
- Aroma-Perfection Cream from Nuxe (moisturizing facial cream)
- Gentle exfoliating gel with rose petals from Nuxe
- Dry oil Huile Prodigieuse from Nuxe
- Rêve de Miel facial cleansing gel from Nuxe
- Purifying cleanser Aroma-Perfectionfrom Nuxe
- Roger Cavaillès soap bars
- Roger&Gallet soap bar (only one, it’s expensive!)
It should last me for a few months!
Feng discovered Decathlon, a large French sporting goods store owned by Leclerc, and he loves it. Problem is, the only store in Nantes is a thirty-minute tramway ride from the city center, close to a giant suburban shopping mall. As a snobbish French, I avoid shopping malls and I’d rather stay in the “coeur de la ville”, the city centre, while Feng goes to the mall just to enjoy the air-con. On our last day in France, I finally made it to Decathlon and I bought a flashlight and a compact and highly absorbent microfibre towel that is quick drying (bonus, I wrapped my beauty products in it for additional padding in my backpack!)
A new wallet, a shopping bag, and a passport
For the past ten years, I’ve been lugging around these giant checkbook-size Roots wallets. I went through three of them. Finally, this summer I decided I was sick of oversized stuff and my mum bought me a cute smaller wallet from Desigual… I love it!
As a joke, I also bought a Galettes St Michel reusable shopping bag. I’ll use it as a secret signal to spot French immigrants in Ottawa!
I also got my brand new biometric French passport, so I’m good until 2026. Phew!
And for Mark…
I brought back a Lego set my mum bought him—my dad showed him how to build the plane every morning, so hopefully he will now be able play independently for hours now (ah ah!). Feng bought him several t-shirts and I have two French books for him.
I think I did my part to help the French economy!
What’s the most unusual thing you brought back from your trip? What staple products do you bring back from “home”, wherever “home” is?