“16 Kilos of What, Exactly?” (What a French Brings Back from France)


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.

Yes, salt.

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 Clothing

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!

Travel gear

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?


Desigual Shorts

Desigual Shorts

Desigual Jeans

Desigual Jeans

Desigual Dress

Desigual Dress

Desigual Wallet

Desigual Wallet

Guérande Sea Salt

Guérande Sea Salt

Guérande Sea Salt

Guérande Sea Salt

French over-the-counter medicine

French over-the-counter medicine

French over-the-counter medicine

French over-the-counter medicine

One of Mark's books

One of Mark’s books

Nuxe products

Nuxe products

French bar soap

French bar soap

When you look like an idiot taking pictures in the bathroom...

When you look like an idiot taking pictures in the bathroom…


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. It’s interesting to see what you brought from France and compare it to what I bring to France.

    Besides a few of my favorite food products (like Reese’s, hot sauces, and seasoning mixes), I bring back deodorant. I just love my American Dove deodorant. I also bring back over the counter meds as they’re cheaper and in higher quantities. I don’t wear much, but I also like to buy my makeup as it’s cheaper. And I buy my face cleanser (took me ages to find one that worked on my skin + super hard water) as it’s not available in France. I see it every once and awhile on Vente Privee, but I can’t count on that.

    Other than that, I like to buy a few things from my favorite American clothing stores. And jeans! I’m tall by European standards (just a little above average back in the US), so finding jeans that are long enough for me in France is difficult.

    • Interestingly, this is also what I bring FROM Canada: jeans (main American brands are always cheaper in North America) and makeup (again, drugstore brands are cheaper in Canada).

      The deo thing is funny: most French I know claim that North American deos are crappy, and North Americans claim that French deo don’t work 😆 I use the small Nivea roll-on (available in both countries) and I never got used to local North American brands. I think our skin is different!

      • I like the solid stick deodorants which don’t seem to be very popular here. It took me years to find a deodorant I liked in the US. As each stick lasts several months, I haven’t really ever run out between trips home, and I don’t even go home that often.

  2. Ahhh Nuxe. I love French pharmacy products. As for what I bring back from home, spice mixes are a big one. But I also make a go at the pharmacy for the hair products and we typically try to stop at REI for clothes. It’s making me homesick just thinking about it!

  3. Love the clothes from Desigual, though I have to say I didn’t see anything I like when I was in France.
    Usually I bring back a ton of chocolate for the Sottish one (and myself, let’s not kid ourselves) as well as cheese and some biscuits / madeleine etc. (Usually Lu or Bonne maman, nothing fancy) and of course clothes and beauty products. I always leave room in my case for new stuff lol

    • It’s funny, I have this rule about not carrying food. I don’t like the idea of a supply that will be gone eventually… plus I’m lucky, I can find some French cookies in Ottawa. Apparently, not LU anymore (can’t find them ANYWHERE recently!), but St Michel brand, Bonne Maman and a few others.

  4. I always get my favourite beauty products when I go back to England! I always bring back Cath Kidston soap, Aussie 5 minute miracle repair hair conditioner and dermalogica products from duty free!

  5. I live in Jakarta for 2/3 of my life, yet my parents come from Sumatra Island (In the west side from Java Island, where Jakarta is) West Sumatra to be precise, where its food, Padang Food is quite famous. Do you know Rendang Beef? its originally from West Sumatra.

    Every time they came from home-coming trip, my late mom ALWAYS bought various dried-salted fish (seriously, it taste different from ones in Jakarta). Even My sister brought a pack of Rice from Solok (a region in West Sumatra, famous for its rice even there is a traditional song about this!)

    I had a friend who is also from West Sumatra (also live in Jakarta for the past decade), she stocks her kitchen herbs (like shallot, garlic, chilly) from her hometown!!!! Just like my late mom said, the herbs sold in Jakarta taste different with ones from Sumatra. I have no idea, I can;t tell! I only know how to eat :))

    • I noticed that in Asia, many people love bringing back foods from different regions and differents countries. In China, I’ve seen businessman buying suitcases of BBQ duck before boarding a domestic flight 😆

      The herbs are a great idea. Easy to carry, and easy to use!

      • ha! TRUE THAT! yes, especially in my country with lots of culture including food! people from the west look and speak even main staple are different from people from the east.

        I just noticed everytime I traveled to other island I do bring food from the places I visited! 🙂

  6. Spanish saffron! I brought quite a lot of it in Canada when I was leaving France for a few months. I found the South American one they sell there cheaper but not tasty at all… Here’s one weird thing! And also, Pastilles Vichy, the old school very sugary ones, not the aspartame ones they sell in Canada 🙂
    When I’m doing the trip in the other way, it’s more cliché, I only bring Burt’s Bee sticks and maple syrup back!

  7. Ah ah, belle maman a dans ses luggages du sel pour nous aussi 🙂 Je rapporte généralement peu de choses, sauf du vin. Mais on m’apporte bcp de trucs comme du déodorant la roche posay, de la crème avene, du mascara lancôme, du Milka en pack de dix, du chocolat dessert, des trucs de chez Decat, des trucs de chez Oxybul, du tissu Liberty…

    • Oh cool, amie de sel!

      J’adore Oxybul, super marque. Milka, je ne suis pas accro et je peux le trouver dans les épiceries italiennes. Decat addict ici aussi… on a pas mal de marques en commun, des classique français, quoi!

  8. I brought back to France mostly clothes and books in Mandarin. My husband always brings back Teh Tarik in small packages, he also loves 100 plus, a kind of soft drink very popular in Malaysia, but I only allowed him to bring back one can last trip as it could be heavy. Now with kids, we don’t have much space in the luggage, plus if we are taking train back to Nantes, it is very tiresome to bring heave luggage. From France to Malaysia, my family loves ciders and wines but they are too heavy I can only bring several bottles.

    • Feng brought cheap French perfume to China, his family liked it. I hate traveling with bottles… they break too easily and they are hard to carry.

      I bring back tons of clothes, cute gizmos and pens/notebooks from China. All these items are cheap over there.

  9. Sweet soy sauce for when we eat sushis, dark chocolate for pastry making and Decathlon gear.
    Btw, the Leclercq running Decathlon is not the Leclerc owner of the supermarkets, Decathlon is owned by the Mulliez family (owns Auchan too)

    • Oh, I didn’t know that about Decathlon! I thought it was part of Leclerc’s portfolio. Ah.

      Why sweet soy sauce? Is it hard to find in Canada?

  10. Next time, I should bring back French medicine! They seem more effective .
    Last I came back from home (Ivory Coast), I brought back attieke (ground casava-ish couscous consistency) . it is really hard to find it in Ottawa.

      • It is mostly more grainy. I have to show you next time. My mom packed it in a plastic bag very tight so it does not burst in my suitcase….learned my lesson last time !

        btw it is so weird…your replies to your comments does not show up in my email…weird…

        • Weird… must be a bug. I’ll try to fix this.

          Oh gosh, did it burst in your suitcase last time? That must have been infuriating! I already get annoyed when my shampoo leaks in my bag… and that’s easy to clean up!

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