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Keith Austin: When the world is your lobster Stories from a former Travel Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mona and Me ... the question of souvenirs

FRANCE | Monday, 22 June 2009 | Views [1228] | Comments [2]

With mere weeks left until the end of our six-month sojourn in Paris – hang on, didn’t we just arrive? – thoughts have turned to the question of souvenirs.

This is a somewhat vexed question if the truth to be told as the only souvenirs I’ve picked up so far – two beautiful and expensive Carnivale masks from Venice to add to my collection – were sent in January and are still bashing about somewhere in the Italian postal system. Perhaps Berlusconi has been using them for masked orgies . . .

So, an Eiffel Tower keyring? Five for 1 euro in some places. A glass Eiffel Tower that lights up and changes colour? Pure poetry if you are eight and only 5 euro, mum!

You’d think that there wouldn’t be much call for this sort of rubbish but looking at the hordes of guys flogging them around the Tower itself there must be a thriving trade in tourist tosh.

And why not? Think how that musical Notre Dame snow dome will look next to the maracas you brought back from Spain. Add the postcard with the bit of the Berlin Wall embedded in it and you’ve got an historical triptych to last down the ages.

The Berlin postcards were for those of us who never got round to seeing the Wall before it came down. This was on the understanding that it would always be there. And if we learn nothing else from this it’s that you should buy Michael Jackson tickets while you can.

Then you can say you were there the night he stumbled around stage looking for his nose. It might not be pretty but it would be like being able to say you saw Elvis. He might have looked like 200kg of sausage meat stuffed into a 10kg sequinned sausage skin but it was ELVIS, man.

Somewhere I still have that Berlin postcard but I suspect that to have filled up so many souvenirs the Wall would have been longer than the Great Wall of China, and seen from Mars.

So, souvenirs? What to do?

A photograph perhaps? All over Paris people pose in front of the landmarks. Here’s me in front of the Louvre pyramid; here’s me in front of Sacre Coeur; me with the Eiffel Tower on my head; me and my mate Mona Lisa; me in front of Notre Dame; me at the side of Notre Dame, me behind Notre Dame. Me, me, me.

I see this pose a thousand times a day, and always wonder who, exactly, is going to look at this picture after the fact. Do Japanese families gather en masse to watch Yoko’s slide show on her laptop? “Oh my God, she ‘s doing the V sign in front of the Pantheon, the little devil!”

Of course, there are also those people who want to get hold of a more intimate bit of Paris and try to steal bones and skulls from the Catacombs. Yes indeed, people’s bags are occasionally searched on the way out and divested of bits of the DEAD PEOPLE buried underground hundreds of years ago.

Maybe Socrates had the right idea; he distrusted books because they were, in his opinion, a pale imitation of speech. And when you begin to rely on books, he argued, you fail to develop memory, imagination and your own ideas.

Of course we only know this because Plato wrote it down. In books. Which would have gripped Socrates’ shit no end.

I think usability after the fact is the way to go. An apron with the Mona Lisa on it is where Popsi Bubblehead’s thoughts are turning. That way you get art and functionality in one souvenir.

Me, I’m going to buy a shirt.

Tags: berlin wall, berlusconi, eiffel tower, elvis, michael jackson, mona lisa, notre dame, paris, sacre coeur, souvenirs



I don't think anything beats the 'Paris air in a can' that I bought on my trip years ago!

  Sophia Jun 23, 2009 1:38 PM


Hey keith_austin,

We liked your journal and decided to feature it this week in our Popular Stories so that others could enjoy it too!

Happy Travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Jun 29, 2009 12:18 PM



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