Travel Link-Up: I Love…Shopping Abroad

1-1480So this month’s Travel Link-Up assignment was, in-keeping with the run up to Valentine’s Day, something we adored: “A love letter to your favourite city, a special someone, a flavour you can’t live without…”

I racked my brains for a travel-appropriate love of mine, and the first thing which came to mind was, bizarrely, shopping. I’m not talking about hitting the boutiques and coming home with a suitcase full of designer togs, but something far more mundane. Supermarkets, bookshops, and local department stores. Browsing these sort of places is genuinely one of my favourite parts of visiting a new country. I feel it gives me a truly unique insight into the culture of a country that you can’t find purely from visiting its most significant monuments. Let me give you some examples from one of my favourite countries in the world – America.

FOOD & DRINK

USA Food & Drink CollageFood, glorious food…nowhere does ginormous portions and wacky combinations quite like America! I love discovering new foods abroad, and am more than a little partial to browsing the World Foods aisle in Tesco as a reward for getting all the boring shopping done (anyone else do that? Nope? Just me then…) When we were in America, Ben and I fell head over heels in love with Wholefoods. Not the poor man’s version we have here; I’m talking glossy fruit and veg set out like a farmers’ market, giant cakes all the colours of the rainbow, and an amazing salad bar which puts everything I’ve ever tried in the UK to shame. The Chocolate Sandwich Cremes (essentially Oreos) and the cakes above were both from Wholefoods. And the drinks! America does flavoured spirits like nowhere else. This was from a liquor store in Maryland, and I could have spent all evening searching out the most exotic flavour combinations to try. I mean, rainbow sherbet vodka?? If I lived in America I would need the world’s biggest kitchen to have a hope of fitting everything in…

BOOKS

Barnes & Noble CollageAh, my love of books knows no bounds, and I will often search out books as souvenirs of a trip away. We had the good fortune of stumbling upon a huge Barnes and Noble in Washington DC between our hotel and the National Mall/Constitution Avenue area, and I promptly fell in love! I made it a priority to return for a visti, and Ben was happy to hole up in the in-store Starbucks hooked up to the wifi, while I wandered dreamily through the aisles, browsing row after row of books. I’ve always loved bookshops anyway, but it’s fascinating to look at those in another country – to see the different cover designs, or the unique titles only published in that country. For example, there are some hilariously titled mystery novels out there in the US – Lemon Pies and Little White Lies, anyone?

CLOTHES

AmEagle & Target CollageClothes, like music, can be so evocative. Certain items of clothing take me right back to a moment in time; what I was doing, how I felt. This is why I enjoy buying some kind of clothing as a souvenir whilst on holiday. Ben and I stumbled upon American Eagle Outfitters in San Francisco and fell in love with the casual, dreamy, oh-so soft clothing. We came away with San Francisco branded hoodies (see the oh-so attractive centre photo for my hoodie!), and every time we wore them we were transported straight back to California. So when we discovered a giant store in Times Square, moments from our hotel, we had to drop by. And came away with about half the store…

2437While I was musing over this post (in the shower, of all places) a few days ago, I hit upon the realisation of why I truly love shopping in other countries so much. It’s because I feel that this is where you can get a truly authentic experience of a country. You see beyond the monuments and the museums to the mundane everyday. But it is extraordinary in its normality, and I love finding these little things which make up a part of a country’s identity. And, if nothing else, you get to adopt an attack stance with a bright pink foam baseball bat without shame…

2256So next time you’re abroad, take a trip to your nearest supermarket. Because you certainly won’t find gems like this being sold next to the Statue of Liberty…

If you want to join in with the link up, there are a few days left to get your post up. Simply add it to the link up widget found on Angie‘s, Jessi‘s, Kaelene‘s or Emma’s blogs before 7th Feb. Come join us!

  • Yes to all the shopping! I love supermarkets in Europe for some reason so know exactly what you are talking about in seeing a country for its everyday reality. 🙂

    • Sophie

      Yay, I’m glad I’m not alone! It felt really weird typing it, but I just find it fascinating to get that insight into everyday life 🙂

  • As an American I found your post quite fascinating! Whole Foods is my favorite place ever – I love grocery shopping there. I totally agree with you about the shopping in other countries. This year, I traveled to New Zealand and to Copenhagen, and I loved checking out the grocery stores, bookstores, and other little shops. It really is a fascinating way to get a feel for a place. I like to buy books or other little things that really give you a sense of the life and culture. In New Zealand I bought a cookbook and I use it all the time!

    • Sophie

      Haha, it must seem strange as an American to read this post! To be fair my last trips abroad have been to America, so it was easiest to make the post about there, especially coupled with how much I love visiting.
      I describe New York as being like London on steroids, and I think I find American food is like that too, especially compared to what we have in the UK. I fell head over heels in love with Whole Foods (our versions in the UK are nowhere near as good), and tracking one down will always be a priority whenever I visit America!
      Ooh, New Zealand and Copenhagen? Sounds awesome – they’re both on my To Visit List!
      I definitely get that feeling about books – it allows you a window into a culture that you otherwise wouldn’t get on holiday, and you can return to it any time and re-immerse yourself in that life! 🙂

  • I hear ya – I adore wandering through supermarkets the most for some reason. Just browsing most of the time…!

    • Sophie

      Haha, I know, right? There’s always something intriguing lurking in every aisle…

  • I love wandering through big department stores in new cities. It’s just fascinating, even if I don’t buy anything!

    • Sophie

      I know, isn’t it? When we went to New York we went to Macy’s. I only bought a few postcards, but just looking around at everything inside (WOODEN escalators!) was great fun.

  • I love checking out the local supermarket when I am traveling! It is a must do in each place I visit.

    • Sophie

      Absolutely! I love trying out all sorts unusual food stuffs that we can’t get easily in the UK, so it’s always a favourite part of my holidays.

  • Oh man, I ADORE shopping in America — I think I over-exaggerate in my head the price difference to pounds, so I’m always like “IT’S SO CHEAP, I HAVE TO BUY IT ALL!” Know exactly what you mean about Wholefoods – that was my favourite place to go to in New York!

    • Sophie

      Completely – in fact, my family sent me over with a shopping list last year! And I’m so glad to have stirred up the Whole Foods love on here too – one of my favourite places I’ve visited!

  • great! I love English shops:) #travel linkup

  • Very true, you do learn a lot about the culture by browsing those day to day places! P.s. that magazine is too much! Oh, America.

    • Sophie

      I’m so glad you agree! And yes, it really is…sorry about that (it should probably have come with a health warning!), but I thought the world ought to know all about the craziness published in American magazines! You should see the articles written about the Royal Family…

  • Haha, such a great post! I agree, I love looking in supermarkets when I travel – fascinating to see what things are sold, in which way. And local markets are even better! 🙂

    • Sophie

      Aww, thank you so much! It’s so interesting, isn’t it? And I’m jealous – I definitely haven’t visited enough local markets yet whilst abroad – need to change that this year! 🙂