I collect kitsch of all kinds when I travel, and some of the best is found while shopping in London. Will and Kate magnets, Rosetta Stone paperweights, cityscape paintings so overly mass produced that they’re sold for only a pound a piece. I bought them all to the point of bursting my suitcases, and then some, yet was still unable to cross everything off my wish list.
The higher-end goodies – clothing, accessories, and whatever else you may desire and your wallet afford – are also available in London. But it’s not for me. I’m too in love with souvenirs from the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the museums, or even from last year’s Summer Olympics. It’s what catches my fancy, what I crave for my shelves at home, and what I can’t stop buying on my travels.
I looked all over town for them, scouring the souvenir shops at all of the area attractions. A shop on wheels in St. James’s Park almost made me late for the changing of the guard, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Alleyways and stores full of goodies caught my attention at every turn. I knew I’d be back to London, but I needed to find the perfect souvenir to add to my collection from this trip.
A Statue of Liberty figurine, pieces of the Berlin Wall, an Angela Merkel juicer are all things I’ve bought on my travels or have been gifted to me from the adventures of others. My collection of such knickknacks swells to the point of making me question: am I a hoarder? No. Not yet, anyway. But I wouldn’t care if I was, given my attraction to such bits and bobs.
Soon I’ll have to find more space – build more shelves, buy more bookcases, look for a bigger home – because I plan to return to London this year. Magnets, postcards, and trinkets of all kinds, kitsch at its finest, cover my fridge, and my upcoming journey will only add to it all. So soon, some of my collection will have to be put out to pasture, so to speak, recycled, packed away in boxes, because when I return to London I’ll pick up even more kitsch.
Kitsch: (1) something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality; (2) tacky or lowbrow quality or condition.
Call it what you will, define it as you see fit, I can’t help myself. It’s the same for me when I’m in a bookstore. Years ago I forbade myself from going into one unaccompanied. I tend to buy too much otherwise. This was the case when I popped into a Foyles near the British Museum. I meant only to buy one Harry Potter book, the only volume title differently in the UK than in America – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).
Moments after walking into the store, the new and improved idea struck me: I should just buy the whole darn collection. Setting the first book aside, I picked up the large box set, then glanced at my English friend. “How are you going to fit that into your case for the flight home, mate?” Sadly, he had a point. I wanted them all, every last English version of the Harry Potter books, but after a week in town I barely had room left to squeeze in the one book.
“Next time,” I sighed, replacing the large collection back on the shelf. Yes, next time I’ll spring for all of the books. Next time I’ll pick up the souvenir guidebook from Buckingham Palace. Next time I’ll wander the endless maze of alleyways, all reminiscent of various London film locations. And next time I’ll bring another suitcase, far emptier than the one on this trip, to pick up all of the kitsch, all of the knickknacks, all of the little trinkets that amuse me so and fondly remind me of my adventures to some of the most amazing cities in the world – cities like London.