Creating a personal perfume. Université Européenne des Senteurs & Saveurs
There’s nothing like a souvenir to bring back memories of a vacation. However, after shelling out for a sombrero, buying another t-shirt with a silly saying on it, or discovering that the local craft item you bought was actually made in a country you never visited, it’s no surprise that disappointment often sets in.
On your next vacation, skip the gift shop and learn to create something that reflects the local culture and traditions of the place you’re visiting. In Asia, traditional crafts abound, and skilled tailors can create stunning outfits for you to take home for yourself or a loved one. In Europe, visitors can try their hand at blending a customized perfume fragrance in France or making five-star chocolates in Belgium. On a U.S. vacation, visitors can weave coveted sweetgrass baskets in South Carolina.
The experts at Cheapflights.ca have assembled an intriguing collection of their Top 10 places to create your own souvenir. Here we present six of their destinations for making do-it-yourself souvenirs:
Create a personal perfume in France
Some of the most internationally famous perfumes are French (think Chanel No. 5), so it is only fitting that travelers learn the art of making perfumes from natural plant extracts here. Craft your own custom, signature scent in the South of France at the Université Européenne des Senteurs & Saveurs (The European University of Smells and Flavors) in Forcalquier. The university hosts a perfumer workshop in Cordeliers Convent, a building surrounded by a scented floral garden.
Created by Master Perfumer Lucien Ferrero from Grasse, the two-hour course invites beginners to improve their olfactory knowledge, learn the bases of a perfume composition and use their new skills to create a customized and unique scent. There are also three Galimard perfume workshops in Grasse, France’s foremost city for perfume production. Workshops cost between $75 and $150, a small price to pay to capture “l’art de vivre à la française” (the French art of living).
Weave a basket in South Carolina
Sweetgrass baskets are a tradition in the South Carolina low country that dates back to the 1700s. Made from coiled strands of bundled grass, they are beautiful, durable and a culturally significant piece of the area’s history. Get a first-hand lesson from an eighth-generation weaver Vera Manigault at Hopswee Plantation in Georgetown, S.C., or learn the craft from a local Gullah basket maker at the Coastal Discovery Center on Hilton Head Island where you can also participate in a number of other outdoor activities from nature tours to history walks.
Design clothing in Vietnam
At a fraction of the cost of retail clothes back home, Vietnam is one of the best places to have tailor-made, one-of-a-kind clothing made just for you. While many tailors are happy to sell off-the-rack clothes, including traditional Vietnamese áo dài (silk tunic dresses), or let you choose from dozens of sample dresses and suits that are then replicated and tailored to your measurements, you can also get creative and bring your own designs.
Have a favorite dress or suit that you wish to replicate? Bring it to the tailor who will discuss the design, let you select the fabric and take your measurements. Turnaround time is anywhere from one day to one week. One of the best tailors is Tuyet Lan Orchids in Hanoi, which sews men’s, women’s and children’s clothes, including traditional Vietnamese casual clothing.
Make gourmet chocolates in Belgium
Chocolate is synonymous with Belgium; 172,000 tons of chocolate products are manufactured each year in Belgium by around 500 different manufacturers and sold through 2,000 specialist shops. Along with Switzerland, the term “chocolate” is legally restricted to products containing only cocoa butter, cocoa solids, sugar and milk. The unique taste, “mouth-feel” and texture of Belgian chocolate is due to several factors: the higher-than-average amount of cocoa powder; the longer conching (blending) process ensuring a smoother end product; and the top-quality training that most Belgian chocolatiers receive.
Chocoholics can spend their days sampling some of the world’s finest chocolate and then learn how to make their own sweet souvenirs. A multitude of museums and chocolatiers offer demonstrations, workshops and chocolate-making classes. One of the best is at chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud in Brussels, who offers a chocolate workshop for individuals each Saturday.
Throw traditional pottery in Nepal
The township Thimi, just east of Kathmandu, is famous for its terracotta pottery. Tourists flock here on day tours to learn from artisans who let students get their hands dirty. Spend the day making creations that are thrown, glazed and fired. Master potters demonstrate how to mold vessels on the pottery wheel and then decorate it with traditional Nepali designs, resulting in spectacular souvenirs for yourself, friends or relatives.
Learn calligraphy and more in China
Calligraphy is a fine art in China, but travelers don’t have to settle for the mass produced calligraphy scrolls at Beijing markets and souvenir shops. The China Culture Center offers a 90-minute calligraphy course that combines meditation, philosophy and calligraphy practice. Students don’t need to speak, read or write Chinese as the course is taught in English. During the interactive class, the teacher teaches and models proper posture, breathing and brush-handling techniques. Create a calligraphy masterpiece using an ink brush, an ink stone, ink and paper made of rice and bamboo to create calligraphy souvenirs.
Travelers can also blow glass in Italy, make traditional paper lanterns in Taiwan, adopt a barrel of wine in Italy and get a traditional tattoo in Tahiti (now that’s a souvenir that will never fade or break!). For the entire list of souvenir-making activities and destinations, visit Cheapflights.ca’s Top 10 places to create your own souvenir.
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