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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Finding the Best Kitsch While Shopping in London

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Rosetta Stone paperweight from the British Museum

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Stuffed Olympic mascot

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.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Juicer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Juicer

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.

Shopping the winding alleyways of London

Shopping the winding alleyways of London

“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.

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16 Comments on “Finding the Best Kitsch While Shopping in London”

  1. Giulia February 25, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    I also buy kitsch souvenirs when abroad, mostly small ones. I find they look good when all together, and make funny memories!
    Next time I also want to visit Foyles… I’m sure I’ll end up buying too much hehe:)

    • Jason's Travels February 25, 2013 at 11:35 am #

      I think I’ll have to bring an extra suitcase just for a trip to Foyles, which I’ll surely make!

  2. Brian February 25, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    You can get your kitsch, I prefer glassware, bit more of a struggle to bring back home, but enjoy using them and remembering the trip.

    • Jason's Travels February 25, 2013 at 11:36 am #

      Love the idea of shot glass, pint glasses, and the such for souvenirs. One from a fun pub night out would be a great one to add to my collection.

  3. Angela February 25, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    I’m all about collecting “art” these days; not necessarily fancy expensive paintings, but something local that can be thrown in a frame and end up on a wall. The things I regret the most from previous trips are the cool visuals I didn’t snag for some reason or another. In Spain, it was grabbing a few free bullfight posters and framing them; in Indonesia, it was (super cheap) Batik squares. Kitsch is relative!

    • Jason's Travels February 25, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      I have a couple of those regrets, too, but I think only because I so love the ones I’ve brought home. I’ll have to be sure to get more when I’m back in London!

  4. Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer (@HeidiTown) February 25, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    I am not a shopper, but this makes me wish I’d picked up a few more things when I was in England!!! It was the Queens Jubilee when we were there and her face was on everything. Shoulda, woulda, coulda! Darn it!

  5. Ashley February 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    No judgement here! I’m a sucker for taking stereotypical/kitschy photos (pretending to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa, running up the stairs in Philly like “Rocky,” taking a picture of your reflection taking a picture in the ‘Bean’ in Chicago) – much easier to bring home, but no less kitschy!

    • Jason's Travels February 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      I love those photos! I have one of my grabbing the top of the pyramids in Egypt, like I’m about to pick it up. And of course it’s while I’m riding a camel! 😛

  6. Adam Bray February 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Great story, Jason!

  7. Travel Yourself (@TravelYourself) February 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    I often like to buy old antiquey kitsch when I travel 🙂

  8. midlifewanderlust1965 February 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    I love kitsch, not that I buy much myself as it needs storing.

    • Jason's Travels February 26, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Yeah, storing kitsch seems to kind of defeat the purpose.

  9. Cindy March 8, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I try to photograph the kitsch, rather than buying it (it takes up less space that way), but that juicer makes me totally envious.

    • Jason's Travels March 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      LOL. The juicer was one of the gifts. I so wish I could have found that one on my own! I like your idea of photographing it. I’ll have to remember that one. Thanks!

  10. Wendy March 12, 2013 at 5:11 am #

    I love this post! London is a great place for kitsch considering its history and endless possibilities! I was there a couple years ago and bought a funny pair of London Eye-glasses;)

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