A Left Bank boutique selling bath products, a tea warehouse in Germany and a cheesemonger in Ireland. Our travels this past year took us to all sorts of shops, and we learned even more about the culture of the place we were visiting. Here are some of the year’s most idiosyncratic and enjoyable purchases and the places we found them.
The newly reopened Hôtel de Crillon chose Buly 1803 for its bath amenities. (The brand was originally created in 1803 and has recently been revived.) For those who aren’t planning to check in to the Crillon anytime soon, this charming Left Bank boutique in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of the best places in Paris to stock up on perfume and toiletries of superb quality, which are both original and beautifully packaged. Here you will find scented oils, lotions, soaps, candles and creams. The shop has a quietly elegant décor inspired by traditional 19th-century French hospital pharmacies.
Housed within a historic three-story building, the fascinating Highlight Gallery facing Mendocino Bay showcases the work of more than 200 artists and craftspeople. Among those whose creations we have most admired are Cliff Glover, whose Japanese ceramics we find irresistible; Barbara Banthien, who creates stunning wildlife art, especially of birds; Erin Dertner, who paints supremely evocative landscapes; and Gabor and Carlson, who make pieces from richly colored glass. We also love the Noah’s arks crafted in wood and filled with charming painted animals, by John and Debbie Turnbull.
A short walk from the iconic Powell’s Books, MadeHere PDX sells only items made in or very close to Portland. It could all too easily have fallen into the trap of being too touristy or crafty, but instead, this inviting store proved to be stylish and well laid out, with a surprisingly wide and tempting array of products. We came away with some local honey and a sampling of unique bitters (including rose, cacao and lavender). Fine ceramics, clothes and various gourmet foodstuffs are also available, among other unique products. The store is both unexpectedly chic and very Portland.
Sheridans began as a small venture from two brothers, Kevin and Seamus Sheridan, who opened in Galway in 1995. Their Dublin shop debuted in 1997. Today it carries an array of Irish cheeses, including Gubbeen, Coolea, Durrus and Cashel Blue, which are old favorites, plus the less familiar Cais na Tire, Killeen and Crozier Blue. The staff answered all our questions with great knowledge and freely offered samples. In addition to cheese, the shop sells its own terrific products, which include three varieties of crackers, chutneys and an informative book, “Sheridan’s Guide to Cheese.”
One of Portugal’s great contributions to the decorative arts is azulejos, the colorful tiles that adorn buildings across the country. No other shop in Lisbon has such an impressive selection of antique tiles, ranging from 15th-century geometric Moorish pieces to 20th-century examples, with both individual tiles and murals in various sizes for sale. Browsing the rambling, historic space is a delight. We were tempted to buy a crate’s worth of antique azulejos and line our entire kitchen with them. But more-moderate voices prevailed, and instead, we came away with a single charming blue-and-white 18th-century tile depicting a dog.
Teekontor occupies an exceptionally beautiful historic building on the tip of an island in Hamburg’s canal-laced Speicherstadt neighborhood. Its name translates as “Tea Warehouse,” and indeed, it is one of the largest and loveliest tea shops we’ve ever seen. It stocks teas and infusions from all over the world, spilling out of apothecary tables and occupying ceramic jars on shelves rising all the way up to the double-height ceiling. Of course, you can also enjoy a cup of first-class tea here, either on the shady front patio or on the terrace at the rear, which has better water views.
We never travel in Provence without stopping in the enchanting little town of Maussane-les-Alpilles to stock up on our favorite virgin olive oil: Fruité Noir AOP Vallée des Baux de Provence. By French law, this luscious golden-green oil is made only from the five types of olives that grow in and around Les Baux-de-Provence: Salonenque, Grossane, Béruguette, Verdale des Bouches du Rhône and Picholine. For us, this is the essential summer condiment, since it lends sophistication to any salad with its distinctive and inimitable perfume.