What I’m Buying For My Family in the States for an Upcoming Trip

by Fiona McMurrey

Having lived in Paris for 5 years, I rarely travel to the United States except to visit my family on the East Coast. Here is a short list of things they usually request from the city of light and the country I now call home as well as some tips and tricks for procuring and packing them!

1. Croissants (Almond especially)

Courtesy of Pinterest

I always leave ample room in my carry-on for 4-5 croissants for my family as well as croissants aux amandes which are my parents’ absolute favorite! I buy mine ahead of the airport at my local boulangerie to avoid the other-wordly airport system of pricing that, in the fugue state induced by international travel, is easy to ignore for the sake of necessity but should be circumscribed when and where you can

2. Caudalie Lip Balm/Hand Cream

I brought four Caudalie hand creams/lip balm sets back for my mother and my aunts for Christmas in 2022 and I have since received several urgent requests for more. Caudalie seems to have something of a cult following on Tiktok cultivated by American recounting their favorite French pharmacy purchases and their products do live up to the hype. I can’t speak for all of them because they sometimes give me urticaria, but these little hand cream/lip balm sets are the perfect small gift that won’t take up too much room in your suitcase.

3. Vinted, French Fashion for Less

Contrary to popular opinion, the best place to shop second hand in Paris is the app Vinted, which, though inaccessible to short-term travelers on account of time constraints, is my favorite way of scoring on vintage designer items and reselling my clothes. Correspondingly, it is also a great place to shop for gifts for your family in a way that is both economically friendly and sustainable. For my mom, I purchased a vintage Ba&sh long sleeve graphic tunic that reads ‘j’en ai marre!’ (try finding that on a sweatshirt at Banana Republic) and a patterned Sézane tote bag to wrap it up in, while for my brother I found a vintage Acne Studios graphic t-shirt, and for my dad, a Lacoste Polo, all of which came to a grand total of 65 euros!

4. A Woven Basket bag

Courtesy of Pinterest

For my upcoming petit-séjour to the US, my mother requested a woven basket bag, the pinnacle of effortless Parisian style, marrying utility and elegance in one well-crafted vessel. This quintessential basket is perfect to carry to your local marché or simply to use a regular bag during the spring, summer, and early fall (I swap mine for an LL Bean Boat and Tote during the Winter and for traveling purposes).

5. Fragonard Soaps (or perfumes! but people are picky) and Towels

Courtesy of Fragonard™

One of my favourite places in Paris, Fragonard, a historic perfume manufacturer, allows you to create your own perfume at their ateliers, but if you are buying for someone else, your best bet are their beautifully packaged soaps, and gorgeous printed towels of multiple sizes! (Reader Discretion: I would never recommend buying perfume for your loved ones unless you are entirely confident in what highly specific things they appreciate in a scent.)

6. Grand Fermage aux cristaux de sel de mer de Noirmoutier, beurre demi-salé )

This butter is life-changing in the best way possible (maybe not for my arteries but that’s a problem for future me to worry about)! Its creamy texture and rich flavor contrasts brilliantly with the hard salt crystals that are peppered throughout the butter making it the perfect addition to a breakfast tartine or, true to American form, on savory pancakes. (See me upcoming list next month for the things I am bringing back to France from the US e.g. Vermont maple syrup!)

7. A Haribou Star

My brother is deathly allergic to walnuts and pecans, both of which are prominent in most French patisseries and chocolate manufacturers so in order to compensate for not being able to bring him French chocolate I opt for the Haribou candy star instead. Featuring kitsch characters such as the schtroumpfs (the French Smurfs), baby bottles, cherries, crocodiles, sharks, and more, this candy star is ideal for people of all ages who might have a similar allergy or a sweet tooth.

8. An art supply item for dad (who is an abstract painter)

Courtesy of Charbonnel L’Artisanat d’Art

My dad is an abstract painter and so naturally, provided the centuries (millenia if you count the Caves of Lascaux) long history of art in France, I couldn’t possibly come home empty handed in that department (especially considering that I too am a painter). For the artist(s) in your life, I would recommend stopping in to Charbonnel L’Artinsanat d’Art, founded in 1862 and located directly across from Notre Dame at 13 Quai Montebello. Try to avoid picking up paints themselves as their chemical composition might not lend itself very well to aerial transatlantic travel or to the contents of your suitcase, but rather aim for something small, a hand crafted fan brush, or a set of wood handled paint scraper or spreader (indispensable for us abstract folk!) or a sketchbook in which to contemplate and plan out their future chef-d'oeuvre.

9. Baguettes, and pain de la campagne

Courtesy of the French Workshop

American bread…. well, suffice it to say and for the sake of being as diplomatic as I can, leaves something to be desired which is why the morning before my flight back to the US, I like to stock up on baguettes from my local boulangerie as well as two succulent loaves of pain de campagne. Does this provoke questionable looks at Customs? Yes. Is it really worth it to have your clothes smell like a boulangerie? Also yes. Trust me, your family will thank you.

10. Chocolate

Courtesy of Vogue

One thing that always surprises me as an American is the seemingly universal good quality of chocolate in France, even the cheapest bar of chocolate is densely flavourful, especially in comparison with typical American grocery-line chocolate (not naming names for legal purposes!). As such I always load up on chocolate for my close and extended family and make sure that the labels are mostly if not exclusively in French to add to the charm and authenticity though I always underline any potential allergens just in case. My favorite places to pick up chocolate include the department store BHV in le Marais, à la Mére de Famille which has several locations in different arrondissements , or even just my local Monoprix (French version of Target™ ) or Carrefour (a European grocery store chain).

11. La Roche Posay Déodorant

Courtesy of La Roche-Posay™

This final one might seem a bit out there but stay with me! I personally have extraordinarily sensitive skin and am prone to breaking out in hives or experience other pruritic responses to various ingredients found in many skin care and deodorizing products, particularly those from the United States. However, I am an extremely busy young woman and sweat quite a lot which many French deodorant brands cannot, erm, keep up with without a later need for reapplication sometimes multiple times. For a busy person like myself, “La Roche-Posay Déodorant 24h Peaux Sensibles,” is the perfect panacea that soothes my sensitive skin and is genuinely effective. I usually bring it back to the US for my mother who, like me, finds American products to be a bit too harsh. This product is usually available in most pharmacies and larger Monoprix as well and often comes in packs of multiples so you won’t have to worry about running out.