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Searching for souvenirs

What is the best souvenir you have ever picked up on your travels?

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It’s Greek to me

If you’re ever in Erie, Pennsylvania, a visit to New York Lunch (922 East Ave.) is a must. The nondescript diner is the place to get a local favorite culinary concoction known simply as Greek sauce. You can’t find it anywhere else in the world.

While the recipe has been a closely guarded secret for more than 80 years, owner Stephen Paliouras (pictured at right) says there are 10 different spices combined with ground beef to create the unique flavor, plus paprika, which gives it a red color. You can order just about anything smothered in the sauce, whether a hot dog, hamburger or omelets that are served all day.

The sauce also makes a great souvenir. Guests can take it home by the cup, pint or quart for $3.25, $6.50 and $14 respectively. Paliouras has even shipped cases of his Greek sauces to fans in Florida and California.

While I mentioned the Greek sauce in the Lake Erie Living Travel Guide this year, I had personally never tried it, so I went to New York Lunch this week to get a taste of the sauce that Erieites rave about. After trying the sauce for the first time, I received an extra special treat from the owner: a souvenir paper holder from his home country, which I immediately donated to the Souvenir Museum collection.

The vintage enamel-covered bronze clip features the bust of Eniochos, the charioteer of Delphi. Eniochos in Greek refers to the “man who holds the reins.” On the back side is Parthenon, one of the temples in the Athenian Acropolis.

I’ve never been to Greece, but the souvenir will always symbolize Greek hospitality, friendliness, openness, and . . . Erie’s famous Greek sauce.


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Filed under Erie, Food and Beverage, North America, Pennsylvania, Souvenir, Uncategorized, United States

One person’s Mexican sugar mold is another’s bludgeon

Before becoming a favorite home décor item, wooden molds like this one were hard at work creating cones of brown sugar in Mexico. But as I found out when I tried to get one home on an airplane, a sugar mold isn’t just a great souvenir; it turns out one person’s Mexican sugar mold is another’s bludgeon.

Too large for my checked luggage, I affixed a rope handle and then slipped it only the belt of the x-ray machine. In a pre-9/11 world, little thought would have been paid to my travel find. But with post-9/11 goggles on, security told me that it would not be allowed as a carry-on. “It could be a bludgeon,” I was told.

Luckily, I had plenty of time to get back to the check-in counter and check the mold through to my final destination. However, with a tight connection, you can kiss that puppy goodbye. USAToday travel writer Laura Bly’s recent travels sidelined a precious memento. Read the saga here.

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Filed under Authentic, Home Furnishings, Mexico, Uncategorized, Wood Carving

A permanent souvenir

Shower caps, shoe-shine kits and shampoo bottles are not the only thing you can bring home from a stay at The Marcel at Gramercy in New York City this week. Los Angeles tattoo artist, Mr. Cartoon is offering his services from one of upscale hotel’s two-bedroom suites until Wednesday, The New York Times

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Roswell is out of this world

UFO MuseumA mysterious flying object crashes on a farm outside of Corona, New Mexico, in 1947. The debris, and quite possibly the remains of alien creatures, are taken to the Roswell Army Air Base, and an elaborate cover-up ensues.

Roswell, New Mexico, has built a reputation on UFO lore and conspiracy theories. The truth is out there, and millions of people have flocked to the town of 50,000 to find it. The UFO Museum and Research Center on Main Street presents an overview of what has become known as “The Roswell Incident,” including exhibits about the timeline of events, eyewitness accounts, the cover-up and general UFO phenomena. Founded in 1991, the museum also has the largest selection of UFO souvenirs in the world.
Alien Fetus in Goo

One thing the museum store didn’t have was unhatched alien eggs, something a friend of mine had told me she had purchased on a visit to Roswell a few years ago. I followed green two-toed footprints over to the Roswell Space Center at 116 E. 2nd Street to pick up my own alien fetus for $1.75.

Space WalkWhile at the souvenir shop, I got more than I bargained for; I was introduced to the Space Walk, a dark tunnel filled with painted scenes illuminated by black lights. Conceived by local artist Larry Welz, the Space Walk is a journey through the past, present and future of space exploration as viewed from the deck of a space ship. Come to find out, you can see more of Larry’s work in the form of interstellar murals painted on the side of buildings (check out the one behind the McDonald’s shaped like a spacecraft on Main Street) or the alien eyes on lamp posts throughout town.

If UFOs are your thing, this is place to be. Better yet, make your plans now for the 2010 UFO Festival, which will take place July 1-3, 2010.

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Woodrow Wilson House extends exhibition of presidential mementos

Artillery Shell

Cracked artillery shell painted by French artist Émile Gallois (1882-1965). The painting depicts the town of Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine, France. Strategically situated on the Moselle River, Pont-à-Mousson was the scene of heavy fighting during World War I. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

What do you get the president who has it all?

Ideas abound at the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C., which has extended its exhibit of 101 treasures from around the world through January 17, 2010. Included in the exhibition are an impressive collection of gifts, curios, and awards, many of which were presented by foreign dignitaries over the course of President Wilson’s two terms in office.

Among the treasures on display is a hand-painted French faience platter, weighing 32 pounds, presented during Wilson’s historic trip to Europe in 1918-1919. A stained glass medallion, also from France, features medieval glass salvaged from the Cathedral of Rheims, which was damaged by German artillery fire during World War I. Hand-painted porcelain plates, tributes from the King and Queen of Belgium, depict peaceful scenes of Belgium before the war. Elaborate gold and silver “freedom caskets” acted as offerings from the grateful people of Britain.

A lavish collection of gifts of state from Abyssinia (Ethiopia), including crowns, javelins, and a lion’s mane cape, were presented to President Wilson by the first Ethiopian diplomatic mission to the United States in 1919. Two sets of samurai armor were gifts from Japan. Other treasures include intricate ivory scrimshaws, examples of Inuit art, porcelain, silver and a beaded belt rumored to have been made by Pocahontas—an ancestor of Wilson’s wife, Edith Bolling Wilson.

Check out more photos of items in the exhibit here.

Wilson Peak rock

The top of Wilson Peak in the French Alps. Presented to President Wilson by the city of Chamonix, France in 1918. The mountain, formerly bearing the name of German explorer Dr. Piltscher, was renamed Wilson Peak by the Association of Guides and the Municipal Council of Chamonix on August 15, 1918. During the ceremony the American flag was planted on top of the mountain and at dusk the glacier crevices were illuminated by fireworks. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

Silver Pendant Head piece

Triangular silver pendant headpiece with silver tassels. This headpiece was among the gifts presented to President and Mrs. Wilson by the first Abyssinian (Ethiopian) mission to the U.S. in July 1919. Photo courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House.

Micronesian fan

Tortoise shell and coconut fiber fan from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. A traditional Micronesian handicraft, fans of this kind were used as personal accessories or for fanning the embers of a fire. Photo courtesy of the Woodrow Wilson House.

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Help for handicrafts in the Holy Land

Each Christmas, Christian pilgrims make their way to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, believed to mark the spot where Jesus Christ was born. Due to its location in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, travel has been rendered more difficult, especially since 2001, and souvenir shops in the Old City are hurting, according to recent news reports.

“Tourism has picked up lately,” Shibly Kando, owner of Kando Store in the West Bank, told the Detroit Free Press. “We can say that it’s a little better than before, but still if we compare with how it was before 2001, it’s still not 10 percent of that yet.”

Kando’s store feature antiques, jewelry and gifts made in the West Bank, such as nativity scenes carved out of olive wood — one of the most popular purchases.

Nearly 1.5 million people visited Bethlehem in 2008, and the number could reach two million this year, according to the Palestinian Tourism Ministry. However, the majority of visitors come on a half-day tour from Jerusalem, leaving little time for shopping in Bethlehem and leaving West Bank vendors out of the economic equation. As reported by Global Post, Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes says “seventy percent of all tourists to Bethlehem return to hotels in Israel, while Palestinians receive a mere five percent of total revenues from those visiting both Israel and the West Bank.”

fair-trade products from Bethlehem

In the village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, Raja Bannoura and his family hand carve nativities from pruned olive tree branches. This fair-traded product retails for $24 at http://www.tenthousandvillages.com.

There are organizations trying to change things around. The Fair Trade Development Center at Bethlehem University has called for the establishment of “fair trade in tourism” movement to promote a different picture of Palestine and its people as an attractive and friendly tourism destination and to promote Palestinian goods produced under fair-trade principles. And Catholic Relief Services, the official humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic Community, has supported artisans and farmers in the Holy Land. Last year, it awarded $18,000 to the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society for market development efforts.

The message is clear: Bethlehem is worth the effort to visit, but if you can’t there, then Bethlehem will come to you via fair-traded products.

According to the non-profit organization SERRV International, “fair trade is growing in Palestine, and farmers and carvers understand its benefits.”

“It’s very clear with fair trade that we get a fair wage,” wood carver Naji Abu Farha told SERRV. “We get work … and we always receive an advance and prompt payment…. We get the price we ask for. We get good orders.”

Until stability returns to the region, fair trade may be the best way for handicraft suppliers and vendors in the West Bank to survive.

So, after the holidays, when you’re stocking up on Christmas décor that’s 50 or 60 percent off at Walmart, consider making a special purchase that will have an impact in Bethlehem instead. It gets to the heart of the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Better yet, book your trip to the Holy Land and send us a souvenir (purchased in Bethlehem’s Old City) from your visit.

In the meantime, happy holidays from the Souvenir Museum.

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