‘A lizard hitched a lift in my bag!’: 10 readers on their most memorable holiday souvenirs

After a school trip to Swanage, where we visited the sand dunes of Studland national nature reserve, I unpacked my clothes and put my bag away in a cupboard. When I entered the cupboard a few hours later I was confronted by a bright green lizard! Unbeknown to me, the male sand lizard had hitched a lift, probably when I put my bag down for lunch, and travelled the 50 miles back to our home in Wiltshire. I was fascinated but my parents weren’t willing to travel the distance to return the protected and rare reptile, so I let it free in our garden. It probably didn’t survive but it did add to my fascination with the natural world. Ellis Selway, ecologist, Cambridgeshire

On our way out of the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, we came across a shop selling goods such as bags of salt, candy and beautifully patterned jumpers. I was browsing the little fluffy alpaca toys, which are sold all over the Andes, when I turned a corner and laid eyes on the most enormous one I’d ever seen. I burst out laughing at how rotund and adorable it was. I was obsessed but thought it would be too expensive to take back with me When it turned out to cost about £20, I couldn’t say no. I carried it all the way home, cuddling it on an overnight bus and strapping it into the seat beside me for the 17-hour flight. It brought joy to everyone who saw it and even flight attendants were cooing at it as if it were a baby. It now takes pride of place in my living room and is the best souvenir I have ever bought. Molly Williams, joernalis, Sheffield

While in Morocco, I came across a factory that made beautiful mosaic trinkets. Feeling flush, I decided to commission a mosaic fountain for the garden. Several months later, I was called from Heathrow and told my fountain had arrived – and that it was so heavy it needed specialist transport, which cost a fortune. It turned out to be a metre-high concrete slab with some broken coloured tiles stuck on the front, and required electricity to work (which I didn’t have in the garden). My Moroccan fantasy did not translate to the Surrey countryside; the fountain never worked and I decided to get rid of it after a neighbour asked why I had a multicoloured urinal in the garden. David Hicks, forensic accountant, Surrey

I am very lucky to have done quite a bit of travelling and, for every new country I visit, I buy some sort of hanging souvenir that I can use as a Christmas tree decoration. I have got all sorts now, from a Californian turtle riding a glittery sleigh to a kimono-wearing Hello Kitty from Japan. Each year, our Christmas tree is a nostalgic visual memory of our adventures. Niamh Downey, senior digital marketing manager, Hongkong

On the last day of a family holiday in Austria, oor 20 jare terug, my husband took our children to a water park and had an accident on one of the water slides that caused his knee to dislocate. He had to go to hospital for treatment and missed our flight back to the UK. Eventually we returned home, with my husband on crutches and wearing a “cricket brace” on his leg. Sedertdien, my daughter “inherited” the crutches and I still have the cricket brace in the loft. It’s the strangest souvenir I’ve ever kept but it always reminds me of that holiday – until the last day, we’d had a wonderful time! Anonymous, Wallis

I don’t tend to drink fizzy drinks at home, but I always try them if I see something I don’t recognise while abroad. This means I’m often falling in love with random bottles of pop that we don’t have in the UK, and end up trying to drag home bags of the stuff from the airport. Tans, I have bottles of Spezi (Duitsland), Rivella (Switzerland) and Appelsín (Iceland) all stashed away in my garage. Heather, charity worker, Edinburgh

In 2003, I bought a souvenir that started a family business. My partner and I were on holiday on the Greek island of Ikaria, and our tour guide mentioned that a local hardware shop sold sheep shears that made an excellent present for gardeners. I bought a pair for my mum’s birthday. Drie jaar later, my brother Jack was looking for business ideas, and Mum mentioned the shears. “They are fantastic," sy het gese. “Why don’t you see if you can import them?” Jack went to the hardware shop on Ikaria, and then met George, whose family makes the shears. Jack started selling them in the UK and, after a few years, handed the business over to our sister, Claire. She still runs it, 15 jare later. When my partner and I got married, George and his family came to our wedding. Emma Tinker, teacher, Oxford

Meer as 20 jare terug, I went to stay with a Swiss friend who was living and studying in Bhutan and together we visited the Karma Drubdey nunnery. Afterwards, we each were given a little gift: a replica of a stupa, made by a nun from a mix of clay and the ashes of deceased nuns. It is a reminder of the transience of life and as such it has a special place on my bedside table. (Barbara, my Swiss friend, is now a fully ordained Buddhist nun.) Alexandra Lavizzari, writer and artist, Somerset

In 2018, my partner and I went on holiday to Amsterdam and visited the IJ-Hallen flea market. We split up to see who could buy the weirdest item for under €5. I won with this strange papier-mache creature who cost just 40¢. I thought it was a lamb, but others in our group thought it was meant to be a tiger because of its colouring, so it became known as the tamb (tiger-lamb) and became our mascot for the rest of the holiday. We took the ferry back to the UK and sailed through a very heavy storm. The tamb sat at our table at the bar and, since none of us suffered from sea sickness, it was seen as a bit of a lucky charm. Tanner Trangmar, civil servant, Edinburgh

In 2019, my parents were downsizing and I went to sort through the boxes of my belongings that were still in their loft. My four kids watched on and I felt sure I’d stumble upon something that would impress them from my trips around the world. I did not disappoint. In one box were matryoshka dolls from Russia and decorated chopsticks from China – however, it was two crisp white papers, neatly folded, that impressed them the most. Even though one had Cyrillic (Russies) writing all across it and the other Hanzi (Chinese characters), they were unmistakably Big Mac wrappers from Moscow and Beijing. The Golden Arches had first lit up in Moscow in 1990 and there were still queues wrapped around the block when we visited three years later. What possessed me to keep those wrappers I will never know, especially as I then had to listen to my kids complain that I had never let them set foot in a McDonald’s. Jo Carroll, social worker, Australië

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