As anyone who has received a gift that has warmed their heart, made them laugh, or made them cry will know, the art of gift-giving goes beyond a simple exchange of goods. When you give a gift, you are providing a window into that person; a memory of your friendship. In Aix-en-Provence, hosting friends is a regular part of daily life, and along with it is the exchange of small gifts. Shirin, our co-founder, shares her favorite hostess gifts to give and receive.
1. Handmade gifts from Maison Rucher in Arles
On the Place de la République in Arles across from one of our favorite hotels, Le Nord Pinus, there is this beautiful little shop called Maison Rucher. Founded by the couturier Christophe Campagnola from Paris, Maison Rucher is a treasure trove for special gifts. He makes artisanal honey, candles, clothing and home accessories. All of Christophe’s products are made with respect for local artisans and the environment so we love picking up cashmere blankets, jackets or honey to give to likeminded friends.
2. Marie Christophe art pieces
A dear friend of ours, Marie Christophe, makes the most magical beaded wire sculptures. Besides being one of the chicest French girls I know, she is an incredible artist and her pieces have been featured all over the world. She makes everything by hand with wire and metal cutters which is hard to imagine when you see her delicate hands. My favorites are the tiny birds, bees, frogs and beetles. I like decorating the table with them and setting an animal at each place setting. It’s fun to choose animals to correspond with our guests and it always makes for fun dinner conversation!
3. Bastide’s Amber-Scented Potpourri
One of my favorite gifts to bring to a friend's home are our Bastide amber scented crystals. The Ambre Pot Pourri is made from the resin of an acacia tree, which the tree uses to seal injuries in its skin and repair itself. Many also believe that crystals have a healing quality to help to clear the mind, balance emotions, and enhance creativity.
Amber is honey for the energy system so I love how the crystals bring positivity and warmth to the home in such an unexpected and creative way.
4. Artisanal objects from Siecle in Paris
Thanks to the TGV we can comfortably travel from Aix to Paris in just over 2 hours! We have a cozy breakfast on the train and arrive in Paris in time for the shops to open. One of my favorite discoveries in Paris is, Siecle, on the Rue du Bac. Definitely a destination, it carries contemporary artisanal objects made in France. I like to give something that I myself would like to have, and I always want everything in the store! Some favorite items include small ceramic appetizer plates, painted glassware or their wooden salad serving pieces. They also have beautiful artisanal doorknobs and bamboo silverware.
5. A Polaroid camera
My favorite gift to have received recently is a Polaroid camera - it just flooded me with happy memories. The iconic square photo just feels so magical. Perhaps because these images recall a time before every phone had a camera, and when photographs were precious keepsakes, reminding people of very specific moments and seeing the "now." Polaroids also have a soft spot in my heart because it also reminds me of my childhood. Growing up in Isfahan in the 70s, my dad took so many photos with a Polaroid camera and I still remember waiting impatiently as the image magically appeared before our eyes. Seeing polaroids now will always remind me of my childhood, and of growing up there: seeing myself as a little girl, and my handsome dad dressed head-to-toe in Levis denim. Now, we take Polaroids of all of our visitors who come stay with us in Aix at our bastide, and we keep them in a guestbook to remind our children (and us!) of our happy times in Provence.