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When traveling for pleasure we like to find local decorations for the Christmas tree. It’s a way to remember some of the interesting places we have visited. It’s also a great excuse to buy tourist tat without making seriously expensive mistakes. My parents did the same, and their tree is heavy with adventures. My favourite is the wooden cosmonaut they picked up at Moscow airport in 1971. He hangs on the tree, a reminder of a vanished era of aspiration and confrontation.

Here are some of the decorations on our tree this year.

This glamorous shopping lady is from Colorado. She has always struck me as overly stylish for the Rockies–perhaps she is taking in the après ski scene in Aspen. We found the hand-made lace angel next to her in Tallinn, Eastonia. Tallinn’s old town is beautiful and  perfectly sized for a weekend visit if you can just manage to avoid the stag party crowds. The tango dancers are from Buenos Aires, where we watched equally craggy dancers dipping and spinning around the streets of La Boca.

Indian TigerPinnochio from Orvieto

I wonder if the Bengal tiger is wearing lipstick, or is that the remains of dinner around his mouth? He roars fiercly at the snowmen and santa decorations. We found the sweet-faced Pinnochio in Orvieto, a hilltown in Umbria, Italy. When I lived in Italy as a child I worried through Christmas that the old witch Befana who visits on the Ephiphany would bring me the coal that naughty children get instead of gifts.

Christmas tree decoration from GuatemalaViking Christmas Tree decoration from Iceland

The little ladies are from Guatemala, where we marveled at the Mayan ruins in Tikal.  In Iceland we stayed at the isolated Hotel Budir on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. No vikings in sight there, but it was easy to imagine elves emerging from the mysteriously shaped lava rocks all around.

Crown Christmas tree decorationCowgirl Christmas tree decoration

This crown above and the chandelier below are English, from the Victoria & Albert Museum shop which sells unusual and unique Christmas decorations. The cowgirl is from Texas and I love her sparkling belt buckle. I’m not sure she does much cow herding in this outfit: maybe Daddy owns an oil well.

Supreme Court Christmas tree decorationChristmas Tree decorations from MOMA and V&A

My brother clerked for a time at the Supreme Court, and he arranged for us to take a tour and hear the justices hand down a decision. It was amazing to be there and watch history in motion. The blue Matisse blue bulb is from MOMA, New York and the green bulb is from Hawaii’s National Tropical Botanical Garden.

We think of the tree a work in progress, with many gaps to be filled. There is one gaping hole that I’d like to fill quickly. We spend so much of our time in France and yet have nothing to put on the Christmas tree. So please help me – where is the best place in Paris or Normandy to find Christmas decorations? And what are the most typical French Christmas tree decorations?

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