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Shopping Vacations

By Kelli B. Grant Published: March 1, 2006
Click here for more stories by Kelli B. Grant.

ONE OF THE GREATEST >joys of traveling is experiencing the local culture — the food, the people, and of course, the goods. You'd be a fool, for example, not to return from your French vacation with a few choice bottles of wine or a rug from your trip to Turkey.

"There's something wonderful about being able to bring part of your trip back home with you," says Stephanie Abrams, host of the Business Talk Radio Network show "Travel with Stephanie Abrams."

Abrams revealed where's the best place to buy what this past weekend during a seminar at the New York Times Travel Show in New York City. If you're looking for:

Head to the south of France. You'll find plenty of European antiques in countryside antique shops, as well as at the country's big flea markets. In Nice, go to the flea market at Cours Saleya. It's regularly a flower and vegetable market, but specializes in antiques on Mondays. In particular, you may find great deals on porcelain, frames and mirrors.

Just across the border in Italy, the seaside market in Ventimiglia can't be missed — Abrams plans all her Europe trips around getting there. It's open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m. (Vendors will stay until 3 p.m. or so if the crowds are big and the weather is nice.)

The key to getting the best deals, she says, is to go early. All the good finds are gone by midday, and you may even miss some vendors entirely. You'll also want to find yourself a good book on antique makers' marks (small logos or initials that tell you what artist or company crafted the piece), recommends Abrams. That will help you recognize a real treasure when you see it.

You'll get the best quality leather goods in Italy, Abrams says, but for excellent quality and price, your best bet is Spain. "You will get better bargains in the south of Spain." she says. "It's like bargain city." Consider this: When Europeans are looking for great deals on leather goods, this is where they head.

You can also find decent leather in France and in Morocco. But while Italy, Spain and France tend to have European and Western styles, Morocco is where you'll find gold-embossed leather with other decorative touches. "That style is very different," she says.

One of the best places to get cashmere is Buenos Aires. Abrams likes "The Cashmere House" on Calle Florida, in the city's El Centro neighborhood. There, she says, you'll find cashmere sweaters for $20, $30 and $40. Abrams estimates that elsewhere the price for equivalent quality would be 10 times as much.

If you're into exotic travel, another option for cashmere is Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Mongolians were the first to make cashmere using the fleece of Kashmir goats, Abrams says, and they're still a major producer.

Where to go for jewelry depends on what you're looking for, says Abrams. If you're in the market for:

* Pearls: Go to the Honggiao (Pearl) Market in Beijing.
* Sapphires: Bangkok, Thailand.
* Diamonds: Antwerp, Belgium.
* Silver: Mykonos Island, Greece. There you'll find one-of-a-kind intricate designs set with precious and semiprecious stones. "You will see jewelry that will set your heart to singing," Abrams says.

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