You would think that finding wonderful gifts for family and friends would be an easy ask in the virtual ‘shopping mall’ online. The Christmas marketing season is upon us but with so much choice it can actually make choosing the right present more challenging, with hours spent peering at your mobile screen trying to find the best deals.
I’ve gone back over the past year to find the best books I’ve read, foods I couldn’t get enough of and delicious wines you might not have heard of. Here’s the Hashtagtravelling.uk guide to thoughtful and sustainable Christmas gifts in Santa’s virtual grotto.
Gifts for food lovers
Choose food gifts for not only their quality but their traceablity. There are some excellent coffee, olive oils and wines produced by small growers and independent roasters, in a sustainable manner, that make for the perfect gift (either a single item or a monthly subscription). Support smaller British producers wherever possible and help spread the word about ‘real food, not food products’.
So much more than a cookbook and the photography is stunning. Perfect for settling down on the sofa with a cuppa during the winter months. Cooking With Heroes, RRP £19.95 with £5 for every sale in support of 100 years of The Royal British Legion.
Bonbons by Boutique Biscuit, sponsors of the Cooking With Heroes launch at Claridge’s Hotel, are simply works of art and the taste is divine. These little boxes of goodies are so uniquely and beautifully decorated you almost don’t want to eat them. From £28 for a box of nine. www.biscuitboutique.co.
A Taste of le Sud by wine educator and home cook, Emma Kershaw, of La Maison Du Rire in the South of France. Emma is an inspirational home cook. Price Euros 25.00.
Gifts for fashion lovers
Fashion isn’t a new phenomenon and has been around for centuries. The influences and social interplay in how we dress and adorn ourselves is fascinating, and revealing. Fashion is an act of creativity and there’s currently some interesting work exploring fashion through art and history.
This one is on my Santa’s list. Professor Valerie Steele, author of Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Colour, explores the story of this controversial colour throughout the centuries, illustrated with fashion and art photography. The cover image by Nick Knight, fashion photographer creator of Roses From My Garden. Price £39.95 hardback.
Give a gift of a ticket to a new exhibition Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear at the V&A Museum, opening 19 March 2022. Curated by Dr Rosalind McKever. Tickets £20.
Or Frans Hals: The Male Portrait at the Wallace Museum which runs until 30 January. Beautifully curated, and deeply sensual. Curated by Dr Lelia Packer. Tickets £14.
Gifts for royal followers
The official hardback souvenir publication celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty in 2022. There are 77 photographs with formal images alongside informal family pictures of The Queen as a young girl, a young wife and mother, on holiday and enjoying the company of her children and dogs. £19.95 from Royal Collection Trust shops and others. www.rct.uk/shop.
Gifts for wine lovers
While it’s likely that the Romans introduced vineyards to England, successful viticulture took off in the Norman period around 1066. There’s Blueberry wine, Mead and more to choose from. Discover heritage wines and what to serve with them in How to enjoy heritage English wines. Traditional Mead by Lyme Bay Winery from £9.75, 75cl.
While it’s good to have something to unwrap on the Big Day, it’s also a treat to have something to look forward to for the rest of the winter. Rather than simply give a gift token, which have a tendency to languish in a drawer, actually book something in advance so it’s a firm date with plenty of notice.
Treat someone you love (or would if they could only cook!) to a class at the Honesty Cookery School in a beautiful converted barn in rural Berkshire. Discover how I got on in Bring The Amalfi Coast To Your Table. The Group practices ethical trading and their products (cafés, bakery and farm shop) are additive free. Courses reflect this approach and vary from breadmaking to fish and butchery. Prices from £90 per person. honestygroup.co.uk
There is much more to the practice of forest bathing than tree hugging. It is a peaceful and enjoyable way to spend time appreciating beautiful English landscapes. I spent a morning in Sussex with guide Helen Skoog. Elsewhere research the recipient’s area for a course. Discover the health benefits of forest bathing. By the by, Dame Judi Dench is Patron of The Forest Bathing Institute.
Foraging is seeing a big rise. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors and a session with a professional offers a lot of essential tips. Read how I got on foraging on the beautiful Cowdray Estate. To find a course in your area A conversation with James Wood, founder of UK-wide Totally Wild is one source to help you find a course in your area. Prices vary according to region, length of the course etc.
More gift ideas…
Food and drink is one of the delights of travelling. Bring back some happy memories with Sustainable Christmas Gifts for Gourmets 2020 at Travel Begins At 40.