LONDON As the holidays approach, there are numerous things to dread: long hours spent in airports, seasonal weight gain, and searching for gifts for everyone on your list.
To help with the shopping this year, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com (www.virtualtourist.com) have compiled a list of the "World's Top 10 Unusual Shops." Reuters has not endorsed this list:
1. The Evolution Store; New York, New York
Despite being located in trendy SoHo, this store feels like an offshoot of the Natural History Museum; it's filled with skulls, Brazilian agate, fossils, and framed creatures. The store even has its own Entomology Department, with an astounding array of insects, from butterflies to scorpions, all available for purchase.
2. Duke of Uke; London, England, United Kingdom
Duke of Uke is London's one and only Ukulele and Banjo Emporium. The Duke also stocks a wide range of other instruments, including vintage ukuleles, guitars, acoustic bass guitars, mandolins, and harmonicas. The store serves as a cultural hub for its neighborhood, providing ukulele lessons, hosting events, and promoting musical performances in the area.
3. Colette; Paris, France
Perhaps the very first "concept" store, Colette is truly a lifestyle boutique. Its location on Rue Saint-Honore makes it a central spot for Parisian fashion, but it even houses a downstairs "water bar" that serves over 100 types of mineral water. It also functions as an exhibition space for artists and culture icons such as Bruce Weber, Todd Eberle, and Terry Richardson. Where else in the world can you pick up an Alaia belt, the new issue of Wonderland, and a Beyonce paper doll, all under one roof?
4. L'Usine and La Cafeteria; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
This unique space combines a fashion boutique, cafeteria, and art gallery in one old French colonial building. The décor and vibe is influenced by the Indochina era and the food is a fusion of French bistro. The shop itself supplies a range of products from ensembles suited for the Southeast Asian climate to vintage bicycles.
5. Jamonisimo; Barcelona, Spain
Located in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona, this shop specializes in everything HAM, from acorn-fed Iberian hams to "recebo" and "chorizo." The store also has a few notorious patrons, including chefs Ferran Adria, Alain Ducasse, and Anthony Bourdain. The shop can vacuum seal selections for you to bring home, or arrange for delivery and corporate gifts.
6. Deyrolle; Paris, France
In business since 1831, this taxidermy store carries everything from stuffed zebras and black crows to other various "natural curiosities." Despite a fire in 2008, the store has continued to be opened to the public and maintain its fantastic international reputation; they even produced a calendar for 2012, available in the shop and online.
7. Lock Cha Tea Shop; Hong Kong, China
Adjacent to the Hong Kong Tea Wares museum, this establishment in the Central area of Hong Kong is particularly known for its traditional tea service, but it also has a store that sells specialty teas and paraphernalia. In addition to selling teas, they also provide a dine-in vegetarian dim-sum and offer tea classes weekly.
8. La Manual Alpargatera; Barcelona, Spain
This famous espadrille shop caters to well-heeled celebs like Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jack Nicholson, and even the Pope, but it is also open to the public. A true Spanish souvenir, you can choose from amongst traditional and modern styles, available in many bright colors.
9. A+R; Venice, California, United States
Amidst the coffee shops and floral boutiques, A+R fills a very specific niche on Abbot Kinney Boulevard: the design emporium. This store is filled with interesting, unique, well-designed objects - anything from the Cool Breather Carafe to bone china mugs in Pantone paint colors to Grobal Self-Watering Planters. 10. Yastik; Istanbul, Turkey
Few trends have been as popular as the ubiquitous Ikat pattern - it can be found on china, sofas, even women's clothing! Now, you can sort through a variety of original prints at Rifat Ozbek's Nisantasi showroom, Yastik (which means pillow in Turkish). There are also branches in London, UK and Alacati, Turkey.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)