When people think France they often think Paris, history, food, wine and romance.
But what inspires you to travel to far away, romantic places such as France? For me, it's simply opening a book and letting the words wash over me, encouraging me to visit the destinations written about within its pages. I hope these three books inspire you to plan a trip to France, and to experience the history, food and romance that makes France one of the greatest places to explore.
How to Make a French Family
Samantha shares her love story - both with a man and her love of France - in her memoir How to Make a French Family ($22.50, Raincoast Books, Sourcebooks). Samantha was 19 when she met her future husband, Jean-Luc, and his friend at a Paris bar while on a European tour with a friend. After a whirlwind stop, she left Jean-Luc to continue her trip but with a promise to keep in touch. She didn't, but about 20 years and a failed marriage later, she reconnected with Jean-Luc through blog posts and letters, eventually meeting with him. The pair got married in California before Samantha immigrated to France to be with Jean-Luc and his children.
Through Samantha, we get to understand - and want - the France way of life from shopping at the market to the “never-ending cycle of kissing” and hosting a dinner party, the French way. We also get to explore France as Jean-Luc and the children show Samantha around her new country.
“It was the charming medieval village of Cordes-sur-Ciel, built in the 1200s, that captured my heart. We traversed the cobbled streets, ate crepes and took in sweeping views of pristine vineyards dotted with beautiful rustic farmhouses.”
We also get to explore France from a tourist point of view as the couple shows her family France - coffee and croissants, shopping for French linens and cheese as well as locations such as the beach of Cassis, Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, Rocamadour and more.
The Bonjour Effect
"In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language." - Mark Twain
Now that I read The Bonjour Effect The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau ($23.99, Raincoast Books, St. Martin's Griffin), Mark Twain's quote makes sense.
According to the pair from Quebec, who lived in France twice including a year with their children, “the French don't communicate, they converse.”
“When (travelers) attempt to communicate with the French, they end up frustrated, confused and sometimes even hurt,” the pair wrote. “Communications between French and foreigners is rarely effortless and often unpleasant.”
In this interesting read about the art of communicating with the French, the pair talk about the importance of saying Bonjour, understanding no means yes, learning smiling suggests you have something to hide and comprehending arguing is a national pastime.
"Quarrels in France strengthen a love affair, in America they end it." ~ The Paris Diary of Ned Rorem
A Taste of Paris A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food
Food – and the art of enjoying it - is also important to the people of France.
“In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.” ~ Julia Child
In A Taste of Paris A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food ($31.50, Raincoast Books, St. Martin's Press), author David Downie “embarks on a quest to discover 'What is it about the history of Paris that has made it a food lover's paradise'.”
“Long ago this love affair with food and wine earned Paris the title of the world's capital of fine dining,” wrote Downie. “I had a foretaste of the fun as a young man during my first visit to the city in 1976. A decade later, in the spring of 1986, I became a full-time conspirator, taking possession of a seventh-floor, cold-water walk-up maid's room in the 17th arrondissement near the Arc de Triomphe. As soon as I unpacked I began mapping out Paris' gastronomic topography – the markets, stores, restaurants and cafes that became my second home.”
The book explores the food history of Paris as well as the people creating the tastes of Paris today. So while the vegetable garden of Marie Antoinette still exists, it provides produce to Alain Ducasse and his restaurant inside the palace of Versailles.
"Paris is always a good idea." - Audrey Hepburn in the movie Sabrina
What about France appeals to you? Tell me in the comment section below:
Copies of these books were provided by Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.