The latest Shanghai Ranking of the world’s universities has just been published. And once again France is disappointed. The list is dominated by American and British universities, while the top school in France is only ranked #37, four spots below the University of North Carolina. Headlines across France all have the same message: France “lags behind” and something must be done!
Are French universities really that bad? Or does the Shanghai Ranking not value the things that make them special? I decided to find out.
Read what I learned at Frenchly!
You’re probably familiar with the stereotype: the French are always on vacation. And it’s true that they get a lot of time off — not including public holidays, the French enjoy an average of 30 business days off per year, compared to only 16 in the United States.
Taking several weeks off in the summer is a French tradition. In fact, the summer season is so busy that it’s hard for everyone to vacation at the same time, so some go in July and some in August. There are even nicknames for them: the July vacationers are juilletistes (from the word juillet, for July) and the August vacationers are aoûtiens (août means August).
What’s not clear is if all that time off hurts the French economy. Should those français and française quit sipping wine and get back to work?
Read all about it at Frenchly!
One of the hottest shows in Paris in Olivier Giraud’s How to Become a Parisian in One Hour. Over half a million people have seen it…and even the Parisians love it!
If you can’t make it to Paris, Giraud has written a funny book that covers the same material. Ready to try your hand at some French reading? The French version is an easy place to start (there are lots of pictures!)
Read all about the book and the show (including a video clip!) at My French Life.
It’s summer: time for long, lazy days and maybe a book or two. Looking for something good to read? Then check out this hilarious true story of an American who buys a house in a tiny village in Brittany and begins living there part of the year.
As a part-time expat myself, I find that author Mark Greenside does an exceptional job of describing the many fish-out-of-water moments of life abroad. He also writes movingly about how his experiences in a new land have changed him. This is a book not to be missed!
Check out my review in My French Life.
When most people hear of “the Plague,” they shudder and think of the Black Death that killed so many people back in the Middle Ages. But did you know that in the 1700s an outbreak in Provence took the lives of thousands? And that the King of France teamed up with the Pope to build a great wall to stop it?
The outbreak of the Plague should never have happened, but you know how it is: someone in power was motivated by greed and let an infected ship enter Marseille. From there it spread north until the only solution was to “Build That Wall!”
Part of the wall still exists and you can visit it today. Read all about this fascinating and little-known chapter of Provence history in Perfectly Provence.
For lovers of Roman history, the city of Nîmes in southern France is a must-see. It was once a major metropolis in Roman Gaul and today boasts a plethora of important sites: there’s the beautiful Maison Carré temple that Thomas Jefferson used it as a model for the Virginia state capital building, a large and well-preserved amphitheater, a massive Roman guard tower, and more.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Nîmes and now here’s another: the Museum of Romanity that opened in 2018. This museum exhibits thousands of fascinating artifacts and covers over 2,500 years of life in the city. And it’s great for kids as well as adults.
Val and I visited it a few weeks ago and had a great time. You can read my report on this terrific museum in France Today.
Want to read a terrific book? Want to try your hand at reading in French? Have I got something for you!
The Arab of the Future is one of the most popular books to come out in France in the last few years, the story of a boy growing up between two cultures. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages so you can read it in whatever language you want. But the French is easy, really easy, because The Arab of the Future is a graphic novel.
I’m not usually a fan of graphic novels, preferring “real books,” but sometimes the format is the perfect way to tell a rich and fascinating tale. This is one such tale.
Read my review of The Arab of the Future in MyFrenchLife!
If you are visiting Paris or Provence this year, don’t miss the fabulous sound and light shows at the Carrières de Lumières (Provence) and the new Ateliers des Lumières (Paris). They feature the works of Vincent Van Gogh, projected onto massive interior walls and choreographed with beautiful music. You’ve got to see it to believe it!
The Carrières de Lumières is in Les Baux-de-Provence, near both St-Rémy and Arles, where Van Gogh did much of his most important work. You can combine a visit to the Carrières with a visit to those towns, even seeing the room where Van Gogh lived in the asylum in St-Rémy; it’s a beautiful place and very moving.
Read all about it at The Good Life France!
I love memoirs by people who have moved to a new country. Some are funny (A Year in Provence), some are personal and moving (Under the Tuscan Sun), and my favorites are both.
One of the best I’ve read in a long time is Mark Greenside’s I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do). It combines hilarious stories of his adventures in France with lovely observations about how life in a new country has changed him.
A few months ago I reviewed Mark’s book titled (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, which I loved. I loved this second book just as much. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel memoirs with a lot of humor and a lot of heart, especially those set in France.
You can read my review in My French Life!
Sex permeates French society, including the language. All nouns have genders—either masculine or feminine—though it’s sometimes unclear why a word is one or the other. Chemise (shirt) is feminine, for example, while chemisier (blouse) is masculine. Go figure.
And just when you think you’ve figured out the gender rules, somebody goes and changes them. That somebody is the Académie française, the arbiter of all things having to do with the French language. And the new rules they just announced are such a big change that some consider them “true barbarism.”
Only in France!
Read all about it at Frenchly!