How to Picnic French-Style

The sun is shining, the weather is warm—let’s go on a picnic! We may not be able to travel to France this year, but we can still add some French style to our pique-nique.

I’ve written a short primer on picnicking à la français. What are the basics that no French picnic can be without? What are the three courses of a classic French picnic? And is it ok to take a nap after you’ve eaten? I explain all!

Read all about it in France Today!

Understanding French Culture

France has a distinctive culture, reflecting its long and proud history as a great nation. And it has its quirks–for example, the French kiss each other when other people might hug or shake hands. Their driving habits are different than those other countries. And arguing is one of the country’s national sports.

Want some insights into French culture? Then check out this article in My French Life!

A Mysterious French Monster

History is full of horrible monsters. The ancient Greeks were terrorized by the Cyclops. The snowy Himalayas are haunted by the Abominable Snowman. And in Japan, Godzilla appears from time to time and stomps on Tokyo.

The French have their own terrible creature and—unlike the others—this one was real. The mysterious Beast of Gévaudan ravaged the French countryside in the 18th century, killing so many people that King Louis XV had to send troops to destroy it.

What was the Beast—a vicious wolf, an escaped lion, or something else? It’s a fascinating tale.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

Resources to Help You Read in French

One of the best ways to improve your French is by reading. Unlike spoken French, which can sometimes be too fast to understand, reading allows you to go at your own pace. It adds to your vocabulary and can help your pronunciation if you read out loud. No matter what your level of French, reading is a fun and effective way to get better at this beautiful language.

But where to start? I’ve put together a list of excellent resources for readers at any level, from debutantes to advanced. It’s never too late to get started!

Check out my article at My French Life to find some fun things to read!

Roman Provence

Provence is famous for its charming hilltop villages, brilliant sunflowers, and fragrant lavender. It is also where you can find some of the best Roman ruins in all of Europe. This is because Provence was once an important part of the Roman Empire. The Romans even gave it its name: “Provence” comes from the original Latin “Provincia Romana.”

If you like beautiful temples, magnificent amphitheaters, and stunning aqueducts as tall as an 18-story building, then Provence is the place for you. Let’s take a look at some of the best of these Roman sites.

Read all about it at The Good Life France!

Bring French Culture into Your Life…Virtually!

Oh, to be in France in the spring! My wife and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence but, like a lot of people, have had to cancel our travel plans. Now we are sheltering-in-place and yearning for sunny days in the South of France.

But all is not lost! We are still connected to la belle France virtually and you can be, too. There are plenty of books, movies, and TV shows that can transport you to that magical land. You can whip up dinner a la français and imagine you are in a cozy Paris bistro. And if you’d like to combine tourism with murder mysteries, I’ve got just the show for you.

Check out the resources I’ve put together for you in Perfectly Provence!

Fun French Humor: Toto Jokes

With all the craziness in the world today, who couldn’t use some laughs? Let me introduce you to Toto, a little scamp who has been the subject French humor for over 100 years.

Toto is the archetypical naughty schoolboy, always causing trouble and exasperating grownups. Toto jokes usually revolve around school, homework, and talking back to adults. The jokes are short and are popular among elementary school children. Their innocence and simplicity are refreshing!

Check out these Toto jokes, first in French and then in English, in My French Life!

A Delightful Trip to Middle-of-Nowhere France

Oh boy, I love books about France and this is one of the best.

France is full of fascinating places to visit, like Paris, Provence, the Riviera, Normandy, and more. There are so many that it’s hard to decide where to go! Well, it just got harder because Janine Marsh’s description of her tiny village in “middle-of-nowhere-France” is so delightful that you’ll want to go there, too. I know I do.

Fifteen years ago, Janine and her husband Mark bought a wreck of a house in the Seven Valleys region of northern France. They didn’t plan to buy a house; they were on a shopping trip from their home in London and stumbled into a real estate office to get out of the rain. The next thing they knew they were looking at a place that cost “less than a Hermes handbag.” They bought it as a bit of a lark, thinking it would make a nice place for vacations and the occasional weekend getaway.

But life had other plans. The little village captured their hearts and soon they packed up and moved to France. The next dozen years were spent refurbishing the house (including a septic tank explosion that earned Janine the nickname Madame Merde), collecting a vast collection of farm animals (including a demented chicken named Ken) and settling into the local community.

Janine and Mark are those rarest of birds, expats who have really become members of a French village. They drink at a local bar that looks like someone’s living room circa 1955. They play charades with their neighbors, where everyone fights to play Johnny Holliday or Edith Piaf. They chat with the bread delivery man—their village is too tiny to support a boulangerie—who occasionally has questions about English (“What means the expression, ‘It sucks?’”)

The best part of the book is the way Janine writes about of her neighbors, a friendly and occasionally eccentric crew who have welcomed Janine and Mark with great warmth. There’s Jean-Claude, who teaches them how to trim hedges and make crow pâté. And Claudette, always ready with a hot cup of coffee and a plate of something tasty. And “Miss Pepperpot,” the tiny lady who occasionally needs help getting wayward cows out of her flowerbed, and offers jars of homemade jam as thanks.

I love Janine’s writing and laughed when she described a young couple falling in love over a shared passion for mushroom hunting (“one fungi led to another…”) And her description of a strong local drink (“Calvados can blow your socks off, and after a couple of hours we were all pretty much sockless.”)

If you are stuck at home and looking for something to brighten your day, think about taking a trip to this delightful corner of France. I just loved this book and I think you will, too.

You can find My Four Seasons in France on Amazon.

France Bans UFOs!

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, just north of where I live in Provence, is famous for its wines. The town’s name means “the pope’s new château” because many centuries ago a summer papal palace was built here. Popes need good wine to drink, so vines were planted, barrels were crafted, and the town’s fame for great wine began.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known for more than its wines, though. It’s also known for a law that bans UFOs from taking off, landing, or even flying over the town. How did this strange law come to be? It’s an interesting story of a famous movie, some invaders from outer space (or mass delusion, take your pick) plus a clever mayor with a nose for publicity.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

Armchair Travel in France with Robert Louis Stevenson

Bored at home? Missing France? Here’s a pleasant way to while away a few hours.

Known for his classic novels like Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson was an adventurer. Born into a family of lighthouse designers in Scotland, as a young man he longed to see the wider world. As he put it,

“I have been after an adventure all my life, a pure adventure, such as befell early and heroic voyagers.”

His first great adventure was in France, in the wild and rugged region known as the Cévennes. At the age of 27 he made his way to the tiny village of Le Monastier, where he gathered (too many) provisions, had a sleeping bag made, and bought a donkey named Modestine. Then he set out—admittedly, not really knowing what he was doing—on a 12-day march into the unknown.

Read all about this fun book in France Today!