Reading Up On France

In continuation with my previous post about reading books about France, I will give you my final review on the ones I read.

I already wrote about “France, A Love Story“. What a brilliant book! You really get the first hand accounts from everyday people (women in particular) and their personal experiences with the country. You have a lot of positive perspectives about the country and a couple negative reviews. It may not give you specifics about tourist locations, where to dine, how to get around, etc., but it does ignite these feelings and sparks in the pit of your belly and make you itch alllll over to get on a plane and get to France NOW! These woman describe the love, the food, the culture, the scenery, the emotions, and make you feel like you are in France.

Then there is Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast“. Criticize me if you must but I really did not enjoy this book. Although he is a nobel prize winner and one of the best writer’s of all time, I found this true account slow. I kept getting distracted, I believe what he was saying (as it’s a true account) but I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t feel the passion of France that I was expecting. Maybe, just maybe, my expectations were too high. This is also slightly a historical account because it takes place in the 1920s. I was never a history buff and therefore some things were slightly meaningless to me. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t finish.

The book I was most excited about was “France for Dummies“. I was just getting into it when the due date came up from the library. The library system has this amazing online feature where you can log on to your account and renew the hold for an extra 3 weeks. That is, if no one else has already placed a hold on the book, which in my case someone did! Oh well, the early bird catched the worm, so they say. From what I did read, it was informative. As in all the Dummies series books, it was all information and it was all useful. It compares to the other tourist books about France. It is also geared to tourists spending just a few weeks in the country, which I am not.

And for all the books I checked out of the library my favourite has to be “Les Petite Folies Du Jeudi“. This is a French children’s book. Kids’s books are very useful in learning basic grammar and vocabulary, and the story is so cute and entertaining. It has nothing to do with France, but as it is simple and I can understand it, it is getting me excited to start speaking l’amour full-time.

I really have to get on more books. My readers have suggested a few so I am sure I will have another book review shortly!

France, A Love Story

The title of this post is also the title of the latest book I just read.

The book is edited by Camille Cusuman but is a compilation of stories from many women, talking about their love of France.

The short stories’ authors include M.F.K. Fisher, Ruth Reichl, and Alice Kaplan, well known female writers mainly from the U.S.

Some of the tales are of woman moving to the country. They introduce life in their towns, their neighbours, and everyday tribulations.

Some stories tell of women who take a vacation and experience love with a French Man.

The book introduces the love affairs women have had with the food of France, the people, the lifestyle and the French language.

Definitely give it a read if you want first hand accounts of the life in France as a traveler.

My Mini Quebec Adventure (part 2)

Bonjour mes amis!

I am on the VIA train right now, heading home from my Quebec adventure. I have to say that my experience here far past any expectations I could have had.

I have a reader who just emailed me and said that he traveled to France and really enjoyed his time. The key to his enjoyable time was detaching himself from all expectations during the trip. This is kind of/sort of the attitude I took for my short Quebec adventure. I left my expectations behind and was committed to having a great time with Mon Homme.

All of the food in Quebec was mouth watering. We dined on typical French cuisine the entire time, sometimes splurging on a multi-coursed dinner and other times scrimping our wallets and purchasing la nourriture from the grocery store (supermarché). It was simply all délicieux.

Here is the list of the top 5 things we did:

  1. Les Chutes de Montmorency (The Montmorency Falls)- They are massive! The local transit bus “800” took us all the way there (it was around a thirty minute ride from Old Quebec). We were led from a small walking path to a huge bridge that takes you right over the falls. Honestly, we were not expecting much but they sure are impressive. We then proceeded to walk down what seemed like 2000 stairs to the bottom of the falls to get soaking wet. It was an all around awesome time!
  2. Lower Old Quebec- Little did we know until the evening of last night that Quebec has a “secret” area full of cobblestone roads and cute little shops. Most of old Quebec is built around the Chateau Frontenac, near the top of a large hill, surrounded by the walls of the historical fort. The roads are paved, there are many shops and restaurants and a lot of tourists. We had walked the streets at least ten times until I turned to Mon Homme and said “I remember that Quebec has an area with cobblestone roads”. To arrive there we had to find the staircases behind most of the main roads that took us to the lower Quebec. This area is so charming and we found our restaurant for the second night here!
  3. Shopping- I don’t know if it is completely true, but clothes and shoes just seemed cheaper. We really needed to sift through the tons of tourist shops to find the true gems, a cute dress shop, another maple syrup store, some other crafty places. If you travel here, dedicate at least one day to shopping.
  4. Eating- Go anywhere! The price range is the same for every single restaurant so just  choose one! Besides the delectable wine and beef tartar, the sausages, burgers and soups are some of the finest too!
  5. Speaking French-I am happy to report that I was able to function with the French language. It is not the same French that is used in France as the languages really evolved differently since the French settled here eons ago. But, never the less, everyone speaks only French (it really is hard to squeeze the English out of them) and I loved the feeling of being able to understand and speak.

If you are traveling to Quebec any time soon, please drop me a line and I could recommend some great places for you to visit!

Thanks for reading!

My Mini Quebec Adventure (part 1)

I am in Quebec City for a mini French adventure. I left the bustling, busy GTA and began my journey with Mon Homme on Sunday. It was a spur of the moment decision for both of us but the desire to come here had been hanging around for a couple of months. Why not? This is an excellent opportunity for me to practice my French and eat real French (Canadian) baguettes and croissants.

Is Quebec City real a francophone city?

Yes! I actually could not believe this myself. Quebec is the only francophone province in Canada (with the exception of a part of New Brunswick), but even so, the number of anglophone inhabitants is enormous. I was expecting to arrive here and have trouble finding people (such as restaurant servers, hotel concierges, tourist guides and so on) to speak French with. I have traveled to the province of Quebec before, stayed in Montreal and also Quebec City itself (eons ago). When I had attempted to speak French then, and the people realized I was anglophone, they would automatically switch over to English.

Well this trip is slightly different. I have my French Homme with me and I have asked him to only speak French. When people approach us or we need to speak with them, they will automatically begin the conversation in French and this time, instead of me using my broken French to try to communicate, Mon Homme steps in and voila, the francophone conversation is sparked. I stand there, absorbing as much information as possible and add in a “oui” (yes) or ‘merci” (thank you) here and there. The thing I find most fascinating about all this is that I can actually understand! And answer and ask questions back! The waitress asks me, in French, what I would like to order, and I asked back in French, “Do you have fruit?” (Est-ce que vous avez des fruits?). She answers back with a “Non, bla bla bla bla bla bla petite dejeuner” (No, ……….breakfast) I didn’t catch the whole sentence. But I definitely know that it means we only serve it at breakfast and I proceed to order the French onion soup. Awesome, I mastered my first French conversation! My months and money investing into private French lessons is completely paying off, and this confidence was well needed. Thank you Quebec City!

If you want to travel to Quebec City and do not know French, do not worry, most people will speak to you in English. Try to know a few phrases though because it seems obvious to my bf and I, that when we speak in French, all the Quebecois’ faces light up and we are treated better.

Is the food in Quebec divine?

The food in Quebec City is divine! Most of it is authentically French and from what we have had, it is all just simply wonderful. There are not chain restaurants in the old city and when you sit down at a French restaurant, expect the freshest food!

I guess, because this is a very large tourist hot spot, the prices are quite high. We have yet to find a cheap French restaurant alternative. With little or no alcohol, the average bill for a lunch or dinner we have had it $35-$40. But this is generally choosing the lower costing items on the menu.

Before I go on I must tell you about the latte from heaven that I had (Cafe au lait en francais). Starbucks lattes go from around $3.20 and up. What is the outcome of paying that price? The same boring drink, every single time, mass produced, a long line up, a headache from the smells of over processed foods being grilled and an average taste. For the same price here in Quebec, I had a latte, plus grande (bigger), made with the richest espresso I have ever tasted, served with the flare of adding latte art to top the drink off, and what tasted like the freshest milk ever. We ended up ordering two! Starbucks has lost my business.

Corner convenience stores also sell baguettes and cheese and wine and everything divine. To save some money today we will grocery shop for breakfast and lunch.

Accommodations

We are staying in a two star hotel, I found for an extremely great price on Expedia.ca. I honestly was not expecting much. The pictures online were not that awesome, although the place did look clean and the location was extremely ideal. Seeing that the reviews were mainly good, I decided to book. My main focus, of course, is getting to France, so I simply do not want to splurge on a last-minute four-day trip.

We walked in, Mon Homme spoke French and the woman we dealt with was wonderful. She signed us in, gave us the key and even listened to our conversation and provided us with the internet password without us even asking. On top of this, before we headed up stairs, she asked us if we knew the city or had a map. We didn’t, so she gave us an awesome map and directions on how to get to the old city (less than 10 minute walk away!). So far, so good!

We unlock the door to our room and to our delight, it was and still is, charming, way more than we could have asked for. The room in spotless, it comes with a fridge and cable TV (with every channel). The bathroom is spotless and well equipped. The bed is comfy and has a giant, bright white duvet to add to the awesomeness. Well worth the price (which was not much).

Getting around the city on a budget

The first thing we decided to do was go shopping. There are plenty of cute shops and we had to check them out. Upon exiting the first show store, I already had a new pair of shoes in hand (or on my feet this time!). I simply couldn’t resist the French flare the shoes had. They were perfect for style and comfort! A girl has got to invest in a pair every so often to keep her sanity!

The weather here this week is terrible so indoors has been the theme. We checked out some awesome art galleries, featuring Inuit sculpted art and another gallery with abstract painting. This of course, was free (gratuit).

We were hiding out, from the cold in the bottom level of the Chateau Frontenac where there is a strip of stores to be seen. After following the corridor (and checking out the stores) we arrived at a crowded area with a woman in costume at a desk. Castle tours were happening! We had to check it out and for $20 for two people, we would be entertained for an hour. Three words for you: DON’T DO IT! It was boring, we were led through a couple of hallways and given the boring (yes boring!) historical facts. We didn’t get to see the awesome suites, the swimming pool or anything that would, as Mon Homme says, “Make us dream”.

We then proceeded to the tourist information office across the street to see where the nightlife is in the city. Not only where we told where the nightlife is (too tired to check it out yesterday), but the kind gentleman also told us all the free museums we could attend and how to take the local bus to get to the waterfalls. Awesome! Today, we have a busy (low-cost) day ahead of us!

With all this said and done, if you have the chance, GO! This city is fun, funky and quite easy to navigate, I might add. My eagerness to hop on the airplane to arrive at my real destination has and is growing with every step on these Quebec streets. Now I know for sure, I MUST go to France! The real deal lays across the ocean, no anglophones chiming into the French conversation, no choice but to order my food in France, espresso and baguettes and food that I can only imagine, and a zest that I’m sure cannot be compared to this small Canadian city. My confidence is up and I cannot wait.

Until I write again, thanks for reading!

Useful links:  for travel to Quebec City check out these two websites: Quebec Region and Bonjour Quebec

Books On France

I have been itching to get my hands on some awesome books that detail life in France. I am way more interested in hearing about real people’s experiences than a fictional character’s story, but both will do.

I was completely inspired after walking into the library in my neighbourhood last November (shortly after Mon Homme et moi started dating) and finding “My Life in France” on display. This is the novel about Julia Child’s life in France as she tells it to author, Alex Prud’homme. This book takes you through many regions of the country, the food, and the amazing people she meets along the way. It is definitely a winner if you want to learn more about the French life. Just a fair warning though: This book takes place quite a while ago and France has apparently modernized since then. The world is becoming more of a global playground where traditions are not worth as much value as the next dollar. I refuse to believe that France has lost most of its flavour, because if what I hear about the French is anything close to being true, these people keep preserving the culture close to their hearts. I will not be able to actually report on the truth until I experience it for myself.

I have also read a charming fictional novel written by American, Sandra Byrd called “Bon Appetit“. I have written about this one before. Because of the seemingly parallel story to my own life, I could not put it down. It is about a young woman traveling to France to study at a pastry school and work in a bakery, while trying to find love and increase her faith at the same time. It was cute and quick, exactly how I like those fiction novels. Give me a 2000 page food encyclopedia and I’ll read the whole thing in detail over time, pass me a fiction novel and I will hope for the ending the entire time!

So because my travels will be arriving in a few short months, and the reality is beginning to set in with the purchase of my plane ticket and insurance (although the visa is yet to be obtained) I am trying to get my hands on a few more great (English) books that can tickle my mind with a French experience. And because I am trying to save every single penny I have, I am extremely appreciative of the public library system in my area.

I went online to research some awesome books that really outline the culture of France, plus I asked around. The books that I have chosen are as follows:

  • France: A Love Story: Apparently a compilation of many different stories written by actual women who traveled to France and fell in love.
  • A Moveable Feast (by Ernest Hemingway): A true story about the life of Ernest Hemingway in 1920’s Paris.
  • France For Dummies: The dummies series of books are totally awesome! You can learn anything from scratch by reading these books. I know this book will outline all the key tips and tricks on navigating and fitting in with the French.

I will let you know how they go!

I ordered these books on my library’s website. They will be shipped in from a further library in a few days and I can pick them up just a couple of minutes down the street from where I live!

I am so ready to get my French on!

Thanks for reading….