A Day in Paris

A friend of mine is going to Paris for a few days in June and asked me if I could give her some recommendations. Giving some recommendations to go to Paris is an absolute delight.

When I was in my teens, I was lucky to visit Paris often. My cousin, who was studying at L’Ecole de Beaux-Arts, took me around beautiful places and was my personal tour guide in the galleries. Today, I continue to visit Paris regularly. There is always a museum, a restaurant, a pâtisserie to discover. When I am at home, Paris is never far away thanks to books, music and films. 

Last October, I visited the Musée de l'Orangerie which was closed in 2000 for renovation until 2006. It was completely restructured and the result is fantastic. It is the home of Monet's famous water lilies but also the home of the Paul Guillaume collection.

Before your go to the City of Lights, make sure you whet your appetite and set your mood! 

Read La cantatrice chauve and La leçon - translated as The Bald Soprano or The Bald Prima Donna - written by Ionesco. It has been showing everyday in a little theatre in Paris and that is how you are going to finish your day. So, it is best to know the story before getting there especially if you are still learning French.

La cantatrice chauve is an absurd play. There is no plot, the characters are zany and the conversations are disjointed. You will die of laughter.

Watch Amélie, Paris Je t’aime, La môme, An American in Paris, un monstre à Paris or Midnight in Paris.

Listen to :  ‘Le Poinçonneur des Lilas’ by Serge Gainsbourg; ’Sous le ciel de Paris’ by Edith Piaf ou Zaz; Ménilmontant by Charles Trenet. 

Finally, why not taking a few online French lessons to impress and boost your confidence when talking to French people ? 

You are now in Paris. 

1) Your first stop is at Musée Zadkine. Ossip Zadkine, a Russian sculptor and his wife, the painter Valentine Prax, lived and worked in this haven of peace between 1928 and 1967. 

Rebecca ou La Grande porteuse d'eau by Ossip Zadkine (1927)

2) Walk through the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg. The gardens were inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence and were created in 1612. 

For a small fee, children (big or small) can rent a toy sailboat from this man and sail it in the grand basin.

3) At lunchtime, go to La cuisine de Philippe and enjoy a beautiful meal. Why not try his wonderful soufflés…. one for a starter (emmental or mushroom) or/and one for a dessert (rhubarb, caramel or pistachio) ?  

4) Visit the amazing Église Saint-Sulpice which is the second largest church in the city after Notre-Dame. There, you will be able to admire one of the most beautiful pipe organs and the magnificent Delacroix paintings that have been refurbished in November 2016. 

The famous pipe organ was constructed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1862.

5) Indulge yourself with something sweet at la pâtisserie Michalak. Their millefeuille vanille tonka caramel looks delicious! Which treat will you choose ? 

6) You are now close to Saint Germain des prés. Let’s go shopping Rue de Rennes, rue de Sèvres and Boulevard Saint Germain. 

7) Earlier on, you discovered the beautiful paintings by Delacroix. You are now going to visit the museum dedicated to him and his art : the Musée Eugène Delacroix. This was his last home. He moved there in 1857 to be closer to Saint Supplice and accomplish his work. 

The beautiful house of Delacroix and its garden.

8) Before your play starts at the theatre, what about wandering on the Île de la Cité. 

It is 7 p.m., you are at le théâtre de la Huchette. I guarantee you that you will have a fantastic time. Both La cantatrice chauve and La leçon are wonderful plays. 

Finish your day at la crêperie de la petite bouclerie, 33 Rue de la Harpe. They offer lovely galettes and crêpes. If you are very hungry, go to le Petit châtelet, 39 Rue de la Bûcherie. 

Reading a French Novel

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Reading in French allows you to increase your vocabulary and get a better grasp of grammatical structures. There is a wide range of texts you can choose from : there are magazines, newspapers, blogs … and there are novels. Reading a novel in a foreign language can be challenging but as soon as you finish your book, you experience a wonderful sense of achievement and pride. I will always remember finishing La casa de los espíritus by Isabel Allende in Spanish. Not only did I enjoy the story but also I felt a real sense of accomplishment.  

It is important to choose a novel at the right level. If you choose too challenging a book, you have more chance to get frustrated and quickly give up. 

Once you have selected your book, you can find an electronic version. Reading on a e-reader or tablet will allow you to look up unknown vocabulary easily. You just need to download a French dictionary and a bilingual dictionary. Looking up words becomes faster and you are able to review them at the end of your reading session. 

You can also listen to the audiobook version of your novel while following the words. However, I would recommend reading each chapter first as the reading pace may add an extra challenge. 

Here are a few suggestions : 


Easy - Intermediate (A2-B1) 

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Jean-Louis Fournier portrays his father through the eyes of the child he used to be. His father was a generous doctor, who looked after his clients even if they could not afford his consultations. He could be light-hearted and full of humour, but he was also an alcoholic and could be bad-tempered, irresponsible and cruel when he had had too much to drink.  

This bitter sweet and moving novel is made of short chapters and successive anecdotes which are accessible to intermediate learners. 

Monsieur Linh is an elderly Vietnamese refugee who has endured a long journey by boat with his baby grand daughter and one old suitcase. He has seen his homeland destroyed by foreign soldiers, his village, fields, buildings and population burnt and killed, including his son and daughter-in-law. All that is left is the baby, Sang Diu. Monsieur Linh arrives in a city in France, and is moved to a refugee centre where he lives in a dormitory like place with other refugees. He is lonely, homesick, deeply traumatised, only living to devote his whole self to his care of the child.

This is a moving story that make us think about the fate of refugees. The vocabulary and the structures are simple.


Intermediate (B1-B2) 

Erik Orsenna makes us love words and French grammar with his poetic, fun and moving tale. It is the story of two children who are castaway and who lost their vocabulary during the storm. While discovering the island where they landed, they recover, little by little, the power of speech.

An endearing story for young and old. 

 

In Ni d'Ève, ni d'Adam, Amélie Nothomb writes about her private experience when she was living in Japan and tells us about her love story with Rinri, a young Japanese man who wanted to learn French. We discover another side of Japanese culture.

This is a charming book. the vocabulary and the style are not challenging.


Intermediate - Advanced (B2 - C1) 
 

Sorj Chalandon, a former journalist for Libération, who covered events and wars in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq …  wrote this violent and yet emotional story.
Le quatrième mur is the story of an impossible dream, a story of hope beyond hatred. Sam wants to produce a play in Lebanon with actors from the different communities at war. As he gets ill, George will help him pursue his dream by going to Lebanon and staging Antigone. 

This book will not leave you unscathed. It shows the abyssal gap between our lives and the ones of people who live in countries devastated by war. 

 


Of all the things I have mentioned above, I think that choosing the right length and level of book is the most important. However as with anything you get out what you put in! If you challenge yourself and keep going the satisfaction and sense of achievement will be worth it.