Plane Tickets & Books

french breakfast family

french breakfast family

I’ve decided Thursdays will be my days to write about our France preparations and share anything practical we’ve learned. Updates this week: We bought our plane tickets — whoo hoo! And we’ve been piling up a stack of books about France and French culture.

One thing I’ve read is that snacking is not really done in France, and that meals are a bigger deal than they are here — at some fast-food restaurants there are even cloth napkins! Also, apparently it’s custom to eat with a knife in your right hand and a fork in your left. I tried it tonight and I need practice. : )

photo via The Nature of Order

Plane Tickets:

We were terrified when we saw how much tickets were on the airline sites and even at places like Orbitz and Travelocity (remember, we have to multiply everything by 8 people). But then we tried From what I can tell, they don’t actually sell tickets, but they showed us where to find the bargain prices. We ended up finding tickets for a flight on Air Canada and bought them through a site called I feel great about the price we paid and I’m excited to fly Air Canada. I’ve never flown with them before, but they were voted Best Airline in North America, so I expect great things.

We will by flying from Denver to Montreal, then overnight from Montreal to Paris. We leave on February 1st.

Another note: we bought one-way tickets, but we noticed that for some flights/dates roundtrip tickets were cheaper than one way options. So in some cases, it might be wise to buy a roundtrip ticket and then just not use the return flight.

Books About France:

All I wanted for Christmas was books about France and Ben Blair happily obliged. He ordered a bunch of books to include in our France Kits and we have been devouring them. Much of what we found is focused on Paris — especially the kid options — which is fine with me. I adore Paris! I’ll list what we have so far, but I hope you’ll add any other titles you’d recommend in the comments.

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong
This is where I read about how eating is viewed in France. Also in this book: Did you know that stores in France can only hold sales/markdowns twice a year at designated times? It’s a 300 year old tradition that’s run by the police. So interesting!

The Discovery of France
Graham Robb biked around the entire country and researched as he went. I haven’t started this one yet, but I can’t wait.

This is also by Graham Robb. What a great writer! This volume is full of historical short stories about Paris. I love it.

DK France – Eyewitness Travel Guides
This is a practical travel guide. It’s packed with so much information. Fun to browse.

Daytrips France
This is another practical one. It describes 48 things places you can visit within a day’s travel from Paris. Makes me want to start exploring asap.

A Year in Provence
My brother-in-law, Mark, gave us this as soon as he heard we were thinking about moving. It will make you want to buy a house in the South of France.

This is Paris
I’ve posted about these wonderful books by M. Lasek before and was glad to have an excuse to add the Paris one to our collection.

Adele & Simon
This was recommended by several readers and I can see why. It’s so charming! Adele and Simon spend the afternoon touring around Paris after school and silly Simon drops something everywhere they go.

Paris Hide-and-Seek
Ben Blair bought this one for the kids when he visited our home-to-be in France a few weeks ago. Adorable. It’s like a Where’s Waldo but the little characters are hiding all around the city. I could only find a link to this on the UK Amazon site.

What else would you recommend? I especially love books that talk about manners and culture.

109 thoughts on “Plane Tickets & Books”

  1. When I studied abroad in France, “Cultural Misunderstandings” by Raymonde Carroll was required reading. And it is really quite good. It’s a fast read with lots of information on the everyday, socially driven ways that people interact and how those interactions differ between the French and Americans. For example, you accidentally break something at someone’s house? Or vice versa? Turns out French people and Americans basically behave in the complete opposite.

    So anyway, recommended. I was really glad I read it.

  2. Yes, it’s true, we Europeans eat with the fork in our left hand and the knife in our right hand. Also, it’s considered rude/weird to do what I have seen many Americans do: to only have one hand on the table. Really strange. I’m from Germany, but I’m 100% sure that this is tru in France as well. Enjoy your preparations and have a wonderful new year!

  3. Salut Gabrielle-
    there are a lot of nice movies set in Paris, for example “Before Sunset” (it’s the sequel to “Before Sunrise”, set in Vienna) with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and “Hunting and Gathering” with Audrey Tatou (Amélie).
    No books, but France at its best.
    Grosses bisous,

  4. SOOOO excited to hear all about your France adventure. You are living my dream, Baby! I was an exchange student there and have gone back a few more times. Love it there! I can hardly wait to devour every single detail of your new home, city, and life. You might have to do your France blogging on Tues and Thur…one day just isn’t enough for me :)
    Happy New Year!

  5. I am super excited for you! I fell in love with France when we went in September. We found that as long as you knew the basics like numbers, hello, please, thank you, that Parisian shopkeepers were generally helpful, but do be sure to attempt French first. A little less helpful out of Paris, though! Brasseries are great places for family dining, smaller restaurants aren’t interested in having children as patrons.

    Some awesome books for the kids? Mr Chicken goes to Paris, Madeleine (of course!); check out Lunch In Paris, and Mary Moody’s books about life in the South!

    Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  6. Hi Gabrielle, So exciting about your trip! I highly (highlyl) rec Polly Platt’s book, “French or Foe.” She is an expat who first lived in France at the age of 8 and has gone on to be a professional cross- culture advisor. Her book is hilarious and she is a wonderful speaker (my company hired her when we traveled to Cannes a few years ago). In her book, she talks a great deal about manners and the small everyday interactions that are so crucial to feeling at home in another country, but are so different in France vs the US. ie – grocery store, restaurants, dinner with French friends.
    Here is a bit about her: Polly Platt’s love affair with France started when, at eight, her parents dumped her in a château with no one to talk to but the servants and a donkey. Later she would say that the sweetness of the servants and the orneriness of the donkey were the daily tug of war that was the French genius, which she would study more closely when, breaking off a career in journalism, she moved there with her family in 1967. In 1989, distressed at the French-bashing parties of Americans in Paris, she founded Culture Crossings and began giving cultural adaptation seminars for foreigners, executives from companies such as General Motors, 3M, Coca Cola, Microsoft and JP Morgan.

    The tales they told of their flaps in France became the spice of her 1994 bestseller, French or Foe?. The book is a romp through the business, social and cultural complexities of French culture. Now in its third edition and considered the reference for executives of Franco-American companies, travelers, and students of French at U.S. universities, it had rave reviews across the U.S., the U.K. and France, plus various television and radio interviews, including one live from Cannes by Bryant Gumble for the TODAY SHOW. The Financial Times dubbed it “the Bible” for Anglo-Saxons.

  7. Hi Gabrielle, first time commenting! I love your blog. I have a recommendation. It is not about France but about Europe and, since you will be in the heart of Europe, I figure you will be doing some exploring (After all you will be close to Belgium, Netherlands, England, Germany, Spain…). “Take Your Kids to Europe” by Cynthia Harriman is a great little book about extended living in Europe. You might be able to get it in your local library… I ended up buying it because I like to refer to it everytime we travel to Europe. Anyway, I hope you get to enjoy your time abroad. I will be following along.


  8. ‘Almost French’ by Sarah Turnbull. Here is the review I wrote after finishing it:

    A charming book about adjusting to life in a new country and a new society. The author, an Australian journalist, moves to Paris on a whim, and finds waiting for her a new life. Paris turns out to be not the romantic city of her memories, but something much more real – with ups and downs, idiosyncrasies, attitudes she must adapt to, and passions she can embrace.
    While many of the ‘woman moves abroad and discovers herself surrounded by funny people’ stories leave me cold, this book was a delight to read. It is real, it is well written, and it leaves me wanting to move to Paris tomorrow! Though I don’t think I will buy a dog (you have to read the book to know what that last comment was about…)

  9. I have always eaten with a knife in my right and fork in my left hand. It wasn’t until later that I found out it was a European custom. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have bad manners, I was just secretly European!

  10. I am English and have always used a fork in my left hand and a knife in my right, I had no idea Americans did it differently! I only use a fork in my right hand when I am eating with just a fork. How exciting that you get to live in another country for a year and find out many more unusual habits!

  11. I lived in Europe for a few years (I actually just moved back last year) and it’s true with the knife & fork… and you don’t ever put them down! Lots of heavy bread and meats & cheeses! Love fresh rolls from the corner bakery!

    For travel around Europe try or – both have amazing flight deals and it may be cheaper for you than trains with a larger family. We did last minute traveling all the time and found both these airlines decent. The planes are simple and they don’t offer on board drinks for free but you get flights for 30euro so who can beat it!?!

    Have fun!!

  12. Do you want to watch some French movies too? We watched these movies in my French class in HS and I loved them: La Gloire de mon Pere (My Father’s Glory) and Le Chateau de ma Mere (My Mother’s Castle). I think your older kids would like them too if they don’t mind reading subtitles. They are about a little boy (told from his perspective) and his family that go to a cottage in Provence for holiday every year.

  13. We had a French foreign exchange student this summer and the one thing I was worried about was what he would think of American eating habits. Snacking was a big surprise to him and he never would partake. He happened to arrive the day before July 4th. In his first 48 hours in our country he witnessed two pie eating contests, a hot dog eating contest, a taffy “cannon” that shot candy out every 10 minutes for the same crowd to rush and fill their pockets. What a baptism by fire, huh? We were chagrined but laughing.

  14. Wait until you see the French eating fruit with a fork and knife — truly incredible! Such a skill. And alas, one I never managed to master. I think your children will probably take quite quickly to the custom of un petit gouter of a pain au chocolat after school….

  15. french by heart is about an american family who lived in france, and i really enjoyed it. there is also a book by kristin espinasse where each chapter centers around a french word that she, an american ex-pat, was learning about when she married her husband and moved to france. she even has a blog called french word-a-day (although i just checked todays post and it’s about josephine baker, and the pic is a bit racy). i second trying for flights within europe, they are very cheap, and usually fly out of smaller airports in some of the smaller cities. food is a huge thing there. on my mission, i found that they ADORED american brownies and chocolate chip cookies. also, homemade pancakes and maple syrup were a huge hit. so maybe bring some extra sets of cup and table/teaspoon measurements to share with your new french friends. another random thing…..cheddar is expensive and hard to find, and we would use mimolette instead. it’s the same color, bit different flavor, but it would work quite well. oh, rice krispie treats seemed to be a huge hit, and i would get questions on how i was able to make them. hahaha! my SIL just sent me a DVD for my kids, a french learning DVD. we haven’t watched it yet, but it seems to be pretty highly rated: Bonjour les amis! it’s the first one, for ages 4-9. also, find a missionary and ask them how to make a creme fraiche pizza with lardons and gruyere cheese, mushrooms and onions. freaking awesome. when you’re a missionary there, you really get to know how the people really live, because you’re out with them all the time. i am incredibly jealous that you are able to do this. it has been my dream, but the closest we got was living in germany for two and a half years with the military. i am looking forward to when i can go back for good!

  16. So excited for you!

    One thing that I’m sure you’ve already looked into, but just in case: be sure to make sure that visas are all in order (if necessary). Often when you are flying with one-way tickets internationally, eyebrows are raised, particularly after September 11th. If you have any paperwork to show that you are intending to live and work in France for an extended time (like the visa, or any other documentation), be sure to have it on you before you check in at the airport.



  17. Funny to read about the knife and fork situation. I’m English and living in Canada and it came as a great surprise to my Canadian boyfriend that the knife in right hand, fork in left hand rules exist – I wasn’t aware it was done any other way!
    Good luck in your adventure, I’d love to do exactly what you’re doing one day.

  18. This has nothing to do with France, but with living abroad with children. Buy an Ooma phone. It is an internet phone, but you pick the area code. We picked one for Utah where my husband is from so that his family could call us as a local call. Skye is great, but we found that with the time change we were often trying to get kids out the door for school when family would call, their evening. It was nice to be able to walk around our apartment and talk to the other side of the world. Once you buy it there are no monthly fees. My husband takes it back with him to China for his business trips now so I can call him on my cell like he was just down the road. It also helped with grandparents who were not able to skype or figure out international calling. It really is amazing. We are back in the States now and have the Ooma phone as our free home line.

  19. Lucky, lucky you! We house swapped in Luxembourg the summer before last and it lit such a fire in me. I feel so fortunate that I was able to show my three beautiful daughters some sights and sounds of other cultures. I spent a summer in Germany as a young teenager and have been back to that and many other countries since then. To be able to instill that yearning and sense of adventure in my own teens was important to me. I would LOVE to move to Europe for longer than 5 weeks. Friends of mine just returned from a 4 year stay in England. The spouse’s job allowed him that opportunity. I’ll be living vicariously through you, I hope you know…but I guess that’s kind of the intent of a blog, yes? In the meantime maybe my wheels will start turning as to how I can make it happen for my family too! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

  20. Another great book about living in France – “Paris to the Moon” by Adam Gopnik. Reading this made me want to move to Paris. I know you’ll be in Normandy – but it’s still a great read.

  21. does anyone else feel like theyre going with the blairs? im not sure if ill be ready by feb but am thrilled to go on this adventure with you! you will be taking us with you i hope?!

  22. Love the books you’ve listed. I’ve read most of them and second the suggestion for Julia Child’s “My Life in France”. I also really like The Red Balloon for kids. And Rick Steves is my favourite for French travel guides. As for the twice yearly sales, when I lived in France most people I knew went to London after Boxing Day for their sales. It was supposedly worth the price of the trip for the deals they got.

  23. I’m Canadian and I was always taught when using both a fork and knife to use the fork in the left hand, the knife in the right. The key is to hold the fork facing ‘down’ when it is in your left hand.
    There are some excellent book suggestions here even for someone not planning a move to France. Fun to read all the comments!

  24. I second/third the “My Life In France” recommendation. And also, Paris To The Moon, a journalist’s account of moving his small family to Paris. Oh, how lovely this will be! I lived in Easter Europe and Paris for a half year after college and it was wonderful.

  25. I recommend this french movie I recently saw.. its summary and very french country side with a good dose of art appreciation thrown in: L’Heure d’été (Summer Hours).
    A book my daughter likes is “The Cat Who Walked Across France” by Kate Banks.
    I am looking forward to living vicariously through your family! I have been talking to my husband for years about trying a year abroad… it will happen some day I hope.

  26. Those cute chubby child hands in the photo are simply scrumptious! In the ‘Anne’ sort of definition of the word. And, when reading the M. Lasek collection, how do you discuss the changes that have occurred in the past 50 or so years?

  27. Take Your Kids to Europe helped us find unforgettable places like the Haribo Candy Factory in Provence. It is full of great tips on family travel.

    I also adore the Rick Steves guides, especially some of his museum highlight tours since you’ll be enjoying traveling with shorter attention spans.

  28. You must read Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. It absolutely sparkles. Like literary candy if you like food, love and France. There are recipes included. Excited to hear more about your adventures

  29. French Milk is a lovely graphic novel about a twentysomething’s trip to Paris with her mother. It’s geared toward adults, but might be a good read for your older kids, too.

  30. Hi Gabby! My husband just bought me Taschen’s Paris for Christmas. We lived in Germany years ago and looking forward to going back to Paris someday soon with the kids…but, live there! Happy travels to you and your family!

  31. Not mentioned is one of my favorites, FRENCH TOAST by Harriet Welty Rochefort. It’s funny yet very informative, about a “typical” American woman who moves to Paris with her French husband. It has a salad dressing recipe in it that I have used with devotion – so simple, so French – to rave reviews. There is a second book, too, but I remember it being not quite so engaging as the first.

    Of course, PARIS TO THE MOON, A YEAR IN PROVENCE, and THIS IS PARIS all came to mind, too. Such an adventure ahead! I cannot wait to live this vicariously through you!

  32. Gabrielle,
    In 2008, my husband, 3-year-old daughter and I did a 6-week house-swap in Rouen. I blogged the entire trip and thought you might be interested in checking it out. There are a lot of details about cultural differences, places to visit, life in a new land with a child, trips to nearby places, and tons of photos. I’ve provided the link to the first post of the trip below. If you care to, you can click through to read about our (fabulous, often hilarious) adventure.

    And P.S., I’m insanely jealous!
    Bon voyage!

  33. I’m so excited about your adventure even though I already live in France.
    I just wrote a post about a cute children’s book in English about a French mouse. You can check it out here:
    Your kids can learn a few french phrases and seven different French cheeses – always useful.
    Also I recommend a couple food blogs:
    I also enjoyed Adam Gopnik’s, From Paris to the Moon.
    Have fun.

  34. French by Heart by Rebecca Ramsey – it was a fun read about an American’s family adjustment to living in France when the husband/dad is transferred to France. I’m envious of your adventure. Safe travels to you and your family.

  35. I’m to tired to read all comments, but I have to recommend some films: Amélie (wich unfortunately drives all toruists to visit just the montmartre, but alas I love this quarter too) and my boys, who don’t speak french just discovered through my husband the adventures of Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) from the early 60s. my 3yr.old jumped and giggled the whole time. It’s very french and very funny. (and old)
    The french enjoy their meals and it seems that’s why most of them stay pretty slim.
    Aaaaaand they make the best chocolate on this planet! And I’m swiss, I have to know. Chocolate can be eaten without fork and knife, except if it’s a cake. ;) Love your adventure and will try to think of more fun things you might be interested in.

  36. No snacking and they eat dinner at 9:00. I’m always starving when we visit my husband’s family in France. But it’s worth it, the food is fantastic!! You should travel to the south if you can (my husband is from Evian). Good luck with the preparations!!

  37. My husband, three kids and I just returned to Texas this year after a 4 year assignment in the Netherlands. We went to Paris/France a few times and loved it. Great with kids (and even better without). The last time I was at the gift shop on the way out of the Louvre I noticed a great book for kids: A Kid’s Guide to the Louvre for Adults. I recommend when you take the kids to the Louvre, pick up a copy on the way in.
    Are the kids nervous about primary in French?

  38. Can’t wait to follow your adventures in France this year! Did you mention that Ben went recently to France to check out the house? Can’t wait to see picts..please post if you have some!

  39. I suppose I would fit in well in Europe…I’m left handed and always have my fork in my left and knife in the right :)

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