Plane Tickets & Books

December 30, 2010

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.

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{ 109 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gogo December 30, 2010 at 5:05 am

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 penny December 30, 2010 at 5:10 am

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 Frieda December 30, 2010 at 5:15 am

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 Sherry December 30, 2010 at 5:46 am

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 Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves December 30, 2010 at 5:47 am

Julia Child’s “My Life in France” is intoxicating….


6 Kim December 30, 2010 at 6:04 am

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!


7 Sierra December 30, 2010 at 6:24 am

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.


8 Elena December 30, 2010 at 6:32 am

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.



9 Natalia December 30, 2010 at 6:47 am

‘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…)


10 Katy December 30, 2010 at 7:44 am

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!


11 Naomi Miles December 30, 2010 at 8:13 am

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!


12 Jess P December 30, 2010 at 8:22 am

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!!


13 Monica December 30, 2010 at 8:52 am

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.


14 Wendy December 30, 2010 at 9:02 am

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.


15 Nicole December 30, 2010 at 9:36 am

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….


16 terina December 30, 2010 at 9:38 am

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!


17 Karen/Chookooloonks December 30, 2010 at 9:43 am

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.




18 Sarah December 30, 2010 at 9:46 am

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.


19 Rian December 30, 2010 at 9:49 am

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.


20 Lisa Mackin December 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

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!


21 Allison Y. December 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

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.


22 liz December 30, 2010 at 10:12 am

I am so excited for your adventures!!!!

We like Lonely Planet books for travel.


23 just December 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

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?!


24 barkingkel December 31, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Yes, I am nervous reading about the plans. And giddy with the whole prospect!


25 Jan @ Family Bites December 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

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.


26 Barb December 30, 2010 at 10:30 am

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!


27 Marianne December 30, 2010 at 10:42 am

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.


28 rkwpnw December 30, 2010 at 10:52 am

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.


29 Beth December 30, 2010 at 11:05 am

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?


30 Anne December 30, 2010 at 11:29 am

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.


31 Jennifer December 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

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


32 Lauren December 30, 2010 at 12:08 pm

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.


33 Pamela December 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

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!


34 Michelle December 30, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I’m so excited for your big adventure! Keep the France posts up, love them!!!


35 Barchbo December 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm

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!


36 Julie at strongrrl December 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm

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!


37 Katherine in Paris December 30, 2010 at 1:44 pm

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.


38 Amy December 30, 2010 at 2:24 pm

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.


39 Gandhali December 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Wow, I’ve always eaten with the knife in my right and fork in my left, too! : ) Happy holidays!


40 Alison December 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm

What a fantastic adventure! I look forward to following along


41 dunski December 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

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.


42 Jen December 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

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!!


43 Debbie December 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

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?


44 Bettijo @ Paging Supermom December 30, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Love that castles-for-sale website. I had some fun windowshopping!


45 Jeudi December 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Another great book you won’t want to miss is: “The Piano Shop on The Left Bank” by Thad Carhart.

Here’s a link to Amazon:


46 Jeudi December 30, 2010 at 6:27 pm

A great one for the younger kids is: “Babar Loses His Crown” by Laurent de Brunoff. When I was a child, this book made me want to go to Paris.


47 Lindsey December 30, 2010 at 6:31 pm

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!


48 Jeudi December 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Also be sure to rent this fun Peanuts film “Bon Voyage Charlie Brown”. The whole family will love it.


49 Jeudi December 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm

A great website to check out is:


50 Jeudi December 30, 2010 at 6:43 pm
51 Jennifer Lauer December 30, 2010 at 7:17 pm

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 :)


52 lara December 30, 2010 at 7:54 pm

We actually use cloth napkins at ALL meals. The washing is a bit of a downside, but never purchasing paper napkins is heavenly and environmentally friendly. My kids are old pros.


53 Meggan December 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Just wanted to second what Barb said. It’s a lot easier to eat with the fork facing down, and then use it to either spear the food, or use the knife to push food onto the back of it. I actually prefer eating european style when I think about it. I think it feels more proper for sit down meals, so I feel kind of elegant, even if we’re just eating casserole! It’s also lots faster for eating meat, since you aren’t constantly picking up your knife to cut it and then switching hands again. I think you’ll like it once you get practiced!


54 Charlotte December 30, 2010 at 8:56 pm

It took me about a month to master the silverware switch. It is nice because it forces you to eat slower and when you come back to America you look so elegant when you eat!


55 Tanya December 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm

This is so cool!! I’m so excited for Thursdays :).


56 alejandra December 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I love how you are trying to learn so much about the French culture before you get there, it will make your experience so much better!
I grew up in Chile and over there we eat everything with a fork/knife (including burgers and pizza), now when I go back I have to remind myself to be “polite” and not eat with my hands like we do here :).
You are so brave, good luck with your adventure!


57 Heather December 30, 2010 at 11:08 pm

A year in Provence is precisely the reason I want to live in southern France. Great book!


58 Katrina December 30, 2010 at 11:16 pm

First of all, let me say that you are my hero and I hope that I can get my family to live in France someday… you know, once I’m married and have a family. I tutor a couple of French kids in English and used to work at an international school; it’s been an incredible experience.

About French snacking. French people have a snack (le goûter) at 4 in the afternoon, but it’s certainly not taken to the extreme that American snacking sometimes does. There is a French blog ( all about French people reminiscing over childhood snacks.

Have a wonderful time in France!


59 janeannechovy December 31, 2010 at 1:04 am

Have you read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery? It takes a bit to get into, but once you’re in, you can’t put it down. It’s VERY French, very Parisian.


60 penny December 31, 2010 at 4:32 am

I’m not sure if somebody already recommended this book, but I just love it and I’m sure you and the kids will as well. Consider buying it, please. There’s so much to laugh about. I’ve checked, and it seems the English title is “Nicholas”,(in French: “Le petit Nicolas”) anyway it’s by Goscinny and Sempe, about a little French boy and his adventures at school and home. Very funny! (For adultes as well, very tongue- in- cheek). And, of course, if you mention Goscinny it’s just a tiny step to “Asterix the Gaul” (comic books, in case you don’t know, but probably you do). The whole series is filled with historical knowledge, Latin and typical French behaviour. So good!


61 alyson boehr December 31, 2010 at 5:22 am

Its too bad that you won’t be able to spend more time in Montreal. Its a wonderful place to visit;) We are hoping to go back sometime soon as we have friends there…
We were also taught to use our left to eat and right to cut…it was hard when we were kids, but it made us feel so grown up:)


62 Natalia December 31, 2010 at 6:06 am

I know many people are recommending flying over trains, but I would actually suggest the opposite – much less hassle with checking in, you can take on your own food (and wine!) and you arrive in the middle of the city rather than the outskirts needing a train/bus/taxi to get where you are going. And that is before you think about the environmental impact.
I write about costs here: and would also recommend you check out the excellent ‘Man in seat 61′ blog and website: Remember, the flight might look cheap, but then add in the cost of excess luggage (or just luggage on some budget flights), meals, and getting from the airport to a centre of civilization, and that cheap flight is not looking so cheap any more.


63 lavomatic December 31, 2010 at 6:21 am

I discover your fantastic blog (but my english is not really good).
Welcome in France, i’m from Paris.
Enjoy !!!!


64 CeeBee December 31, 2010 at 7:33 am

“Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. Totally different than everything else you are reading. He is a hilarious, best-selling writer who bought (?) a house in the Normany region, spent time there and in Paris, and took a French class while there.

I was living in Paris in 2003, read it there, and laughed out loud (which I never do) the whole time I was reading it. Omigosh is it funny. But maybe read it after you’ve been there a bit and can appreciate all the crazy, funny things about French culture and its limitations for Americans used to a different lifestyle and language. Good luck!


65 Polly December 31, 2010 at 9:02 am

Wow sounds so exciting! I’m English and we eat with a knife and fork in that way, how else do you do it? The other way round? I love France, I go there at least once or twice a year (usually the South though). I’m going to Paris for four days in February and I’m so excited. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing year. xx


66 deborah@applesinwonderland December 31, 2010 at 1:45 pm

so excited for you. my eurpoean friends think it’s funny that i, an stateswoman eat that way. my dad does too, and his father did as well. i’m guessing his parents from sweden did as well. we pass along so much at the table:) i love that!!!!!


67 Adrienne December 31, 2010 at 4:08 pm

These are a few of my favorite books about life in France. We spent our honeymoon in Paris and the opportunity to live in France for a year would be a dream come true! Please eat as much as possible while you are there.

On Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis
Words in a French Life by Kristin Espinasse
A Pig in Provence by Gorgeanne Brennan
Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christna Bjork


68 Raquel December 31, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Can’t wait to read about the Blairs adventures in France! If I may, I would like to recommend a book by good friends of ours, she is an American who moved to Paris in the late 60′s and never came back and he is a Frenchman through and through. The book is “Insiders’ French” and it is an excellent guide to colloquial expressions that are used every day and not taught in other books, together with excellent insights into French culture. It is available on Amazon:
I am sure you will have a wonderful time in France!


69 Jennifer January 1, 2011 at 1:12 am

Hi Gabrielle,

Marie de Paris is a lovely little book for kids about a little girl living in Paris; it is part of a series with characters in different cities.

This is Paris is also good. My son really loves recognizing places that he passes all of the time in the book. He was less interested in it before he made those connections though.

And Le ballon rouge…both the film and the book adapation (the text of which is not really all that amazing, but kids seem to love the story and the pictures of Montmartre are lovely).

Right now nothing much for grownups is coming to mind other than Julia Child’s Life in France. And

And you are right about snacking. Except that all children have a snack immediately after school at 4:30 and this snack is very sugary (in fact the idea of savory food at “gouter” seems to be very strange). In general the times at which it is appropriate to eat various foods are quite circumscribed.

Good luck with your preparations!



70 Jennifer January 1, 2011 at 2:31 am

Oh, and this is not strictly speaking about books *about* France, but it just came to mind while reading to my children this morning. I try to introduce characters in a particular language (english/french) and then only buy books in that language for that character. So, for example, my kids know the mouse as Mimi la souris, not Maisy mouse. Instead of Noddy, they know Oui-Oui. They read a lot of Barbapapa, which I have actually not seen in English, but which definitely exists in a bunch of other languages. Once they know a character in french they only think about that book in french. Other characters, like Charlie & Lola they know in English. Part of this came about because *I* did not know of these characters in English and learned about them while living in France only to discover on visits home that they go by a different name entirely. Anyway this helps cut down on requests for me to read it “in English”, which definitely started cropping up once my older son started to be more conscious of bilingualism and who speaks what languages (we have an anglophone home, but a french babysitter and a bilingual school). Jennifer


71 Jennifer January 1, 2011 at 2:36 am

oh, and Clothilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris and her blog talk a lot about manners related to food and food culture in France.


72 Dina January 1, 2011 at 9:03 am

And one thing that I will never be able to get the hang of, that my husband, his family, and all French do, is use a spoon with jam (on toast for example) instead of a knife…don’t they see that a knife would be more spread-friendly?!


73 Rachel January 1, 2011 at 9:45 am

The comment from Penny is true. In Austria, they told me that if you leave one hand in your lap at the table then the question what that hand is doing…


74 Emjay January 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

I second the David Sedaris book and Almost French!

You should also definitely invest or figure out the skype/ooma situation now. It’s great to have a US phone number.

Also, don’t forget to pack US snack foods and toiletries. When I am back home, I always stock up on Mac n’ cheese for the kids (the continental and UK versions do not taste like the American versions), peanut/almond butter (if you are committed to a particular brand), hydrocortisone (by prescription only), antifungal and antibiotic ointment ( generally find non available or strangely expensive), liquid children’s medication (the French similar to the Belgians give suppositories), and simple things like press and seal and good ziploc freezer bags. I am sure others will have some wonderful suggestions. If you will be living on a budget I would suggest not buying anything clothes-wise until the sales in July!

If you plan to travel in the summer, for example, South of France, look now for a house rental ( or If you want to go at a cheaper time – try May or September – though this may be difficult with the kids in school.


75 Carmen January 1, 2011 at 10:59 am

Dear Gabrielle, this experience will be so great for you and your kids…I’ve been living abroad for 8 years and it has been such an enrichment for us as a family. I asure you they will learn a lot about people, culture, ways of thinking so different from those they’re use to know…they will grow as human beings (and that’s what we as parents want!).
I hope for you all the best, and don’t panic at the beginning, it takes a while to get use to the people. But once you learn how to appreciate what you’re living, you will enjoy a lot!
Best wishes, and a Happy New year for you and your beautiful family!


76 katy January 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

I’ve completely switched to that way of eating. My guess is that you will too. It is actually easier and it slows you down. Pizza is also eaten that way, not in slices with hands, but cut bite by bite with a fork and knife. Sometimes even special serrated knives are provided.


77 Heather HS January 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

I studied in France, then went back for a year after I graduated. I recommend the “Rough Guide” travel book series – a little different than the aimed-at-partying-college-students guides. Also, be sure to check out the SNCF discount programs (the French Railway system). For example, you can buy the “Carte 12-25″ if you are ages 12-25. Then you get half off your railroad tickets all the time. They have other programs for kids too – totally worth the initial investment… I made my money back in the first trip.


78 katy January 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

okay, me again had to take my daughter to the bathroom. We’re in Morocco on a holiday. I read through most of the comment, but must apologize if this is a repeat. I second the rec for Almost French. I’ve read almost all the books in that genre and found hers the most insightful. Also, What makes the French so French. It gets a bit too historical, but is worth having a look through. Check it out from the library, you prob don’t need to own it. Also like David Lebovitzs’, Sweet Life in Paris. I’m kinda off of this Paris/French culture shock genre.

Here is a list of childrens books about France/Paris compiled by myself and a few readers:

My all time FAV book for kids is:

The illustrations are so great and the text (mostly) is simple.

You will learn the most by observing. Watch, watch, watch.

Snacking is not common except for the 4:00 gouter (taste) Living in Lux I’ve learned quite a bit about France as Lux has many of it’s social customs.

You are so well connected you’ll have a fab experience and learn quickly. Off to dinner. Happy New Year!


79 Sabrina January 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm

You never cease to amaze us (your readers), with your continuous sources of inspiration. I’m so excited for you guys, I feel like I’m going too :)! I told my husband: Design Mom and her family are moving to France, like I was talking about my family, he said, but didn’t they just moved to Denver, (like gossiping, lol) but he absolutely loved the idea!
I grew up using the forks the European way in the Dominican Republic – but it was always such a battle for me! As soon as we moved to the US, I dropped it altogether, there was no need. Funny thing is whenever I’m abroad, back in DR or in Europe, I unconsciously revert to using them the European way, go figure!
Anyway, please keep us updated about the adventure!


80 Monica January 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm

When using a knife and fork this way, it is also important to have the tines facing down.

There are also specific ways to signal you have finished your meal. The handles of your knife and fork should be placed at the 4:00 position on the rim of your plate (with the tips in the center of the plate). This is especially important when eating in restaurants that cater to an older patrons. The waiters may not clear your setting otherwise!


81 January 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm

My favorite place in the whole world. Paris stole my heart years ago, and now I share it with my family. I have always taken my son with us everywhere since he was little and Paris was the hardest for him food wise when he was small and just wanted “plain” food. Everything came with a sauce whether he wanted one or not. Not so easy when he was 7, much easier, and even appreciated at 15!

I found if you ask the front desk where they eat, you get a simpler, tastier and much cheaper meal.


82 Lindsay January 1, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I am fascinated with the knife/fork thing! I’m Canadian and have always eaten with my fork in my left hand, knife in my right, fork pointing downwards. I’m having trouble conceiving of a different way to do it.. just opposite?
No book suggestions from me, but I’m loving following your family’s journey here.

Also, I am astonished that Air Canada was voted best airline in North America. That makes me terrified for the state of the rest of the airlines. I hope that you have a wonderful experience with them, but they are habitually reviled up here. The best I expect form them is mediocre, and it’s often worse than that.


83 Megan January 2, 2011 at 3:25 am

Etiquette issues kept me nervous at meal times for a while when I moved to Germany, now almost a decade ago (yikes!). Two-handed eating, with the fork in the left and the knife in the right, was new to me and took some practice, but now i prefer it over the “American” method. And now, when i see an American with one hand in their lap (what are they up to down there?) and the tendancy to lean over towards the table (sit up straight!), constantly switching utensils back and forth…well it just looks awful to me.

Also important to learn: waiting until everyone has been served to start eating, and beginning by wishing everyone ‘bon/guten appetit’. (<– Actually, why isn't that more the standard in the US? Perhaps my friends and family were the minority, but I feel now it really is more polite.)

As for books: Paris to the Moon, an excellent memoir written by a writer for the New Yorker about the years he spent in Paris with his wife and young son. Wonderful book.


84 Julie January 2, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I can’t help how giddy it makes me feel seeing all of these wonderful ladies so excited to share with you what they know. You will most certainly feel supported in your adventurous endeavor by just sitting down to your computer…love it:)


85 charlie January 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm

So Americans eat with fork in their right hand and knife in the left? That makes no sense XD I’ve never been in America, so I didn’t know. Funny thing that even Wikipedia states otherwise :o

Why are you going to France, when visiting Europe? :( France is sooo stock (well-worn? I’m not sure how to say this in English, sorry. I mean everybody goes there when they’re in Europe.) I’m new to this blog (hello :D), so I don’t know, but I hope you speak French – as far as I know, you won’t be able to speak English there ;)
If I were you I would go to England, Austria, Italy or somewhere in the Centre/Eastern Europe – although this last recommendation is because I’m Polish ;)


86 charlie January 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm

oh, wait. I just read back. So you’re MOVING to France! Sorry :)
I hope it will be wonderful for you. Good luck!
(I’m quite suprised, to be honest, as I can’t imagine me moving to another country while I don’t have my own family, and you with 6 children… good luck :D)


87 Amanda January 2, 2011 at 11:34 pm

wow… so many great comments Gabrielle! What a list of books! My comment is about websites for airfare. My family is moving to Zimbabwe. For international airfare I LOVE the site I think Kayak is best for domestic fares. I am the oldest of six kids and I always thank my parents for giving me the priceless gift of siblings. Kudos to you and Ben Blair for giving your children that gift as well!

Viva la France! (that might not be the exact phrase but you get the picture!)


88 Jeannine January 3, 2011 at 7:59 am

For French novels, try anything by Anna Gavalda – she’s an incredible writer and many of her books have been translated into English.

Best of luck with your move. I came to France for a “one-year stay”. That was 12 years ago, and I’m still here.


89 betsy January 3, 2011 at 9:23 am

I love, The Cook and the Gardner by Amanda Hesser and of course My Life in France is Amazing.


90 Di January 3, 2011 at 12:41 pm

France – beautiful place – my friends just moved to the suburbs of Paris with their 2 kids.

It’s common in most places apart from the US to eat with the fork in the left and the knive in the right – but it’ll really not matter if you don’t. Markets in France are the prefect place to buy amazing food – I’ve got some ideas on my blog in the Paris tabs. As for design – you will have a ball hunting it all down!


91 Cherie January 3, 2011 at 5:28 pm

OK now I’m curious, I thought I might find an answer in the comments… I’m Australian and we also eat the Euro way fork in left, knife in right hand…how do Americans eat?


92 TN January 4, 2011 at 1:36 am

They don’t eat more. They just have more courses. Typically a French Lunch (it you are ever invited to one) can last 6 hours! So be prepared :-) It will start with a cocktail, appetizer, main course with veggies, cheese, dessert then coffee. These types of lunches are not every day or every week. For some old traditional families (like mine) it is a daily lunch and sometimes even dinner! I usually skip a few of these courses because I would def gain 50lbs…their metabolisms are just naturally better than ours! But if you are invited over I would partake in everything just a taste :-)

They also eat with the fork and knife in the opposite hands. And I find it actually better to eat like this!

No rec’s on books but look at my website’s blog roll and you will find plenty of American’s living in France type Blog’s which will guide you through living in France. Better to have day to day experiences than a book that is edited and not the Real France. Also I hate generalizing the French because I hate it when they generalize me being an American :-)

Happy Researching!


93 Amy3 January 4, 2011 at 11:20 am

If I can, I’ll just put an end to the confusion as to how Americans eat with a knife and fork. Assuming a right-handed individual, she cuts whatever needs to be cut with the knife in her right hand and fork in her left. Then she puts down the knife and moves the fork to her right hand to spear and eat the food. Having read the comments it does seem silly, inefficient, and inelegant that we eat this way.

And now I’m going to be aware of it always. That, and having my left hand in my lap. :)


94 shereen Koshnoodi January 4, 2011 at 11:56 am

You are so brave to travel to France with 7 kids. Good luck! We( my husband and 2 kids) just came back from Spain after spending Christmas with my in-laws. It’s true in Spain as well that most people don’t snack between meals and lunch is the big meal of the day rather than dinner which is very different from the US. On the weekends lunch can be as long as 3 hours!

Have fun.


95 shereen Koshnoodi January 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I have to make a correction, I didn’t read all the entries on your blog and I now see you are moving to France for a year! wow that’s awesome and even braver than just traveling overseas with 7 kids. Good luck!

You are an inspiration to us all that think little everyday things are hard. :)


96 Claire January 5, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Wait- do people in America not normally have the knife in their right hand and fork in the left? The table is set with knives to the right and forks to the left… I, and my entire family, use the knife in the right and fork in the left. It would never have occurred to me that someone would do it differently. Why do people pick up the knife and switch it to the other hand? This revelation has blown my mind.


97 julie g January 5, 2011 at 3:10 pm

we like chopsticks! I mean, anything you do is going to stand out as American, not much you can do about it except to be humble and polite instead of the opposite. Anyway, check out because these guys have been in Nantes for 6 mos. I know them is why I read it. You can learn the essentials of: how to get a cell phone- ooma sounds like a very good idea; and paying for your visa with stamps (yes!) and other goodnesses. I don’t know how much you can prepare; intensive French course would be a better use of time IMO, especially since you don’t know anyone there to translate. My daughter was an exchange student in Rennes and she had to be fluent in French to be accepted. I would pop your older kids into regular French School if they let you. They will pick up the language pretty fast.


98 Sarah Jane January 5, 2011 at 7:00 pm

First of all…so jealous that you’re going to France. Hope it’s wonderful. Secondly, I love reading French Women Don’t Get Fat. It’s sort of a diet book, but also talks much about the culture. I’ve read it several times and find myself indulging in the French mindset every time.


99 julieg January 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm

French Women don’t get fat is a fab read, I agree. I thought of something additional today, my kids went to German school on Saturdays so they could speak and feel comfortable when visiting my MIL and other relatives in Austria and Switzerland, and I also bought this really great program on dvd called Muzzy. you can find it used on eBay or here is a link to the site. You would get a lot of mileage out of this for the kids! ALso my 12 y/o is studying French right now, and I found this site today that I had not seen before- it’s got audio! I think it’s great:


100 Anita January 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I’m so excited for your trip! Wow. A couple recommendations from our last visit–Paris Plage in the summer–they make a strip of beach with sand and umbrellas and cafes right on the Seine. Delightful. And Parc Asterix! If they’re not already, your kids should become Asterix fans, and this is a wonderful theme park, we had a great time. Not a touristy place, either, mostly all locals.
Bon Voyage!


101 Melissa January 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Almost French is a great book by an Aussie who follows her Parisian boyfriend to France. It talks about her transition and how she slowly started to feel French. Love that book.


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