First rule: There are no rules. These resources are completely free and at your disposal. Use as much, or as little, as you want. Study casually, or work to create a portfolio of academic work that will blow the socks off of the educational establishment.
Feel free to adapt the materials for your own purposes. We expect families, business people, backpackers, college students, high school kids, middle aged vacationers, and retirees who are on a late life adventure to take these materials and run with them. We’d be very happy for teachers or travel group leaders to add these materials to their study abroad packets as well.
The nature of open source is collaboration, so please feel free to contribute when you become aware of resources we haven’t listed, or you have project ideas that we haven’t developed. Send us your work and inspire others to reach higher and deeper as they travel!
The landmass of France makes up almost a fifth of the whole of the EU. It’s the most visited country in the world – 83.7 million people visited in 2014 (9.3 million of those visited the Louvre, making it the most visited museum in the world too). Mont Blanc, in the French Alps, is the highest in Europe at 4810m.
Our goal with this project is to inspire adventure and further education through experiential learning around the world. Please send us a note and let us know how you used these resources!
Buffet Style Learning
Does the menu look overwhelming? Looking for a formula to use as a skeleton for your studies in France?
- Two books
- Two films
- Three articles
- One Problem & Solution or Project Option
- One Cultural Assignment
Table of Contents
- Books for Kids
- Project Options
- Problems & Solutions
- Cultural Assignments
- Create Your Own Coursework
My Life in France
by Julia Child
Julia Child single-handedly created a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia’s unforgettable story – struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took them across the globe – unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years.
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong: What Makes the French so French?
by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow:
Two Canadian journalists dig deep into the French culture and psyche, to try and unravel the many paradoxes of France. For example, at the time of writing the book, France had the world’s highest productivity index per hour worked and yet a 35-hour working week, sacrosanct lunch breaks and long paid annual leave. They smoke, drink and eat more fat than anyone in the world, but have low obesity and fewer heart problems than Americans. The book was first published in 2003; it would be an interesting exercise to see how much of has changed since then in our globalized world.
A Year in Provence
by Peter Mayle:
Written in 1989, still a classic and funny diary of daily life in France for a British couple who moved to the mountains between Avignon and Aix. The couple enthusiastically try to get to know their country neighbours and their host country. Peter Mayle has published a number of subsequent books, and A Year in Provence was also turned into a TV series.
France: A Traveller’s History
by Robert Cole
This is a concise introduction to the history of France. It starts with the Romanisation of Gaul, moves through the various kings and republic before summarizing contemporary France.
This lively and useful guide provides the essential clues to an understanding of France’s past and present, in entertaining and sometimes surprising detail. France has a varied and interesting history, from pre-Roman Gaul, to Barbaric and German invasions, through the Middle-Ages to revolution and the countless regime changes since. The guide explores the various stages of France’s development from Napoleon to Vichy France, right up to the modern politics of today.
Excuse my French
by Rachel Best and Jean-Christophe Van Waes
This is a French language book with a difference. It focuses on idiomatic, chatty language and provides French equivalents for common English proverbs, like, “Don’t run before you can walk,” in French is, “Ne pète pas plus haut que ton cul.” Sounds wonderfully romantic in French but it means, “Don’t fart higher than your bottom!” And the French go window-licking, not window shopping.
The Lost King of France
by Deborah Cadbury
This is the story of Marie Antoinette’s son, Louis-Charles XVII. Very spoilt and destined to be the King of France, his life was drastically altered by the French Revolution in 1789. Aged only 8 at the time, he was locked up in the Tower and his parents were beheaded. He was declared dead two years later, but because no body was ever discovered, rumours and mystery surround what might have happened to him.
The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography
by Graham Robb
A narrative of exploration—full of strange landscapes and even stranger inhabitants—that explains the enduring fascination of France. While Gustave Eiffel was changing the skyline of Paris, large parts of France were still terra incognita. Even in the age of railways and newspapers, France was a land of ancient tribal divisions, prehistoric communication networks, and pre-Christian beliefs. French itself was a minority language.Graham Robb describes that unknown world in arresting narrative detail. He recounts the epic journeys of mapmakers, scientists, soldiers, administrators, and intrepid tourists, of itinerant workers, pilgrims, and herdsmen with their millions of migratory domestic animals. We learn how France was explored, charted, and colonized, and how the imperial influence of Paris was gradually extended throughout a kingdom of isolated towns and villages.The Discovery of France explains how the modern nation came to be and how poorly understood that nation still is today. Above all, it shows how much of France—past and present—remains to be discovered. A New York Times Notable Book, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Slate Best Book, and Booklist Editor’s Choice. 16 pages of illustrations
In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France
by Susan Herrmann Loomis
With In a French Kitchen, Loomis—an expat who long ago traded her American grocery store for a bustling French farmer’s market—demystifies in lively prose the seemingly effortless je ne sais quoi behind a simple French meal. French cooks have the savoir faire to get out of a low-ingredient bind. They are deeply knowledgeable about seasonal produce and what mélange of simple ingredients will bring out the best of their garden or local market. They are perfectly at ease with cracked bowls and little counter space.
In a French Kitchen proves that delicious, decadent meals aren’t complicated. Loomis takes lessons from busy, everyday people and offers tricks and recipes to create a meal more focused on quality ingredients and time at the table than on time in the kitchen.
Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict
by Maud S. Mandel
This book traces the global, national, and local origins of the conflict between Muslims and Jews in France, challenging the belief that rising anti-Semitism in France is rooted solely in the unfolding crisis in Israel and Palestine. Maud Mandel shows how the conflict in fact emerged from processes internal to French society itself even as it was shaped by affairs elsewhere, particularly in North Africa during the era of decolonization.
Mandel examines moments in which conflicts between Muslims and Jews became a matter of concern to French police, the media, and an array of self-appointed spokesmen from both communities: Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, France’s decolonization of North Africa, the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the 1968 student riots, and François Mitterrand’s experiments with multiculturalism in the 1980s. She takes an in-depth, on-the-ground look at interethnic relations in Marseille, which is home to the country’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations outside of Paris. She reveals how Muslims and Jews in France have related to each other in diverse ways throughout this history–as former residents of French North Africa, as immigrants competing for limited resources, as employers and employees, as victims of racist aggression, as religious minorities in a secularizing state, and as French citizens.
France on the Brink: A Great Civilization in the New Century
by Jonathan Fenby
High unemployment, an archaic economic system, a self-selecting governing class unable to handle serious problems, and a debilitating clash between individualism and the powerful state machine that was built on a foundation reaching back to the Revolution of 1789 continue to plague the nation, making it less able than ever to fulfill its role as a world leader. The economic crisis and the European Union’s ongoing fiscal instability, as well as a parade of scandals at the top, have left it weaker than ever halfway into the second decade of the new century.
Jonathan Fenby has covered France for fifty years. In this new edition, he offers a loving though candid and unvarnished picture of the nation, contrasting its glorious past with current realities. He explores not only the problems and the challenges but also the opportunities that lie ahead if only its political class can finally face reality—and carry the people along with them. Filled with contemporary and historical anecdotes, France on the Brink depicts the many contradictory aspects of the world’s most complex, seductive, and sometimes infuriating country, and will give even the most knowledgeable Francophile plenty to think about.
The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved
by Jonathan Fenby
No leader of modern times was more uniquely patriotic than Charles de Gaulle. As founder and first president of the Fifth Republic, General de Gaulle saw himself as “carrying France on [his] shoulders.”
In his twenties, he fought for France in the trenches and at the epic battle of Verdun. In the 1930s, he waged a lonely battle to enable France to better resist Hitler’s Germany. Thereafter, he twice rescued the nation from defeat and decline by extraordinary displays of leadership, political acumen, daring, and bluff, heading off civil war and leaving a heritage adopted by his successors of right and left.
Le Général, as he became known from 1940 on, appeared as if he was carved from a single monumental block, but was in fact extremely complex, a man with deep personal feelings and recurrent mood swings, devoted to his family and often seeking reassurance from those around him. This is a magisterial, sweeping biography of one of the great leaders of the twentieth century and of the country with which he so identified himself. Written with terrific verve, narrative skill, and rigorous detail, the first major work on de Gaulle in fifteen years brings alive as never before the private man as well as the public leader through exhaustive research and analysis.
Sniping in France: Winning the Sniping War in the Trenches
by H. Hesketh-Prichard
Before it became a standard military tactic, and immortalised in film, the science of sniping was both untrusted and often regarded as unsportsmanlike by the military. To nostalgic British generals ardent for the cavalry charge and volley fire, the use of a crack marksman, working alone to pick off unsuspecting enemy, was just ‘not cricket’. But the Germans were not so short-sighted.
By the end of 1915, the German sniper dominated the battlefield, inflicting countless British fatalities, and severely weakening morale. That same year, the renowned adventurer and big game hunter, Hesketh-Prichard arrived in the trenches to remedy the perception of sniping in the British army, and wrestle the initiative away from the Germans. Armed with his personal supply of rifles and telescopic sights, he was given the freedom of the British front-line to hunt the deadliest of German snipers and inspire the British to better marksmanship.
In this absorbing account he tells the story of those duels, the genesis of scout sniping, the ruses invented to lure an enemy out into the open, and the founding of the first British army sniping school.‘Sniping in France’ is the true story of how one man and his rifle helped alter the course of war. In an impersonal, machine-ruled conflict, Major-General Hesketh-Prichard sketches a rare tale of British ingenuity, dramatic duels and extraordinary individuals.
The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the War with Terror
by Jonathan Fenby
With the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, the next two centuries for France would be tumultuous. Bestselling historian and political commentator Jonathan Fenby provides an expert and riveting journey through this period as he recounts and analyses the extraordinary sequence of events of this period from the end of the First Revolution through two others, a return of Empire, three catastrophic wars with Germany, periods of stability and hope interspersed with years of uncertainty and high tensions.
As her cross-Channel neighbour Great Britain would equally suffer, France was to undergo the wrenching loss of colonies in the post-Second World War as the new modern world we know today took shape. Her attempts to become the leader of the European union is a constant struggle, as was her lack of support for America in the two Gulf Wars of the past twenty years. Alongside this came huge social changes and cultural landmarks but also fundamental questioning of what this nation, which considers itself exceptional, really stood – and stands – for. That saga and those questions permeate the France of today, now with an implacable enemy to face in the form of Islamic extremism which so bloodily announced itself this year in Paris. Fenby will detail every event, every struggle and every outcome across this expanse of 200 years. It will prove to be the definitive guide to understanding France.
The Lost Airman: A True Story of Escape from Nazi Occupied France
by Seth Meyerowitz
Bronx-born top turret-gunner Arthur Meyerowitz was on his second mission when he was shot down in 1943. He was one of only two men on the B-24 Liberator known as “Harmful Lil Armful” who escaped death or immediate capture on the ground.
After fleeing the wreck, Arthur knocked on the door of an isolated farmhouse, whose owners hastily took him in. Fortunately, his hosts not only despised the Nazis but had a tight connection to the French resistance group Morhange and its founder, Marcel Taillandier. Arthur and Taillandier formed an improbable bond as the resistance leader arranged for Arthur’s transfers among safe houses in southern France, shielding him from the Gestapo.
Based on recently declassified material, exclusive personal interviews, and extensive research into the French Resistance, The Lost Airman tells the tense and riveting story of Arthur’s trying months in Toulouse—masquerading as a deaf mute and working with a downed British pilot to evade the Nazis—and of his hair-raising journey to freedom involving a perilous trek over the Pyrenees and a voyage aboard a fishing boat with U-boats lurking below and Luftwaffe fighters looming above. With photographs and maps included, this is a never-before-told true story of endurance, perseverance, and escape during World War II.
The Three Muskateers
by Alexandre Dumas – Fiction
The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas. Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d’Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard. D’Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those being his friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis, inseparable friends who live by the motto “all for one, one for all”, a motto which is first put forth by d’Artagnan. In genre, The Three Musketeers is primarily a historical novel and adventure. However Dumas also frequently works into the plot various injustices, abuses and absurdities of the ancien regime, giving the novel an additional political aspect at a time when the debate in France between republicans and monarchists was still fierce.
by Victor Hugo – Fiction
Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.
Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France
by Leonie Frieda
Poisoner, despot, necromancer — the dark legend of Catherine de Medici is centuries old. In this critically hailed biography, Leonie Frieda reclaims the story of this unjustly maligned queen to reveal a skilled ruler battling extraordinary political and personal odds — from a troubled childhood in Florence to her marriage to Henry, son of King Francis I of France; from her transformation of French culture to her fight to protect her throne and her sons’ birthright. Based on thousands of private letters, it is a remarkable account of one of the most influential women ever to wear a crown.
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doer – Fiction
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
France the Dark Years: 1940-1944
by Julian Jackson
This is the first comprehensive study of the German occupation of France between 1940 and 1944. The author examines the nature and extent of collaboration and resistance, different experiences of Occupation, the persecution of the Jews, intellectual and cultural life under Occupation, and the purge trials that followed. He concludes by tracing the legacy and memory of the Occupation since 1945.
Taking in ordinary peoples’ experiences, this volume uncovers the conflicting memories of occupation which ensure that even today France continues to debate the legacy of the Vichy years.
by Gertrude Stein
Celebrated for her innovative literary bravura, Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) settled into a bustling Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, never again to return to her native America. While in Paris, she not only surrounded herself with―and tirelessly championed the careers of―a remarkable group of young expatriate artists but also solidified herself as “one of the most controversial figures of American letters” (New York Times).
In Paris France (1940)―published here with a new introduction from Adam Gopnik―Stein unites her childhood memories of Paris with her observations about everything from art and war to love and cooking. The result is an unforgettable glimpse into a bygone era, one on the brink of revolutionary change.
The Lost King of France: How DNA Solved the Mystery of the Murdered Son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
by Deborah Cadbury
Louis-Charles, Duc de Normandie, enjoyed a charmed early childhood in the gilded palace of Versailles. At the age of four, he became the dauphin, heir to the most powerful throne in Europe. Yet within five years he was to lose everything. Drawn into the horror of the French Revolution, his family was incarcerated and their fate thrust into the hands of the revolutionaries who wished to destroy the monarchy.
In 1793, when Marie Antoinette was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting a throne, the orphaned boy-king had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the revolutionary leaders declared Louis XVII dead. No grave was dug, no monument built to mark his passing.
Immediately, rumors spread that the prince had, in fact, escaped from prison and was still alive. Others believed that he had been murdered, his heart cut out and preserved as a relic. As with the tragedies of England’s princes in the Tower and the Romanov archduchess Anastasia, countless “brothers” soon approached Louis-Charles’s older sister, Marie-Therese, who survived the revolution. They claimed not only the dauphin’s name, but also his inheritance. Several “princes” were plausible, but which, if any, was the real heir to the French throne?
The Lost King of France is a moving and dramatic tale that interweaves a pivotal moment in France’s history with a compelling detective story that involves pretenders to the crown, royalist plots and palace intrigue, bizarre legal battles, and modern science. The quest for the truth continued into the twenty-first century, when, thanks to DNA testing, the strange odyssey of a stolen heart found within the royal tombs brought an exciting conclusion to the two-hundred-year-old mystery of the lost king of France.
A Moveable Feast: Restored Edition
by Ernest Hemmingway
Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most enduring works. Since Hemingway’s personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined the changes made to the text before publication. Now, this special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.
Featuring a personal Foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest’s sole surviving son, and an Introduction by grandson of the author, Seán Hemingway, editor of this edition, the book also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son, Jack, and his first wife Hadley. Also included are irreverent portraits of literary luminaries, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Maddox Ford, and insightful recollections of Hemingway’s own early experiments with his craft.
Widely celebrated and debated by critics and readers everywhere, the restored edition of A Moveable Feast brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.
Napoleon: A Life
by Andrew Roberts
Austerlitz, Borodino, Waterloo: his battles are among the greatest in history, but Napoleon Bonaparte was far more than a military genius and astute leader of men. Like George Washington and his own hero Julius Caesar, he was one of the greatest soldier-statesmen of all times.
Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation. At last we see him as he was: protean multitasker, decisive, surprisingly willing to forgive his enemies and his errant wife Josephine. Like Churchill, he understood the strategic importance of telling his own story, and his memoirs, dictated from exile on St. Helena, became the single bestselling book of the nineteenth century.
Joan of Arc
by Mark Twain
Very few people know that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote a major work on Joan of Arc. Still fewer know that he considered it not only his most important but also his best work. He spent twelve years in research and many months in France doing archival work and then made several attempts until he felt he finally had the story he wanted to tell. He reached his conclusion about Joan’s unique place in history only after studying in detail accounts written by both sides, the French and the English.
Because of Mark Twain’s antipathy to institutional religion, one might expect an anti-Catholic bias toward Joan or at least toward the bishops and theologians who condemned her. Instead one finds a remarkably accurate biography of the life and mission of Joan of Arc told by one of this country’s greatest storytellers. The very fact that Mark Twain wrote this book and wrote it the way he did is a powerful testimony to the attractive power of the Catholic Church’s saints. This is a book that really will inform and inspire.
A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
It was the time of the French Revolution — a time of great change and great danger. It was a time when injustice was met by a lust for vengeance, and rarely was a distinction made between the innocent and the guilty. Against this tumultuous historical backdrop, Dickens’ great story of unsurpassed adventure and courage unfolds.
Unjustly imprisoned for 18 years in the Bastille, Dr. Alexandre Manette is reunited with his daughter, Lucie, and safely transported from France to England. It would seem that they could take up the threads of their lives in peace. As fate would have it though, the pair are summoned to the Old Bailey to testify against a young Frenchman — Charles Darnay — falsely accused of treason. Strangely enough, Darnay bears an uncanny resemblance to another man in the courtroom, the dissolute lawyer’s clerk Sydney Carton. It is a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once. Brilliantly plotted, the novel is rich in drama, romance, and heroics that culminate in a daring prison escape in the shadow of the guillotine.
The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day
by Cornelius Ryan
The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan’s unsurpassed account of D-Day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly recreates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany.
This book, first published in 1959, is a must for anyone who loves history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand how free nations prevailed at a time when darkness enshrouded the earth.
The Kings of the Air: French Aces and Airmen of the Great War
by Ian Sumner
In comparison to their British and German counterparts, the French airmen of the Great War are not well known. Yet their aerial exploits were just as remarkable, and their contribution to the war effort on the Western Front was equally important. That is why Ian Sumner’s vivid history of the men of the French air force during the war is of such value.
He tells their story using the words of the pioneering pilots and observers themselves, drawn from memoirs, diaries, letters, and contemporary newspapers, magazines and official documents. The recollections of the airmen give an authentic portrait of their role and their wartime careers. They cover recruitment and training, reconnaissance and artillery spotting, aerial combat, ground strafing and bombing, and squadron life. They also highlight the technical and tactical innovations made during those hectic years, as well as revealing the airmen’s attitude to the enemy – and their thoughts about the ever-present threat of injury and death.
Renoir: His Life, Art, and Letters
by Barbara Ehrlich White
During the seventy-eight years of his life, Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted thousands of paintings and made uncounted drawings, watercolors, and sketches. Behind this prodigious output, rivaling even Picasso’s, is a lifetime of struggle and anguish seldom hinted at in the work of this “happy painter.” His efforts to find a new art to match his vision of the world created by light and warmth are vividly and intimately chronicled here through his letters and those of his friends and patrons.
Barbara Ehrlich White, a renowned Renoir scholar, devoted more than twenty years to searching out unpublished letters and documents that reveal his life as an artist and as a man. First published in 1984, her book was praised for its comprehensive yet intimate history of Renoir’s life and work. Now back in print, White’s classic book brilliantly contrasts the story of Renoir’s personal battle against crippling arthritis––as well as his loss of favor with old patrons dissatisfied when he developed a new style––with the joyous gratification of the senses that flows from his canvases. She captures both the underlying traditionalism of his training and his audacious breakthrough in style, subject, and technique.
Monet: or, The Triumph of Impressionism
by Daniel Wildenstein
No other artist, apart from J.M.W. Turner, tried as hard as Claude Monet (1840–1926) to capture light itself on canvas. Of all the Impressionists, it was the man Cézanne called “only an eye, but my God what an eye!” who stayed true to the principle of absolute fidelity to the visual sensation, painting directly from the object.
The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the War on Terror
by Johnathan Fenby:
The historian, Johnathan Fenby, gives a 200-year history of France, starting with the defeat of Napolean in 1815.
Mission Paris: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure
by Catherine Aragon
Mission Paris offers a fun vacation for everyone – with a captivating, spy-theme scavenger hunt packed with entertaining activities. When your kids set off on their mission, with the goal of earning enough points to become a special agent, they’ll gain points as:
-Art Sleuths: They’ll search for clues in the treasures of the Louvre and Musée d’ Orsay.
-Culture Detectives: They’ll discover the fascinating stories behind landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Château de Vincennes, practice a bit of français (French), and sample sweet treats at boulangeries (bakeries).
-Monument Investigators: They’ll uncover clues on the façade of Notre Dame, the stained glass of Sainte Chapelle, the mosaics of Sacré Coeur, and the statues of Luxembourg Gardens…and many more engaging activities.
Getting to Know France and French
by Nichola Wright
Children ages 8 through 12 enjoy a guided tour of France, with French landmarks, culture, history, foods, and much more. The text is in English, but many of the illustrations are bilingual–and the last six pages present an introduction to French words and phrases.
The Cat Who Walked Across France>
by Kate Banks
The cat and the old woman have lived happily together for many years in the stone house by the sea. But when the old woman dies, the cat is packed up with her belongings and sent north to the village where she was born. Soon he is forgotten. He walks the streets aimlessly until, spurred by memories and a longing to return to the place he knows and loves, the cat embarks on a journey to find the home he was taken away from.
In lyrical prose and breathtaking images, Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben take the reader on a journey across the Norman countryside, past ancient ruins, through bustling cities, to the sparkling ports of the Mediterranean Sea and a place the cat can call home.
La Salle: French Explorer of the Mississippi
by David Aretha
Ren-Robert Cavelier, known as Sieur de La Salle, was the first European explorer to traverse the entire Mississippi River to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. Originally groomed for the priesthood in France, La Salle would journey through America on five separate expeditions. Author David Aretha describes how the explorer claimed the Louisiana territory for France in 1682 and met his end at the hands of his own men. Details about La Salle’s legacy and the current dispute over raising the shipwreck of one of his ships are included.”
The Magical Garden of Claude Monet
by Laurence Anholt
Julie lives in Paris, but she longs to walk in a beautiful country garden. When her mother takes her on a visit to rural Giverny, Julie discovers a beautiful garden and befriends the man she believes is the gardener. In fact, he is the garden’s owner, the immortal artist Claude Monet. This is a title in Barron’s Anholt’s Artists Books for Children series, in which author and illustrator Laurence Anholt recalls memorable and sometimes amusing moments when the lives of the artists were touched by children. Anholt’s fine illustrations appear on every page and include reproductions of works by the artists.
The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909
by Alice Provensen
This is one of my favorite children’s books. Other reviews have said it’s not exciting, I couldn’t disagree more. Not only is the story exciting but it is humorously written and teaches us to perserve just as Louis Bleriot did in his ten unsuccessful tries to build a plane that would fly. But oh number 11! I’m generally not the least bit interested in planes or aviation, but this story is an absolute winner. It’s also a great way to sneak in some world geography with your kids since at the conclusion of the story, Bleriot is the first man to successfully fly from France to England over the English Channel. Love, love, love everything about this book. -by Book Loving Mom
**The author of this resource guide agrees. I used this book with my children when we were studying aviation history and reminded them of it when we were in France.
The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Few stories are as widely read and as universally cherished by children and adults alike as The Little Prince. Richard Howard’s translation of the beloved classic beautifully reflects Saint-Exupéry’s unique and gifted style. Howard, an acclaimed poet and one of the preeminent translators of our time, has excelled in bringing the English text as close as possible to the French, in language, style, and most important, spirit. The artwork in this edition has been restored to match in detail and in color Saint-Exupéry’s original artwork. Combining Richard Howard’s translation with restored original art, this definitive English-language edition of The Little Prince will capture the hearts of readers of all ages.
Nicholas (Le Petit Nicolas)
by Réne Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé
Again a French classic, in English. All French children are introduced to the world of Nicolas and his trials and tribulations in life. Funny even for adults. Réne Goscinny also wrote the classic Asterix series. A great way for children to get a feel for life in France.
Find Out About France
by Duncan Crosbie:
This series of books gives an insight for children into the daily life, culture, language and history of another country, here France. Although written for children the books are full of interesting information, clearly set out and brightly illustrated, which adults will enjoy too.
by Réne Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo
This world-famous comic book series is published in dozens of world languages and has its own theme park near Paris. Asterix is a Gaulish Warrior (the first book is Asterix the Gaul) so takes a fun look at the history of France when is was run by the Romans. Classic characters include Marcus Ginandtonicus and Crismus Bonus. A French friend remembers the day she discovered the double-meaning of the names in the Asterix stories – she reread them all! Asterix adventures into neighbouring lands, as in Asterix and the Picts, where he meets the Pictish warriors of Scotland.
France (Horrible Histories Special)
by Terry Deary
A gruesome but humorous insight into the history of France, delving into lesser known facts. It’s also a very popular TV series – an engaging way for children to learn history. Learn about the extreme rich and poor divide in the days before the French Revolution, when the rich bathed in strawberry baths and the poor ate grass and made flour from bones, tiles and bark because wheat was in such short supply.
For Kids in French
Sept Milliard de Visages, by Peter Spier:
For children (or adults) of any age. A beautiful book, the book my French neighbour buys every new baby she knows. It’s about looking, dressing, living, eating differently throughout the world, in picture and label format, with some short sentences. Great for practicing French.
Petites Histoires (and others)
series by Père Castor (published by Flammarion)
There are many books in the Père Castor series, all beautifully written and illustrated. Many have become classics including La Vache Orange, a children’s book written and illustrated by an 8-year old. A great source of inspiration for young writers.
Le Jamais Content
by Romain Simon
A story about a hen who was never happy with what she had, and gradually changed each part of herself until she became a strange creature (a duck-billed platypus).
J’aime Lire (magazine series)
published by Bayard
The most-read childrens’ magazine in France, with 2.3 million readers. The series includes Je Bouquine and Phospore for older children/teens (12+), Youpi (6-10s), and Pom D’Api (under 5s)
To Be and To Have(original name: Etre et Avoir)
A moving, gentle docufilm about a primary school year in rural France. Monsieur Lopez, the teacher, artfully calms, encourages and listens to his class of 12 pupils in a single-class school, as he guides the children, who are aged between 4 and 11, through their school day. There are endearing moments of pens up noses, broken photocopiers and stolen rubbers, but the enchantment comes from the glimpse of rural farm life for children in France, in one of the few remaining country schools.
I Have Seen the Earth Change
Pascal Payot is a goat farmer and mountain guide in the small village of Les Houches in the Chamonix Valley. He and environmentalists have watched the effects of global warming on the area: the reduced snowfall (meaning less water for the vegetation in Spring as the snow melts) and the retreating glaciers which feed the springs and water sources. This has impacted on both agriculture and tourism.
Making Roquefort Cheese
This short video explains how Roquefort cheese is made, and the strict rules surrounding its production. There are only a handful (7?) licensed Roquefort cheese makers in the world.
Jean de Florette (in French)
This film describes the challenges faced by a flower grower in Southern France against his neighbour who keeps a vital water source secret. It’s an adaptation of a famous novel by Marcel Pagnol and the film itself is one of the most popular foreign language films of all time. It’s a useful way for a French language learner to become familiar with the southern French accent when bread (pain) becomes “pang”. The sequel is Manon des Sources.
La Résistance Française (in French)
A documentary about the French Résistance during the Second World War.
BBC Documentary: The French Revolution
BBC Documentary: Islam in France
A fascinating look at the problems surrounding muslims and islamic extremism in France, as well as the rise of the National Front.
I Have Seen the Earth Change
In the Alps, the climatic change effects are 3 times higher than the world average. Moreover, it appears in densely inhabited territories. Since 2003, climate warming turned alarming. The changes in the weather (more rain and less snow) are leading to natural risks as avalanche, floods, and collapses?
The local inhabitants have to adapt their way of lives? but also the European people who depend on the water coming out of the glaciers.
History of France : Highlights from Louis XIV to Napoleon
From Louis XIV to Napoleon Bonaparte, from the Palace of Versailles to the French Revolution and the Empire (including Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, the French Revolution, and Napoleon Bonaparte).
Royal Castles of France – French Chateau
Chateau is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally – and still most frequently – in French-speaking regions.
Regiments of the French Foreign Legion
Previously, the legion was not stationed in mainland France except in wartime. Until 1962, the Foreign Legion headquarters was located in Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria. Today, some units of the Légion are in Corsica or overseas possessions (mainly in French Guiana, guarding Guiana Space Centre), while the rest are in the south of mainland France. Current headquarters is in Aubagne, France, just outside Marseille.
Undersea Tunnel Between France and UK | Megastructures – National Geographic
1968 Riots in Paris, French Strikes
The May 1968 events in France were a volatile period of civil unrest punctuated by massive general strikes and the occupation of factories and universities across France. It was the largest general strike ever attempted in France, and the first ever nation-wide wildcat general strike. At the height of its fervour, the unrest virtually brought the entire advanced capitalist economy of France to a dramatic halt. The events had a resounding impact on French society that would be felt for decades to come.
Discover the Palace of Versailles
Displaced – Documentary about Syrian refugees in Calais, France
‘Displaced’ follows three Syrians living in a makeshift camp on the Northern border of France. Each felt the need to leave home after the uprising in their home escalated. They survive on the bare minimum, living in tents in the winter, trying to cross to Britain every night. This documentary discusses the human collateral of an ongoing war through the stories of a graduate, a former student and an ex-Syrian Army soldier.
This film was made by journalist Amel Guettatfi.
Napoleon Bonaparte: The Conquerors of Europe Continent
Black France The battle for social justice Episode # 2
Part 2 of A three-part series looking at the history of France’s black community and their long struggle for recognition.
Franco Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 was the first modern war in Europe. It was the longest military conflict fought on European soil since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The end of the war marked the ascendency of Imperial Germany as the preeminent military power on the continent. Manufactured in Germany and printed in the U.S.A. by Allegro Corporation, Portland Oregon, 2007. Narrated by Bob Sessions.
France’s Last Guillotine Executioner
The Last Executioner (2004): Fernand Meysonnier is France’s last executioner. Over the years, he has helped chop off the heads of 200 people.
Eiffel Tower Paris France
The Eiffel Tower (French: La tour Eiffel, [tuʁ ɛfɛl]) is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticised by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.98 million people ascended it in 2011. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.
Why France Needs Economic Reform
Frederick Studemann, comment and analysis editor, asks Paris bureau chief Hugh Carnegy and Peggy Hollinger, leader writer, if François Hollande has a viable plan to bring an end to France’s declining competitiveness.
The War of the Stinky Cheeses- in French, click the “CC” button for captions in English
This documentary, originally aired on France 5 television, investigates the explosion of artisanal and raw milk cheese production in North America even as it is increasingly threatened in France itself, historically the “Land of Cheese”. Speaking to artisanal cheesemakers in France, America and Canada, as well as affineurs, cheesemongers, importers, educators, dairy scientists and people from all facets of the cheese business, we learn of the complex challenges facing the producers of artisanal cheese on both sides of the Atlantic, with equal measures of hope and concern for all involved.
The retelling of France’s iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles. (IMDB)
In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after breaking parole, agrees to care for a factory worker’s daughter. The decision changes their lives forever. (IMDB)
Midnight in Paris
This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. It’s about a young man’s great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better. It stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, among others.
Starring Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Jamel Debbouze, ‘Amélie’ tells the tale of a painfully shy waitress working at a tiny Paris cafe where she makes a surprising discovery and sees her life drastically changed for the better. From then on, Amélie dedicates herself to helping others find happiness in the most delightfully unexpected ways. But will she have the courage to do for herself what she has done for others?
The Little Prince
At the heart of it all is The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), who’s being prepared by her mother (Rachel McAdams) for the very grown-up world in which they live – only to be interrupted by her eccentric, kind-hearted neighbor, The Aviator (Jeff Bridges). The Aviator introduces his new friend to an extraordinary world where anything is possible. A world that he himself was initiated into long ago by The Little Prince (newcomer Riley Osborne). It’s here that The Little Girl’s magical and emotional journey into the universe of The Little Prince begins. And it’s where The Little Girl rediscovers her childhood and learns that ultimately, it’s human connections that matter most, and that it is only with heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
The Three Muskateers
The hot-headed young D’Artagnan along with three former legendary but now down on their luck Musketeers must unite and defeat a beautiful double agent and her villainous employer from seizing the French throne and engulfing Europe in war.
The Longest Day
This is a spectacular account of the events leading up to and through the Allied Forces’ invasion of Normandy, France on D-Day (June 6), 1944 to fight the occupying Germans. The film is particularly interesting because it looks at D-Day through the eyes of all of the participants, including the Germans, who are overwhelmed by the forces brought agai
French Wine – Wine Searcher
Jacques Cousteau: What He Did & Why He Matters – National Geographic
Organic Agriculture in France -Food & Agriculture Organization
The Rights of French Women – The Telegraph
France’s history extends from the cave painters of Dordogne from around 20,000 BCE and is filled with fascinating stories and larger than life personas. Take the time to dig a little bit deeper into an area of French history that interests you and peel back the surface of the country and it’s people as you travel. Of course, it’s always best if you can actually visit, in person, some of the places you’re studying, so plan your studies to reflect your travels, or vice versa.
Some possibilities for further study:
- Prehistoric cave paintings
- First settlers in France
- Napoleon Bonaparte
- Joan of Arc
- Marie Antoinnette
- The Renaissance in France
- The The Hugenots
- Charles de Gaulle
- Gustav Eiffel
- Louis Bleriot
- Louis Braille
- Jacques Yves-Cousteau
The Origins of Feminism in the French Revolution
The roots of the modern women’s movement are found in the equality campaigns of the French Revolution. Do some research on the origins of modern Feminism as they relate to France. Who were the major players? How did it spread outward and around the world?
Does France remain on the cutting edge of women’s rights? What is the current state of balance between the sexes as it pertains to employment, income, leadership potential, political representation and familial task breakdown?
Compared to other first world nations, how does France compare when it comes to women’s rights? Are there any campaigns currently underway that are worth noting? Where are women still discriminated against and what is being done to level the playing field?
The Stonemasons of the Creuse
The Creuse is a tiny department in Limousin, Central France. It’s has the lowest pollution levels, lowest crime rate, highest number of centenarians, lowest population density, yet is little know to even the French. From this tiny area came the stonemasons of the Creuse, who built the Panthéon, the Louvre, indeed much of the boulevard Haussmann in Paris and many of its other incredible buildings.
In the 1800s there was a mass migration every spring of workers who set off on the long walk up to Paris and returned in the autumn. From humble beginnings, Martin Nadaud started this itinerant life at the age of 14, later becoming a revolutionary and politician. The story of these men and the families they left behind to tend the farms is a fascinating part of French history.
What were working conditions like in Paris? How did this small group almost singlehandedly construct the finery of Paris? Find out about the life of Martin, the most famous Creusois mason.
The Legend of King Arthur
King Arthur and the legends surrounding him do not just play a role in the lives of British children, but they abound in France too. There is a major exhibition in Rennes about Le Roi Arthur. Some of the adventures were believed to have taken place in la Petite Bretagne, modern Brittany in northern France.
Who was King Arthur? Where did he and his famous knights come from? Where does history end and legend begin? Legend has it that Lancelot was born in Brittany and Merlin lived in the forest in Brocéliande – can you find out about or visit the sites in France commemorating this? Is L’Ile d’Aval in Brittany Avalon, Arthur’s final resting place?
The UNESCO Milling and Tapestry industry in Aubusso
In July 2016, François Hollande, the French president, visited the tiny town of Aubusson in central France. Why? For the opening of the UNESCO protected tapestry museum, where some of the world’s most famous tapestries have been made since the 14th century.
Now it’s one of the only places in the world where wool is dyed and spun, then woven into tapestries, all in the one locality. The town itself dates back to the Iron Age and the Gallo-Roman period.
Find about about the training of a weaver. Where in the world are some of these famous tapestries hung? Does UNESCO play an important role in protecting world heritage? How was wool dyed, and it the same now?
France’s Other Language
Breton, Basque, Alsatian, Catalan, Corsican, Occitan and Francoprovençal are local languages spoken in France. Where? Are they still spoken? By how many people? How similar are they to French?
Are there schools which teach in these languages? How were these languages suppressed, and what penalties were there for speaking them? Learn some basic phrases. Is it important for governments to spend money to retain minority languages? Why or why not?
The Pilgrim’s Way
Most people know about the section of the Pilgrim’s Way, the Camino Frances, which starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the very south of France, and makes its way across Spain to Santiago. But pilgrims came from much further afield, from northern France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and beyond. There are therefore many walking routes through France.
Where? Which one is the most popular? Why was this walk undertaken? In its heyday in the 12th Century one third of the European population were believed to make the journey. How many people do these routes today? How would you prepare for such a journey? Were the challenges encountered the same as they are now?
Walk a part of it if you can!
In many parts of France, la chasse, or hunting, is a very popular leisure activity. So much so, that in some areas it’s not safe to walk in the woods on hunting days. There are hunting quotas prepared in each area by hunting organizations in liaison with the local town halls, and at different times of year, different animals may be hunted.
Which animals are hunted? How does hunting help or hinder the local environment? Is there a clash between hunters and non-hunters? Can you find local people to interview to find out their views? At what age can children start hunting and what are the law surrounding the hunt?
The Student Riots of 1968
Young people and students played a pivotal role in the 1968 unrest in France, with the Paris students riots of 1968. 11 million workers joined in strikes across the country, which brought the entire economy of France to a stop. Find out about the sequence of events at that time.
Why were the students protesting in the first place? What led to a massive 22% of the population all striking at the same time? What was the result of the unrest?
In the European Union, France is considered as one of the “big three,” the other two being Germany and the United Kingdom (pre the Brexit vote of June 2016). Historically very pro-Europe, this position has wavered and the increasingly popular Front National are staunchly anti-EU.
In 2014, 26% of French people were in favour of leaving the EU and 56% against. How has this changed since the Brexit vote? Who are the other members of the EU? Who were the original founding members (of the EEC)? Why was it founded? Which countries use the Euro?
Food and Markets in France
France is renowned for its markets. “Le marché” is a feature of French life. Most towns and villages have a market day, once or sometimes twice, a week and sell local produce as well as other goods Sometimes the markets are covered (marché couvert) and some are particularly well-known, such as the flea market at Porte de Clignancourt or the Strasbourg Christmas market.
Choose an area and find out the market days. What do these markets sell? Where do the products come from? Or find out a little more about food production in France. Which crops are grown? What are the rules surrounding the sale of the famous baguette (it’s a heavily regulated market).
Learn about Jose Bové, a French farmer, who hit the world’s news following his clash (literally) with the take-away giant Macdonalds – he and his farmer friends demolished a new Macdonalds under construction. His protest was to highlight the use of hormone-treated beef, and the US restrictions on the importation of Roquefort cheese and other products.
You can’t miss out cheese on a French project list! It’s claimed that there are between 350 and 450 distinct types of cheese in France, and each area has its own specialties.
What are their names? Are the made from goats’, cows’ or sheeps’ milk? Which are produced on farms and which are produced industrially? How is cheese made? What are the byproducts used for?
Look into the production of some famous cheese such as Roquefort – only cheeses which are matured in the natural caves between Mont Combalou and Roquefort-sur-Soulzon can be given that name
The French Public Transport System
France has the second most extensive rail network in Europe, after Germany. It was one of the first countries in the world to use high-speed technology and introduced the TGV high speed train in 1981. The RATP is the name of the transport system in Paris.
How does it compare with other city transport systems in terms of cost and efficiency? Have a look at the names of the Metro stops – who are the famous people or places they are named after? Choose a Metro line and find out about the names from one end to the other.
France & Flight
During the early 1900s competition was fierce as inventors worked hard and fast to be the first aviators to fly across major distances. Louis Bleriot was the first to fly the English Channel. It’s an adventure story par excellance, as he tried and failed, ten times, before he finally managed the feat on his eleventh attempt. France still maintains a presence in aeronautical advancement.
The Air Bus facility in Toulouse offers tours which will bring your study of aviation in France up to the present. What have been the highlights of French Aviation? Were there any controversies, or mishaps? What are the innovations that France has had a hand in?
When one thinks of France, SCUBA diving is not an activity that springs to mind immediately. However, SCUBA got it’s start here. Jacques Cousteau was born in Bordeaux and he tested his first prototypes in the French Mediterranean. Read more about SCUBA diving in France, including the history and modern opportunities.
If you are not certified already, get certified while you are in France. How cool would it be to take the classes in the country where the sport originated? If you are a history buff, dive some of the WW2 wreck sites on both coasts. Do some cave diving in the fresh water rivers of Dordogne too.
Don’t just study the history of diving & the life of Jacques Cousteau, experience it first hand and build your skill set!
The Lascaux Cave Paintings
The Lascaux Cave paintings in the Dordogne are quite a big deal in terms of the history of life in Europe. They were discovered in 1940 and date back to the Palaeolithic period 20000 years ago.
The Hall of Bulls chamber contains the biggest animal painting in a prehistoric cave anywhere in the world. They even used scaffolding all those years ago!
Find out who discovered the cave. Which animals existed in Europe at the time the paintings were made? What was life like back then? Why did the build an exact replica of the caves for visitors?
Mushrooms are a big thing in France, particularly in rural France where mushroom hunting is a skill passed on to most children. The first mushrooms of the season generate much excitement and stories of finds is all that can be heard in the streets and on local radio. A lot of money can be made selling the right mushrooms at the market. That coupled with their delicious taste means that the locations of good mushroom patches are heavily guarded secrets.
Which mushrooms grow in France? Make a list of edible and poisonous ones. What are the identifying features of the edible mushrooms? Find out about some rare mushroom which grow in France like the octopus stinkhorn – the spores were thought to have been carried to France on the boots and equipment of Australian soldiers.
The Eiffel Tower
There is no emblem more powerfully associated with a place than the Eiffel Tower is with Paris. And yet there are so many buildings in Paris with deeper history than the tower. Its building was controversial. Not everyone loved it or the idea. And yet, it’s become the classic representation of the whole country of France. It is the most visited landmark in the world.
Read up on the history of Gustav Eiffel and his tower. Go to the museum on site and of course go all the way to the top. What do you think? How do you feel about the monument? Ask some local Parisians how they feel about it? Why was the tower important at the time it was built? What did the World’s Fair mean to the world, and to France, when they hosted it? Think (and maybe write, or blog) about how architecture becomes tied to our sense of place and our sense of belonging. Are there other monuments (in your culture, perhaps) that have a similar unifying effect? What are they and why do you think that is?
Artists of France
France has been a hotbed of art innovation since the Middle Ages. Of course there are all of the obvious and famous French artists that we’ve heard of like:
But did you realize that these are just the big names from the last two hundred years or so? French art history goes so much deeper than that. Just for fun, have a look at the Artcyclopedia for French Artists. I had no idea there were THAT MANY French artists either!
Of course you are going to go to the big museums in Paris (L’Orangerie is my favourite, in case you were wondering)
Make a project of studying one artist in particular who intrigues you. Or, compare and contrast within a genre, or an era, or a medium. One young person I know studied French Impressionism in all of the museums of Paris. Another, compared sculptors: Degas with Rodin; two very different styles and subjects. I photographed paintings of mothers and infants for a whole week, while I was missing the birth of an important baby at home, as a gift for the mother, and as an investigation into styles for myself. What will you do?
Fashion Design in France
Along with Italy, France is a driving force in international fashion. If fashion is your thing, then perhaps you want to time your visit to France to coincide with Paris Fashion Week, which happens twice a year. It’s the ultimate field trip for the fashionista!
Want to learn a bit more about the way fashion has evolved as an industry in the twentieth century? Spend some time getting to know the heavy hitters from the French scene, both past and present:
- Yves Saint-Laurent
- Pierre Cardin
- Christian Dior
- Coco Chanel
- Jacques Cartier
- Madeleine Vionnet
- Louis Vuitton
- Jean Paul Gaultier
- Isabel Marant
- Vanessa Bruno
- The Elisha Brothers
- Bouchra Jarrar
What is it that draws the fashion world to Paris? What is it about French design that captivates the world? Which innovations that have changed the way the average person dresses have come out of the French passion for fashion design? (Hint: The bias cut!)
World Wars in France
Of course France was a major player in both WW1 and WW2. For many visitors to France the historical cites associated with the wars are often part of the itinerary. Regardless of your interest in history or the military battles, there is much that can be learned about French culture and the everyday people who were working to survive in the midst of the war.
A visit to Normandy is the only way to truly connect with the scope of DDay. In and around Paris are numerous musueums and monuments to the wars. Visit these as you come upon them and reflect on the reality that it is within only three to five generations that these world changing wars took place. They have changed the face of Europe drastically.
In reflecting on the World Wars, you might want to further study:
- The geography of Europe before and after WW2
- The impetus for WW2 as a result of WW1
- The ways in which technology and aviation in particular changed the way wars were fought between WW1 & WW2
- The rold of women in both wars
- The holocaust as it affected France
- Paris under German occupation
- Trench warfare
- The French Resistance
There are two sorts of famous literature associated with France: That written by French authors, and that written by famous authors who were residing in France at the time of the writing. Both are important and both are worth reading.
Definitely read some good French literature while you are traveling in France, and definitely read some works by other folks who traveled through or lived there at some point in their writing lives.
Looking for inspiration?
Important books by French authors (in addition to those listed above):
- Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
- The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
- Candide by Voltaire
- Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac
- Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
- Sentimental Education by Gustav Flaubert
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
- The Holy Terrors by Jean Cocteau
- The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Important books written in France and influenced by their time in France by foreign authors:
- Americans in Paris, a Literary Anthology by Adam Gopnik
- Being Geniuses Together by Robert McAlmon
- A Little Tour in France by Henry James
- Quiet days in Clichy by Henry Miller
- French Ways and their Meaning by Edith Wharton
Of course there are countless books set in France or written about it by more modern authors. Read a range of things, document your reading by keeping a running list in your travel journal.
Profiles of …..
Conduct a series of at least five interviews within a country. The point of the exercise would be to get a well rounded view of what it is like to live in the France from a variety of ages, incomes, employments and experiences. This could be conducted as video, or as text. Do an in depth analysis of the experience/information.
People you might profile:
- Restaurant owners/workers
- Clergy or Nuns
- Government officials
- Doctors or nurses
- Cafe owners
- Street vendors
- Artists or musicians
- Cab drivers
- Long term expats
The Muslim Question
France has been struggling for sometime now with the question of religious freedom and how to manage that within a country that is secular. In 2004 the French government banned school children from displaying any sort of religious symbol. In 2011 they went further and banned any clothing that covers the face, aimed at Muslim women’s niqab (the version of a veil that only leaves a slit for the eyes) but also face masks or balaclavas. In 2016 they went a step further and banned “burkinis” an ultra-modest swimming costume favored by Muslim women, in all public pools and on public beaches.
France has the largest Muslim minority population in Western Europe. In the wake of terror attacks by Muslim extremists in both Paris and Marseille in 2016, tensions are running high in France along religious divides.
Ask some questions and do some observation while you are in France. Consider the question of religious liberty, as it exists and as you consider the ideal to be. What do you think of France’s move towards increased secularism through legal controls on religious expression? What effect is this having within France, based on your observations?
Integration of Immigrants
There are complex issues surrounding the integration of Muslim immigrants in France. Currently 5 million Muslims call France home. Many families from Algeria were encouraged to move to France following the Algerian War of Independence from 1954 – 1962. French Muslims also originate from other former colonies, such as Morocco.
Do you know the history of these countries becoming independent? How can integration of French Muslims be affected? How can the situation be improved, a situation which has existed for years but is particularly tense following the recent bombings on French soil? Are the anti-terrorism laws in France working? Where does education fit into this religious picture?
The BBC documentary Islam in France looks at some of these issues, and the rise of the anti-immigration National Front party in France.
“The Jungle” in Calais
“The Jungle” is the nick-name given to the refugee encampment beside the port of Calais in France. Exact numbers are not known but around 6000 people are believed to be camped there, trying to get into the UK. Conditions are squalid, tensions run high, within the camps and between refugees and local people.
Aid workers are struggling to help due to the lack of infrastructure. Where are these refugees from, where have they travelled from? What is the attraction of the UK, when refugees have often passed through other European countries to get to Calais, is it family already there? What aid is present in the Jungle? What day to day problems does the camp face? What are the authorities’ positions?
If there is an opportunity to volunteer with the refugees, consider spending some time doing so, asking questions, and learning about what it has been like for them to leave their homes and resettle in France. What are the day to day realities for the refugees? What are the political realities? How do the French feel about their presence? Are there any good stories or hopeful stories to share?
If you cannot visit the refugee camps and serve, in person. Spend some time studying the situation and learning about the infrastructure and NGOs in place which are trying to meet the needs of the stranded. What are you learning about the realities of displaced people groups?
The protection of the French language, Regional Languages, and the power of the Academie Française
The Academie Française was originally established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu. Its 40 members are known informally as “the immortals.” It is the official authority on the usage, grammar, and vocabulary of the French language. They also produce an official dictionary. They often make controversial decisions, and voted against government protection of regional languages (Breton, Basque, Alsatian, Catalan, Corsican, Occitan and Francoprovençal) in 2008.
Do you know about these regional language, their history and measures which were taken against them in the past? Should they be protected? Is a language Academy a good idea or a bad idea? What controversial decisions has the Academie made? How does this affect the education system?
Performing Animals in France
A ban on performing animals is sweeping Europe: they are still allowed in France, but a movement against this has been growing. Should performing animals be banned from circuses and shows, and where will they go if they are banned? How much protection is given to animals in France?
Research or volunteer with the charity, Elephant Haven, the first elephant sanctuary in Europe (near Limoges). Find out the role zoos play in modern society? What animal protection organisations exist in France? Research or volunteer with the SPA (Societé Protection d’Animaux).
Poor urban environments around the cities, knowns as banlieues have been a long term problem for France. In 2005 riots erupted in these urban blocks which house primarily lower income families, many of whom are immigrants. More than ten years later they remain a big problem, socially and politically. Over ten million people live in the banlieues and in some neighbourhoods unemployment is over 40%.
Take a look at the news over the past ten years and investigate the deeper problems within the banlieues and how these have been either ameliorated, or exacerbated by the political action surrounding them. Do you notice any trends within the culture of these neighbourhoods and their interaction with the rest of French society? Poverty is always a multi-faceted problem, and there are no bandaid solutions, what do you see France doing right (what is bearing fruit) and what could be done differently? Are there any private initiatives you see making progress in these areas?
France is considered culinary heaven by many connoisseurs. Explore the dishes that are uniquely French and traditional across the country. Rillets de Canard, fresh baguettes, meringues as big as your head, crepes, both sweet and savory, souffles, tartares, cassoulet, foie gras, bouillabaisse, ratatouille, and oh the cheeses! The list goes on and on!
Why is France such a “foodie” place? Do French people spend more on food as a percentage of their income than other countries? Although France is renowned for its frogs legs, snails in garlic and Madeleine cakes, what are the other regional specialties? Why not collect some recipes or try making some. France has firmly held onto the tradition of long lunches from 12noon to 2pm, and lunch vouchers are a very common work perk: is this changing? Why is the baguette that shape? If you want to edible snail hunt yourself, where should you look and for which kind of snail?
What do the traditional meals eaten at Christmas or New Year consist of? Find out about the tradition of the Galette du Roi in January – how do you become King or Queen for the day?
What is a meaningful interaction? You get to decide that. In general, it should be an interaction in which cultural exchange took place and you learned something. Often this will be with a local person; sometimes it will be with another traveler.
Sometimes these interactions look like very little on the outside but are totally life changing on the inside. Other times, they are rock your world amazing from every angle. It could be a meal shared, an afternoon’s excursion, a discussion that opens your eyes in some way, a self revelation that happened without any words exchanged at all.
Spend a day with a local individual or family. Document your experience in photos, interviews and the written word. The best way to interact with locals is to just start chatting with them at markets, on tours or on the street. You can also ask other travelers if they have met anyone who has offered some insight into life in the country. If you are a family who have children attending a local school then have a party, invite a parent to coffee, basically just open up your home to new relationships.
Take a Class
There are many options! Don’t be limited by this list:
- Cooking (definitely consider taking a cooking class in France!)
- Art or Crafts
Paris has some of the best museums in the world and if you’re traveling as a family you’ll be glad to know that most of them are free for kids under 16! You could take a couple of weeks over the museums alone and not have seen everything there is to see, but it’s not only just in Paris that art and history abound in France. In Paris, perhaps the most well known are the Musée d’Orsay, Louvre and Pompidou centre, and the Jardin des Plantes near Austerlitz train station which has a natural history section ideal for kids. Try to visit on the first Sunday of the month – since 2000, many museums and galleries are free to enter that day.
Every year there are also the Journées de Patrimoine in September (in 2016, the 17th and 18th): this is a time when some building which are usually closed to the general public open their doors. You can see many interesting things: TV studios, the Senate, even the washing machine for the metro trains in Paris! And again, these Heritage Days take place throughout France.
In my opinion, the ten best that are not to be missed (in Paris alone… there are many more as you branch out to other cities) include:
- Musee d’Orsay
- Musee de L’Orangerie
- Palace of Versailles
- Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
- Musee Rodin
- Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
- Musée d’Histoire Naturelle
- Les Invalides – Musée de l’Armée
- Musée de Cluny
Save your ticket stubs!
Do you know what this map might represent? It’s the number of kisses, “les bises“, which French people give to each other when they greet.
How many kisses do the colours represent? Did you know that an estimated 3 full days of work are lost per year by French employees greeting each other in the mornings?
Find out the views of young and older people on the “bises” and how important it is to them. What does “tutoyer” mean, and when and to who do you “tutoyer”. How do you greet if you have been out working in the garden and are all sweaty with dirty hands? There are so many rules! And they all differ depending upon where in France you are.
Volunteering is a great way to get to know a local community and give back a bit to the places that you choose to travel. There are lots of ways to do this, both organized and arranged privately, as well as impromptu opportunities that will pop up.
If you’re looking for a list of volunteer opportunities in France, Transitions Abroad has one. Please be advised that TAP is not recommending these, only presenting them as a list of possibilities. Vet your volunteer options carefully.
Get out of the hostel, rent a place in a local village, or do a homestay. Through websites like Airbnb it’s easy to find places to live locally. Consider a co-living space to develop community with like minded travelers while diving a little deeper and going a little bit more local. Hacker House XIX, and Hacker House Paris Canal Street, are two in Paris that run in the 450-500 EU a month range.
Photo essay or a blog description of why living local was different than living in a hostel. How did this experience change the economics of your stay? What did you learn about the way locals live? What challenged you? What would you do differently next time?
Through an organization like WWOOF, HelpX, or Workaway you can arrange for an opportunity to work in exchange for your room and board in a number of capacities, from farm labour to hospitality. Lots of students make use of these experiences to lower the cost of their travels, while at the same time learning valuable skills or “trying out” various career areas that interest them.
Request feedback in the form of a short evaluation that can be used later for a CV or reference
Public Transportation Project
Take as many types of public transportation as possible.
Challenge yourself to take every type of public transportation available while you are in France. Create a photo essay or videologue of your adventures. What did you learn?
Attend a Religious Observance
France is a very secular society, in the public sphere, but privately, religions of many types are still practiced widely. Think about why France might make the choice to secularize public society and remove religion from so many of the institutions of the state, like schools? Catholic cathedrals and basilicas still make up some of the country’s most visited landmarks, like Notre Dame in Paris. There is a thriving minority of Islamic sects across France. There are also smatterings of protestantism, Asian religions, and ancient beliefs that are still actively practiced. Take some time to attend various religious observances and see what you can learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. How does the religious climate in France compare with what you grew up with?
Learn to ask for what you want. If you meet someone interesting, ask them to teach you. Ask them for an interview. Ask to shadow them for a day or a week. You’ll be surprised at how eager people are to share what they know and teach when someone shows actual interest. Learn to ask questions. Learn to take social risks by putting yourself out there as a learner.
You have an idea or an interest. Something surprises you on your journey and all of a sudden you have a burning desire to know more. Plan your attack:
- Narrow your field of study to a particular question or topic.
- Compile resources: Look for teachers. Who knows what you need to know? Or who can you interview to learn more? Are there books or videos on the topic you’re interested in?
- Quantify it. How will you demonstrate what you have learned? A research paper, a video project, a photo essay, through art or music, a blog post, a published piece, an interview series, a mini documentary or do you have some other idea?
Produce a quality piece of academic work that reflects your experiential learning. The whole key to quantifying outside the box learning is to translate it into something that reflects the value of what you learned and how it contributed to your overall educational process.
Perhaps this will be as simple as a traditional research paper, depending on the depth and length of your study this could be as short as three pages or as long as a dissertation. Maybe you’ll produce a video for YouTube, or something grander, like a mini-documentary. Perhaps you’ll do something concrete instead, an art, or community action project and you’ll tell the story through a photo essay, or a series of blog posts. The possibilities are limited only by the resources you have at hand. Get creative. Think outside the box and truly experience your education.
Do You Have Anything to Add to This Resource Page?
We’re actively seeking to grow these resources in an open-source spirit. Please email jenn(at)bootsnall(dot)com with your edits or submissions of new information or materials.
Jen Taylor and her family have a blog www.travelteachtalk.com – about moving to and settling in France, home-educating there, and long term travel in a campervan.
They moved from Scotland to central France 9 years ago and settled in a tiny, rural hamlet with 2 street lamps and a handful of lovely neighbours. Much of their primary school experience was identical to that portrayed in the film “To be and to Have”: a single-class rural school, where they made up one fifth of the school roll of 15. Initially they had the best job ever on the farm next door making goats cheese. Jen now teaches week-long English courses all over the world and Neil, her husband, fixes (mainly agricultural) machines that are broken. One son has just flown the nest and is in Thailand working, one is at the local French lycée and will do his Baccelariate next year, and the youngest (12) worldschools, is weaving her way through the administrative hoops in France to allow her to do this, and sometimes accompanies mum on her teaching gigs.