4 French-Related Reads from Summer 2018

It’s September 11th here in Lyon and I find myself reflecting on Franco-American relations, books, and the state of the world. When I’m teaching on September 11th, I often share a condolence letter I received from a French acquaintance just after the attacks of September 11, 2001. My French friend was so kind to offer support; his thoughtful letter still reminds me how individual actions of encouragement can cause ripple effects wider than we realize.

What we read and write can shape others in significant ways.

Four years ago on this blog I recommended a fairly obscure book on childhood anthropology because it was a thought-provoking reminder that there are many ways to parent well. My book recommendation, The Anthropology of Childhood, was spotted by journalist Michael Erard, who read the book and in turn wrote a very impactful piece about it in The New York Times. I wouldn’t have known the impact that my book suggestion had on him were it not for a fellow blogger who shared his article with me, not knowing that I had recommended the book in the first place. The world is a more beautiful place when we can learn from each other’s reading!

Likewise, had it not been for blogger Gabrielle Blair’s mention of reading Global Mom in late 2013, I would not have sought out Melissa Dalton Bradford’s book and gotten to interview her here on the blog a few months later. I’m grateful for authors like her who write honestly from their experience, especially when their words spring from a place of grief and growth and healing.

Summer reading, though, on the whole, leans towards the light and leisurely; in July and August I hope you had a chance to read a novel or two that you loved. Here are three French-related non-fiction reads that I enjoyed this summer:

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La Rentrée à Lyon: Returning to Lyon as an Expat Family

We arrived in Lyon two weeks ago, mid-August. The city seemed both paradoxically full of tourists and empty of Lyonnais citizens, as is normal here in August. Since we are living in Vieux Lyon, tourists are ever present in this Renaissance neighborhood and UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it has been a relief to see the crowds dwindle and the restaurants re-open as locals return from summer vacations.

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Cité du Chocolat: A Family Day Trip from Lyon

Our family arrived in Lyon just over a week ago, so with another ten days before school begins, I decided we'd make a day trip to Valrhona's Cité du Chocolat--an educational experience (much like a hands-on museum) focused on chocolate. Located in Tain l'Hermitage roughly 50 minutes south of Lyon by train, Cite du Chocolat opened just five years ago (in 2013). Having had a delectable first visit in 2015, I was excited on this visit to see what was new (and to taste the high quality samples)!

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Our Family's Five Favorite Shows at Puy du Fou Theme Park, France

After hearing all of our French friends' incredible reviews about Puy du Fou theme park, we spent two days there late last week, and we were completely awed by the shows, the animals, and the competence that made the experience exceptional. Here are our top five favorite shows that we saw:

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The Best History Theme Park in the World: France's Best-Kept Secret

In Northwest France, one hour from Nantes, there's a history-oriented theme park that puts on the most amazing and original shows you can imagine. Le Puy du Fou has been voted the best theme park in the world several times (Thea Awards, given in the USA), plus it attracts more than 2.3 million visitors per year and has top ratings on TripAdvisor. So why have you never heard of it?

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La Pause à Paris: Hanging Out at the (Updated) Eiffel Tower

When we last visited Paris three years ago, we chose not to go up the Eiffel Tower because our children were content to see it from below and we knew there would be hundreds of tourists in line. But this visit, it was important to our 6- and 9-year-olds to ascend the tower, so we made it a priority on our last day in Paris. Here's what we learned:

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Our Family Stay in Paris: Housing, Activities, & Memories Made

After an overnight flight from the West Coast, USA, our family of six (with children ages 4 months to 9 years) arrived at CDG just over two weeks ago. The last days of July were the hottest of the year here, but this was to our advantage at first: the government declared journées anti-pollution and offered price-reduced tickets for public transport, so our family was able to take the RER train from the airport to our apartment for under 20 Euros. (This was a blessing after an expensive mistake three years ago.)

Our apartment, reserved through Kid & Coe, proved to be fantastic. Spacious for the price (meaning it was not simply a studio with a loft), it was in the 7th arrondissement, within walking distance of the Musée d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower, and Jardin des Tuileries. Normally I prefer to stay in the Marais, but getting to know this relatively quiet quarter (near Les Invalides and the American University of Paris) was a nice change.

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Flying Air France with Young Children

This year I was excited to discover that Air France had the most economical pricing for our family to fly to Paris. When I've flown with Air France in the past, they've had excellent service and very decent meals, unlike other airlines I've flown that seem to cut costs wherever possible.

On this trip, our fourth child is just four months old, so I was curious how the bassinet option would work out for us. With Air France, you can pay upfront to reserve a seat behind a bassinet (currently an additional $29/person), or you can wait until 50 hours before the flight, when anyone flying with an infant will automatically be assigned to a bassinet seat for free (if there are any remaining and assuming you have purchased the infant ticket as required. Currently an infant ticket is typically around $100 for an international flight).

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