France Favorites

Since I am admittedly obsessed with France and all things French, I have a lot of friends, readers, and students coming to me for travel recommendations when they’re leaving for their next French voyage. Paris is, of course, the obvious destination for many travelers, but recently I had a reader ask me where she should go beyond the walls of our lovely Paris. Une bonne question! So, without further ado, here are a few of my France favorites for you…


I always describe Annecy as a “fairy tale town nestled in the French Alps” because I really feel as if I’ve stepped into a fairy tale every time I’m there. Annecy is about four hours from Paris by train, and two hours from Lyon. It is absolutely breathtaking, but I will let the pictures do the talking…

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Giverny is a little village almost an hour north of Paris, and this little gem was the home of the famous impressionist painter Claude Monet. The opening scene of Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris” was filmed here, and when you walk across that same bridge beneath the willow trees and over the lily pad pond, you really will feel like you stepped into one of Monet’s paintings.

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My musician friends Marie So and Christophe have taken me to Cassis twice on my trips to visit them in the South of France, and the last time I was there, I thought, “Yeah, I could live here.” I mean, this little coastal paradise is just ridiculously gorgeous, charming, stunning, and magical! Oh, and the ice cream is delicious too!

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St. Tropez

I’ve written about the delights of St. Tropez in my memoir, Meet Me in Paris, but I will reiterate here: You must go to St. Tropez, and while you are there, you must eat la Tropézienne! La Tropézienne is a delicious cream-filled cake with fluffy brioche and big sugar grains on top. As you can see, I am one happy woman devouring my own Tropézienne…


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Last, but definitely not least, is my most treasured city of Lyon. Anyone who knows me, has read my work, or has even spoken to me for two minutes has most likely heard me raving about Lyon. The food is orgasmic! The city is vibrant and beautiful and so full of life! My friends there are the sweetest. I will do a whole post on Lyon later because I have so much to say about this amazing city, and I am actually MOVING to Lyon this fall (more on that later too!) but for now…

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So…what are you waiting for? Stop whatever you’re doing and book your plane ticket to France already. You won’t regret it! And after you book your ticket…I would love to know what some of your favorite French towns are! I still have quite a bit of exploring to do in France…

Parlez-vous français? Maybe you’re only a film away…

DSCN3186During my years as a French professor and tutor, I’ve made it a priority to share French films with my students on a regular basis. Not only because it is a welcome break from drilling the passé composé and the subjunctif, but also because I believe watching films in the target language is one of the best ways to learn how people actually speak in that language. Yes, you’ve got your textbooks, and you’ve learned all of the correct ways to ask questions and to talk about yourself, your family, and what you’re doing with your life. But what happens when you travel to Paris and someone uses slang with you? Or when they omit the “ne” in “ne…pas” almost every time? Or when they use sounds like “ben” (which actually sounds like “bah”) the way we might use “um”? Or when they speak so quickly that a whole sentence sounds like one long jumbled, but very beautiful, word? Will you understand what they’re saying? Perhaps…but perhaps not.

Watching French films will help you get one step closer to comprehending and speaking the true français that is spoken in France. I have specific recommendations for watching films in a foreign language which I share with all of my students, and which I’m excited to share with you today. While I’m using French as an example, these recommendations will work for any language you are learning.

*Remember that it’s important to choose a film you enjoy watching because you’re going to watch it more than a few times. You may need to purchase the DVD so that you have the option to change the subtitle language, or check your personal TV/Apple TV/Netflix settings to be sure you can change the subtitle language.

  1. Watch the film in French (or in your target language) with English subtitles (or with the subtitles of your native language), but listen very closely to the spoken French as you read the English. Do your best not to tune out the French as you read. The whole point is for you to begin associating the words and expressions you are hearing with the meaning you’re reading in the subtitles. Have patience with yourself if you don’t hear or understand every word–that’s normal.
  2. Watch that same film at least once or twice more with English subtitles so that you truly begin to comprehend more words and expressions as you watch.  Keep a notebook handy to jot down new and interesting vocabulary words and expressions.
  3. Now watch that same film again, but this time change the subtitles into French. So now you are hearing and reading only French (or whatever your target language is). Watch the movie at least once or twice more (preferably many times!) in this way. Soon, you’ll begin to have parts of the movie memorized the way you may have done with  movies you watched obsessively as a kid. Except this time, it’s in a foreign language! Continue to jot down new words and expressions you’re learning and have fun with this! It’s okay if you don’t understand everything they’re saying even after watching the movie ten times. I guarantee that you will still walk away from this exercise with stronger comprehension skills which will transfer into your speaking.
  4. Eventually, watch the movie as many times as possible without any subtitles at all! You now know what’s going on in the film so you’ll be solely focused on hearing and comprehending the target language. When you look back at the progress you’ve made from the very first time you’ve watched the film until now, you’ll be amazed. And hopefully because you chose a film you enjoy, you will have had fun in the process!

I hope these tips help you in your language learning process as much as they have helped me and my students! I’ll write more posts on specific French films I would recommend, but here are a few I’ve enjoyed recently:

Le Prenom




“Le Prénom” or “What’s in a Name?” ~ Starring Patrick Bruel, written and directed by Alexandre de La Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte, released in 2012.



Ange and Gabrielle


“Ange & Gabrielle” or “Love at First Child” ~Starring Isabelle Carré and Patrick Bruel, written and directed by Anne Giafferi, released in 2015.




And one of my all-time favorites…

Une Rencontre



“Une Rencontre” or “Quantum Love” ~Starring Sophie Marceau and François Cluzet, written and directed by Lisa Azuelos, released in 2014.



If you have other French film recommendations or film-watching tips to share, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you! Enjoy!