French Icons

Discover the special places, people, landmarks, brands, or objects that embody French life.

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Of all the things I once took for granted while living in France, finding tasty fresh bread when I stepped outside is what I miss the most. I live in the United States now, and I know where to find good bread locally, but getting my hands on a decent loaf involves some serious effort [and…

 This story was first published in 2011. It has been updated.    Today, let’s talk fashion. Let’s talk la Marinière, known the world over as “the French sailor shirt,” or “the Breton shirt,” (named after Brittany, the rugged coastal region in Western France.)   Every spring and summer, the striped navy and white shirt returns on runways…

As iconic as la baguette, a ride in the Citroën 2 CV, an Edith Piaf song, or a Gatti rattan chair on the terrace of a Parisian café, le béret still evokes France – and French culture – to millions around the world. “The beret?”, you ask, “that funny, round, flat hat, worn by the military – and…

“I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am.” Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) Monsieur Eiffel was right of course. He was one of France’s greatest inventors, an architect, a structural engineer, a successful entrepreneur. He was a man whose innovative, elegant iron structures and buildings have defied the test…

I have lived in the United States for many years. People often ask me what I miss the most about France, and more specifically about Paris. I reply I certainly don’t miss the weather, la grisaille (grey skies, very similar to what we get here in Seattle,) long lines, or traffic. What I miss, right after…

  “We don’t have Venice and its moon, nor its breeze, nor its lagoon, but we have la Seine.” Popular song favored by Parisian canoeists in the 19th century   Canoeists were right. Paris may not be the center of the universe (some would argue it once was,) but Paris has always been a unique place, and…

Young French driver in her Deux Chevaux (2CV) Her nicknames range from affectionate (Deux chevaux; Deux pattes, Two Paws; Deuche; Dedeuche;) to dismissive and derogatory, especially when the car was first launched (Tin Snail; Umbrella on Wheels; Old Tin Can; Le Canard, the Ugly Duckling.)   No matter. 72 years after the first prototype was manufactured in France by…

Last week, as I was discussing our European summer travels with a girlfriend, she asked: “What was your favorite part of the trip?” What a difficult question to answer. We covered so much ground, saw so many people, had so many adventures. Then I reflected a bit longer, and a special moment came to mind,…

This story was originally published in 2011. It has been updated.   Next week, Chanel No. 5, one of the most iconic fragrances in the world, turns 90. A superstitious person, Coco Chanel planned for the new fragrance to be released on 5.5.1921. She believed “5” was her lucky number and she was proven right.…