Sarlat la Magnifique

Sarlat la Magnifique

There are special places one always returns to with anticipation and sheer delight. As a longtime expat, I welcome the chance to travel around France and escape Paris, where I tend to spend a lot of time because my parents live in the French capital. Yet Paris, like all French natives know (except Parisians?) is not…

34 Responses to Sarlat la Magnifique

  1. Thank you so much for this, Veronique. This speaks so much to what I love about France. It’s not that we ever avoid Paris; we just rarely go there, but we found so much more in the regions and particularly, the small villes. France is, and always will be, the people, the food, the wine and l’amour de la vie. Merci!!

  2. Excellent piece as always. Very evocative of my only visit many decades ago. The food is some of my favourite in France. Though some might find it “heavy” I don’t think that is really true and canard (duck) and other fowl are rich but healthy.
    What’s not to love. Because it is at the far western end of the Dordogne even in summer it didn’t seem overwhelmed with visitors. Do the tour buses have it on their itinerary these days? (Hope not. Another nice feature of the town is that it is pedestrianised, with car parks on the edge of town.)
    Because you visited in spring but published in winter perhaps it is worth mentioning that this part of the world gets fairly wintry, and presumably a lot of restos etc are not open?

    One other thing that comes to mind–and for armchair travellers–is that most of Ridley Scott’s very first movie, The Duellists, was shot here and around. It wasn’t a huge hit but is a kind of cult classic with some claiming it is his best movie despite his later big hits. He said he was “trying to emulate the lush cinematography of Kubrick’s film (Barry Lyndon)” in this Joseph Conrad Napoleonic-era story. And look at the cast: Harvey Keitel, Keith Carradine, Albert Finney, Edward Fox and Pete Postlethwaite. I’m going to watch the DVD tonight!

    • Welcome back Michael! Sarlat, just to be clear, is “overwhelmed” with visitors, French and foreign, especially during summer months and even more so on Market days. The whole area, in fact, is so popular there are “canoe traffic jams” on the Dordogne river in the summer! Popular sites like Lascaux, les Eyzies, or le Gouffre de Padirac are very busy too, not to mention, Castelnaud, the most popular of all the châteaux. Still, Sarlat seems to adapt just fine and remains authentic. If you look it up as a “movie location,” you will be amazed (as I was) at how many movies have been shot there since the 1930s. She shows as well on the silver screen as she does in person. A bientôt!

  3. Exactement! Paris is not la belle France, it is just a cosmopolitan city similar to London. I, like you, tend to avoid it whenever possible. I spend my time visiting family and friends in département Lot, especially St Céré, and in particular the village of Glanes where the some of friends live. I have visited Sarlat several times and recognise one or two of the places in your photos. Please note, I don’t update my blog anymore.

    • Bonjour Keith. I do not avoid Paris and always enjoy staying there, as many posts on the blog attest. Still, as a girl from “la province,” I am also acutely aware Paris is not France, and there are many more places to discover and enjoy outside the French capital. Le Lot et Garonne is a wonderful area, and not as touristy as many other French regions (including le Périgord.) A bientôt!

  4. We rented a stone house on the edge of Sarlat for a week and tried to see everything the area had to offer. IT was one of my favorite trips to France.. Great post.

  5. It’s lovely. Some friends went this summer and raved about it. On the one hand, it’s too bad more people don’t look at these smaller towns out in the countryside, which are so deeply, richly, typically French and just stick to Paris and maybe Provence. On the other hand, those who do venture out aren’t overwhelmed by crowds. Yes, any place that’s interesting and pretty will draw crowds in summer, but they regain their character off season.

    • Bienvenue, fellow blogger. Yes, Paris, Provence and Normandy are the top three most popular areas in France, it often seems. Well deserved, but exploring off the beaten path pays off too. Sarlat, you are correct, is one of these places that become quieter off season, like most towns in “la province.” I hope you get to visit one day. Carcassonne is really not that far away.

  6. We have been to France many times (in fact, I lived there for 2 years as a young Army captain stationed at a small post in the Charente Maritime – Fontenet – in the early 1960s) and like many others avoid Paris and head straight to the provinces. This past September was no different. After a flight from Detroit to CDG we picked up our rental car a headed west. Destination: my cousin’s summer home on the coast of western Brittany, near Vannes/Arradon. After 4 days, our next stop was St. Jean d’Angely where I spent a week reliving those Army days of so many years ago… visiting nearby Saintes, Rochefort, and La Rochelle, with a Sunday mass in Cognac. We left the last part of our return to la belle France to two areas we have neglected in past visits and have always been high on our list of must-see. First was the Dordogne. For that we selected what turned out to be a delightful B&B near Saint Cyprien. From that base we ventured out daily to see everything the area had to offer. Of course, a highlight was a day spent in Sarlat. We were able to find parking not far from the city center and, for whatever reason, it was free that day! I don’t know if September is still tourist season in Sarlat but in light of the crowds it didn’t matter…for it was Market Day! We wandered the streets and stopped at many of the stalls, mostly for pictures. I recognize several of your pictures, especially the church from the rear (I have a similar photo). Alas, we had no meals in Sarlat. After a marvelous breakfast at the B&B we decided to skip lunch and had dinner at a restaurant in a small village near Saint Cyprien. Our final stop was in the Luberon region of Provence, just north of Marseille. I had booked another B&B sight unseen in Lacoste and it turned out to be another gem. From there we were able to easily visit the hill towns I had only read about…Menerbes, Bonnieux, Russillon, Gorde, Obbide, and Isles sure la Sorgue. All in all, memories of a wonderful month in France.

    • Let’s not go to extremes. The astounding thing about France is how so much of it is fabulous. Paris is truly exceptional, and not just the heavily-visited areas but much that isn’t, as Veronique’s posts attest to. I am biased–from having “gone native” from my years of living there–but it is one of the few world cities that lives up to its hype, much more so than London or New York which these days are an ordeal for visitors and average residents alike. The “secret”, again as Veronique’s posts reveal, is that after one has ticked off all those things on the must-do lists, there remains enough of interest to occupy the rest of your life, just within the Peripherique!
      Then there is the delight of the provences outside Paris. One shouldn’t feel obliged to have a “must-do” list that includes places like Sarlat because in reality, while it may have been the first (to be subject to Malraux’s lavish attention), there are hundreds of delightful towns and villages in France. You don’t really need any particular planning or list, though I suppose the Le Plus Beaux Villages de France and its 157 villages (well a small slice of them at any one time) could be a start.
      Then there are the provincial cities which should be a part of any tour around a particular region of France (personally I do not recommend a wide-ranging tour such as you have done; better to restrict yourself to a smaller geographic area such as the Dordogne or Languedoc-Roussillon etc). It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite amongst these as they all have their own charms: Lyon, Dijon, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier, Biarritz, even Nice (though not in peak summer). Then there are the intermediate sized towns like Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Narbonne, Pau, etc and so it goes.
      You hardly need a guide as you can leisurely wander around–rather than rush around–and you cannot fail to enjoy France.

      • To Aussie-on-Ile-St-Louis: Thank you for the appreciative comments about my blogposts. I am glad you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy researching and writing them. This being said, I feel I have to step in here because as a French native (who, like you, once had the luxury to explore France at her own pace while living there,) but also as an expat in a country where time off is limited (or non existent for some,) I know it is not always easy to plan a trip abroad. We want to see as much of a destination as possible, and hit several places on our “bucket list.” As a result, many foreign visitors might sacrifice quality over quantity because they are pressed for time. I think that with the time at hand (one month,) Edwin did a pretty good job at visiting areas off the beaten (touristy) path, actually. As for those who “avoid Paris” and head to la province instead, it is their choice, and we should respect it. The way I see it, they make up for those who will only visit Paris – and claim they know “France.” What do you think?

        • I was just trying to balance what Edwin Rennel wrote. There are many ways to travel and I myself have often whizzed around countries trying to see as much in as short a time as possible (though almost always by train). However, later I try to spend more time in a given locality to get a proper appreciation. Given that he and many other readers/comments are American, I especially wanted to suggest an alternative to the “must-do list” approach to seeing France (or anywhere). It is exactly what produces the summer crush you mentioned for Sarlat or those few hilltowns in Provence (none of which are “off the beaten path”; these are the beaten path!). There is an awful lot more than this tiny selection of small towns made famous by Malraux and Peter Mayle.

          I suppose I am being a hypocrite here because I too visited Sarlat (though about 30+ years ago; last time I went thru the Dordogne I didn’t go there). But actually I am proposing here what I might have wished I had learned earlier. As visitors we are ruining the very things we value. It is exactly this approach that is producing the backlash by residents in Venice, Amsterdam and who knows, maybe Paris (already BnB is creating troubles). But, re your last sentence about Paris versus Edwin’s approach: Paris can absorb the crush (paradoxically even more so in summer since so many Parisians, and especially their cars, are en vacance elsewhere) and two weeks spent in Paris would, in my opinion, be better than rushing around in a car covering thousands of kilometers.

          Especially since if you are based in Paris you are within easy day trips–crucially, by train–of plenty of “provincial” things too, ie. in Ile de France and nearby (Champagne, Chartres, Chantilly etc). Not that I necessarily recommend it but by TGV you can do relaxed day trips to Lyon, Dijon, Strasbourg, Brussels, even Bordeaux or … London!

          My advice to Anglophones (especially Australians and Americans) is, after “doing” Paris, rent a gite on the edge (ie. walking distance) of a nice village in … well, take your pick–almost anywhere–I would say Dordogne, the Gard, Tarn, Gers etc rather than the rather over-run Provence. This is what a lot of French and other Europeans, including Brits, do in their long summer break. It has the added benefit of being the cheapest stay possible.

          A car is of course a very convenient thing for getting around from your base but it can also be a big distraction if used in the “wrong” way, ie. for rushing too far away to tick something off some list. Instead I say stay local. (A big benefit of Paris, and Ile de France, is that you don’t need a car; indeed you’d be nuts to try to use a car. Yes, I know, I’m nuts for trying to tell Americans they don’t need a car!) For this reason, while not being dogmatic about car hire, I recommend against some very isolated gite deep in countryside where you have to drive everywhere–it is wonderful to walk, or maybe cycle, into the local village for your morning croissant and baguette etc or an evening meal in a restaurant (which means a village that is not too small). And in France you can get almost anywhere by train, sometimes fast via TGV but even the slower journeys have their rewards (eg. it is about 2.5 hours by train from Sarlat to Bordeaux. TGV it ain’t, but it goes thru beautiful territory and along the Dordogne river). So, again this suggests finding a village close to a train station. If your gite was in the Dordogne–but perhaps more central, say around Bergerac, than Sarlat which is on the far eastern edge–then you would have more things on your doorstep than you could possibly exhaust in a month or three months!

          Your point about Americans not having much vacation time is alas true (“living to work” rather than “working to live”) but even more reason to take my approach rather than Edwin’s. I know which will be more relaxing and more profound in appreciating the true France. I think your recent blog about your stay in Batignolles (Paris) was precisely proving that point.
          Vale Johnny Hallyday. Died 6 December 2017 (aged 74), Marnes-la-Coquette, France.

      • What a great post. Having never been to Europe, but going this coming year. I look forward to not only seeing Paris, but many of the outlying towns north to south, east to west. Several home base cities (Paris, Nice, Bordeaux & Toulouse) will afford the opportunity of many day trips. 2 months to explore & enjoy.

    • To Edwin: I can see why this would have been a very special trip for you! Hats off for covering so much ground across France! You made the most of these 4 weeks, certainly. I can tell you planned your itinerary carefully too, which pays off when time is limited. Hope you can return soon!

  7. Thank you for your writings. I am hoping to get to Sarlat when in France next year. Being my first time in Europe, I am especially excited to see the smaller towns & villages. I love to explore out of the way places, wandering often where I shouldn’t (perhaps) be. But, I love to find the unexpected this or that as I go about my day. Not speaking the language will likely be a challenge, but I will not let that be deterrent to my inquisitive nature.

    • Bienvenue DiAnn. You do not need to speak French fluently to enjoy your upcoming trip to France, but I would recommend learning a few basic expressions (like greetings.) This will make a big difference. France being the #1 tourist destination in the world, you will find many people to help you in English. It’s always best to approach locals in their language first, however, wherever you go around the world 🙂 I know you will enjoy your travels!

      • I will dig deep into my high school memory bank for some of those French phrases I learned while in French class. Your messages are such an inspiration.

  8. Couldn’t see where to sign up for your blog postings. I would certainly like to be included. I have loved your Facebook entries. So sorry they are charging you now.

    Thanks for all the wonderful information.

    Nancy Pilon
    Plymouth, MI

    • Bonjour Nancy. You have come to the right place. Look to the right of the homepage on the blog for “La Mailing List.” Enter your email address, and voilà: You will be receiving a message whenever I share a new story here on the blog. Thank you for all the support. Facebook is still a free service but community managers are “encouraged” to spend advertising dollars if they want to reach more people. If they don’t pay, their readership decreases. I don’t approve of these practices and can’t afford to pay, so I took my business back where it belongs: On the French Girl in Seattle website and blog, where it all started 7 years ago. Happy Holidays!

  9. Very enjoyable have a great Christmas just found a lovely French bookstore in New Orleans for children called The French Lubrary on magazine street . I bought books for my grandchildren .

  10. How do I sign up to receive notifications of your blog? (since you will not be on facebook)? I am not sure how this works. Thank you!

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8 Responses to 20th arrondissement: Where Paris keeps it real

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14 Responses to A French neighborhood: Les Chartrons, Bordeaux

  1. Once again your writing takes me right back there.

    I think my first visit to Bordeaux was in the mid-80s and I thought it was pretty impressive. But since then I kept reading how the “dingy and decrepit” old town was being revitalised. Well yes, I visited a few years ago and it was seriously smartened up, from an already impressive starting point. Indeed the whole inner old-town got UNESCO listed. Back then half the streets dug up for the new tramway–including the “wireless” sections–(Alimentation par le Sol)–such as in front of the Place de la Comedie/Grand Teatre; I believe Bordeaux may have been the first to use this system which is now spreading around the world. This aspect of Bordeaux was featured in Michael Portillo’s tv series Grand Continental Rail Journeys.

    I looked at the online property market around Chartrons because it was one of the few places in France where you can get genuine warehouse space for private apartments and for very good value per sqm. But I haven’t looked for several years and with all the publicity it gets one can’t imagine that has persisted. OTOH, while toying with the idea for a while, ultimately my stupid obsession with Paris won out! And speaking of which, the TGV Océanic opened in July so now one can do Paris-Bordeaux in 2 hours. (Takes longer to get to most airports!)

    • Bonjour Michael. Quel plaisir de vous retrouver ici! Your observations about Bordeaux confirmed what everyone I have met has said: We are looking at a “much improved” version today. I am certain locals loved their city way back when just as it was, but am not sure they will be able to stop what started years ago. Bordeaux is on her way to greatness, or at least to great fame. Les Chartrons is the perfect illustration. We will wait and see what the future holds for that beautiful, elegant, but oh so dynamic city! A bientôt.

  2. I love Bordeaux. I love all these smaller cities around France. Lively, but without the stress of Paris.
    The point about Vatel school speaks volumes about France: in the U.S., waiting tables is something you do until you can do something else. In France, it’s a decent career and one that should be done correctly–which requires training.

    • Merci de votre visite. I have been following your blog for a while, as you know, and share your excellent observations on French life often with the French Girl in Seattle Facebook community. Your observations about the Vatel school and the restaurant industry are spot on. That young waitress was truly proud of studying at the school when I asked. I saw the future of the French hospitality industry, and it looks like they have bright days ahead.

  3. Oh man! I so want to go!! Thank you for the ride. I enjoyed it very much. I was surprised how much British blood I had in my DNA test. I think my mother will be surprised too. This area of the world has been mixed for centuries. Love the ‘Do you speak Francais’ boutique.=) Check out my blog to Iceland. xo

    • Merci de la visite, Sandy. I am not surprised you enjoyed Bordeaux. Here’s another corner of southern France you must explore when you get a chance. I have followed your Icelandic adventures on IG but will head over to your blog tonight. A bientôt!

  4. Je vais tâcher d’apprendre à traduire…!!! A partir de mercredi en huit, je commence à prendre des cours d’informatique…
    Les photos sont absolument magnifiques, tu es très jolie et très en forme tout au début…

  5. Sra. Veronique:

    ¡Muy lindo e interesante su nuevo articulo! Comme d’habitude, su dicción y sus fotos son impecables.
    Muchisimas gracias por pasearnos por su bella ciudad.


  6. What a wonderful virtual trip to Bordeaux! Thanks Véronique for the journey, it’s confirmed I need to go back for a visit. I myself also have wonderful memories of dining on fresh oysters and crisp white wine at nearby Cap Ferret…

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Long weekend in Boston: A pictorial tour

Long weekend in Boston: A pictorial tour

“Welcome to Boston. City of the future. Cradle of American history. Hotbed of innovation, bastion of tradition (…) Boston has so many facets that discovering it can entertain visitors for days on end. It dazzles with renowned museums, great shopping, lush gardens and parks, and vibrant public spaces. (…) The easiest way to fall in love…

22 Responses to Long weekend in Boston: A pictorial tour

  1. Boston is one of my favorite cities. I have visited several times. There is much to see and do. And I love the history! Thank you for sharing your wonderful weekend trip and photos. I always enjoy your posts so much. This Boston trip photos provided me with familiar places I visited. So nice. Thanks again.

  2. I have never been to Boston but need to change that especially since I know I can navigate the city using public transportation. Great pictures!

    • Thank you Jeanne. Boston is extremely easy to navigate. The public transportation system seems pretty good, but I always give enthusiastic thumbs-up to a city that is mostly “walkable” i.e., to this French Girl, “civilized.”

  3. Loving this post, Veronique! C’est parfait!! I’m so happy you had a wonderful stay in Boston and enjoyed Ma Maison. I had a feeling you might like it there! 🙂

  4. I have been there too, 30 years ago…There was no Cabernet but I still remember the lobsters…
    Great pictures, Véronique!

  5. Cela donne effectivement envie de s’y rendre…. Pour manger. Je n’ai pas accès à ce type de délice dans mon bled au Tennessee
    Katrien. Bellaventure USA

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Winter stroll in Passy, western Paris

Winter stroll in Passy, western Paris

Two Parisians are making weekend plans: Lui (Him:) “Qu’est-ce-qui te tente? Une balade dans le Marais, ou à St Germain des Près peut-être?” (What are you in the mood for? A stroll in le Marais or in Saint Germain des Près maybe?) Elle (Her:) “Bof. On connait par coeur. Il y aura plein de touristes en plus.…

25 Responses to Winter stroll in Passy, western Paris

  1. “Passy, c’est vivant”

    Hah, funny because the main thing that comes to mind when I hear Passy is the cimetiére. High above the Place de Trocadero–it is directly above that wall with the Monument aux Morts I believe. It is most notable (from memory) for huge family tombs; ie. grandiose necropolises (or necropoli?) that house generations of the same family. As one would expect of the “old money” families that favour the 16th.
    I suppose Manet and Debussy are two celebrity graves with most others being industrialists like Dassault and Renault etc. Oh, not to forget, presumably your fave, Jacques Guerlain 🙂

    Although dominated by old money and thus its reputation for calme and quietude (as lui says) don’t forget its recent addition to pop culture. Normally it is the south/rive-gauche side of Pont de Bir-Hakeim that is featured in movies (due to its proximity to the Tour Eiffel of course) but the north/Passy side has two considerable moments in modern movie classics. The “old” one is that those steps that lead down to the central pedestrian way across the bridge (and under the Metro deck) was used by the character played by Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris, en route to that empty apartment where all the action happened. The more recent (2009) one involves the very doorway (to Metro workshops) you show in your pic, that in the DiCaprio/Christopher Nolan Inception housed the “dream training facility” and those same steps were used by DiCaprio and Adriane (Ellen Page) several times, and the door by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. They were also at the “nearby” fictional Cafe Debussy (possibly an acknowledgment of his nearby grave? though confusingly the filming site was in the 15th). That first dream sequence of Adriane’s terminates here in the giant mirror sequence on the pedestrian central walkway under that end of the bridge (when it is rudely interrupted by Cobb’s (DiCaprio) “dead” wife played by Marion Cotillard).

    Oh, also worth a mention for we urbanists, is the apartment building at 25a Rue Franklin (off r. de Passy) designed by August Perret. Built in 1903 it was a seminal construction using modern methods (reinforced concrete and finished with a tiled facade). The style was ahead of the International Style. I assume it is a national monument? The extended Perret family lived here and it also housed the Perret family architecture firm. The building is very recognisable even by those without any particular interest in architectural history:

    Nice piece, yet again, on a less-travelled part of Paris.

    • Merci for this long, informative comment, as always. Most people don’t bother leaving comments on blogs anymore, and visitors’ messages are always such a treat for bloggers. I enjoyed your description of famous guests at the Cimetière de Passy. I mentioned it only in passing at the beginning of the story, because I am planning to write another article about it later. I did visit it that morning – and almost froze to death in the chilly winter wind! The cinephile in me particularly loved your comments about movies, of course. Great additions to my story, merci! Finally, I did not see the apartment you mentioned, at 25 rue Franklin. So many interesting buildings, so little time. I guess this means I will have to return to Passy soon! A bientôt.

  2. Since I can no longer travel to Pais like I once did, I look forward to reading your blog and seeing pictures of so many areas of the city that I never got to visit. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us.

  3. A great travelogue through a quartier where I lived for seven years in the 1960-70s. But you missed one of the jewels of Passy —Musee Marmottan (facing Jardins du Ranelagh, not too far from Metro La Muette) featuring impressionists paintings by Monet (and many others by his contemporaries). But I don’t blame you for heading home after this long wintry stroll!

    • Bonjour Ken et bienvenue! I am guessing le quartier de Passy must look a bit different now from the 1960s and 1970s. Have you returned recently? I did not miss le Musée Marmottan. It is mentioned in the conversation featured at the beginning of the story. I was there last February, in fact, on another cold, yet sunny day, and enjoyed it. But there’s only so much ground one can cover on “a Paris stroll,” and when time is of the essence, I tend to favor walking the streets over visiting a museum (even if this means turning into a popsicle by the end of the day.) A bientôt Ken!

      • I totally agree with your comment of preferring to stroll the streets over visiting a museum. I adore the museums, but I’d much prefer my lengthy walks that take me to the most fascinating places. And yes, I also know that popsicle experience all too well. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

        • Merci Suzanne. Museums are wonderful too, don’t get me wrong, and Paris has fantastic ones, of course, including the Marmottan Monet. In fact, come to think of it, the 16th arrondissement probably offers some of the least crowded museums in Paris, and that makes the area very attractive of course (le Musée de la Marine at the Trocadero, was always a family favorite when my son was younger.) But, when it is all said and done, exploring great neighborhoods in cities, large and small, and people watching, will always be my favorite thing to do when I travel; and in Paris, one can do just that… endlessly, rain, or shine. A bientôt.

      • Like you, Veronique, I return to Paris frequently and do revisit the old familiar haunts like Passy and Auteuil

        • And I am certain you enjoy each of these visits, as I do. Since you mentioned the Marmottan-Monet in a previous comment, did you have a chance to see the current Pissarro exhibit there? Interestingly, two Parisian museums are highlighting his work at the same time: le Marmottan-Monet and le Musée du Luxembourg. An American friend of mine is in Paris this week with her family to attend the grand opening of the Luxembourg exhibit. Her family is lucky enough to own one of the Pissarro paintings featured in Paris! I would have loved being there with her.

  4. This area seems quite nice. A walk with exploring the buildings, architecture, the shops, and the food, without the droves of people. I have put this on my list of to sees. Thank you for an insightful post.

  5. Hello there! I am an arm-chair traveler and have been reading your blog for a little over a year now. I haven’t been to France since my college days over 2 decades ago because of… other priorities. I greatly enjoy reading about your adventures and I am inspired by them. I am particular drawn to the lack of pretention in your writing! This is one of my favorite post. My absolute favorite was the recent one “les Batignolles, part I” as it reminds me of my own little village Coconut Grove, Florida where I live. It’s a quaint little village nicknamed Little Paris and it has always been attracting a great number of French expats. I plan on creating a lifestyle blog on “village life” to share my life experiences in the Grove and hope to inspire and entertain my readers. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us arm-chair travelers!

    • Enchantée, Fabie. What a wonderful message! I visited Coconut Grove, years and years ago. Wish I had known then there was a “Little Paris” there. Will make sure to check it out if I am ever in the neighborhood. Do let me know when you launch your blog. I will be happy to come and visit to see what is happening in your neck of the woods.

  6. I am taking notes, from your posts, for my visit to France in 2018. I have never been, have always wanted to go & want to take the roads less traveled while explore.

    Thank you for sharing your stories & insights & I look forward to many more.


  7. Delighted a friend recommended your blog to me. I’m planning a trip to France scheduled later this year and love the perspective that travel blogs provide (and allow for continued visits vicariously). Great post!

  8. Très jolie promenade dans un Passy de luxe et de charme. Merci Véro pour la maison de Balzac, mon auteur préféré. Je l’ai visitée plusieurs fois et encore l’été dernier. A bientôt pour d’autres aventures.

  9. Quel délice d’être tombée sur votre blog….. je serai à Paris bientôt et adore le quartier de La Muette et le parc du Ranelagh mais n’ai jamais visité Passy….. sur la liste de cette French Girl in Puyallup:) Merci!

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Paris for the people: Belleville and Menilmontant

Paris for the people: Belleville and Menilmontant

Bienvenue à Belleville and Menilmontant. Once located outside the Paris city limits, these neighborhoods, like la Butte aux Cailles, les Batignolles, or Montmartre, were annexed after 1860 when Napoleon III and his wingman, Baron Haussmann, undertook the 20-year “remodel” that would give birth to the modern city we all know and love today. Of all…

21 Responses to Paris for the people: Belleville and Menilmontant


    (during the violent Commune uprising in the 1970s, residents fought long and hard against the Versailles army, and their barricades were the last ones to fall,)

    Mai ’68 was wild and ructions continued into the 70s but I guess you meant “1870s”.

    (you can delete this comment if you want).

    • Ha! Yes, I did mean 1870s. Thank you for catching that just a few minutes after I posted the article. I guess I should be careful when I write while enjoying my favorite dinner: cheese assortment and red wine 😉 Thank you for your visit.

  2. Merci for telling us about other Parisian neighborhoods. They all have their unique charms. Looks like you had wonderful weather during you last trip. You make it all look so easy and delightful visiting these neighborhoods but you are French, afterall, smile.

    • Merci Cherie! The weather was amicable most days but very cold. I was wearing my favorite wool peacoat and a thin puffer coat underneath, not to mention a wool scarf, as you can tell in the photo! I do not mind cold weather when the sun shines. I get enough rain in Seattle and don’t care for it while exploring other cities 😉 As for making it easy, well… It is not that hard, really. You just go with a good map (mine is the trusted pocket-size “Plan de Paris par Arrondissement,”) and you walk… left… right… sometimes, it’s best not to plan too much. This is still Paris and most neighborhoods are safe, if you use common sense. 🙂

  3. Madame Veronique,

    I’ve always loved the name Menilmontant. My father had an old book, with photos of this place.
    Thank you so much for this tour, for your photos and your superb narrative. I find this quartier a magical place!

    Apparently, it has everything, including some nice hotels. Is the US Master Card no longer honored in France?
    When I return to Paris, I would love to stay in this neighborhood.

    Your photo with that kitty is precious. You look beautiful, as usual.

    • Bonjour Maria. Thank you for your visit, as always. Glad you enjoyed your visit. I am not certain there are that many hotels in Belleville and Menilmontant, even if I am convinced one can find rental apartments easily there. Did you look them up? I am not sure I understand your comment about the Mastercard. The only card that occasionally gets turned down in France is Amex. Visa and Mastercard are accepted without any problem. A bientôt, Maria.

  4. Thank you for this post. I follow you religiously on Facebook and find your information so helpful and interesting. Your posts keep me company on my train ride to and from work. I am headed back to France in September and plan to visit these areas. They weren’t on my radar on my last visit. One of my favorite things to do is just wander around the city and try to mix it up, seeing some of the famous landmarks, while at the same time not concentrating on just those. I find France to be quite a wonderful country and can’t wait to return.

  5. I have read contradicting reviews about Belleville regarding safety. Is safety an issue? The area looks like a gem for fotos, but not sure if I want to be in the area with an expensive camera which screams “rob me!” I usually travel off the tourist path but also want to be smart, particularly when I travel with my 10 year old. Any feedback would be great.

    • Belleville is a lively area, and it is fine if you are aware of your surroundings like in any other urban environments. Follow la rue de Belleville uphill, go to the Parc de Belleville, and you will keep your 10-year old interested. A lot of street art to look at, even more in Menilmontant, nearby. I would stay away from some side streets and the park at night. Other than that, get out there and enjoy!

  6. I laughed when I saw the cat. I feel betrayed I thought she/he only adored me.
    also, sadly, Cream coffee has closed its doors (surprised as I thought it was doing quite well) The owner moved over to Canal Saint-Martin.

    • Bonjour Rob. I apologize for the late reply. I just spent a few days in Paris and things got busy. I did not know Cream had closed, and realized you were right when I walked past its old location during my traditional Belleville walk. Dommage. So many new-style coffee shops in Paris right now, however. As for the cat, she is very sorry you are feeling betrayed, but she claims she is a friendly cat and has to greet all visitors in her neighborhood! A bientôt.

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Chez Gaston (Batignolles, Part 2)

Chez Gaston (Batignolles, Part 2)

A few days ago, I took you along as I explored one of Paris’ most charming neighborhoods, les Batignolles. The area offers an eclectic mix of eateries from traditional bistros and cafés, to hip restaurants and bars popular with the younger crowd, including Bobos (bourgeois bohemians) who have discovered the neighborhood in recent years. There are established businesses and newer, trendier places.…

11 Responses to Chez Gaston (Batignolles, Part 2)

  1. Hoping to visit your suggestion when visiting France in 2018. Thank you for sharing & yes, I hope it doesnʻt change before I go there.

  2. What a pleasure to admire those delicious photos!
    Especially that first one: you look “divina” as we say in my country and…having dinner with the proverbial Mr. Darcy, no less! 🙂

    As for the food I see, it looks delicious of course, but…very familiar…They are part of the French-British heritage in the culture of the countries that belong to the Rio de la Plata basin.

    Your narrative is impeccable, as usual. Thank you so much, Madame Veronique.

    I’d like to share with you this little piece of music called “Le Cygne”, written by a compatriot of yours, the revered Romantic era composer, Camille Saint-Saëns.
    Monsieur Camille wrote the melody especifically for violoncello, with accompaniment for one or two pianos.

    Many musicians have produced arrangements for the keyboard of this sublime piece: Lucien Garban, Leopold Godowsky and Alexander Siloti among others.
    I chose Godowsky’s version because Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff liked it best.

    Camille Saint-Saëns-Le Cygne

    played by Wibi Soerjadi, born March 2, 1970 in Leiden, Netherlands.

    Last but not least, what an adorable couple make your “mamita” and your “papito”.

    • Dear Maria. Merci de votre visite. I have been blogging now, on and off, for over 6 years. I know my blogger friends would agree readers like you are a rare breed online today. They take the time to visit; read and appreciate the narrative; and leave thoughtful and informative comments. I am listening to le Cygne as I type this. I was not familiar with Godowsky’s version. Thank you for sharing it. What a beautiful piece! You are correct, my “mamita” and “papito” are, indeed, adorable. I treasure the time spent with them during my too short visits. You are incorrect, however, about the gentleman pictured at the beginning of the story. He is, of course, the famous Peter Olson, and like everyone who has been lucky enough to explore Paris with him, knows, the most gracious guide (and dinner companion.) Peter is not, however, Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy, you see, remains the Holy Grail, the shining and unattainable light many women – including this French Girl – can only dream about. It is my hope that Elizabeth Bennett will get distracted and look away for a few minutes one day, just long enough for me to finally approach Mr Darcy and make him my own. L’espoir fait vivre, n’est-ce-pas? Bonne année, Maria. I hope you return soon.

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Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

Dedicated to Peter O. The place is relaxed, peaceful, with a real neighborhood life and feel: Bienvenue aux Batignolles. This was my home for a few days during a recent visit when I rented an apartment rue Truffaut. We are in the northeastern section of the 17th arrondissement in Paris, just west of Montmartre. Once a humble village, the…

32 Responses to Batignolles, Paris without the crowds (Part 1)

  1. Hello or Bonjour,
    I love your blog! It has been my dream to visit Europe, with France being my first choice of countries to see.

    My husband & I are planning a 3 month trip to Europe in 2018 & I would love to have your ideaʻs of where, how we should go about seeing France. Not as a tourist so much, but more like a local/tourist.

    I love history & feel like somewhere in time I was living in France.

    I would love to invite you to visit us in Arizona sometime in the next year, where we could spend time relaxing & discussing your love of travel to France.

    We rent our home on Airbnb so it is set up for guests & it would be the guest room that you would stay in. You would be welcome to bring a friend. Of course, there would be no charge to you for the stay. I may even be able to provide airfare (for 1). We are book solid through the end of March but there are some days in April open. Another idea would be to meet me in Wenatchee, WA where I will be house sitting in May. You would be welcome to stay a few days there in the guest room.

    Feel free to contact me through my email. Even if it is something you arenʻt interested in, I want to tell you how much I appreciate all your hard work keeping your blog current & fun to read.

    Cheers to you in 2017


  2. I love the video of Ducks crossing. Just so cute.
    The area you reviewed seem quite nice. The photos were wonderful with such preey areas to enjoy. The quiet tranquility would be welcome. I can only imagine the crowds seeing all that the grand Paris has to offer. This would be a welcome retreat. I shall keep that in mind. Keep writing. I learn new things each time and I love it. Merci beaucoup.

    • Thank you for your visit, and for your support, as always, Debra. My only new-year resolution is 2017 is precisely to “keep writing,” in particular on the blog, in spite of a demanding work life. It means a lot that people like you follow French Girl in Seattle and appreciate the time, effort and passion I put into it. Merci.

  3. The secret is out: Les Batignolles is a cool place to be!

    Sssshh! We’ve really got to keep some (nice) parts of Paris free of tourist hordes (as a former decade-long resident, I consider myself a Parisian). The Parisian Bobos are bad enough!
    One has to hope that the lack of major “attractions” listed in Guides etc will prevent the hordes descending. Though let me immediately correct myself and this cliche (for your first two posters): though Paris gets more visitors (about 45m each year!) than any other city in the world, and certainly some areas get crowded, in fact I reckon it handles such crowds much better than similar cities–eg. London and Rome (not to mention Florence & Venice which are unbearable in peak summer) are awful from this point of view. Perhaps because the city is so walkable, the Metro is so terrific (highest density of lines and stations than any other) and in reality there are always calm or calmer refuges close by no matter where you are. The compactness of the city helps hugely; for example (dare I reveal) Sq des Batignolles is approx. a mere 1.5km walk from the Arc de Triumph (only ≈600m from Parc Monceau en route). And you must never be afraid to walk in Paris.

    I see that you were right in the centre of the Batignolles old/new artist district that has undergone a recent regeneration. It might be worth mentioning the huge zone that begins literally on the other side of the street to Square des Batignolles: ie. the western side of rue Cardinet. I’ve not seen this since the works began (and am not sure of its current status) but it is very interesting from an urbanist’s point of view, and on how to create more and affordable housing in an already built-up city area, without going hi-rise. Here is an extract from Wiki:

    Batignolles was supposed to be the Olympic village for the Paris Olympic Games in 2012, but Paris lost its bid to London. In its place, ancient SNCF rail fallows are redeveloped into a new 4.3-hectare district centered around new Martin Luther King garden. By 2015, it is foreseen that 3,400 apartments, 30,000 square meters of shops, 140,000 square meters of office buildings and many public facilities (school, nursery…). will be completed. Moreover the Palais de Justice court, along with the Police judiciaire (Quai des Orfèvres), currently located in the Île de la Cité in central Paris, will move to the new Cité judiciaire de Paris in a new building north of the garden.

    For map see:

    • Dear {former?} Aussie-on-Ile-St-Louis. Thank you for your visit, and the thoughtful comment. You make a few good points. After spending a few days in les Batignolles last month, I would surmise the neighborhood has less to fear from “hordes of tourists” (many tourists are creatures of habit, and are too lazy, or too fearful, to venture out to the perceived “outskirts” of the city,) than from the hordes of Parisians about to descend upon the area once the construction you mention has been completed. A friend took me to the newer sections. I saw the giant cranes, the Martin Luther King park and some of the new buildings. I was not impressed. I chose not to discuss les Batignolles’ future here other than with the statement “It is a delightful neighborhood with a mixed personality, where past, present and future live side by side, fairly harmoniously, but for how long?” I also chose to ignore that change is, indeed, coming to this lovely neighborhood of Paris. It is a fact Inspector Clouseau and his friends from le Quai des Orfèvres, (not to mention their colleagues from the Paris courthouse,) are about to leave their current offices on Ile de la Cité to move to their new, modern digs outside le square des Batignolles. It is a fact public transportation to the area is about to get ramped up, making les Batignolles much more accessible. I feel for longtime residents (like the lady pictured outside the boulangerie.) Soon, I fear, they will start feeling like the heroes of Asterix and Obelix, their small village “surrounded,” with the world madly speeding up around them. This article documents life in le Village des Batignolles as it is today, evolving, certainly, (old streets and beautiful buildings lined with a few trendy boutiques and restaurants, and a popular “bio” outdoor market,) but still peaceful, still lovely, and easy on the eye. La vie est belle, aux Batignolles, and I hope it remains that way for a long time. I did add an article about the “future of the Batignolles/Clichy neighborhood” at the end of the story following your remarks. Merci, et à bientôt.

      • Thanks for the NYT article which I had not seen. The things I had read previously about the new developments did not mention that they are allowing buildings of 50m height, which is approximately twice the Haussmannian height. The thing is that they’ve tried this before in the 13th (eastern half) and the Front-de-Seine/ BeauxGrenelles, and it was not exactly a success. I lived briefly in one of those hi-rises next to Place d’Italie in the 13th and even the buildings don’t work so well; they haven’t aged well. But then that stuff was built in the 60s and 70s which is almost the nadir of building (worldwide), both in style and quality.

        The thing is that it doesn’t even achieve higher housing density because, as the pics/drawings show, they have spaced those taller buildings. So, not at all Parisian. Of course there has been pressure from modern planners and some (deluded) urbanists for a long time to do this kind of thing. They want to turn Paris into some identikit of every other city in the world!
        I should reserve judgement until I see it in the flesh but not impressed …

  4. A wonderful look at a charming neighborhood. Les Batignolles is really more representative of what people idealize in their minds about Paris, vs. the more typically touristy center.
    Great photos!

    • Thank you for stopping by. Actually, if people think of Paris in terms of impressive architecture and landmarks, les Batignolles may surprise them. This is still (at least in sections,) the Paris of the past, in the pre-Haussmann/2nd Empire days. Things are changing fast, however. See the article quoted at the end of my story, above the video.

  5. I enjoyed this especially the ducks! I have always…as many others only stayed in the city center of Paris. You have given me food for thought. Maybe staying on the outskirts would be much more peaceful, and a new place to investigate.

    As for DiAnn who wants to go and feel like a local. Do what you are doing in Arizona…lease a place, use public transportation when you can, shop the little local food markets and try and blend in with the locals. We have done that several times in France and they have been my favorite trips.

    • Merci de votre visite Janey. It pays off sometimes to stay in a quieter place, away from the crowds. I walked all day (hardly used the Metro, in fact,) as les Batignolles get you to Montmartre and other areas very quickly. It was lovely to return to my peaceful studio at night. Good tips for DiAnn as well. Thank you.

  6. This was a wonderful read. I enjoyed living with my French family in les Batignolles on rue Truffaut. My suite in a penthouse apartment was great but not over the top. The term ‘Bohemian-bobo’ is fun. Never knew this. I used to take a trolley at Cardinet to Etoile, then walk or take RER C to classes. It does not exist anymore. But I believe the tracks are still there below ground. Yes, it was a very quiet neighborhood with easy access to Montmartre, Pigalle, Clichy, Parc Monceau and over to aveue Champs Elysees and Trenes were so Paris imaginable. I adored the park in Square Batignolles and strolls through narrow streets. My host was a faithful member at St Mary’s and her grandson also attend every weekend on his returns home from boarding school in north of Paris. I was always treated like a part of the community. An unforgettable experience coming out of Harlem and Virginia. Thanks.

    • Thank you for your visit, Marvin. I *lived* on rue Truffaut too! Thank you so much for sharing your memories of your time in Paris. It sounds as if you had a very special stay in les Batignolles. It reminded me of the “best year in my life,” the year I spent in Atlanta, GA as a foreign exchange student. I, too, was treated like a part of the community. One never forgets such special experiences and the international friendships forged along the way. A bientôt.

  7. Perfect timing! I’m heading to Paris for a few days next week and Batignolles looks like fun. I’m going there! Thanks.

  8. As American Expats in Paris in our 30’s with no kids, we first landed in Le Marais (the 3rd) just below Place de la République based on suggestions of locals who expected we would want “un quartier très vivant!”. After 9 months of feeling like the neighborhood was sucking the life out of me (no offense to Le Marais-lovers, it just wasn’t my thing), I was so fortunate to find a place in Batignolles! We LOVE it here and frankly, nothing beats having Sacre Cœur as the landmark you use to guide you home. Even with the cranes in the distance, I still feel very much nestled into the heart of the neighborhood, surrounded by great restaurants, certainly Parc Monceau and Square des Batignolles and that neighborhood feel in an area that is still very much adequately “vivant!”. Glad you found your way here and enjoyed it so much!

    • Bonjour Jessica. Merci de votre visite. Great to hear some feedback from “locals” as well. You do not need to say more. I can totally see why two 30-year olds with no kids would enjoy les Batignolles. The restaurants alone – and the civilized, but active nightlife – would be a big draw for me. Continue enjoying this special place, you lucky lady! I will be reviewing a great little restaurant I visited several times in les Batignolles in a few days. Would love to hear your take on it! A bientôt!

  9. I am retired and have been dreaming of renting a studio in Paris for the summer. Now that Ive read this delughtful article about Batignolles, my interest has peaked and I cant wait to start planning! What a joy to experience Parisian life in such a charming area! Would you be kind enough to let me know who I should contact about renting a studio for 3/4 mmonths in Batignolles?

    Love reading your blog!

    • I will be happy to share the information with you as soon as I have reached out to Catherine, the owner. It seems the reference number I had for the studio on the site does not work anymore and I need to look into it. Thank you for your patience, Pamela.

  10. I’ve subscribed to your blog for a long time, and it’s so lovely! I’m researching Manet for a novel, so les Batignolles would be perfect. I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and pick your brain if you’re in Seattle and have a free hour. I’m in Everett and teach in Seattle on Tuesdays, but could get down there on another day as well. (Or at the French bakery in Mill Creek with the great macarons.) I’m hoping to get to Paris in March/April and really haven’t the faintest idea where to start, as it’s been over 30 years since I’ve been there.

  11. Magnifique “reportage” sur le village des batignolles.. Les canards, très typés sont charmants.. Vifs encouragements pour continuer cet excellent passe temps!!

  12. Cite des Fleurs is my favorite “street” in Paris. I go there every time to look the homes, flowers and residents both two and four footed. Also the statue in the Park with vultures always makes me laugh.

  13. What a lovely post! My husband and I spent 9 days in Paris last year and we rented an apt in this area. Je suis tombée amoureuse de ce quartier ! If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would move there the day after! You’re right it just feels like a town within the city. If I were une Parisienne, I would want to be the sort who would call this area home. I have managed to set foot (just a tiny bit!) in each arrondissement de Paris and so far it is my favorite.

    • Les Batignolles are a special place indeed. In my older days, I find myself drawn more and more to these neighborhoods in the heart of great urban areas that feel more like villages. I find that to be true around the world for me, not just in Paris. Merci de votre visite.

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We miss you, Abbé Pierre!

We miss you, Abbé Pierre!

This article was originally published in 2011. It has been updated – and shared – during the Holidays every year since. I wrote this story to honor one of the most popular men who ever lived in France. That man was not a monarch, a president, or even a celebrity, quite the opposite, in fact. He…

16 Responses to We miss you, Abbé Pierre!

  1. Thank you for such a beautiful story on Christmas Eve of a remarkable and loving man who lived a life of giving. He was a true inspiration.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  2. v this is one of my favorite posts…so inspirational-a call to action a call to love-how one person can make a difference– at this time of year (and always really) I find myself truly inspired by the stories such as these-a drop in the comprehensible ocean of human kind-but each drop can and does make a difference this is what matters in life-when all is said and done!

  3. Très émouvanteretranscription de la vie et de l’oeuvre de cet hommee ‘si humble mais sigrand dans son amour pour les pauvres et les démunis qui,s’il existe aura été reçu au paradisà bras ouverts:

  4. Ah l’Abbé Pierre, c’était un être exceptionnel. I am pleased that you shared his life with your readers.

    I hope that 2017 will be a great year for you with joy and happiness.

  5. I just found your post and am fortunate to begin with the life story of L’Abbe’ Pierre. It was a very inspirational read. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to learn a little of the life of an exceptional French citizen. I look forward to reading your upcoming stories. Happy and safe 2017! Del Lancaster

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15 Responses to Move over, fleece: Yves St Laurent is in Seattle!

  1. Ma chère Véro, you have written a post after my own heart. If it were not for Chanel and YSL, what would the modern woman do for sartorial inspiration? She was “la reine” and he was clearly “le roi” of “la mode”. It would be worth a trip to Seattle just to see this beautiful exhibit. Of course, seeing you again would be wonderful, too.

    I owe you a nice, long e-mail.

    je t’embrasse, M-T

    • Bonjour M-T. Wonderful to hear from you! Yes, Coco was the queen, Yves the king, not just because of their talent and unmatched creativity, but also for the longevity of their careers and the iconic brands they built. I believe the exhibit is headed to the East Coast after Seattle. You may be able to see it there early next year. A bientôt!

  2. Madame Veronique,

    Love, love your post! Everything you wrote is spot on!
    When I see this total genius initials…what a blast from the past…

    My classmates and I grew up with a beloved friend whose father was president of our country for a very long time. She of course could afford real couture. We were still young when we saw at her house a movie of Yves Saint Laurent’s revered Rive Gauche Fall/Winter “Russian Collection” from 1976.
    We loved his iconic corset tops! They were also shown in several other collections.

    YSL’s “Rive Gauche” was my mother’s fragrance. To this day, if I happen to smell it, I’m left in rag doll mode for a while, so strong are the “añoranzas” I have since she passed away.

    And I totally agree: the slogan for this season should be move over, fleece!

    Thank you so much,

    P.S. Did you know Seattle has The Pacific Northwest Ballet School, one of the best ballet schools in the world? And of its Principal Dancer, Carrie Imler?
    Colleagues and friends describe her dancing as fierce. Here’s a sample of it, even though this clip shows just a rehearsal.

    She’s a dancer with a power that reminds me of those fortunate ones, trained by the great Baryshnikov, so long ago.

    And last but not least: you look absolutely stunning in that photo with your red umbrella!

    • Dear Maria. I do not know where to start… This is such a great comment. First, thank you for your visit. Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle! Thank you, as well, for sharing personal memories here, and what memories they are! I am so grateful you shared this video of the beautiful Carrie Imler. I confess I do not know much about ballet, but have heard about the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Watching Ms Imler in action, I can tell why the school is so renowned! She is obviously a skilled ballerina, but i was most impressed with her natural energy. The lady has a strong personality, and attitude, I can tell, and I love her for it 🙂 Finally, thank you for the nice compliment. I think my beautiful new umbrella did a lot to enhance that photo outside S.A.M.! A bientôt.

  3. Chère Véronique, I have greatly enjoyed your blogs ever since I started receiving them awhile back. I appreciate your articles promoting the beauty and culture of la belle France. I have written a blog about you and your work featuring your latest one on Yves St-Laurent. You can find it on my website, under “blog”. While you are there, please take a look at my work which is promoting a more authentic French accent to Anglo-American speakers. Under “courses” there are a few short videos that illustrate my teaching style. I would love your comments. Amicalement, Geri

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