Thursday, May 6, 2010
The great little guide book that saved the day while searching for gifts for friends in Provence
When we travel we like to bring back little souvenirs of our trip for friends and family. My husband Meakin, always the practical one, suggested we find things that were small, easily to pack, light weight, and, most importantly, something he didn’t have to personally carry all the way through the Marseilles and Charles de Gaul airports back to Atlanta. That statement, sadly for me, excluded the lovely ceramic French hens called La Pintade that we saw everywhere.
On our frequent visits to the outdoor markets, it wasn’t hard to find dried flowers of Provence, fleur de sel, the grainy French finishing salt, lavender sachets in colorful Provencal print fabrics, refrigerator magnets of the symbol of Provence – the cigale (cicada), and fragrant olive oil savons.
While all of these are perfectly acceptable gifts for friends and family and we did buy all of them, I wanted to find something unique and very French for some of our oldest dear friends, not just touristy things that anyone could find in Provence.
One of those friends, David, was easy to shop for – he has a Harley Davidson motor cycle shop. All we had to do was find a Harley dealer somewhere in the south of France. We inquired of our caretaker and he told us the nearest one was in Avignon, about forty-five minutes from our home base in Saint-Remy-de-Provence. So off we went to Avignon and the Harley Davidson dealer for literature and pictures for David.
Other friends presented more of a challenge for a souvenir, so we decided we would just keep our eyes out and we would know it when we saw it. On a drive on a country road we saw a metal sign on a gate at the entrance to a mas (French farmhouse). The sign said Chien de Garde, guard dog in French. All of these challenging friends had one thing in common; they all had dogs. Not guard dogs mind you, but family pets that they all adored.
“Let’s try to find the Chien de Garde signs for our friends with dogs,” I said. “Wouldn’t that be a unique and very French gift? The trouble is I don’t know where to look. I haven’t seen anything like that in the shops we’ve visited so far.”
“That’s easy,” Meakin said. “All we have to do is find a hardware store. Wonder what the French word for hardware store is?”
I whipped out my trusty little paperback guide book Rendez-vous with France a la Jill Butler that I had brought for such occasions and easily found the French word for hardware store – bricolage. We visited numerous bricolages in the neighboring towns from Saint-Remy and finally found a paneau for Chien de Garde, which greatly pleased our dog loving friends.
Jill Butler’s book is a must-have for traveling to France. In a nutshell it’s a colorful illustrated pronouncing dictionary. Jill says, “This charmingly illustrated guide the non-French speaking visitor permission to point – and the confidence to pronounce. Hundreds of colorful images help you show and say your way through the places and things you’ll encounter in daily French life. With this guide you easily tackle each part of your day, from transportation to shopping to dining.”
In my opinion this book is so much easier to carry in your bag since it weights half as much and is half as thick as my pocket Oxford dictionary. The book also has many helpful hints such as renting a car with a standard shift is les expensive than an automatic, tips are included in taxi fares (a few coins is nice though) and taxi fares are doubled all day Sunday and evenings after seven p.m.
I highly recommend Rendez-vous with France a la Jill Butler for the traveler as well as anyone who wants to increase their French vocabulary the easy way. Jill also has a similar book for Paris. Her illustrations are so popular she has a housewares line including beautifully illustrated French plates. So if you’re a non-French speaking traveler headed to France, don’t leave home without Jill Butler.