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.

41 comments:

  1. I would have been happy with any of those gifts in your basket if a friend brought one home to me!

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  2. It's always difficult to think of souvenirs for friends so you're lucky you found this must-have book.. what a great find!

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  3. Sounds like a great little book! And I'm sure all of those lovely gifts were gratefully received!

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  4. That made me giggle.....years ago I found a "vanity sized sink" in Mexico. I couldn't ship it so I had to pack it with my luggage. I put the sink in my carry on and customs just shook their heads and said...OK.

    Oh...what's in my luggage....A sink...doesn't everyone have a sink in their carry on?

    Your trip sounds wonderful...thanks for sharing.

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  5. After just spending 3 weeks in France - one of which was in Paris - that book would have come in handy! As it was, we did pretty good. Most people we met spoke English and the few that didn't tried really hard to help us out.

    You are very thoughtful friends! I would enjoy any of the gifts you brought home...

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  6. Good tips about finding gifts for friends and this book sounds like a must have for travel in France!

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  7. You put so much thought into gifts, it's wonderful! The Jill Butler books looks very handy, I'll have to look it up.

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  8. my parents love Harleys so we get them T shirts from different places Meakin has good tips lol

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  9. What a lovely & grand post this surely is, dear Sam!


    Lovely pictures too!

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  10. Finding those unique gifts for friends is half the fun of travelling. I am sure your friends appreciated your thoughtfulness Sam.

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  11. You are like a few friends of mine who bring me gifts home from France. My fav was always the lavender bundles, EVO, and Herbs de Provence!

    I love the partridge, and admired them from a distance, no room at my Inn, lol, but also loved the Rooster designs in the French Country atmosphere of places here in the states. We will try and go to the South of France when in Spain this fall!

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  12. Wonderful and thoughtful gifts, i'd love them all.

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  13. Glad that you enjoyed your vacation in France, and half the fun is shopping around. Thanks so much for the adz about the great little guide book.

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  14. What a lovely post, Sam. You are a good friend and those unique gifts must have really pleased their recipients. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

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  15. You are such a thoughtful traveler. I long ago gave up on souvenirs for everyone and just enjoy myself! And with travel restrictions these days, it's almost impossible. I was in Provence on 9/11/01 and have been longing to go back since.

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  16. Sam,
    This is a wonderful post. I enjoyed you taking us on this trip. I would really be glad to get any of these gifts. They are really nice.

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  17. Finding those special little gifts is a challenge but one of the fun parts of traveling. So often I find some big, impossible thing and then have to lug it back home. Maybe refrigerator magnets are the way to go! LOL

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  18. Thanks so much for the tip. I am making a note of her name and the book title. I just adore the gifts you brought home for friends - the dog sign is so perfect. How lovely of both of you to go to so much trouble, though I'm sure it was fun, too. :) I have to ask - how is Vicki Archer's new book - French Essence? I see it in your sidebar. I have it on my list to purchase, so I was curious to know what you thought.

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  19. Sam, I will definitely buy this book for our trip next summer. I have learned much from you. Thanks!

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  20. Don't forget to add me to your gift list. I am easy to buy for because I have a feeling that anything you would like... I would like! GREG

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  21. What a nice trip...I love to search for the special something to bring home to family and friends. It is part of what makes the trip fun.
    I appreciate the book recommendation! Thank you.

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  22. I have the hardest time finding gifts when I travel. I should bring you along with me, you're brilliant! What a lovely trip! I dream of going to France one day. I'd love to study this wonderful book!

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  23. This sounds more useful that most of the books I've lugged to Europe. And, I'm going to let you organize my next gift-buying expedition, Sam!

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  24. I love the way you put such thought into your personalized gifts. What lucky friends you have.

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  25. Please, please call me if you come to Paris!

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  26. Ah.....longing for France!
    September will soon be here....stop teasing me with these posts Sam!
    Have a happy mother's day!
    Stacey

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  27. I don't know this little book but shall have to look out for it Sam...xv

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  28. May I officially be considered your friend, Sam? I love the way you spend so much thoughtful time on each of your friends to find them the perfect gift!

    I've never heard of this book, but it certainly looks like a gem!

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  29. Hi Sam,
    It's me again...just wanted to let you know that Penny (Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen) and hubbie came to dinner the other night. We had a great time. I did a post on it.

    I am thinking about having a get together luncheon sometime this summer for all NC and SC bloggers...I will let you know more about it when I get it figured out.
    Penny

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  30. Oooh, I do so envy your lifestyle. I'll be honeymooning in Greece and Italy in April next year - will have to try and squeeze in a visit to Provence as well...

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  31. We just come back from a week spent in Baltimore, Maryland, and I am catching up with your posts. We did eat some very good crab cakes in town and other sea food. My problem about finding little gifts is the reverse, I have to buy American souvenirs for my family and friends in France. I bring pecans from Georgia, but what else can I bring them? Do you have any ideas? Everything that I find that is fancy is usually imported. It is not very easy.

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  32. You are so thoughtful to think of your friends while traveling. Your basket of goodies was great! now days, one really has to travel light or else you pay, with the extra baggage, so I do not bring back as much! I did love your idea of the dog sign for your friends. Hope you found some.

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  33. I shall have to order that book,
    just what I will needed!

    Your friends are lucky indeed, such thoughtful and original gifts.

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  34. Hi Sam - I'm back to let you know I did a post today on your delicious French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese. This will be such a nice addition to my summer salad list. thank you.

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  35. I am taking note! I love to collect travel books and I am sure I will make it back to Provence again at some point! Thanks!

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  36. Hi, Sam!

    I hope you got back safely and found everything in good shape.

    Loved reading this post. And please tell me you brought back one of those adorable hens with you! How cute is that!

    I think you found the perfect gifts for your friends. What fun to have those signs!

    As to the lobster, if you cook, I'll clean! ;-)

    XO,

    Sheila :-)

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  37. Wonderful, all of those gifts. I think I've given over and over every single one. Have you given those divine -- can't think of the name, but I'll explain -- lavender thingies woven with ribbon to put into linen closets?

    Everyone loves them.

    Sorry I've been awol.

    Tishxo

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  38. I love reading about trips to Europe and yours is no exception. Thank you for the story and for the link to Jill Butler's guidebooks. My daughter and I will be going to France in March of next year and I am ordering these now.

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  39. Good morning, Sam!
    I noticed on your sidebar that under "Followers" you mentioned that "There are no followers yet" - I signed up as a follower a long time ago and I am also receiving updates regularly. However, I have signed out and then signed up anew today. I hope this works for you!
    A wonderful day to you,
    Merisi

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  40. I have committed to a bike ride next month in the Loire Valley of France with friends . Jill Butler's book may be good buy for us, before we go.

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  41. Love this post. My next stop is Amazon to order the book.
    I really need a Pintade and a Chien de Guarde sign.
    Pam

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Sam