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100 Places in France
Every Woman Should Go

100 Places cover

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post
as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.
100 Places in France
Every Woman Should Go

By
Marcia DeSanctis
Publisher:   Travelers’ Tales
Pub. Date: October 21, 2014
ISBN: 978-1609520823

Pages:  380
Genre:  travel essays / nonfiction
Source: Received
from the author for a
virtual book tour on France Book Tours

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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

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Touristic guide books on France abound, but once you have seen one, you have basically seen them all. 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is absolutely unique. I have cherished each of its 100 vignettes and will rely on its great ideas and advice for my next trip to France, or in the mean time to nourish my dreams before I can afford my next plane ticket. So why is this book so good?

First, each of the 100 sections are only a few pages long, introduced by a title, a subtitle detailing what it is about, and the specific location. The first 25 presentations are about Paris, the rest covers the rest of France in all its rich diversity, including some of its islands –Corsica is #100.

France is diverse, sprawling, magnificent, flush with architecture, culture, style, royalty and religion, soaked in sauce Béarnaise and Bordeaux reds. There are coasts to swim along, mountain ravines to wander, town squares where one can sip coffee all day alone and no one will ask you to leave. There are thousands of years of history –from the Celts to the Romans to World War II– all of which are still relevant and resonant. There are dozens of distinct cultures –Normans, Lyonnais and Niçois– and they all exist proudly under the same tricolor banner. There are fashion, gastronomy, and museums full of masterpieces so familiar that they risk cliché.
p.xviii

The style is the one of literary essays more than cheap guide books: the very vivid descriptions combine great data, on French history for instance, with personal reflections (the author has been numerous times to France and even lived there several years).

These are my familiar refuges, my own slices of Paris, my old friends.
p.31

Some passages are simply achingly beautiful, as they so make want you to be there and experience the place by yourself. In #8, she has an amazing evocation of a music concert in La Sainte-Chapelle (Paris).

Thanks to her experience, the author gives great advice (the most important one I think: be spontaneous!), some tips even (how to visit Versailles while avoiding the maddening crowds), short lists of recommended places based on what she loves most, from restaurants to lingerie shops, museums, 6 of her most favorite spectacular gardens, etc.:

In Paris, it’s important to allow yourself to be lured –by instinct, a spectacular sound, or by any kind of hunger. You will never regret it.
p.15

DeSanctis even shares some healthy wisdom gained through experiencing this country:

Frankly, we can learn a lot from them [the numerous lighthouses on the Western coast of France]: about dependability and consistency, how to hand tough, and what a waste it is to do anything less than greet each day with a sense of optimism and purpose.
p. 309

I particularly enjoyed her  #41 on L’Abbaye de Lérins, on the island Saint-Honorat, off Cannes:

These little respites should be required of all of us in this day and age, what must be the noisiest epoch in human history. A little quiet time in a monastery on a Mediterranean island, with church bells the sole, glorious ring tone.
p.168

And if you have ever been to Aix-en-Provence, you have to recognize how spot on she is. If you have never been there, add it to your list:

The allure of Aix-en-Provence is its timelessness. So we soldier on, stay on cliché alert, and still convince ourselves that no one has experienced the sensate bliss quite as profoundly here as we have. Authenticity is the point, and why we keep coming back. Aix contains that kernel of truth we seek in escape, a place whose qualities feel familiar even as they are being revealed.
p. 341

Even though I am French myself, I have learned quite a few things on history, culture, and food (I really knew nothing about the way of chocolate from Mexico to France, via Spain and Portugal)!

And I have a list of great book recommendations quoted along!

The only slight thing that bothered me is that I tried to find an order after the 25 vignettes on Paris, but was not able to do so. This is no big deal, just the sign that I am probably still too Cartesian-French and would do well to follow the author’s invitation to go with the flow. Allow me to just list in groups what I found in this book.

It’s about history (from rock statues dating back to 4,500 B.C. to things introduced these past 10 years), cemeteries, cathedrals, castles, saints;
art, artists, architecture, painting, sculpture, cinema, authors, scientists (Marie Curie invented radiation therapy);
food, wine, champagne, cider, eau-de-vie, absinthe bars (allowed again in France in 2011), chocolate, bread, cheese, cooking classes, restaurants;
shopping, flea markets, lingerie (did you know a French woman introduced the bra in 1889?), perfume (she shares her experience at creating her own perfume with a professional perfumer –there are all kinds of fascinating and original workshops like this available in France);
the sea, the ocean, surf, beaches, lighthouses, islands, lakes, pools, spas, aquabiking, thalassotherapy,  hikes, mountains, ski resorts;
and my favorites: flowers, gardens, parks, and the category of the Official Most Beautiful Villages of France.

As you can see, men will enjoy it just as much as women.

Note that there are no color pictures included, just like all the other books I am familiar with among the books published by the famous Travelers’ Tales, but seriously, the descriptions are so well done that thanks to them, you will be able to create the most beautiful color pictures in your mind.

VERDICT: Rich with unique advice and achingly beautiful descriptions of France in all its diversity, 100 Places In France Every Woman Should Go is honestly THE companion book you have to purchase for your next trip to France, or to help you dream before you can go.

  ***

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

Told in a series of stylish, original essays, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is for the serious Francophile, for the woman dreaming of a trip to Paris, and for those who love crisp stories well-told. Like all great travel writing, this volume goes beyond the guidebook and offers insight not only about where to go but why to go there. Combining advice, memoir and meditations on the glories of traveling through France, this book is the must-have in your carry-on when flying to Paris.

Award-winning writer Marcia DeSanctis draws on years of travels and living in France to lead you through vineyards, architectural treasures, fabled gardens and contemplative hikes from Biarritz to Deauville, Antibes to the French Alps. These 100 entries capture art, history, food, fresh air and style and along the way, she tells the stories of fascinating women who changed the country’s destiny. Ride a white horse in the Camargue, find Paris’ hidden museums, try thalassotherapy in St. Malo, and buy raspberries at Nice’s Cour Saleya market. From sexy to literary, spiritual to simply gorgeous, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is an indispensable companion for the smart and curious traveler to France. [provided by the author]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo credit: Ron Haviv

Photo credit: Ron Haviv

 

Marcia DeSanctis is a former television news producer for Barbara Walters, NBC and CBS News.
She has written essays and articles for numerous publications including Vogue, Marie Claire, Town & Country, O the Oprah Magazine, Departures, and The New York Times Magazine.
Her essays have been widely anthologized and she is the recipient of three Lowell Thomas Awards for excellence in travel journalism,
as well as a Solas Award for best travel writing.
She holds a degree from Princeton University in Slavic Languages and Literature and a Masters in Foreign Policy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter

Buy the book: Amazon, on Travelers’ Tales.

 

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