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I am a self confessed francophile and after a lovely Easter Sunday family morning tea and easter egg hunt, I am now flicking through my list of must read books on France, as we will be in Southern France at the end of May  –  I think it helps to get a feel for a place if you read a little about it before you go – both with regard to its history and the present day.

If you are going to France for the first time, a great book to start with is by Englishwoman Lucy Wadham. She writes honestly about her adopted homeland  in The Secret Life of France (Faber 2009).  As it was published after we returned,  I had to read it post-trip but I think it would be useful to read prior – it is a candid, funny and often quite surprising read, and hugely informative. I am certainly glad that I have read it now that I am returning.

Another book I found really helpful before we went on our France-Bike self guided tour of Provence in 2007, was French Toast  (Penguin 2006), by New Zealander Peta Mathias – Peta is a television presenter and food writer. My husband and I both enjoy her quirkiness, sense of style and tremendous joie de vivre. The subtitle “eating and laughing your way around France” is a pretty good indication of the tone of the book. It has a chapter on Provence and recipes too.

2007 was my first time in France, though I had been longing to visit since I started learning French at high school. Paris was our first stop and oh yes, it is true what they say about French women, they have that effortless chic that I guess we would all love to have. I have never seen white linen pants worn so well by so many women….. if you want to read more about French style then have a look as this book I came across last year: Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange (Flammarion 2011)….I must study it again before we hit Nice!

If you want to read more about the bike tour we did, go to:  http://www.france-bike.com/provence_luberon.0.html?&L=1. You can see the review there by a couple of New Zealanders (i.e. me).

Here is a photo of a feat of truly amazing engineering- I would never have known I could feel so truly awestuck by large slabs of stone… the Pont du Gard: