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As I continue my reading on Paris and France in general, I keep stumbling on more great posts like this: How to Spend Three Days in Paris by Bryan Pirolli , hosted on the excellent Eurocheapo daily blog. The latest one to take my fancy is this: Fifty ways to save time and money in Paris. It has some great hints and I must remember to revisit it before we arrive. David Leibovitz continues to provide more gems via his Facebook site – I thoroughly enjoyed this :  How to be a Parisian – 11 ways to fake it, and this too: 10 things France does better than anywhere else (both via CNN).

Total immersion? – well, what do I mean by that since I am not actually there yet? It means I am completely enveloping myself in things French in my spare time, reading, watching movies, continuing my French lessons, doing French homework (which I really enjoy), and using Duolingo, to reinforce my basic French skills.

Because we are going to Versailles, I recently bought Antonia Fraser’s book Marie Antoinette : the Journey and have been thoroughly enjoying it as I knew very little about the titular character. The book piqued my interest in Marie Antoinette, so I watched Sofia Coppola’s film, Marie Antoinette and absolutely loved it. Coincidentally, I discovered the movie is based on Fraser’s book. While I admit I am not a big fan of Kirsten Dunst, I think she is perfectly cast in this movie, playing the title character. It appears that many do not like Coppola’s take on Marie Antoinette, but I have come to admire her portrayal, isolated and alone as the young woman was in the French court. Not only does the character appeal, also but also the fabulous settings (it was filmed entirely on location in France), and the stunning costumes. The dresses are beautiful and shoes are exquisite, with Manolo Blahnik having designed many of them – you can see some of them here. The scenes at Versailles and Le Petit Trianon are enticing and I am looking forward seeing it in May. To find out more about the film I recommend these reviews which resonate with my own response to it – Palace Coup by David Edelstein ‘, and In Defence of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette by Amanda Dobbins.

As for my French lessons and homework, I am loving working with my tutor Marie,  and I feel I am progressing well. Marie now speaks to me in French for much of each lesson and I have found, thankfully, that I am able to understand her. We do practical role plays, reserving restaurant tables, ordering food and wine, asking directions, trying on clothes – you name it , we are covering it. This week, Marie provided me with a really useful link, which will ensure we know how to order our coffee correctly – a pretty important skill since we love a good coffee!

All my homework is based around Marie’s home town of Toulouse, which I feel I am beginning to know, so here’s hoping we can stop off for a break in Toulouse as we drive further South. This week I am learning how to give and receive directions – I have selected Grand Hotel de L’Opera Hotel as my imaginary starting point  (for purposes of my homework), as I head towards Marche Victor Hugo. Having learned the route and directions, I would really like to do it now! Talking to Marie has made Toulouse come alive for me, plus, after re-reading Peta Mathias’ book ‘French Toast‘ I would love to see what she describes as ” stylish and beautiful Toulouse” which is “another one of the luminous pink cities, bathed in the Mediterranean light.” Watch this space ….

My well read copy of French Toast, by Peta Mathias.

My well read copy of French Toast, by Peta Mathias.