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Intimate France: Mrs. Platt's latest book on France and French culture is even better than her first - "French or Foe?" Whether you enjoyed that one or missed it, you'll love this one. (Reviewer bias: I am an American - originally from the Washington D.C. area - who lives in Paris so am very interested in this type of book. It also means I can REALLY appreciate some of the help and humor in all this.) In "Savoir Flair: 211 Tips for enjoying France and the French", she has taken numerous interesting stories or observations about an American operating in France, added a punch line (i.e., tip) and organized them into 20 chapters. What I particularly like about this book is you can read just the topics of interest if you're visiting Paris for a vacation - topics like arriving at the airports, hotels, using taxis, Metro, Cafes, French food - or you can read it all if going there on business or longer. An example of tips more oriented to those of us living in France include comments on business meals, driving, the local scene, rural living, or requesting information from the French (not as obvious as you think) - just to name a few. One of my favorite sections is the chapter on dogs. The French can give the British a run for their money on their infatuation with dogs. You haven't lived till you sit down in a beautiful French restaurant and realize the `person' sitting at the table next to you is named Gizmo, and he's a Yorkshire terrier! Read Chapter 7 to hear about the rest of the story; including dog dirt on sidewalks. Hilarious (to an American) and true. Mrs. Platt, an American, has a nice writing style, mixing humor with authority. She has lived in Paris for over 30 years - she knows what she's talking about; intimately. This 290 page paperback is highly recommended.
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My family just returned from a two-week visit to France. While I had studied French throughout my pre-college years, I was a bit uncertain of my ability to communicate, and bought Savoir Flair! feeling that it would be help me to understand French culture better, thereby improving the quality of my interactions with the French. It certainly did. I can't praise this book highly enough! It was much more useful than the phrasebooks and dictionaries I brought along, because it helped me understand what makes the French tick. Thanks to its insights on how French culture works, and what individual French persons expect in a variety of situations, we could not have had a better experience.I knew what to say and how to say it to get a positive, helpful response. Thanks to the book, we even managed to bring on board our plane over 250 lbs. of French floor tiles we bought on our last day in Paris - without any trouble by officialdom over weight or size! The advice worked like a charm in each and every instance -- and even earned me the respect of my usually prickly adult children who depended upon me to translate on their behalf. Truly, this book was a joy.
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Merci, Polly Platt and thank you so very much for both of your wonderful books. My experiences in Paris were delightful. I traveled to Paris for the first time last year. Three trips in all. The delightful and helpful hints found in Savoir Flair were used daily. For example, on one trip last November when the presidential election in America was hanging on the Florida vote count-- I was just off the plane and had taken the RER and Metro into St. Germain des Pres. (I had no prob using the RER on my second time there. Just beginners luck, I guess. Or pehaps the tips from Ms. Platt which remained in my mind. And an elaborate map drawn on an airline ticket jacket by an American commercial pilot who firmly believed I would be lost and bewildered. I lost the map. All I really needed was to remember the word: Sortie) I floated into Paris transported through the galactic portal at CDG -- appearing pretty much as described by Ms. Platt. I found the circular design comforting -- I couldn't get lost. It was a loop. Before 2 hours had elapsed I used Ms. Platt's information, again: I left my bag at the hotel and stepped out for a refreshing walk. The heel on my favorite (and only comfortable AND pretty) shoes had broken. Vanity more than need was driving me to find someplace to repair them. I didn't want to wear my ugly, but comfortable shoes. These cute little Stuart Weitzman black ankle boots w/black rabbit fur inside were perfect for the chilly, wet weather. They were three years old but still wonderful. However, I was slipping a little with every step (and it wasn't on dog poo.) What were my chances of getting a repair while I waited -- not great, I figured. Probably impossible. Plus, where would I find a repair shop. Whoops, quite by accident I saw one and stepped inside. Guess what!Read more ›
I had mixed reactions to Polly Platt's book. Some practical how-to info is accurate and useful. I had a problem with her lack of objectivity in some areas. She does a lot of name-dropping and you get the sense that her friends are of a certain wealth and social status. This affects the way she presents other info. I live in Paris and I ride the Metro without the fearful incidents she describes. I also take exception to her advice on page 157, which sounds like racist propaganda from the Front Nationale (Le Pen's far-right poltical party).."if you're blond, you'll be stared at and perhaps approached by French men of all ages. Blond or not, second generation from North Africa may follow you and accost you." Other warnings are that you should not walk alone in the 20th arr. I am blond, blue-eyed and petite and I frequently shop, walk alone or go to cafes in the 19th/18th and 20th (neighborhoods with many North Africans). I have consistently been treated with friendliness and respect by men and women alike in these areas. It's 'trendy' for a certain elitist class of people in Paris to bash Algerians and Africans as being violent or dangerous. The biggest danger in Paris is stepping in dog poop and not saying si vous plait. Open your eyes, and your heart, and you'll have a great time.