With Thanksgiving and the symbolic start to the holiday shopping season just around the corner, I thought I’d put together a France gift guide for this holiday season – from magnetic French poetry to Julia Child’s beloved recipes.
This list can serve as gift ideas for the Francophile in your life, or perhaps as some ideas to put on your own wish list (I see no problem with serious hint-dropping around the holidays). With so many totally fabulous France-themed gifts, it’ll be hard not want at least a few of the items on this list. In fact, I want just about every item on the list.
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I’ve included a wide range of types of gifts in several different categories. With a little bit of everything appealing to a wide range of tastes, hopefully you’ll find the perfect French gift for your favorite Francophile (or something for yourself!).
French Gifts for Cooks
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Of all the Francophiles in the world, Julia Child was probably one of the most famous. A California girl who fell in love with France early in her life, Julia Child became the American master of French cuisine. In fact, her cookbook is still touted as THE guide to cooking French food, more than 40 years after she first wrote it. From boeuf bourguignon to crème brûlée, Julia’s cookbook teaches you how to do it all with easy-to-follow directions.
- Herbes de Provence – This blend of spices that appears in dishes in the South of France seems to make everything taste better. Thyme, basil, savory, fennel and lavender flowers combine to create a unique flavor that you can use to rub on meats, season pasta sauce or sprinkle on baked cheese.
- Mussel Pot – One of my personal favorite dishes in France is moules marinière; steamed open in a white wine broth, mussels are a simple delicious meal that couldn’t be more French if it sang La Marseillaise. Serve them up in this authentic pot and you’ll almost feel like you’re on the Brittany Coast!
- Crepe Pan – I love mine with just a little butter and sugar, though occasionally a little raspberry jam or freshly cut strawberries and whipped cream could go inside and I wouldn’t say no. With this non-stick crepe pan, you can start your own Sunday morning crepe tradition, or maybe invite your friends over for a French themed brunch!
- Fondue Set – Who doesn’t like the idea of bread dunked in hot, melty cheese? Well, except for those of us who like the idea of fruit and cookies dunked into hot, melty chocolate. Plus, fondue makes for an easy, fun dinner and you can dunk pretty much whatever you want in there. It’s also a great excuse to get together people for dinner. With this stylish set you can melt up your favorite cheese or chocolate and dunk away!
- Cheese Board – The best part of being in France is that many meals are followed with the display of a cheese board full of a great selection of cheeses. But if you’re like me, you unwrap the cheeses, put them out to enjoy, and then spend all your time trying to remember which one is which. But with this board, you can write the names write in front of the cheeses, so you’ll always know which is your favorite – and which one smells like stinky feet. Not that it couldn’t be the same cheese.
- Stemless Wine Glasses – What goes best with cheese? Wine of course. While you probably already have a cabinet full of wine glasses, you might not have any stemless ones. For accident prone people like myself, these are a lot harder to tip over (we all know red wine is impossible to get out of anything) and they look great at the same time. A win-win!
- Champagne Flutes – With the holiday season just around the corner, lots of Champagne is sure to be toasted in celebration. And, while you may think your wine glasses will suffice just fine for the bubbly, any true Francophile knows that serving Champagne in a regular wine glass is almost sacrilegious.
- Oyster Knife – The only thing I like more than mussels is oysters. Oysters have been a long-standing favorite of French Kings (in fact, Louis XIV had his brought to Versailles from the Brittany coast) and they are still widely enjoyed today. With this handy little tool, you can buy your oysters on the half shell and enjoy them just the way the Sun King used to – raw, with a squeeze of lemon.
- Bodum Chambourd 12-cup French Press – Anycoffee lover who has had coffee brewed in a French press will never go back to regular drip again. Making potently delicious and aromatic cups of coffee, everyone who likes their morning (or afternoon and evening) tasse should invest in a good French Press.
- Crème Brûlée Set—Creamy custard topped with a crispy layer of caramelized sugar? Sounds like heaven to me. With this crème brûlée set, you’ll have the perfectly sized ceramic dishes and the mini blow torch to make perfect crème brûlées (and totally impress your guests at your next dinner party).
- Espresso Cup Set – Want to feel like you are sitting out in a Parisian sidewalk café, sipping your espresso out of a tiny, white cup and watching fabulously dressed people walk by? If so, these cups can at least get you part way.
- Provence Tablecloth – Bright sunny colors and big bold prints are the standard of Provence, and adding a tablecloth to this one will instantly brighten the room. Plus, as you eat off the traditional Provençal print you may almost feel like you are surrounded by olive groves and fields of lavender.
- Madeleine Cookie Pan – This cookie pan can allow you to bring a little bit of France into your kitchen and you can cook up your own, great madeleines. Get creative, too, with dyes, added fruits or even chocolate chips!
French Movies & Movies Set in France on DVD
- French Kiss – If you like the French countryside and/or the idea of falling in love with the French man, this is the perfect movie for you. A sweet romantic comedy that takes place in various parts of France, any Francophile can enjoy this movie for the French scenery alone.
- Chocolat – There isn’t a whole lot not to enjoy about Johnny Depp and chocolate. I mean, honestly. This is a heart-warming film about a mother and daughter that open a chocolate shop; it explores small French village life and French morality. Definitely worth many, many viewings, but don’t watch it hungry.
- La Vie en Rose – Iconic French singer Edith Piaf is depicted by Academy Award winning actress Marion Cotillard in this film about the singer’s life. Cotillard became the first actress to win an Oscar for a French-speaking role and the film won lots of critical appraise.
- Rick Steves: Best of Travels in Europe-France – So, he may be a little on the nerdy side, but Rick Steves knows how to travel through France. This well researched travel movie will give you plenty of great ideas for your next trip to France.
Books About France
- The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, by Gertrude Stein – I mostly like this book because it talks extensively about pre-WWII Paris and the large expat community living there at the time. The 1920s were a booming time of growth and transition for the City of Light, and I loved reading about a Paris that is in so many ways different from the one we know today.
- My Life in France – Julia Child’s autobiography, which was published posthumously, details her life in France during the post WWII era; this book is a perfect portrait of the ultimate Francophile and the country she loved. You can practically hear her unique voice chortling to you from the page.
- Americans in Paris – A city with so much history, Paris also has a rich history of famous ex-pats who flocked to the City of Light. Reading the stories from Hemmingway and others about Paris through the ages from an American perspective is great.
- French Women Don’t Get Fat – You may laugh at the title, but it’s true. There are copious numbers of beautiful, trim French ladies walking the streets (and still enjoying their croissants, sauces and cheese!). Want to know their secret? Read the book. You may not agree, but it’s fascinating reading all the same.
- The New France: A Complete Guide to Contemporary French Wine – A meal is just not a meal in France without wine to go along with it. With the various regions producing different types of wine and a complicated classification system, sometimes having a guide around to help you make sense of it all could be really helpful.
- Hungry Traveler France – The best part of any trip to France is of course the food. This series of books breaks down all the regional foods of France, helping you to understand not only what you may be seeing on the menu, but also which things are best in what parts of the country.
French Language Gifts
- Rosetta Stone Level 1 – 5 French – Want to brush up on some French before your trip? Or are you just trying to refresh that rusty high school French for good measure. Whatever your reason for wanting to work on your French skills, this software program is proven to work wonders at teaching not only grammar and vocabulary, but also helping with proper pronunciation.
- Larousse French/English Dictionary – This is a great companion to have for any Francophile. Not only will it help on your next trip, you can brush up on words you may have forgotten and look up pesky vocabulary you have never learned.
- 501 French Verbs – Anyone trying to learn French should for sure invest in this handy grammar book. Listing out all of the major French verbs and clearly delineating how they are conjugated is immensely helpful for mastering the difficult French language.
Fun French Gifts
- Magnetic French Poetry – What better way to work on your French then play with magnetic poetry on your fridge. Create phrases, work on your grammar and leave up funny French phrases. The perfect gift for anyone who loves France (and the French language!).
- Provence 2012 Calendar – The olive groves, the sun drenched valleys, the brightly yellow fields of sunflowers – Provence is a picture perfect kind of place. With great light, bold colors and beautiful scenery, Provence is a photographers dream, and also the kind of place you may want to look at day in and day out hanging on your wall (and counting down to your next trip to France?).
- 101 Beautiful Small Towns in France – Part coffee table book, part travel inspiration, this book showcases beautiful photos and descriptions of my favorite part of France – the small villages. Scattered throughout the country and having their own unique character and beautiful old stone buildings (and well dressed older French men playing boules in the town square), the small towns of France are what really give this beautiful country its character.
- Paris Metro Map – If you are going to be spending much time in France navigating the Metro, investing in a little laminated map like this one is probably a good idea. You can keep in your pocket or purse and it won’t take long to easily decipher the best routes to anywhere in the city you want to go.
French Bath & Beauty Gifts
- Savon de Marseille (Marseille Soap) – The soap of Marseille is famous worldwide. Using beautifully scented natural ingredients from the region (sage, lavender etc.), this beautifully smelling soaps will get you clean and have you reminiscing of France all at the same time.
- Lavender – I love buying loose French lavender. When I get home I make little sachets of the beautifully smelling and relaxing herb and give them to friends as gifts. I also like sticking these little sachets in my underwear drawer. It just makes everything smell so lovely.
French Gifts for Kids
- Le Petit Prince – The favorite childhood book in France, this charming story with equally charming illustrations should be a part of every Francophile’s book collection.
- French Flash Cards – With these colorful, picture flashcards on a ring, you may feel like they are only for kids, but I find these things to be a great learning tool. Not only will they help you associate the word with a picture, instead of with the English word (the best way to learn), you can carry them around and practice your vocabulary anywhere from on the bus into work to your couch while watching tv.
- Bonjour Les Amis: French Made Easy for Children – Want to get your kids ahead of the learning curve and start teaching them French at an early age? With this book you can start your kids down the road to fluency by teaching them the basics in French.
French Gifts for Men
- Boules Set – It doesn’t get any more French than the well dressed older men in courtyards and town squares playing boules on any given day. The French game in which players try to throw large metal balls closest to a smaller ball on gravel fields is an integral part of French life. Buy your own set and the next time you go to France, you may even be able to challenge some of the old men and impress them with your skills.
- France Soccer Jersey – Do you love your Bleus? Worship Zisou and remember precisely when the French won the World Cup in 1998? Even if you aren’t the ultimate French soccer fan, you can look styling in this great French soccer jersey.
- Magnificent 7: Tour de France DVD – In my town, the streets suddenly seem a lot more packed with cyclists in spandex when the Tour de France comes on the airwaves every summer. Bands of Lance Armstrong wannabes tune in and snap in during the famous French race. This DVD shows the ins and outs of one of Lance’s record-breaking 7 Tour de France wins.
Photo by: Andrew Kennedy