Top 5 Holiday Gifts for Francophiles

It’s that time of year when we search out the best gifts for the Francophiles in your life. Here is our top 5 list for 2014 holidays. Joyeux Noël!

BOOK: Speak the Culture: France

A guidebook can show you where to go, a phrase-book what to say when you get there. Only Speak the Culture: France will lead you to the nation’s soul. This easy-to-use cultural companion reflects what it means to have grown up with Camus, Cézanne, De Gaulle and Bardot; it captures the spirit of France and delves deep into the Gallic psyche. Through exploring the people, the movements and the lifestyles that have shaped the French experience, you will come to an intimate understanding of France and the French. There are many travel guides and manuals on living in France. Speak the Culture: France is different: a superbly designed, informed and entertaining insight into French life and culture and who the French really are. Recommended by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, the Official French Government Centre of Language and Culture in the UK. For new residents, business travellers, holidaymakers, students and lovers of France everywhere, Speak the Culture: France is an engaging companion and guide to an enviably rich civilization at the heart of Europe.

“It would be wrong to imagine that your average Frenchwoman just pops into Chanel on the Rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré whenever she needs a new bag, cardy or fragrance. While a significant minority do indulge in ready-to-wear lines produced by designer labels, most are happy with less brand-conscious garments. Small boutiques and historic department stores like Le Bon Marché and Les Galeries Lafayette sell the big brands, but many French are happy to buy anonymous clothes at knockdown prices in chain stores like Tati, or even in the hypermarket.”


CD: Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55

International movie star, fashion icon, and music royalty (daughter of French pop icon Serge Gainsbourg), Charlotte Gainsbourg makes her US debut. Already platinum in France with worldwide sales of over 500,000. The US CD release includes two previously unavailable bonus tracks, two music videos, and a video interview with Charlotte. Music by Air, lyrics by Jarvis Cocker and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, and produced by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck). The combination of Air’s trademark glide complements Gainsbourg’s voice (which is less singing and more melodic, breathy recitation), to the point where, had the lyrical input been less than stellar, this could easily have sent the listener to sleep. Instead, the emotional detachment in Gainsbourg’s delivery acts as a foil to the passion presented in the lyrics. For their part, Cocker and Hannon excel with their trademark darkly humourous input- the passenger on a doomed flight in “AF407105”, the surgery/seduction metaphor in “The Operation”, or the venomous “Jamais” being particular standouts.

LANGUAGE CD: French, Conversational: Learn to Speak and Understand French with Pimsleur Language Programs

French is an official language in 44 countries. It is spoken by 55 million people in France, 3 million in Belgium, 1.5 million in Switzerland, 6.5 million in Canada, and 5 million in former French + Belgian colonies. It is also an official language of the U.N. Dr. Paul Pimsleur devoted his life to language teaching and testing and was one of the world’s leading experts in applied linguistics. After years of experience and research, Dr. Pimsleur developed The Pimsleur Method based on two key principles:  the Principle of Anticipation and a scientific principle of memory training that he called “Graduated Interval Recall.”  This Method has been applied to the many levels and languages of the Pimsleur Programs.

CD: Vintage France

Though echoing the past, Vintage France proves how alive and hip classic French chanson remains. Several generations of musicians continue to find inspiration in songs that were first popularized in the early to mid-1900s. On Vintage France, sultry songstresses such as the iconic Juliette Gréco and Madeleine Peyroux join newcomers Francesca Blanchard and Dutch jazz harmonica whiz Martijn Luttmer. This harmonious collection has deep roots. From the outdoor guingette dances where the waltzing musette instrumentals of early French popular music began, to the cabarets where Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and other legends entertained a country struggling with the recovery from World War II. Over the last 100 years, the French chanson tradition has undergone a process of evolution, yet retained an inimitable charm. The musicians featured on this collection have kept the tradition of rich harmonization and rhythmic nuance alive. This open-minded evolution is captured on the interpretations of classic songs on Vintage France. Fans of Piaf and Gainsbourg, or new listeners looking for an introduction to France’s classic gems, will find exactly what they are looking for on Vintage France.

 CD: Air – Talkie Walkie (or any album really)

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of their albums. Their modern French sound is in a class all by itself. Air’s sound is often referred to as electronica; their form of electronic music was influenced by the synthesizer sounds of the 1970s such as Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, and Francis Lai. Other influences include psychedelic and progressive rock pioneers Pink Floyd; film composer Ennio Morriconekrautrockers Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk; early pioneers of the eurodance electronica subgenre Space; Jean-Jacques Perrey and Claude Perraudin (although there are some echoes of dance music styles in the production); French crooner Serge Gainsbourg (Histoire de Melody Nelson, for example); and soft rock duo The Carpenters (Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, originally by progressive rock band Klaatu for example).