Told in a series of stylish, original essays, New York Times travel bestseller 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is for the serious Francophile and anyone who loves crisp stories well told. Like all great travel writing, this collection goes beyond the guidebook and offers insight not only about where to go but why to go there. Combining advice, memoir, and meditations on the glories of traveling through France, this book is the must-have for anyonewoman or manvoyaging to or just dreaming of France.
Award-winning writer Marcia DeSanctis draws on years of travels and life in France to lead you through vineyards, architectural treasures, fabled gardens, and contemplative hikes from Biarritz to Deauville, Antibes to the French Alps. These 100 entries capture art, history, food, fresh air, beaches, wine, and style and along the way, she tells the stories of many fascinating women who changed the country’s destiny. Ride a white horse in the Camargue, seek iconic paintings of women in Paris, try thalassotherapy in St. Malo, shop for raspberries at Nice’s Cour Saleya marketthese and 96 other pleasures are rendered with singular style. The stories are sexy, literary, spiritual, profound, and overall, simply gorgeous. 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is an indispensable companion for the smart and curious love of France.
About the Author
Marcia DeSanctis is a former television news producer who has worked for Barbara Walters, ABC, CBS, and NBC News. She contributes to Vogue and Town & Country magazines about health, wellness, and beauty. Her essays, articles, and stories have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Tin House, Creative Nonfiction, The Coachella Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Roads and Kingdoms, The Sunday Telegraph, Architectural Digest, O the Oprah Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, More, BBC Travel, Yahoo Travel, Entropy, Off Assignment, and many others. Her travel essays have been widely anthologized, including five consecutive years in The Best Women's Travel Writing and four in The Best Travel Writing. She is the recipient of five Lowell Thomas Awards for excellence in travel journalism, including Travel Journalist of the Year for her essays from Rwanda, Morocco, Russia, Haiti, and France, and a Solas Award for Best Travel Writing. She holds a degree from Princeton University in Slavic Languages and Literature as well as a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She lived and worked for several years in Paris and travels as much as possible to France.
Read an Excerpt
Stories the River Tells
The Dordogne and Josephine Baker’s Chateau
When you drive through the Dordogne, the area of Aquitaine between the Loire valley and the Pyrenées, the names will fall from your tongue like drops of truffle honey sold in the local markets alongside Cabécou goat cheese and magret de canard. Sarlat, Castelnaud, Souillac, Issigeacwith each passing commune, the seduction grows more poetic and somehow, more persuasive. People succumb to the Dordogne’s allure with a sense of destiny, lasting love from coup de foudre, and I know plenty of people for whom France is not Paris or Provence but rather this untrammeled southwestern slice of valleys, rivers, farms and vineyards. Such understatedness may be why passion for this area is unusually potent and the attraction so enduring.
Author Kimberley Lovato remembers when she fell, a moment that could only be called a conversion. “When I first saw Chateau de Beynac, I drove off the road,” she says about the medieval fortress that roosts dramatically on a cliff-face high above the Dordogne River. “I called my husband and said, “You wouldn’t believe what I’m looking at.” Inspired, she began to delve into the stories behind the cuisine of the region the French still call Périgordthe growers of raspberries, the purveyors of fois gras, the creator of the sublime lavender crème caramel. The result is Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne, her cookbook, memoir, and tribute to the food, markets and people of the area. “Everything you love about France is here, but better,” she says. “Lifestyle. Physical beauty. Uncrowded markets and restaurants, where dinner is usually cooked by the owner. And life exists around the table.”
In the Dordogne, cuisine is king but so is the history of royals who resided there and reminders of the many battles fought. The bastides of Monpazier and Beaumont du Périgord, fortress towns from the Middle Ages built around an arcade-lined central square, remain largely intact. The Dordogne also lays claim to some 1001 chateaux, many of which came under attack during the Hundred Years War between France and England, and they rise from the vineyards and undulating green meadows in various degrees of splendor. They are at their most sublime when seen from the river itself, either in a hired gabare or better yet in your own rented canoe or kayak. If you depart from La Roque Gageac, where the village’s honey-colored houses descend to the riverbank, you will paddle past several of the castles perched high upon the craggy cliffs. At journey’s end your car awaits you, and you may explore the medieval villages, including Beynac and Castelnaud and the castles that loom above them, which clutch centuries worth of stories. Among the most fascinating tales is also among the most recent, and it is told at Chateau de Milandes, the former home of one the twentieth century’s most intriguing women and a genuine French war hero, Josephine Baker.
As an eight-year-old foraging for food in the slums of St. Louis, Baker worked as a maid until making her way to New York, where she danced at the Plantation Club in Harlem. In 1925, at age 19, her beauty caught the eye of an impresario looking for performers to play La Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris. Topless, her hair slicked into a helmet, clad in oversized gold earrings and a pink flamingo feather between her limbs, Baker was a succès fou. Janet Flanner, the New Yorker’s legendary Paris correspondent known as Genet, wrote a belated tribute to Baker’s opening night at La Revue Nègre, which, she writes, “remains to me now like a still-fresh vision, sensual, exciting and isolated in my memory today, almost fifty years later.” Within a half hour of the curtain fall, she had catapulted onto the stratosphere. “Two specific elements had been established that were unforgettableher magnificent dark body, a new model that to the French proved for the first time that black was beautiful, and the acute response of the white masculine public in the capital of all of hedonism of all EuropeParis.” Soon, the woman known as the Bronze Venus or the Black Pearl, with an entourage that included a pet cheetah named Chiquita, had her own show at the Folies Bergères and was the richest entertainer on the continent, and a movie star too.
In 1937, Baker saw and fell in love with the Chateau de Milandes, a Renaissance castle complete with gargoyles and massive stone staircases. During the war, she hid Jewish refugees there while she spied for De Gaulle’s Free French Forces, for which she was awarded the Rosette of the Résistance in 1946 and in 1961, the Légion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre. In 1963, Baker was the sole woman to speak at the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By then she had bought the chateau and adopted 12 children from 8 countries to raise there. Her great wealth allowed her to transform what she called her “Sleeping Beauty Castle,” into a theme park dedicated to her, complete with an African village, theater, dance hall called the Sans Souci, and a J-shaped swimming pool. Her extravagance came at a high cost, and she was forced to sell Milandes for a fraction of its value and abandon it in 1968.
It was rescued by a local family and today, the museum there honors her memory and contribution with film clips, photographs and yes, the famous banana skirt from when she was the toast of all Paris. The pièce de resistance is a regal bathroom befitting the glamorous former chatelaine decorated in the gilded black palate of her signature scent, Lanvin’s Arpège. It’s a long way from Paris and even farther from Saint Louis, but in the Dordogne, Josephine Baker takes her rightful place among the great women of France. The region, famous for its food, memorialized by its villages, but sustained by the people who loved it and still do, is the richer for it and so are we.
Table of Contents
1. The Artist’s Artist
Musée Rodin and Camille Claudel, Paris.
2. Paris’s Patron Saint
Saint Genevieve and l’Église St. Étienne du Mont.
3. Homage to La Mome
The “Museum” of Edith Piaf and her grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery.
4. Bring a Big Shopping Bag
La Grande Épicerie at Le Bon Marché.
5. Where to Spend the Perfect Sunday
The Bagatelle, Paris .
6. Take the Waters, Urban Style
Pools, The Seine beach, aquabikes and hammam.
7. Unmentionables Never More
Find the Perfect Lingerie.
8. You Can Hear Heaven
Attend a Concert at Sainte Chapelle.
9. A Long Day of Pleasure
My 10 adored restaurants, patisseries and tea salons
10. The Most Beautiful Film Location on Earth
On the trail of Amélie, Simone Signoret, Audrey Hepburn, Julie Delpy, and more.
11. Warm, Dark and Quiet
The most romantic movie theaters, including one designed by Catherine Deneuve.
12. Bouquets in a Bottle
The quest for perfume
13. But Not Yet in the Pantheon
A walk in search of some of France’s great Women: Olympe de Gouges, Germaine Tillon, Simone de Beauvoir, Christine de Pisan, Louise Michel, Charlotte Corday, Heloise, and yes, Marianne.
14. The View from Elsewhere
Seven great places to view the Eiffel Tower (including the Eiffel Tower).
15. A Few Good Addresses.
Some of the most unique stores for toys, clothes, housewares, flowers and browsing.
16. The Chemist was a Lady
The Institut Marie Curie.
17. The Halls of Memory
18. More than Sunday Strolls
Play tennis in the Luxembourg Gardens, go for a run in the Tuileries, and see a guinguette at Les Buttes Chaumont.
19. The Essential 12 +1
Just for Women: A Shortcut to the Best of the Louvre.
20. Essential 12
Just for Women: A Shortcut to the Best of the Musée d’Orsay.
21. Colonnades and Colette
The Palais Royal Gardens.
22. The Hidden Places
Five small, beautiful museums.
23. All Around the Pompidou
Visit Brancusi’s studio and Niki de St Phalle’s fountain.
24. Napoleon Slept Here.
Malmaison, Josephine’s house near.
25. Nowhere in the World More Lavish
Versailles gardens by bicycle, the Chateau and Petit Trianon
26. The Little Dairy
Marie Antoinette’s Laiterie in Rambouillet.
27. On the Trail of the Philosopher
The Nietzche Path, Eze-sur-Mer.
28. Detox and Retox
Vinothérapie spa at Caudalie les Sources and Smith Haut Lafitte vineyard.
29. The Green Muse
Absinthe Bar, Antibes.
30. The Red City of Toulouse Lautrec
Sainte Cécile Cathedral and Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi.
31. White Horses, Pink Flamingoes and The Black Madonna
Explore the Camargue
32. On the Street of Dreams
Window Shop on La Croisette, Cannes.
33. Millions of Flowers
Make your own perfume, Grasse.
34. A Country of Green Spaces
Visit some of France’s spectacular gardens.
35. Nighttime in the Shadow of Rome (plus two romantic hotels)
The Imperial Towns of Nîmes and Arles.
36. The Turquoise Water of the Haute Savoie
37. Eileen Grey’s Masterpiece (and Le Corbusier’s Little Gem)
E-1027 and Le Cabanon, Roquebrune-Cap Martin.
38. From Market to Table
Five Superb Cooking Classes from Normandy to Nice.
39. Sweeter Than Wine
Eat canelés and bike around Bordeaux.
40. The Simplest Fantasy
Spend a few days in a monastery, Île St Honorat.
41. Stories the River Tells
The Dordogne and Josephine Baker’s Chateau de Milandes.
42. Oysters and Sand
The Dune de Pilat and the Bassin d’Arcachon.
43. The France of our Desires
Touring in the shadow of Mont Ventoux, Provence.
44. The Women in the Fields
The Stones of Carnac.
45. La Vie en Lavande
The Lavender Route, Provence.
46. Chasing Waterfalls
Fresh air in The Jura and the Queyras.
47. You are Never Too Old
Immerse yourself in French language classes.
48. Tender was the Night
Have a cocktail at the Belles Rives, Juan-les-Pins.
49. Who was Madame de Sévigné?
Chateau de Grignan, Grignan (Drôme).
50. Eat. You are in France.
A few ideas for indulging in an unforgettable meal.
51. The Roots of Hermès.
The Textile Museum and the history of silk, Lyon.
Christmas markets in Strasbourg and Lille, Festival of Lights in Lyon. Midnight Mass, Notre Dame.
53. The First Liberated Woman
A visit to the house of George Sand, Nohant.
54. Step into a Painting.
Monet’s gardens at Giverny.
55. Rock of Ages
Spend the night on Mont St. Michel.
56. Old Bridge, New Bridge
The Pont Millau and the Pont du Gard
57. A Jewel of Picardie
Amiens Cathedral and the Floating gardens.
58. The Most Beautiful Lines
Statue of the poet Louise Labé, Lyon.
59. Where the Poor were Loved
Hospices de Beaune, Beaune.
60. Horror, Loss, and Sacrifice
Museum of Resistance and Deportation, Lyon.
61. The First City of Chocolate
Pays Basque chocolate tour, Bayonne.
62. Queen for a Week
Spend a week in a chateau, with a purpose.
63. Where the Empresses Came to Unwind
Stroll the boardwalk (in espadrilles), Biarritz.
64. Wellness, Everywhere
Spas in Aix-les-Bains, the Pyrenées and the Alps.
65. Another World Behind the Hills
Hike the Gorges du Verdun and Chemin du Paradis, Provence.
66. Picasso, with a Bonus
Pablo Picasso Museum and sculptor Germaine Richier, Antibes.
67. The Dreamscape of Genius
Desert de Retz, Chambourcy.
68. The Walls are Alive with Color
Cocteau Chapel, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Villa Santo Sospir, Cap Ferrat.
69. Islands in the Sun
Visit Île d’Yeu, Île D’Oléron, Île de Ré, and Porquerolles.
70. Remember the Fallen
Beaches, Cemeteries and the Memorial de Caen, Normandy.
71. Sex on the Beach
Plage des Jumeaux and Brigitte Bardot, St. Tropez.
72. The Ancient Places of Pilgrimage
The Via Santiago de Compostela and the Black Madonna of Rocamadour, Mary Magdalene’s Bones in Vézelay and Lourdes.
73. The Most Powerful Woman, Ever
Remembering Eleanor of Aquitaine, Poitiers and Fontevraud.
74. When Pictures tell the Story
Museum of the Tapestries of Bayeux.
75. Rosé Vines
A tour of Terrebrune Vineyard, Bandol.
76. The Youngest Saint
In the footsteps of Joan of Arc, Orleans, Blois, Troyes and Reims.
77. Trailblazer on the Route du Champagne
The young widow Veuve Clicquot and the empire she built, Éperney.
78. For all the Ships at Sea
Climb the lighthouses, Finistère.
79. The Chateaux of the Queen
Bicycle to the Loire chateaux of Chambord, Chenonceau, Amboise and Blois.
80. The Master’s Beginnings
A visit to the seaside childhood home of Christian Dior, Granville.
81. The Newest Architectural Gems
Pompidou Metz and Louvre Lens.
82. Tougher then the Rest
Visit the estates of women winegrowers, Burgundy.
83. So Much Beauty, and Wine Too
Hike the Route des Vins, Alsace.
84. The Shining White Mountains
Skiing the Mer de Glace and Mont Blanc, Chamonix.
85. Let the Water Move You
Take a boat trip on the Canal du Midi
86. The Liveliest Port
Soap factories and bouillabaisse, Marseille.
87. A Small Place, with Everything
The beach towns of Deauville, Trouville, and Honfleur in the Pays d’Auge.
88. They Stuck to Their Principles.
The march on Versailles, the women of the revolution, and Charlotte Corday, as told through the painting The Death of Marat.
89. Little Paris
The Art Nouveau city of Nancy.
90. Where to find the Real Salade Niçoise
The old city of Nice.
91. Striped Shirts and Crepes
Shopping, eating and cliff-walking, Dinard.
92. Blue Water, White Cliffs
Gaze at the rock formations and glittering beach, Etretat
93. The Gastronomic Capital of France
Les Mères de Lyon and the history of food, Lyon.
94. The Strange and Beautiful Land
The Volcanes of the Auvergne
95. The Most Beautiful Garden in France
Vaux le Vicomte, Maincy.
96. Les Plus Beaux Villages
Visit one or all of the 158 official most beautiful towns in France.
97. Salt Water and an Ancient Town.
Try thalassotherapy, St. Malo.
98. Eat, Drink, Swashbuckle
Discover the Sensual Pleasures of Gascony
99. Where the Wind Meets the Waves
100. Everything you Dream of
About the Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An Inspiring, Fun, Eloquent Book from Cover-to-Cover Spain is my foreign obsession. So imagine my surprise when 100 Places in France not only grabbed my attention and kept me reading, but actually got me excited about planning a trip to the South of France to hike, visit the perfume capital of France, and spend a few days in quiet retreat at a monastery just off the coast of Cannes. No matter if I can’t find it in my schedule and budget to actually make the trip; it is a joy in itself to be moved and inspired by great travel writing. And that’s what you have in 100 Places in France from cover-to-cover. The writing is superb throughout. Not a weak link among the 100 essays, which speaks to how much effort and care DeSanctis must have put into writing this book. I loved the varying tones of the pieces and found that added depth and balance to the work as a whole. The book also gets high marks for its rich descriptive detail and readability, two features that often don’t go hand in hand. I was also amazed at how consistently the book piqued my curiosity about the people, places, and events I was reading about, something that will definitely appeal to curious readers who love to learn (whether Francophiles or not). Of course, the book is a must-read for anyone who knows and loves France, especially those who appreciate great style in any form. These readers will love how perfectly DeSanctis captures French essence and how excited she is about sharing her passion for France. But I think it would also appeal to people who are curious about France but haven’t made it there yet. Guys included, despite the title! My verdict: Highly recommended. A smart, fun, captivating book. A keeper. A great gift book. One that fell into my hands by accident and totally won me over. Thank you, Marcia DeSanctis, for writing this unique and wonderful book!
THE companion book for your next trip to France. Rich with unique advice and achingly beautiful descriptions of France in all its diversity, 100 Places In France Every Woman Should Go is honestly THE companion book you have to purchase for your next trip to France, or to help you dream before you can go. Touristic guide books on France abound, but once you have seen one, you have basically seen them all. 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is absolutely unique. I have cherished each of its 100 vignettes and will rely on its great ideas and advice for my next trip to France, or in the mean time to nourish my dreams before I can afford my next plane ticket. So why is this book so good? First, each of the 100 sections are only a few pages long, introduced by a title, a subtitle detailing what it is about, and the specific location. The first 25 presentations are about Paris, the rest covers the rest of France in all its rich diversity, including some of its islands –Corsica is #100. The style is of literary essays more than cheap guide books: the very vivid descriptions combine great data, on French history for instance, with personal reflections (the author has been numerous times to France and even lived there several years). Some passages are simply achingly beautiful, as they so make want you to be there and experience the place by yourself. In #8, she has an amazing evocation of a music concert in La Sainte-Chapelle. Thanks to her experience, the author gives great advice (the most important one I think: be spontaneous!), some tips even (how to visit Versailles while avoiding the maddening crowds), short lists of recommended places based on what she loves most, from restaurants to lingerie shops, museums, 6 of her most favorite spectacular gardens, etc. DeSanctis even shares some healthy wisdom gained through experiencing this country. And if you have ever been to Aix-en-Provence, you have to recognize how spot on she is. If you have never been there, add it to your list. Even though I am French myself, I have learned quite a few things on history, culture, and food (I really knew nothing about the way of chocolate from Mexico to France, via Spain and Portugal)! And I have a list of great book recommendations quoted along! It’s about history (from rock statues dating back to 4,500 B.C. to things introduced these past 10 years), cemeteries, cathedrals, castles, saints; art, artists, architecture, painting, sculpture, cinema, authors, scientists (Marie Curie invented radiation therapy); food, wine, champagne, cider, eau-de-vie, absinthe bars (allowed again in France in 2011), chocolate, bread, cheese, cooking classes, restaurants; shopping, flea markets, lingerie (did you know a French woman introduced the bra in 1889?), perfume (she shares her experience at creating her own perfume with a professional perfumer –there are all kinds of fascinating and original workshops like this available in France); the sea, the ocean, surf, beaches, lighthouses, islands, lakes, pools, spas, aquabiking, thalassotherapy, hikes, mountains, ski resorts; and flowers, gardens, parks, and the category of the Official Most Beautiful Villages of France. Men will enjoy it just as much as women. There are no color pictures included, like all the other books I am familiar with published by the famous Travelers’ Tales, but the descriptions are so well done that thanks to them, you will be able to create the most beautiful color pictures in your mind.