Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Je besoin practique mon Francais tout le jour cette semaine.

Lately, I've been practicing my French for our "big" trip this year. Paris this weekend! J'suis tres heureux!

Jon and I spent Saturday at the library and the bookstore (always a favorite date). After checking out some freebies (French tapes, Paris guides to museums), we popped over to Borders for a pocket guide to the city, and a map. Between those aquisitions and Jon's earlier library hunt, we have five guides and two language books; and a map. We'll have to weed them out for the trip.

An Overview:
Paris Directions: Rough Guides expands its offerings into the pocket-guide. In the past, we've bought Insight Top Ten guides, and spent half-an-hour weeding down to these two France guides (Jon wisely wanted only the most recent publications, and we set the expenditure at about $10). Both had about the same entries, though Insight had more (10 for each category). Directions had fewer entries per category, but the entries were more descriptive. The deciding factor? Directions includes a downloadable-to-PDA version of the book on CD. Of course, I prefer using the book -- you can scratch notes on Post-its and flag interesting stuff. However, Jon and I both enjoy new technologies, and are excited to try it out. ($10.99)

Insight Fleximap: Plenty of laminated choices here, from City Sliker to Michelin Guides. The two Insight maps were the best: one highlighted museums, the other the city's landmarks. Both include tourist facts, blurbs on sights, and a subway map. The museum version included our hotel, but in the end we decided on the Fleximap; it covered a larger area and showed the campus where the conferences will be held. ($7.95)

Fodor's French for Travelers: This one took a while. So many phrasebooks! I knew I was looking for a pocket guide under $10, with basic phrases to complex ones. A dictionary was my first thought, but the phrasebooks were clearly superior; because phrasebooks supply whole phrases at-a-glance, travelers can avoid knowing basic gramatical structure; hunting and pecking for specific words in a dictionary's thin pages is not appealing, either. Using the phrasebook is faster. It came down, once again, to two choices: the Barron's vs. Fodor's. Both were well-organized, breaking down the phrases by subject: Dining, Accomodations, Shopping, Sight-Seeing... but the Fodor's included more notes on French culture, more phrases, and handy charts (weather and size conversion tables). A short dictionary at the end has been helpful. Their phoenetic spellings have not. That doesn't bother me; the tapes will help my pronounciation. ($8.95)

Frommer's Paris from $90 a day. A guide to avoid spending too much on a trip is priceless. Because we got it from the library, we didn't pay a thing. The biggest travel expense after lodging is the food, especially, one presumes, in Paris, where the Euro is US$1.23. Having a guide to eating well, but, ahem, less expensively, is the key to any cité. Includes best dining, sights, shopping, and nightlife, for each arrondisement (neighborhood) . The introductory material includes recommended books (from Les Miserables to Gigi) and films (from Breathless to Gigi). The only drawback to this choice: someone spilled scented oil on it, so I'll have to ziploc it to Paris. (Library)

Insight Guides' Museums and Galleries of Paris: A slim book of the major museums. (Library)

Little-known Museums in and Around Paris: A slim book of minor museums, including the world's smallest. I'm inclined to bring this book, as I know the major museums will be covered in the Frommer's, including the Monte Cristo Estate and Castle, bought and named by Dumas himself. (Library)

Time-out Book of Paris Walks: Creepy walks, such as The White Ghost of Luxemborg, and Nadja's Ghost. Also intellectual walks, such as Tracing Modernity in Paris. A keeper. (Library)

Barron's Mastering French Vocabulary: I picked this up for a ready reference; it's essentially a dictionary, seperated by subject, like the phrasebook. Probably not a book that will make the suitcase cut. (Library)

Il n'y a rien de plus amusant que d'apprendre.
[There is nothing more delightful than learning.]

--Henri Bouilhet, curator, Christofle Museum, quoted in
Little-Known Museums in and around Paris

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