The French Confession

By Suzy Gershman

It's not that I think all things French are the best in the world.  I think the best things in the world are, uh, the best things and they come from all over. In fact, that's why I wrote a book about it—Where to Buy the Best of Everything. 

But here's the embarrassing part: a lot of the listings are about French brands or products. No, I don't mean Chanel and Cartier and couture and all that hotshot stuff—although, some of that is included. I have noticed that a lot of my secret finds (because I lived in France full time for five years and still live there part time) are the things I know best. 

Like Cils Demasq, a dime store brand of eye makeup remover that truly, honestly, without question is the best in the world (be sure to get the waterproof one). Then there's Maille mustard (try the Provencale one with its spicy kick, or any of the fruit flavors) and kid’s clothes from Monoprix and a walk along the rue Ste. Placide and, of course the grocery stores and hypermarches. I've never met an Auchan I didn't like! 

Of course the point of the book was to cover the world—not just France. I made trips to Australia, India and other places I'd never been to be able to round out my comparisons. I tried to cover some U.S. cities that I didn't know well (Seattle, Scottsdale) while using my hometown of San Antonio as the baseline. I eliminated many worthy candidates—such as the best bagels in Dublin. I mean, I don't think anyone goes to Dublin for the bagels. (Hey, if you live in France full time, you just might.) 

Where to Buy is divided mostly into categories of goods rather than places, since all Born to Shop books are travel and destination guides. The final chapter of the book, however, is a series of destinations—some are cities, some are specific walks or road trips or days' out—like a trip to Romans in Provence, the shoe capital of France, a trip to Lille in northern France for the bed linen factories, and a stroll along the infamous rue Ste. Placide which has discount stores, kiddie clothing stores galore and one fabulous little hotel, La Placide. 

The existing book lost 30% of its content in the editing—the book just had to be smaller in order to be affordable ($13.50 at Amazon.com) and lost a lot of French references in the self-editing. I didn't get to mention the guimauve in St. Tropez, the candy factory in St. Remy (although Joel Durand did make the pages) or the Les Olivades factory sale, held every 3 years in August and a certified blow out. The outlets at Marne la Vallee did stay in but the town of Limosges got cut out. The factory store for Durance (Grignan) stayed in as did the store for soap in Salon du Provence. The black soap, which I drove across the French border into Spain to buy, did not make the cut.

C'est la vie.

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