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ZipZap ! From A to Z

A holidaymaker’s alphabet

From A to Z  as in Avoriaz (74)

Make up 26 sentences in French which include a French or European place name and carry on like the examples below:

On my next holiday I shall go to …

  • Panneau Falaise et villes jumelées - Photo : G. BrameAvignon a aussi des allumettes
  • Bruxelles boit beaucoup de bière blonde

  • Cannes compte cent cinquante cinq cinémas confortables

  • Dijon dessine des dominos

  • Europe échange en euros

  • Falaise fleurit forcément ses façades

  • G...

Y (pronounced “ee”), Y is in the Somme département and is the shortest place name of all the 36,800 towns and villages in France!

Proper name or common noun, I’m in the dictionary

Windmill, Steenvoorde (59) - Photo : G. BrameMany towns and villages have a name which also has a more general meaning. For example, Moulins is the capital town of the département of Allier (03) but also means “mills”, as in “moulins à poivre” (pepper mills) or “moulins à vent” (windmills) that you see in Holland or  in Steenvoorde, in Northern France.

In France there are 5 “communes” (towns or villages) called Moulins. They are in the following départements: 02, 03, 35, 54, 79. Go to the page about départements and find out which these are.

Moulins-sur-Orne is the village where I was born, in Orne (département 61) which is in Normandy. The département Orne gets its name from the river which runs through it.

Alphabet of place names which have another meaning

  • Aube (dawn), Alouette (lark) Bienvenue à Camembert - Photo : G. Brame

  • Ballon (ball),

  • Camembert (a kind of cheese), Ciel (sky),

  • D...

See if you can complete the alphabet with more names of towns or villages which also mean something else. You could find them on a map of France or in a French road atlas and then use your French-English dictionary to check what their other meaning is.

Qui dit mieux ?
Avoriaz : une ville de A à Z...

Off on holiday to France

Imagine you are driving from Brussels to Nice. What route would you choose?
  • Make a list of the towns you would go through.

  • Are any of them famous for cooking a special dish that you might like to taste?
  • Or do they have some famous sights that you would not want to miss?

P for “Presse” (Press), “Poste” (Post Office), “Pharmacie” (Chemist’s)

Panneaux indicateurs - Photo : G. BrameEvery town has its own sign which tells us about its history and its important activities. Coats of arms have given way to logos which often convey their message in highly stylized form.

Sign for newspapers' shop Signs on shopfronts and advertisements provide us with   very handy clues.

                         Chemist's sign Enseigne de sapeurs-pompiers - Photo : M. DecheletteA green cross will guide us to the chemist’s. 

Post office sign You just have to look for a blue bird to find the post office where you can buy stamps for your collection. 

Clic Clac Photo!

Plaque point 0 des routes de France - Photo : G. BrameWhat do visitors look for on the square in front of Notre-Dame cathedral which stands on an island in the middle of the Seine?

It’s the little octagonal bronze plaque which marks the exact spot (le point zéro)from which distances to Paris are calculated on French road signs. Placed there in 1918, it was the idea of André Michelin, the tyre manufacturer responsible for the Michelin Man, the red hotel and restaurant guide (“le guide rouge”) and the famous Michelin road maps. Tourists love to stand by it to have their photo taken.

Roads and motorways

Plat France à fleurs - Photo : G. BrameBison Futé (Wily Buffalo) helps you avoid traffic jams. In the holidays and on sunny weekends, there is always a lot of traffic on roads and motorways. Then it is best to follow “itinéraires bis” (secondary routes) whose green and yellow signs lead drivers on to minor roads with less traffic. Green shading along a road marked on the map shows that it passes through particularly attractive scenery.

Bison futé” is a character invented to give motorists good advice about traffic (on the radio, on the internet, at the roadside...). At holiday periods or when people are driving home after the weekend, this clever little Indian uses his feathers to show what colour the day is: red or orange are the busiest days and he then advises you to put off your journey for a few hours to avoid the jams. 


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