The French have loved California ever since they found out it existed.
Theodore de Croix, Captain General of northwestern Mexico under King
Carlos III (and a native of Lille, France), recommended founding a pueblo on the banks of the
Porciúncula River (now called the Los Angeles River) in 1781. That's right: Los Angeles exists because a guy from Lille told the king of Spain it would be a good place to build a town. (I can't find any evidence that de Croix ever visited Los Angeles himself, but if I do, I'll update this.)
The first French person to visit California (he was, in all likelihood, the first visitor who was not Spanish, Mexican, or Native American) was known only as La Pérouse and visited via the frigate La Boussole in 1786. He recalled the visit in his book Voyage Autour du Monde, published in 1798 in Paris, and referred to California as "defenseless" (not anymore!).
Other French visitors followed. Most notably, a young apprentice on a ship from Marseilles became enchanted with Southern California when the ship was in the port of San Pedro. His name was Joseph Mascarel. Jean Louis Vignes, a passenger on the same ship, did a little trading in port...but, like Mascarel, fell in love with California.
Remember the names of Mascarel and Vignes...you'll be reading more about them later.
Next entry: LA's first French resident.