Sunday, December 29, 2013

Book review of Lovers in Paris by Andy Conway

french village diaries book review Lovers in Paris Andy Conway France

Christmas is now a hazy memory, New Year is rapidly approaching and I have the perfect solution to get you in the party mood; Lovers in Paris by Andy Conway, a collection of New Years Eve short stories set, unsurprisingly, mostly in Paris – the city of love. This book is a lovely mini-break in Paris and the great thing about short stories is the ability to pop in and out when time allows, although I had no trouble in turning the pages.

The couples in the stories are a good mix of different nationalities and their reasons for being in Paris are just as varied and while love is on their minds they don’t all buy into Paris truly being the city of love. There is romance, but this is not a soppy lovie-dovie book. We have first meets, unexpected get-back-togethers, disappointments, love at first sights, surprises and plenty of examples of fate taking a hand in the best laid plans. I enjoyed meeting the characters, reading the snippets of their lives and following their will-they-won’t-they relationships unfold and develop (or disintegrate) with a well-described Paris as a backdrop. Towards the end there is a lovely twist, which made a good collection of short stories even better. Unfortunately I can’t say anymore, as it would spoil it for you.

Lovers in Paris is available in ebook and paperback format and links to Amazon are below. Thanks to Andy for contacting me and sending me a copy of this book.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The France Show 2014

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion

Next year we will be celebrating ten years of living in France, but before we moved here we were regular visitors to The France Show held every January in London’s Earls Court. For those who have never been, The France Show is three days when the Francophiles of the UK are able to indulge in all things French without having to do battle with Ryanair or worry about French air traffic control strikes! I am delighted to announce that this perfect Francophile weekend, to be held on 17th to 19th January 2014, just got even better as I can offer you the fantastic discounted ticket price of £7 per ticket (‘on the door’ admission will be £13). This would make a great Christmas gift for the Francophile in your life.

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion
Perfect Patisseries
Here is what The France Show have to say about their brilliant event.

A fantastic French day out in the heart of London.

Earls Court in London is the place to be for a flavour of France in January!

Enjoy cookery demonstrations from top French chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Clotilde Dusoulier, the award-winning food writer, listen to bestselling author Carol Drinkwater, sample fine wines and champagne, visit the French market, pick up holiday ideas, play a game of petanque and enjoy the live entertainment!
Thinking of buying a property in France? Browse thousands of properties for sale in the UK’s largest French Property Exhibition and get the lowdown from the experts in the seminars, which cover all you need to know about buying in France. The best of France in a day!

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion
Fantastic Fromages
For more information and to buy tickets for just £7 each, CLICK HERE and make sure FVD67 is showing in the ‘promotional code’ box.

TICKETS £13 ON THE DOOR, Children under 16 free of charge

Many thanks to the organisers of The France Show for this fantastic special offer. I’m sure you will have a great day out and I know it sounds silly, but I wish I lived a little bit closer so I could go too! Please feel free to share this post with your French-loving friends.

French Village Diaries The France Show 2014 Promotion
Ooh La La!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Nativity Troubles

french village diaries nativity religion school France
Ed's 'cut out and colour' nativity scene
I am not normally one to talk about religion as we got off to a bad start when I was younger and the main thing that comes to my mind when thinking of religion is conflict. Most wars I know of have a difference of religion somewhere in their conception and every Sunday was a war zone when I was growing up. I was the sulky, slouchy teen who was dragged to mass every Sunday with ‘that look’ on her face, right up until the weekend I turned 18. I don’t think it is a surprise that neither my brother or I married Catholics or even got married in a church. I have also yet to meet anyone who is impressed with my GCSE in religious studies, so I have no problem with religion having no place in French state schools.

However, this does mean Ed has no experience of a nativity play or carol singing, although I know not everyone gets to star in their school nativity play. If my memory serves me correctly the short, fat, dumpy kid never gets to play Mary, whereas long legged, slim and pretty Lisa and Lara were always the stars at our primary school. At least being educated in France we have saved Ed from the trauma of nativity play disappointment. No nativity play also means there is no need for French parents to bribe the teachers into giving their little darling the best part, something I read happens a lot in the UK.

When Ed was younger we would read him the children’s versions of the nativity story and he really enjoyed the ‘cut out and colour your own nativity scene’ craft book that then graced our coffee table for many years, but I will admit Christmas has now become a holiday where he expects to be indulged by doting grandparents.

This year some good friends invited us to an English carol service being held here in France. To avoid the sulky teen act I remember so well it was Ed’s call whether we went or not, and go we did. The nine short lessons refreshed my memory of the nativity events and held his interest throughout. The nine carols, some we knew, some were new to us, were all sung to the best of our ability and enjoyed. As each reading introduced a character in the nativity, a slice of cake with a candle was added to a plate and anyone using cake to illustrate a point has my attention 100%. One lesson told of Joseph’s reluctance upon initially hearing his fiancée was with child that wasn’t his and I heard a lovely story this week about another reluctant Joseph.

A little boy at nursery school was playing the role of Joseph, but despite landing the lead role in his first nativity, all was not well. Our young star was disappointed as he had his heart set on the part of Mary. The reason was a simple one; Mary got to hold the baby! Why in these days of equality and political-correctness does Joseph not get to do his bit of baby holding too? Nursery/primary teachers please take note; you may just make some little boys very happy. Even ten years ago we never set gender boundaries on Ed’s playtime and he was as happy to dress up in Cinderella shoes or be a fairy with wings as he was being a soldier, policeman or pirate. If he had been in a nativity play I’m sure he would have been as happy playing Mary as any of the other parts and why not? More equality and less conflict can only be a good thing.

The carol service we attended was a great example of equality; being held in France, but in English and with a mixed French/English audience. It was a good evening out, with mulled wine and mince pies served afterwards, as well as being very good for Ed’s religious education too.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book review of French Illusions by Linda Kovic-Skow

French Village Diaries book review French Illusions Linda Kovic-Skow Loire Tours FranceI’m posting this review today as Linda Kovic-Skow’s book French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley (Book 1) is currently on promotion on Amazon Kindle and reduced to 77p for a limited time.

This memoir is set in the late 1970s in a chateau in the Loire where Linda, a young twenty-something, arrives from the US to perfect her French as an au pair for a year. It is her dream in life to work for an airline, but to do so she must have a foreign language and she will stop at nothing to fulfil her dream. Linda’s determination and strength of character are two of her traits that stood out for me during the book, especially as she put herself in a very awkward position. Her host family were expecting their third child imminently so hormones and emotions were running very high throughout the chateau when Linda arrives in their lives. They were also expecting her to be a competent French speaker, but she wasn’t and this made settling in even more difficult and not just for Linda. I can’t begin to imagine how different and difficult life in this chateau with two young children who don’t speak your language, a grumpy new mum and a tiny baby, must have been for Linda. This was years before the Internet, so contact with friends back home was limited to letters and an occasional phone call to her parents. I do know I’m not as brave as Linda and could not have done what she did, but she seems to have given the experience her best shot. Life wasn’t easy, but her language begins to improve, she meets some friendly faces and shares some lovely snippets of French family life and student life in and around Tours and the Loire. It was an interesting peek into a different life in a different era.

I know Linda is currently working on the second part of her time spent in France, but I would have liked this book to carry on a little longer. There is quite some excitement towards the end and then she just leaves us. This is great to ensure interest in the story for book two, but it felt a bit abrupt for me as I think her real adventure in France is just about to begin. I will be looking out for book two.

French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley (Book 1) is available in ebook and paperback format and links to Amazon can be found below.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book review of The Half-Life of Hannah by Nick Alexander

The Half-Life Of Hannah by Nick Alexander is one of the (many) books that I found for free on Amazon Kindle. I downloaded it a while ago and have finally got around to reading it. I find there are always too many books and not enough time. Please note, this book is not free all of the time.
french village diaries book review half-life of hannah nick alexander provence france
The Half-Life of Hannah

In the book we are on holiday in the south of France with an extended family. Hannah aged 38, her husband Cliff, their 11 year old son Luke, Hannah’s sister Jill, her 13 year old daughter Aisha and Tristan, a family friend. There are tensions in the group from the outset and I have to say to begin with it was a little confusing to follow. It took me quite a few chapters to get who was who and even then I found I had to wait for the story to unfurl to understand a lot of what is running just underneath the surface. It was worth sticking with though, as towards the end I got totally lost (and lost track of time) in it.

Hannah is looking forward to a relaxing family holiday in the rented villa with pool, hammock, garden with stream and all the people she loves around her. However her safe life with her safe husband seems to be under threat when someone from their past walks back into their lives. There is a lot of confusion of feelings between the family members, add to that bottled up emotions and sibling rivalry and the situation threatens to reach boiling point. I have a degree in sibling rivalry from the good old university of life, so I could feel the anger that was playing out uncomfortably on the pages.

When the years of lies are uncovered it is up to Hannah to decide what comes next and how the second half of her life will play out. There are also some nice little vignettes of the France they visit scattered amongst the turbulence of the family drama that unfolds.

I am so glad that the sequel Other Halves will be published on 12th December 2014 as despite this book coming to a satisfactory conclusion, I want to read more.

Also by Nick Alexander with a French theme is The Case of the Missing Boyfriend and it’s sequel The French House. Both are waiting patiently on my kindle.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Early December

French Village Diaries Cafe de la Paix La Rochelle
Café de la Paix, La Rochelle
I have been a little quiet on the blog as I took some time to enjoy five treasured days, the only ones that Ade had at home this month. I collected him from the airport at La Rochelle and we treated ourselves to a date at the delightfully decorated Café de la Paix before heading home where I kept him busy with the list of things that had broken/gone wrong in the time he had been away. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to have someone who was strong enough to put the front gate back on it’s hinges, someone to look at the slow puncture on my car, someone to struggle along with when manoeuvring the heavy pot plants indoors for winter, someone to encourage me to get out on the bike, someone to snuggle up with at night and someone to talk to when watching TV of an evening, even if we did miss many of the programmes when the talking took over. I even enjoyed getting up early on Sunday and making him a fresh batch of plum jam that was still warm when we breakfasted on our croissants and coffee.

My lovely weekend has evolved into a very busy week, as I am part of the organising team cooking up a meal for over 100 people for the Téléthon charity this weekend. I have been shopping for vast quantities of food and drink, helped with peeling kilos of vegetables and tonight we will be setting out the tables and chairs in the salle des fêtes before eating a yummy tartiflette together. Top tip – if you want people to come and help with something always offer a delicious homemade meal.

Thankfully having Mini and her doggy friend Toffee, who is staying with us this week, means I do have to go out every day and enjoy some quiet time in the countryside. There is not much to beat a crisp, early morning December walk with frosted hedgerows and mist clinging to the fields. Winter isn’t my favourite time of year but I can appreciate the beauty that is out there when you take time to look. The cold and frost are suggesting winter, but the stubborn golden leaves are still clinging on to autumn. There are deer in distant fields that thankfully the dogs don't notice and clouds of lapwings crying and calling out in protest as we disturb them in the fields. Life may be busy, both for Ade away at work and for me but I’ve lots to be thankful for and it won’t be too long before I have another date with my favourite man at my favourite café in La Rochelle. I hope you enjoy these pictures from my dog walks.

French Village Diaries France countryside walks frosty leaves
Frosty morning walks

French Village Diaries December France countryside
December country walks

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Gift Ideas - Art, Books and Bargains

With Christmas less than a month away I thought I would share a few good ideas for Christmas gifts for the France-lover in your life. Just think of me as your little Christmas angel, so grab yourself a mince pie and a mulled wine (homemade of course) and lets get shopping!

french village diaries Paris Letters Janice Macleod christmas gifts francelovers
Paris Letters by Janice Macleod
Paris Letters. I discovered Janice and her beautiful art when I was sent a copy of her book Paris Letters to read and review. Although you can’t buy the book before Christmas, as it isn’t available until February, I thought it would be nice to introduce you to her art. Janice lives in Paris and shares her love of the city with beautifully painted letters that she posts to subscribers all over the world. In her words she describes her Paris Letters:
“Each month I create a letter about Paris. I paint it, copy it and personalize it with your name. Then I mail it off in the post with a pretty stamp. People love getting fun mail. It’s good old fashioned mail with a French flair.”
What could be nicer than a beautiful Christmas gift that keeps giving throughout 2014? Subscriptions are priced from less than 10€ and available for one, six and twelve months. Please click here for more information or here for subscriptions. You can also pre-order her Paris Letters book from Amazon NOW! I will be reviewing the book and interviewing Janice in January, but I can say it will be a 5 star review from me.

Books. I read a lot and I’ve always said that the cheapest and less stressful way to experience life in France is to read about someone else’s experiences. To see a complete list of all the books with a French theme that I have read and reviewed click here. Links to Amazon can be found in each of the review posts and with over 80 books there should be something for everyone. Here are just a selection of my favourites:
Tout Sweet: Hanging Up my High Heels for a New Life in France 
French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure 
The Devil's Cave: A Bruno Courrèges Investigation: A Bruno Courreges Investigation 
Delicious Dishes for Diabetics
The President's Hat

Amazon Black Friday Deals. Everyday until 1st December Amazon have some very good deals on hundreds of their products including the Kindle Fire HD 7", Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB - Includes Special Offers [Previous Generation] that is now only £99 – perfect for reading all those books about life in France. For more Black Friday deals please see the link below. As an affiliate, for every purchase that is made via following one of my links, Amazon give me 5% commission at no extra cost to you. While this will never make me a millionaire it does help to finance my book addiction and is the only revenue I make from my blog, so if you have bought any of my Amazon recommendations, THANK YOU.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book review and giveaway of Taking Root in Provence

French Village Diaries Taking Root in Provence  Anne-Marie Simons book review France Boot Tours
Taking Root in Provence
Today I am taking part in a virtual tour and giveaway in association with France Book Tours for the novel Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie Simmons. To enter the giveaway for a paperback copy of this book please email with Taking Root in Provence as the email subject. This is a worldwide giveaway open to anyone. The winner will be the first name drawn on 3rd December 2013, good luck.

Two expatriates left Washington DC in search of the ideal place to retire where climate, culture, accessibility and natural beauty all had a role to play. Curious about the vaunted quality of life in the south of France, they traveled the length and width of Provence where, preferring the city to the countryside, they decided to settle in the ancient town of Aix-en-Provence. That was in 1998 and Taking Root in Provence is the story of their slow integration into the French mainstream — both easier and more difficult than expected but ultimately successful.

In a series of vignettes Anne-Marie Simons gives us a warts-and-all picture of life among the French and with warmth and humor shares her lessons learned. Contrary to most publications about Provence, this book focuses on life in the city rather than the quiet countryside, and promises to be both informative and revealing to those who want to spend more than a passing holiday here.

My Review:
I have to admit to becoming totally absorbed in this gentle read that draws you into discovering a new life in Provence. I have new places I now want to visit and certainly fêtes and festivals I want to experience. Who knew there were so many fêtes to be celebrated in one smallish area of France? It was great to have an insider guide to so many cultural events and shows just how well Anne-Marie and her husband have integrated into the area. I did feel that my little corner of Poitou-Charentes is most definitely lacking in the fête department. 

This book is not just an exploration of a beautiful part of France, but a thoughtful look at the people they meet too, whether new friends and neigbours or market traders happy to share a recipe or advice on cooking the produce. France, the French and some of their unique characteristics are explained with a touch of humour from the author’s perspective in this book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I also loved the recipes from her husband Oscar, which include some real Provancal delicacies, and I will be giving the pissaladière a try, as it is one of my favourites. This book really does have a little bit of everything from food, to people, to discovering an area and it’s traditions.

French Village Diaries Taking Root in Provence  Anne-Marie Simons book review France Boot Tours
Anne-Marie Simons
About the author:
Anne-Marie Simons has worked as a translator, teacher, journalist, sportswriter (covering Formula 1 races), and director of corporate communications.

Her Argentine husband, Oscar, left a career in international development banking to become an expert on Provençal cooking and other local pleasures. You can find Anne-Marie at her website, blog, Facebook and Goodreads. Taking Root in Provence is published by Distinction Press and is available in paperback and ebook format. Links to Amazon are below. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway to be in with a chance of winning your own paperback copy of this book.

French Village Diaries Taking Root in Provence  Anne-Marie Simons book review France Boot Tours
France Book Tours Taking Route in Provence

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Sunflower Trilogy

I was a little bit excited when I discovered that today is the release date for the kindle versions of Ruth Silvestre’s A House in the Sunflowers: An English Family's Search for Their Dream House in France and A Harvest of Sunflowers. I discovered these books a few years after moving to France and really enjoyed following Ruth and her family as they discovered rural France. Their story was very different to ours, mainly because they bought their holiday home in the 1970’s. A time when there was no local expat network or Internet groups offering help and advice, just them and their French neighbours and the special friendship that grew over the years. I borrowed the first two books from a friend and enjoyed them so much that I bought the third book Reflections of Sunflowers and gave it to my friend so the trilogy could be kept together. Recently I have spent quite a bit of time searching the second hand book stores to try and find my own copies as I would love to read them all again. Hence my excitement at finding the first two books are now available from Allison and Busby in ebook format. I really hope book three will also be available very soon. I look on Ruth and her family as the pioneers who led many of us to follow and although we had already moved before I read them she helped me to understand many things. I will always be grateful to Ruth for sharing her life in France.

French Village Diaries books reviews Ruth Silvestre A House in the Sunflowers A Harvest of Sunflowers Reflections of Sunflowers France
Sunflowers in France

A House in the Sunflowers: An English Family's Search for Their Dream House in France tells their story of finding Bel-Air de Grèzelongue in the Lot-et-Garonne, south-west France and despite it being unloved and uninhabited for ten years to them it was perfect. Ruth writes with fondness about the way their neighbours at the working farm down the lane became good friends and included them in family celebrations, local events and invited them to help with the harvests, which helped integrate them into the community. There was lots of work to do on the house, so their time spent on holidays in France was busy and sometimes stressful, but they were always happy to be back. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to read this book during our ‘settling in years’.

A Harvest of Sunflowers carries on their story twenty years after arriving in their dream French house. All the characters are there, older and wiser and now their family are entwined in the local community. Ruth writes about weddings, new arrivals and tales of great friendships as well as changes in the farming community and the way the harvests are dealt with by the new generation. Food, family and community are still an important part of this book as they are in rural French life.

Reflections of Sunflowers is the final book in the trilogy but their love of France and their French friends is still going strong. Life has changed a lot since they first arrived and there are more changes on the way. There are now grandchildren around to enjoy holidays in France and all that village life has to offer, but this book also has a certain amount of sadness to it. I felt very privileged to have shared in Ruth’s life from the pages of these books and appreciate how difficult it must have been to write about some of the things she shares. I will always have a great affection for this sunflower trilogy and I’m keeping my fingers crossed book three will also be available in ebook format too. If you haven’t yet read these books and enjoy life in France memoirs do look out for them, I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme

This weekend, our local town of Angouleme is celebrating the food of France at it's annual Gastronomades Fête. We discovered this event last year and I'm pleased to report it was just as delicious this year. We lunched on warm fouées, a bread pocket cooked in a wood oven and filled with savoury or sweet fillings - we chose sweet and then made our way on a food tour of France. We spent a lovely afternoon walking from one producer offering samples to the next. Everyone was friendly, encouraging us to ask questions, taste and of course buy. The choices were endless. Here are just a few of the delights on offer. If you are in the area and have a free day tomorrow (24th November) do pop along, they even have a mini street farm as well as the food.

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Breton Patisseries 

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Artisan boulanger

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Freshly made crepes

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Walnut biscuits

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Basque Chorizo 

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Basque peppers

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Provence spices and tapenades 

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Baudet du Poitou

French Village Diaries Gastronomades 2013 Angouleme Food France
Cantal cheese from the Auvergne