Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book review for What Happens at the Beach by T A Williams

French Village Diaries book review What Happens at the Beach T A Williams
What Happens at the Beach by T A Williams

My review today is for new release novel What Happens at the Beach by TA Williams, published by Carina on 11th July. This is the fifth novel from this author, but the first I've read, where have I been!

Natalie arrives in south west France, where the Mediterranean meets the Pyrenees, to spend some time with her Gran, Colette, in the house overlooking the bay that holds fond childhood memories for her. She has recently graduated with a PhD in French Medieval history and even more recently split up with her fiancé David, due to unreconcilable differences between his family and her. Money is tight, but she soon finds she has good friends around her and the quality time spent with her 90 year old Gran gives her laughter, advice and love.

Men are off the radar for Natalie, as spending time with her Gran and concentrating on finding a career are more important, but there is no harm in looking at what Port Renard has to offer. Philippe, with his yacht and generous tips (when he dines at the beach restaurant she helps out in), Rémy, the sexy sword fisherman and athletic Mark, her Gran's neighbour and owner of Barney, a black Labrador who stole Natalie's heart with his gentle eyes and waggy tail. She is certainly not lacking in distractions to keep her mind off her ex David.

While searching the Internet for the university lecturer job of her dreams, she takes on the role of knowledgeable expert to a local author interested in and researching her specialised subject, the Cathars. Together they tour the region and visit the famous and hidden sights, taking us along for the ride and adding historic interest to the novel, something I particularly enjoyed. This being a novel set in France, fine dining and Champagne also feature.

Natalie is at a pivotal point in her life, but time spent at her favourite beach in France helps to heal and soothe her emotions. If she is lucky, it might just hold the key to her future happiness too.

I really enjoyed this quick and easy read and would recommend it as a perfect holiday accompaniment.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thank you, 578 times

Ride London Surrey 100 Epilepsy Action
Fund raising for Epilepsy Action

Thank You!

With a week to go until Adrian’s Ride London Surrey 100 challenge, our target of raising £500 for EpilepsyAction has been smashed, thanks to you. 

Some of you are family, some of you friends who live nearby, some of you we have know for years and some of you we might never meet because we live thousands of miles away, but thank you all. We are over the moon and when you add in the UK Gift Aid contribution the total raised of £578.78 becomes almost £650.

This was a real boost as it’s been a tough week for us that started with a swollen foot for me, following a nasty sting. The beastie left it’s weapon concealed in the liner of my gardening boot, so I never found out what type of sting it was, but it was bad enough to make wearing shoes difficult and wearing tight cycling shoes impossible. 

Last Sunday should have been my big summer challenge, cycling the Rapha Women’s 100, a 100 kilometres in a day on the bike, but temperatures of over 34 degrees that left the road surface melted and my swollen foot, meant a change of plan. We thought an early evening, gentle 25kms would be OK, until my bike had other ideas and my back wheel popped a spoke. We taped it up and bravely carried on, but soon discovered that just one spoke out is enough to make a wobbly wheel that rubs and catches on the frame. After 6.5kms we limped home and my Rapha Women’s 100 became a disappointing 13km.

French Village Diaries hospital Niort
My bed for the day

French Village Diaries hospital Niort
My painkillers
If this wasn’t enough, last Wednesday I experienced my first taste of hospital à la Française. It was a routine gynaecology procedure, in and out in a day, but still rather uncomfortable and I’ve spent a lot of my time in an armchair, surrounded by boxes of painkillers that have done a good job of keeping my mind off my bruises. The team of doctors and nurses at the hospital in Niort were fun, friendly and efficient and I’m grateful to them all. Tomorrow my stitches are coming out and then it's onwards and upwards, but no cycling for a week or so yet.

Ride London Surrey 100 Epilepsy Action
Cycling at sunrise

Adrian has clocked up over 430kms in training rides in just over a week, despite the weather being a big challenge. Three rides, including a 120km final push, had to be very early morning starts as temperatures soared to 38 degrees and one ride had to be aborted after a few kilometres when rain reduced visibility to zero. He has now serviced his bike and given it a clean and a polish, so it’s all ready for next week in London. We will be signing in on Saturday and on Sunday morning after waving him off, I’ll be spending my day volunteering in Piccadilly with the Epilepsy Action team where I’ll be helping to set up the venue for the finish celebration and looking forward to welcoming in the riders. Until then I’m taking it easy, but no one told the courgettes that.

French Village Diaries courgettes
A couple of days of pickings

Reaching the fundraising target certainly gave Adrian the encouragement needed to keep the training up this week as it all had to be fitted in around my hospital trip, and with me out of action Ed and Adrian have also found themselves performing odd tasks, like hanging out washing, ironing, cooking, floor sweeping and spiralising courgettes.

French Village Diaries courgettes spiralised
A healthy spiralled courgette salad

The Just Giving page is still open, so if you would like to donate please see here. You can read my story about living with epilepsy here

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Book Review of Paris Runaway by Paulita Kincer

Paris Runaway cover
Paris Runaway by Paulita Kincer

Paris RunAway

(women's fiction) Release date: June 30, 2016 at ISBN: 978-1-365-18923-4 220 pages Author's page Goodreads  


When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy's father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens before they can stumble into more trouble. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.


Scarlett runs to Paris, chasing after Luc. Sadie runs to Paris, chasing after Scarlett. Scarlett finds Luc, and trouble. Sadie finds Auguste, Luc’s father, and together they must find their kids. If only life were that simple!

Sadie, a single parent who always puts her girls first, is alone and in Paris, without a plan, desperate to find Scarlett and return to Florida before any of her fears for her teenage daughter’s safety come true. Her only clue is an address where no one is home, but eventually she finds herself at Auguste’s door. With Luc’s father there to help, she is now part of a team and together they begin the search for their children, who seem to be in more trouble than they first thought. Sadie finds herself thrust into daily French life, with a Frenchman, who although concerned for his son is not prepared to let slip the simple things that are important in France; eating, drinking wine etc. He takes Sadie under his wing and teaches her the French way as they try to piece together the clues they have about Luc and Scarlett’s whereabouts. There is a good element of mystery too, as each new discovery about where the kids are leads them a bit closer, but always just out of reach, resulting in a wild chase across France with what-ifs, excitement and tension. At the same time, Sadie is discovering things about herself, and spending time with Auguste seems to be bringing the two parents closer, but again, the plot twists keep them tantalizingly out of reach.

This is another great read from Paulita and perfect to escape into while on holiday. I easily imagined I was in France thanks to the location descriptions, the food and the real life Frenchman on hand to add that je ne sais quoi. 


Paulita Kincer
Paulita Kincer
Paulita Kincer has an M.A. in journalism from American University. She has traveled to France 11 times, and still finds more to lure her back. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her three children, two cats and one husband. Visit her website and her blog at or follow her on Twitter @paulitakincer Like her Facebook page at Paulita Kincer Writer. Email Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon


You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway: 2 winners, choice of print or digital copy of this book.



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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review of Finding Fontainebleau by Thad Carhart

Finding Fontainebleau Thad Carhart TLC Book Tours review French Village Diaries
Finding Fontainebleau Thad Carhart

Today I am taking part in a virtual book tour for Finding Fontainebleau by Thad Carhart. This is a memoir of the author’s childhood when his family moved from the US to Fontainebleau, on the outskirts of Paris, in the 1950’s. 

His Father was a US Army Colonel on a three-year assignment working for NATO and stationed at the Chateau in Fontainebleau. The family arrived after an epic flight to find life in post-war France was very different from what they had been used to in the US. Crossing the Atlantic was also quite a journey back then, in a bouncy propeller aircraft that had to make many stops and his poor Mother was travelling alone with her five children, as his Father had gone on ahead to start work and find the family a home.

Thad shares his memories of a four-year-old boy, seeing the house for the first time, settling in, his experiences at school and the locals who help them, especially in the first weeks. Life was certainly not without drama, especially at school where he had the language and culture to learn and despite his young age, many things from these years spent in France formed strong memories for him. I thought his Mother sounded like a remarkable women who adapted well to life in France and living the French way. He tells many stories of her recollections that showed she had a real sensitivity to the needs of others.

Fontainebleau becomes a special place for Thad that he returns to later in life and throughout the book his passion and knowledge of the chateau shines through. Woven into his childhood memories are his recent visits and he takes the time to explain the history of the Chateau and the many architectural changes that have occurred over the centuries. His enthusiasm has certainly sparked my interest and made me want to plan a visit.

This book is like a living history tour of the chateau and the town of Fontainebleau and there was a lot to keep my interest as I read, although for me it lacked a bit of wow factor. If you are planning a trip to Paris, do try to include Fontainebleau (I will be next time) and if you do, read this book before you go, as it will enhance your visit.

Purchase Links

Finding Fontainebleau Thad Carhart TLC Book Tours review French Village Diaries
Thad Carhart

Connect with Thad

Here are the other blogs hosting Thad and Finding Fontainebleau
Wednesday, July 6th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Thursday, July 7th: Bibliotica
Friday, July 8th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, July 11th: Books on the Table
Tuesday, July 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, July 13th: Girls in White Dresses
Thursday, July 14th: Building Bookshelves
Tuesday, July 19th: The French Village Diaries
Wednesday, July 20th: Quirky Bookworm
Thursday, July 21st: Wordsmithonia
Friday, July 22nd: BookNAround
Monday, July 25th: Back Porchervations
Tuesday, July 26th: An Accidental Blog
Wednesday, July 27th: Lit and Life
Thursday, July 28th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Book Review of The Vineyard by Karen Aldous

Book review The Vineyard Karen Aldous French Village Diaries
The Vineyard, Karen Aldous

My review today is for The Vineyard by Karen Aldous, a novel set in the South of France that follows the new life Lizzie has made for herself and her young son Thierry. It is a perfect summer holiday read and currently only 99p on kindle UK.

Lizzie is independent, headstrong and stubborn, but feels that the time has come to make amends and try to build bridges with the family she left behind when she ran away to France five years ago. The relationship with her mother was never great, but with Lizzie brave enough to walk back up to the front door of her family home, all she can hope for is that they will now be able to make them better. However, things don’t quite go to plan and life for Lizzie becomes tricky and very hectic, especially when the past comes crashing back into her life and threatens her son and her future.

Cal, resident vintner on her mothers land, is good looking but unavailable, and yet annoyingly present in her life. The last thing she needs is a man, so it’s unfortunate that she and Cal seem to have a chemistry that neither of them can ignore and as his work brings him to France, he seems to keep popping up in the most unexpected places. He might have helped her, but he is off limits and she isn’t sure she can trust herself with him. She needs to be strong and to keep a clear head, but with so much going on in her life, can she really go it alone?

I enjoyed the excitement of being in Cannes and getting to know Lizzie and Cal, as well as watching Lizzie change as her life moves in a new direction. With a little bit of South of France magic, things begin to fall into place and she is able to prioritise what she needs and wants for the future, both for her business, her son and her love life.

This book left me feeling very happy.

You can read my review of another of Karen’s novels, One Moment at Sunrise, here and read my France et Moi interview with her here. I will be reviewing The Riviera very soon and am looking forward to reading The Chateau.

Links to Amazon for all of Karen's novels can be found below.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Kindle Summer Madness 2016

French Village Diaries kindle summer bargains
Summer kindle bargains set in France

Amazon UK have started their summer sale and have over 500 kindle books on offer from 99p until 31st August 2016. Here are my top picks of the summer sale books with a French theme, plus some other great reductions I've found and some new releases.

There are romance, mystery, detective and non-fiction books to choose from, so I hope you find something here to entertain you this summer.

To read more just click on the images below to take you direct to Amazon. Please do check the current prices before buying as some prices may change. If you are reading this post via the automated email, you may not see the Amazon link images, sorry, so please visit the website direct here.

If you have a book set in France on offer, or a new release, please let me know and I'll give it a shout out.

Happy Reading!

99p Books


£1.49 Books

£1.99 Books

£2.99 Books

New Release Books

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tour de France 2016 week one summary

Tour de France route 2016
Tour de France route 2016

We have reached the end of the first week of the 2016 Tour de France and what a week it has been. I’ve probably spent far too much time watching it on TV, instead of gardening, quarter-end accounts or housework, but it’s been a welcome distraction and helped to lift my post-referendum blues, and with four stage wins by British cyclists in seven days it has given me one reason to be proud to be British.

I thought I’d do a quick, fun summary of some the action so far, but please note there are plenty of real cycling sites out there if you want the serious facts and figures.

198 cyclists (22 teams each with 9 riders) started the race last Saturday at Mont St Michel in Normandy and unusually (first time ever) all 198 are still there, despite a number of crashes that have resulted in ripped outfits, blood, stitches, road rash, bruises and a lot of pain. Being a professional cyclist is not a job for wimps. 

As part of the Tour there are 10 doctors, 5 nurses, 7 ambulances, 2 medical cars (with doctor onboard), 1 motorcycle and 1 x-ray truck accompanying the cyclists every kilometre of the way.

They have so far covered 1,401 kilometres (870 miles) and the longest day saw them cycle 237.5 kilometres (148 miles) from Saumur in the Loire to Limoges in the Limousin.

Time spent in the saddle so far has added up to 34 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds for the current leader (and wearer of the Yellow Jersey) and 36 hours, 36 minutes and 17 seconds for the rider at the back, or the Lanterne Rouge (red lamp, named after the red light hung on the back of French trains.)

They have travelled from Normandy in the north (D-day beaches), sped through the flat lands of the Loire (chateaux and vineyards) and the Limousin (cows), which warmed their legs for the first mountain climbs of the Massif Central (more cows and cheese). They then raced through the Aveyron (medieval villages and wine) and Tarn et Garonne (fortified villages and foie gras), before arriving in the Pyrenees (big mountains).

A professional cyclist must consume an average of 8,000 calories each day while competing, so a quick calculation tells me that each team needs to provide 72,000 calories in food everyday to keep their cyclists fully fuelled. Add feeding of the support staff that keeps the team moving behind the scenes and I’m glad it’s not me in charge of shopping or cooking.

A fact from the early years, before team catering trucks (taken from Tour de France Records – the ultimate nerds coffee table book), on hot days the peloton (main group of riders) would stop cycling and rush into cafés to raid their refrigerators for cold drinks. This often included alcoholic ones.

Mark Cavendish was the first rider across the finish line on day 1 earning him the first Yellow jersey of the Tour and his first ever Yellow jersey, despite him having won 26 previous stage wins since 2008. Since his win on Saturday he also crossed the line first on day 3 and day 6, giving him a new total of 29 Tour de France stage wins. Only Belgium champion from the 1970’s, Eddie Merckx, has taken more wins, at 34.

Steve Cummings, Dimension Data team mate of Mark Cavendish, took the forth British stage win this week on day 7, when he left everyone trailing behind him and stormed up the Col d’Aspin in a solo breakaway.

The other holders of the Yellow jersey this week have been Peter Sagan, who held it for days 2, 3 and 4 and Greg Van Avermaet who won it on day 5 and is still holding it today, day 8.

If you are watching it, I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.

French Village Diaries cycling for Epilepsy Action
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Friday, July 8, 2016

The Via Rhôna, cycling in the Ardeche

French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Dolca Via Via Rhôna
Our circuit in the Ardeche

Here is part two of our Ardeche cycling adventure. Part one (see here) saw us take the Train de l’Ardeche steam train up to Lamastre and cycle back to the Rhône on the Dolca Via. To complete our circuit back to Tournon-sur-Rhône we joined the Via Rhôna from La Voulte-sur-Rhône and followed the mighty River Rhône. While not as dramatic as the Dolce Via it is a flat, fast running, cycling superhighway from Lake Geneva in the north to the Mediterranean in the south. The Dolce Via had been so beautiful but now we had reached the flat, busy and industrial banks of the Rhône, and it was a vast contrast.

We detoured into La Voulte-sur-Rhône to find a bar, but it was a little uninspiring, so we made our way to the river and cycled along the road until we found an access point to the cycle path. I remember noting how full the river was and how close it was to bursting its banks, but didn’t think too much about it. The Via Rhôna path soon left the quayside and disappeared into a leafy green section, the river to our right and dense undergrowth to our left. We could hear a main road somewhere but we couldn't see any other signs of life. 

French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhôna
Flooded, muddy Rhône

We hadn't gone far when we came across a short flooded section of the path. Adrian bravely led the way and it soon became evident it was rather deeper than we had first thought and as we peddled, we got wet feet. Hoping this was the only wet bit, we carried on until we found a section that had been flooded, but the water had receded leaving the pathway muddy. Again, this turned out to be deeper than we thought and hidden in the grey silty mud was gravel that stuck to the mud and then stuck to the bikes. I made it out the other end to find thick mud and grit jammed everywhere; wheels, brakes, gears and frame. The only option was to pick it all out. Adrian wasn't so lucky. The mud and grit had locked his back wheel and bent the bracket that attaches the derailleur to the frame.
French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhôna
The mud, after attempts to clean it off

There followed a moment of panic when we truly thought we might be stranded. There was no exit from the cycle path; it was either carry on and hope there was no more, or return through the evil mud and at this point we didn’t even know if Adrian could free his back wheel. We made use of the prolific Japanese knotweed (first use I've found for it) and used the large leaves as wipes to clean the bikes as best we could. After a roadside repair, Adrian managed to select a gear that didn't seem to be causing any more damage and his wheel turned once more, but changing gear was out for him for the next 20 km at least. We were warned by a German cyclotourist (who we persuaded to turn back to avoid the mud) that there were a few more flooded sections up ahead, but no more impassable mud.

We limped on slowly, using the wet sections to wash the bikes. One very deep flooded section looked too much for me to cycle through, even though two Dutch cyclists sped through as we were dithering at the edge. We waded through calf-deep water, which meant very soggy shoes and socks for the rest of the day. To say it was a relief to find the end of this isolated section was a bit of an understatement. It really took the edge off what had been a fantastic day on the bikes.
French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhôna Le Cèdre de Soyons
Le Cèdre de Soyons

We had planned to detour to see some sights, including the village of Beauchastel, but we abandoned that idea and headed slowly and carefully straight for our hotel. Our hearts sank when we saw the elegance of the villa we arrived at. We were hot, sweaty, mud splattered and my shoes were squelching with every step and caked in thick, grey mud. However, Le Cèdre de Soyons is an accueil vélo hotel and the young couple that run it couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly. They showed us straight to a workshop where the bikes were stabled beside their immaculate Harley Davidson. Adrian was given a box of brand new bike tools and bits, and told to use whatever he needed to try and fix a temporary repair on his gears. I was helped to our room with all our mucky bags and the owner wouldn’t hear of me removing my shoes and socks, so embarrassingly I dripped grey sludge all the way up the stair carpet.
French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhôna Le Cèdre de Soyons
My pear and almond dessert at Le Cèdre de Soyons

The bedroom was beautiful and bright thanks to three large windows, and the bath was perfect to help us relax and wash off the grime from the day. Dinner, served in the hotel was delicious and good value and we both agreed we couldn’t have stayed anywhere better.
French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhôna Valence
Morning coffee in Valence

The following morning we left fully refreshed and despite Adrian only having one gear we made good progress and detoured into Valence for morning coffee. From Valence to Tain l’Hermitage, the Via Rhôna is decorated with steep vineyards and is much more picturesque than further south. We crossed the Rhône via the impressive old footbridge back into Tournon and went straight to Tournon Bikes, where the damaged bracket was straightened and Adrian could once again change gear.
French Village Diaries cycling Ardeche Via Rhôna Tournon sur Rhône
Tournon sur Rhône

Our little tour of just some of what the Ardeche has to offer for cyclists was over and we were sad to be leaving such a beautiful area of France, even if cycling along the Rhône had lost some of it’s appeal.

This post has been linked to Dreaming of France. See here for more France posts.