This is part of my Summer Reads 2018 series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”.
This week’s Summer Read is for Francophiles who dream of up and moving to France à la Peter Mayle. This is Mayle’s final work, published after his death in January 2018 is the and is pretty much the perfect summer read, whether you’re travelling or just armchair travelling.
From the publisher:
The beloved author Peter Mayle, champion of all things Provence, here in a final volume of all-new writing, offers vivid recollections from his twenty-five years in the South of France: lessons learned, culinary delights enjoyed, and changes observed.
Twenty-five years ago, Peter Mayle and his wife, Jennie, were rained out of a planned two weeks on the Côte d’Azur. In search of sunlight, they set off for Aix-en-Provence; enchanted by the world and life they found there, they soon decided to uproot their lives in England and settle in Provence. They have never looked back. As Mayle tells us, a cup of café might now cost three euros–but that price still buys you a front-row seat to the charming and indelible parade of village life. After the coffee, you might drive to see a lavender field that has bloomed every year for centuries, or stroll through the ancient history that coexists alongside Marseille’s metropolitan bustle. Modern life may have seeped into sleepy Provence, but its magic remains.
With his signature warmth, wit, and humor–and twenty-five years of experience–Peter Mayle is a one-of-a-kind guide to the continuing appeal of Provence. This thoughtful, vivid exploration of life well-lived, à la Provence, will charm longtime fans and a new generation of readers alike.
I loved this snapshot of life “then and now” and found myself nodding along with some of the “this could only happen in France” stories. There are SO many lovely anecdotes and memories of Mayle’s time in France but here were a few that resonated with me.
Ten lessons learned from Peter Mayle’s Twenty Five Years in Provence
1. Whilst the French language can be challenging to perfect, gestures and body language play a big part too. Never forget that a French shrug speaks a thousand words 😉
2. Rosé, whilst all the rage nowadays, wasn’t always as popular as it is now. When Mayle first arrived in Provence, he was told that drinking rosé was not “sérieux“. How times change – as Mayle says “The world seems to have gone pink, perhaps one small sign of an increasing desire for simplicity when we sit down to eat and drink.”
3. When you have a home “in a lovely part of the world with a predictably excellent climate, guests will descend upon you.”
5. Lunch in Provence is a serious business and that wherever you go in Provence you’ll never be hungry (Mayle also includes some suggestions for his favourite restaurants and summer fêtes should you be travelling to the region).
6. Admitting to your French doctor that you have a fondness for wine won’t bring a frown to their face; rather they might say something like “C’est normal”.
7. If you’re looking for the heart of a French village, head to the café. If you were to spend a day in a village café you’ll see you a snapshot of village life – meet the locals and regulars, hear the gossip and keep an eye on the comings and goings of the village from the comfort of your terrace seat.
8. How to spot the English en vacances in Provence (hint: they’ll be the ones carrying the umbrella at the (nudist) beach)
9. Contrary to what many believe, September is the perfect time to visit Provence, when most of the summer tourists have gone and life in the villages returns to its normal sleepy pace.
10. Provençal timing is something else. “Dates and appointments are treated as interesting possibilities rather than commitments” 😉
There’s also a chapter called “Snapshots” – colour images taken by Mayle’s wife Jennie, with short descriptions written by Mayle. Quite delightful.
A wonderful read for anyone familiar with Mayle’s works or even for those who are newcomers to his writing. Once you’ve read this, you’ll definitely want to (re)read more.
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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not asked to review this book, nor am I receiving compensation for doing do. All opinions my own.
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