Greeting dear readers and friends! Well, it’s shaping up to be a lovely month in beautiful, sunny Provence. Spring is just around the corner and you can feel the sense of excitement in the air. Soon it will be time for beach picnics, spring / summer barbeques, and many late-afternoon “apéro hours”. It’s a wonderful time of year.
It’s also a fantastic time to visit the South of France and explore all of its picture-postcard towns and villages.
One such village, Saint Paul de Vence, is the central location for Paul Shore’s delightful book about his time spent living in Southern France- Uncorked: My year in Provence studying Pétanque, discovering Chagall, drinking Pastis, and mangling French.
Paul is initially transplanted to Saint Paul for work, and he immediately falls in love with the picturesque hilltop village – describing the ascent to the town in his car, “where the full beauty of the village and its medieval walls and clock tower show itself fully, along with the Maritime Alps”. Well, that’s enough to make me jump in my car for a visit. Lucky Paul actually got to live in the village and become friends with its residents (I think we’re all a bit jealous!).
Although it wasn’t very easy in the beginning for Paul. When he first arrives in Saint Paul, he feels quite like a stranger in a strange land. Trying to get the lay of the land, and work out what it means to live in a small South-of-France village, he notices that a lot of town-life revolves around a peculiar-looking game of tossing around small, silver balls. If you’ve ever traveled to Southern France, you’ll surely recognize this as the widely-popular game of pétanque.
And as Paul quickly learns, playing pétanque is no laughing matter. The villagers regard the game with an almost religious reverence and the form, rules, and artistry of playing pétanque are analyzed and discussed to no end. Preferably over a tall glass Pastis (an anise and licorice-flavored alcohol enjoyed throughout the south).
Taking up the advice of a local friend, Paul debarks on the brave mission of finding himself a “sponsor” – someone who can teach him how to play pétanque. He asks a known acquaintance, Hubert, and after a first, rather rough rebuff (“YOU ARE NOT FREENCHHH!!”), he agrees to take Paul on as his “apprentice” and teach him the ins and outs of pétanque.
Thus begins Paul’s great adventure of not only becoming an enviable pétanque player, but of eventually integrating into Saint Paul – in large part thanks to his passion for the game. Along the way, we meet a cast of colorful southern characters, get initiated into the local art scene, and learn what it really takes to live life in another language.
I enjoyed Uncorked: My year in Provence studying Pétanque, discovering Chagall, drinking Pastis, and mangling French because it speaks volumes about what it means to be an expat in France and also takes us on a lovely ride through a beautiful Provençal village… that would certainly be a dream to live in.
If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Uncorked: My year in Provence studying Pétanque, discovering Chagall, drinking Pastis, and mangling French, just leave a comment below and tell us where you’d love to live in France – which town, village, or city.
(Aix-en-Provence is quite near the top of my list!)
A winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, March 19th, 2017 (12pm Eastern Standard Time) using random.org.
If you’re interested in purchasing, or learning more about Uncorked, please visit the Sea to Sky Books website.