Are We French Yet? …Book review & Giveaway

Greetings dear readers and friends. Well, it’s not every day that I get to review such a delightful book as Keith Van Sickle’s latest foray into the ups and downs of expat life in Provence: Are We French Yet? Keith and Val’s Adventures in Provence.

And I say “latest” as this is indeed the second time Keith has blessed us with his quick wit and insightful views on everyday life in the south of France. I had the pleasure of reviewing his first book, One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence.

Are We French Yet? has much the same feel as Keith’s first work… as in it’s a real “boots on the ground” look at French culture from an expat point-of-view. We learn about the author’s ongoing love affair with Europe, which started with his first expat experience in Switzerland – where he lived with his wife, and steadfast Eurofile, Val for 5 years.

From this adventure, grew a lifelong yearning to make the continent their home. And while they ultimately returned to Silicon Valley and their American lifestyle, they never gave up on the idea that they could make a life abroad work. And like all good inspirational stories get their start, with a lot of elbow grease and an impressive amount of risk-taking, they quit their 9 to 5 jobs and started working as consultants.

Already a pretty fabulous dream in the making, n’est pas?

Author Keith Van Sickle

With their newfound flexibility, they became enamored with the French lifestyle, and specifically Provence, and decided to spend 3 months of the year here… which they’ve been doing for the past 9 years.

And what fun and interesting years they’ve been.

Keith and Val prefer to rent different properties each time they come to Provence – mainly staying close to the charming town of St. Rémy de Provence – which has given them the opportunity to become friends with the locals and learn much about the region along the way.

Like the time Keith went in for a doctor’s visit and said doctor just happened to be a huge fan of the US and a huge fan of wine (a pretty good combo if you ask me) so Keith and Val were spirited away for a private tour of a winery in Châteauneuf du Pape – “doctor’s orders”!

Besides recounting their numerous adventures “down south”, Keith also gives us a window, a very accurate window, into French culture. Trips to the butcher unfold into detailed discussions of the quality of meats, cooking techniques, and enquiries into family life.  They bump head-on into a French strike (the “real French national sport”), get schooled on fashion from the Scarf Man, and indulge in a lot of what makes this country so great: good food & good wine.

And woven throughout the book is Keith and Val’s ongoing efforts to master the French language. All I can say is… bravo! I identified with their ups and downs, and hurdles and faux pas, every step of the way. French is one tough language and, as an expat, it’s heartwarming to see their progress.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Keith and Val’s adventures in Provence as much as I did, and I’m very happy to be able to offer one reader a copy of Are We French Yet?

The book is available on Amazon and has debuted to excellent reviews.



In order to win a copy of Are We French Yet? Keith and Val’s Adventures in Provence, please leave a comment below telling us where you think you might like to live in France and why.

One reader will be chosen at random (using on Saturday, February 2nd (12pm EST).

Thank you for your entries and bon chance les amis!

38 thoughts on “Are We French Yet? …Book review & Giveaway”

  1. Hi Tuula,
    I really enjoy reading your blog and several others as Provence is one of my favourite areas of France. Having just been there again recently i would choose a town like Uzes or St Remy to live in as they are a good size, not too small or too big either. They are also within driving distance of other beautiful villages and to Avignon TGV station.
    Would love to win a copy of Keiths book as I enjoy his posts too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for entering the giveaway, Barb. St. Rely is also one of our favorite places and I’d love to live around that area some day too. Hope you get back to Provence soon! Tuula


  2. We HAVE purchased a darling petite Maison in the Vacluse,Provence!
    We are making fantastic dreams come true and living the expat life for a time each year.
    I’d love to compare our notes with the book!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. We just bought tickets to travel to Provence this fall. Have a loose plan to stay in /around Cassis (and other places? – suggestions?) for a few weeks to scout it out for yearly longer stays. Brushing up on our French and excited to begin planning. It’s been a while (since 1983/4) so the changes will be interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan, sounds like a wonderful idea! Well, for places to stay… we just love Sanary-sur-Mer. Great places to eat, fantastic market, and right on the sea – I have several posts about it if you’re interested. I hope you have a wonderful trip and thank you for your comment. Please let me know if you have any other questions about the area. Tuula


  4. We visited Provence for the first time this past fall, and of course, fell in love. Now we’re dreaming by the fire and would love a copy of Keith’s book to help the dream along. (Love the blog by the way – it was fun and instructive reading before the visit and is making me nostalgic since then 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sue, glad to hear that you had a nice visit to Provence… it’s pretty easy to fall in love 🙂 Thank you for your comment and hope you make it back to the south soon! Tuula


  5. I would absolutely live in Provence! I have visited many of the towns; Nice, Grasse, Villefranche, St. Paul de Vence, and many more. I have never stayed longer than two weeks. I have always wanted to visit St. Rémy, but I haven’t had that opportunity yet. I want to explore some of the smaller towns I have never visited. I would love to read these books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Carol Ann, thank your very much for your entry! Those are all great towns, I haven’t been to Nice in a long time, but it’s one of my favorite places to visit. Love walking around the old center of town. All the best, Tuula


  6. That sounds like such a fun way to live the dream whilst still feeling like you truly belong somewhere…I moved to Rhone Alpes five years ago having previously lived in Geneva, and I love it but it would still be nice to spend more time in the UK as well. As for dream locations I do quite fancy retiring in Brittany one day (The South is sadly too hot for my delicate-skinned husband 😥)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brittany sounds like a lovely place to retire… I heard it’s beautiful. So many nice areas in France to explore! Thank you very much for entering the giveaway, have a great day, Tuula

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We have visited France several times, staying in a wide range of abodes in different areas.. We usually rent a house and day trip around the area. This avoids the chore of constantly packing and unpacking. This is a great way to be able to relax plus enjoy meeting the locals at the shops and markets when we purchase our supplies. Of course, we have to visit a few bistros as well. With a temporary home base, we are able to go at our own pace, taking unexpected side trips if something of interest catches our eyes. The best schedule is no schedule.Sometimes the unexpected turns out to be the most interesting and very worthwhile, a definite :Wow” moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment Susan, thank you. I am much like you… I love renting / “staying put” in one spot when I travel and then exploring the surrounding area at a slow pace – a great way to get to know the locals too. And the everyday can certainly turn into a “wow” moment, one of the best aspects of travel in my opinion… All the best, Tuula


  8. I would love to live in Provence, a favorite area is Lourmarin ! I really enjoy hiking in the Lubeton Mountains and seeing the fields of lavender and sunflowers in Provence! The wine and food in Southern France is amazing! I enjoy the goat cheese salads! Would really like to win this great book about Provence!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer! As a (current) resident on a barrier island, I would be loathe to give up proximity to (salt) water. However, the true draw to that location (and many other Provençal locations) is its association with the Divine Feminine and Mary Magdalene. In fact, I’ve often imagined myself living in a walk-up flat with windowboxes filled with geraniums and other flowers, making friends with the owner of the café where I have my morning croissant and café crème and shopping local markets for fresh meats, poultry, produce and chapeaux…and then heading to the beach to stand in water that purifies the soul (and has no undertow).
    And if that isn’t a Dostoyeskian run-on sentence, then I haven’t tried hard enough.
    Visions of Provence (one of my favorite places on planet Earth) are dancing in my head…and I hear her siren song calling me back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment Maria, thanks so much for sharing! Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer sounds like it’s the place for you… and love your descriptions… I can imagine myself in that life as well 🙂 France sure has a lot to offer. All the best, Tuula


  10. Dear Tuula,
    I have been in love with Provence since my first visit in 2008, especially Aix. In 2013 I traveled to Aix again for a 6 week stay – living like a local – I had an apartment hotel, shopped at the markets, French classes and tours of other towns in Provence. My preliminary look into living abroad. Unfortunately, 2 weeks into my journey, I developed trigeminal neuralgia and had to come back to the U.S. early . I wasn’t diagnosed for almost 2 months. So, six years later, I’m still dreaming of living in Provence and visiting all the wonderful towns that you write about. I believe that I must do it soon – as the saying goes – later can become never – and I don’t want that to happen. Your blog truly inspires me – it’s my “happy place”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Patricia, It was so nice to hear about your experience in Aix-en-Provence – we absolutely love this town and consider ourselves fortunate to live not too far away. And very sorry to hear about your illness, that must have been quite a difficult period and a shame to have to leave before the trip was over. I’m crossing my fingers that you’ll get a chance to come back to Provence… and, as always, thank you for your kind words about the blog. You’ve made my day! Tuula


  11. My preferred place to live would be Toulouse. The city where my family is from. Though I have never lived in France (lovingly always say I was made in France and born in New York) someday I will live there


    1. Thank you for your comment Daniel, I’ve never been to Toulouse but I would love to visit. Hope your dream comes true to live in France! All the best, Tuula


  12. Bonjour! I have never been to France, but I am going this mid-May to Paris for one week! That’s a start! I have been learning French online through Duolingo, and I think I am progressing well. Mais c’est difficile, n’est pas? Provence is on my Bucket List, though, for sure, and God willing. As for where in France would I like to live, besides of course beautiful Provence, I would love to explore and then perhaps to live in the Dordogne region in southwest France, between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees Mountains, because it purportedly has ancient cave paintings, Roman ruins, inspiring cathedrals, pristine rivers, and 1,001 castles! I saw a program on International Househunters which featured a couple buying a home in this region. I wrote the name, Dordogne, down for future and hopeful reference. But, of course, in Provence I would pick Toulon. It must be very much like the town where I live in California, Santa Barbara, by the sea and enjoying a temperate, Mediterranean climate. Merci, et au revoir, et a bientot!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Mary, thank you for your comment! Sounds like your French is coming along well, bravo! C’est difficile, c’est vrai! One week in Paris will be wonderful… I hope to visit Paris for a few days this summer with my husband, we’ll see… I’m sure you’ll have an incredible time, and it’s a great time of the year to visit. And oh my goodness… I’m from Ventura, California – we are quite “neighbors”! I had a quick visit there this past October and of course spent some time in Santa Barbara, a beautiful town and also were I went to college (I miss it!). Toulon and Provence would indeed be a good choice for you, a lot of similarities. Wishing you a very bonne journée! Tuula


  13. Tuula; your blog has been a godsend to me. I haven’t been fortunate enough to visit the Provence region yet but I spent a month in Nice in May of 2017. Your website was really helpful to get me in the groove before that trip. Loved all the places we visited from Nice. Although Nice was a bit too large for me it was such a great hub for easy travel.

    I did love the Sea and all the coastal hikes we took. My favorite spot was the perched village of Tende. It felt unspoiled.

    The Aix markets have been my dream and two or three of my girlfriends are attempting to arrange a few weeks in Provence this year. What are your thoughts on early Fall? I’d love to see the lavender fields but summer may be too darn hot for us. We plan to find a Home Away-type rental in the Aix area. Suggestions of areas or neighborhoods that would be good?

    I can’t wait to read Keith’s book. Based on my three visits so far to different parts of France, there is absolutely no chance, no way, no how that I would ever be viewed as ‘French yet’. I’m fairly certain that I was spotted as a ‘tourist’ from 50 paces!

    Please add me to the drawing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Susan, what a great comment, thanks so much! So happy to hear that you have found the blog helpful. And you are entered into the drawing for Keith’s book. Your trip to Nice sounds like a lot of fun. It is a big city, by French standards, but you are very right in that it is easy to get around and makes a good “base” to explore surrounding areas. As for Aix, early Fall would be a great time to go. Just be aware that it is still “hot” during this period – I’d check the average temps online (past years) to see if it’s acceptable for your group. Of course I’d tried to stay as close to the center as possible in Aix, but that might put the prices up… so I would say that literally anywhere in the city is fine to rent a place – they have really good bus service, a cute electric shuttle that transports people throughout the center, or you can simply walk, a very easy city to move around! I hope that is helpful, you will absolutely love Aix and it’s a fantastic “girlfriends” destination. Thank you again for your kind comment! Tuula


  14. I took “One Sip at a Time” with me on our last visit to France and read it there . Great book for all of us who love Provence and for those who would like to know more about the area. We love St-Remy-de-Provence and also rent a house on our visits there. Maybe our paths might cross one day….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Sam, that’s great to hear that you took One Sip at a Time with you on your last visit! I really enjoyed the book as well… St. Remy is truely a great spot to set up camp in Provence, lucky you. Hope to see you one day out our way, thank you very much for your comment. Tuula


  15. The South of France is my “Happy Place” and I have been exploring options the last couple of years. Right now, I would choose to live near St. Remy or Eygalières( I call it E town). The location is awesome; making it easy to get anywhere in Provence. Also, there is nothing I like more than driving down D99 through the tree alley with the sun sparkling thru the branches. Magic!
    Deb Barrett

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment Deb, love it! And I’m with you on E town, goodness the name Eygalières is one of those words I can never pronounce in French. Great to hear that you’ve been bitten by the Provence “bug” and thanks again for your comment, you’re entered in the giveaway. All the best, Tuula


  16. Hello Tuula and Friends!

    I always enjoy reading your blog! As I briefly commented in December, I love your writing style. Reading Belle Provence Travels makes me feel as if we are chatting over a good cup of coffee. Super engaging and informative.

    I would enjoy living in France (or at the very least going long term to check it out to see if it’s a good fit) for many, many reasons. Among these: the arts (Louvre and Cannes), good food, the countryside, more personal medical care compared to the U.S., weather, Paris, provence markets, and an opportunity to learn one of the most beautiful languages on Earth: French!

    Most importantly, a few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a colleague who was originally from France. She often described the level of friendship people enjoyed as a normal part of daily life; unhurried, genuine, where you could disagree in opinion- and remain friends. I’d like to enjoy such a lifestyle, built on being present in the moment. That’s one of the messages that always seems to come across your blog.

    OK, like a good Spaniard… I can be long winded (lol). Thanks for sharing your adventures with the world. It helps, especially during nights like tonight. We are “enjoying” a polar vortex in the American Midwest… -35° F. 🙁

    All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Iliana, thank you so much for your hearwarming comment… I am very touched! I always hoped my blog was a little like “chatting over a good cup of coffee”, so having your feedback really means a lot, thank you!

      That’s so interesting that you had a French colleague and I think you hit the nail on the head… France really is unhurried and genuine, some of the main reasons that I love living here. I don’t know how we got away from that in the US, but it is alive and well here. And it was hard for me to learn to “live in the moment” (I still have trouble sometimes) but I have to say that I have such a greater appreciation of daily life, and the “small things” – as cliché as that might sound!

      And sending you my warmest wishes during the “cold snap” in the Midwest, was just watching some of the incredible shots of what’s been happening on the news last night. I hope you’re keeping warm and safe inside!

      Thank you again for your kind comment, you’re entered in the book contest and I’m so happy you enjoy the blog. All the best, Tuula


  17. P.S. I would love reading Keith and Val’s book as a source of enjoyment, and encouragement about the good life decisions they are making. This book is a glimpse about great lifestyle options available to my family. Merci mon ami! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. A big thank you, merci, to everyone who entered the giveaway! Comment #4, from Sue, was chosen at random. Thank you again, I loved reading all of you comments & “jolie mots” about Provence. Hope to have another contest to offer soon! Tuula


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