Greetings dear readers and friends. Well, I think we all had hoped for a better start to 2021, but we’re staying positive in our corner of the world and looking to a better future ahead. One that includes loads of new adventures and many afternoon apéros spent with family and friends.
And I’m thrilled to have recently made a new friend who lives in glorious Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – a top spot for expats and inspiration for some of the most celebrated paintings of one Vincent Van Gogh (who was a patient at nearby Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum).
Gayle Smith Padgett, who lives in the south of France with her charming husband Ralph, writes about how she became captivated with this beautiful region in her book, Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie.
More than an inspirational look at how one couple overcame the bumps and blips of French bureaucracy and successfully integrated into French culture (no easy feat!), Passion for Provence is both a memoir and a guidebook for anyone who has ever thought of pursuing their dream-life abroad.
A honeymoon trip to southern France began a two-decade love affair with the country that saw the couple living out many people’s fantasies – namely, traveling through Alsace, to Burgundy, and on to beautiful Provence while living just across the border in Germany.
Working in Heidelberg, Gayle and Ralph relished their vacation days. Packing up the car, they’d head to the south of France, marveling at the changes in the scenery along the way. Trying out several different locales, including stops in the wetland preserve of the Camargue (which called to Ralph’s passion for birdwatching) and the stunning seaside towns of Saint Jean-de-Luz and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the couple dreamed of one day making Provence their home. But where… and how?
Nearing retirement, Gayle decided to take the bull by the horns and start the visa process – which she approached with the relish of a true management analyst, the position she had held in Germany. With a fat dossier (file) of paperwork, and an extra dose of patience, Gayle and Ralph became “France official” and could finally move to their beloved Provence. This is where the real work came in. With so many beautiful towns and villages to choose from, just where exactly would they go?
After much debate, the couple set their sights on the beguiling university town of Aix-en-Provence. As Gayle so aptly writes in her key #3 to “living la belle vie,” it’s important to establish a “French base camp.” “From there,” she says, “you can launch a quest for your long-term nest.” This is very sound advice, and exactly what Gayle and Ralph set out to achieve. From their base camp in Aix, the pair embark on a series of southern France (mis)adventures – from housesitting a few testy pets, to cooking experiments with newfound expat friends, and tackling the finer points of French grammar.
Along the way, the couple’s “first love” begins to call to them, and Gayle and Ralph decide to build their long-term nest in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Here you can join them for a whole new set of Provençal adventures and wonderful roamings in the whimsical landscapes surrounding the Alpilles – “little Alps.”
Passion for Provence is light-hearted, uplifting, and an inspiring story about expat life in one of the most captivating regions in all of France. If you’re in the mood for a great “armchair escape” to the sunny south of France, you’ll love reading Gayle’s spirited memoir.
If you’d like to enter to win a paperback copy of Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie, please leave a comment below and let us know about a place that’s captured your heart (in France or elsewhere!).
One winner will be chosen at random, using random.org, on Saturday, January 23rd, 2021.
Good luck, bonne chance, and sending you our best wishes from belle Provence!
-Passion for Provence on Amazon
-Gayle’s website and blog