Belle Provence Travels

A South of France Blog

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.

Aix-en-Provence, France

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.

Gayle Smith Padgett

Giveaway——–

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

40 thoughts on “Passion for Provence… Book Review & Giveaway

  1. Susan Scott says:

    We have been to Provence several times and would love to read about this writer’s adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Thank you Susan for your entry, bon week-end from Provence!

      Like

  2. Susan Soiferman says:

    My trip of a lifetime (and number one only bucket list) was in the summer of 2019, when my husband and I traveled by auto on a self-guided tour of Provence for 10 days, staying in bed and breakfasts and exploring little towns along the way. I am so happy that we made that trip, because in May my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and will no longer be able to travel. I still hope to revisit Provence some day, although it may have to be through books like this one or from my photographs and souvenirs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Hello Susan, bonjour. Thank you for sharing that touching moment and I too am happy that you were able to make that trip to Provence in 2019 – sounds absolutely wonderful. Praying for the health and well-being of your husband, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Tuula

      Like

  3. Sue says:

    Hi Tulla. It’s encouraging to think of life in the south of France while looking out on a very Canadian winter scene. Snowed in this weekend, and dreaming of a return to Provence one post-vaccination day. Reading Keith and Val’s exploits fired us up for our visit a few years ago. Our trip to Aix-en-Provence, carefully planned for April 2020, will hopefully be resurrected in 2021, more likely 2022. Meanwhile, reading about someone who’s living that dream would be a treat. Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Hi Sue, bonjour! Hopefully your trip to Aix will be back on the books soon, fingers-crossed! We’re dreaming of travels ourselves… but content to stay local for the moment. Once you get to Aix, you may not want to leave, it’s such a beautiful place and I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time 🙂 Best wishes from Provence, and thank you for your comment. Tuula

      Like

  4. Sandra Thacker says:

    When our family spent a much anticipated sabbatical year in France a decade ago, we lived in a small town called Montpeyroux, not far from Montpellier. Both our girls were enrolled in local French schools while my husband and I had a break from our careers. We went on daily walks through the local vineyards, surrounded by the sounds of church bells, birds and cigales! We had unforgettable experiences that whole year and made lifelong friends. On weekends we would explore nearby villages. One of them was Pezenas. We fell in love with it – my husband said it reminded him of Venice (without the canals) as it was teeming with artisans, winding streets through the wonderful historic centre and a lively market. We ended up buying a place there a few years later and we haven’t looked back. As we continue to buid our longterm nest there, I would love to read about Gayle and Ralph’s adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Oh, how wonderful! We took a trip to Montpellier this past summer (when the country briefly reopened) and I spotted Pezenas on the map. Sounds like a fantastic place to live! I fell in love with that area. We did a very French camping trip to Le Grau-du-Roi and toured around many of the neighboring towns. I loved being surrounded by nature and the easy, laid-back feeling of the region. South of France at its finest! Good luck to you as you continue to build your nest, and many thanks for your thoughtful comment. Best wishes, Tuula

      Like

  5. Anne Marie says:

    What’s not to love about the villages of Provence? It’s difficult to choose a favorite and so many more to discover. I like the size and ambiance of Lourmarin and the perched villages in the Luberon. My dream is to live in France but for now, traveling and savoring offer solace and inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Sounds like a great plan, Anne Marie! We’re all doing a lot of armchair travel at the moment 🙂 Best wishes from belle Provence, Tuula

      Like

  6. Carmel Patrick says:

    We loved Arles and enjoyed driving around Provence when we visited in 2019. We’ll be back as soon we can all safely travel again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Thank you for entering the giveaway, bon weekend from belle Provence!

      Like

  7. Stephanie says:

    I read this book last year and really enjoyed it! Daydreaming of when we, too, can make the move.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      That’s great Stephanie, so happy to hear that you liked the book! Best wishes from Provence 🙂 Tuula

      Like

  8. Kathleen Hurder says:

    As an American, I’m longing to be at my petite maison en Provence at Saint Roman de Malegard, close to Vaison la Romain and Chateauneuf de Pape. Its a slice of heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mary Redmond says:

    I’d love to receive a copy of Gayle’s book. I have spent a lot of time in France, particularly Provence, and St Rémy de Provence has been my home base for 15 years. It’s such a lovely town and offers a feast for the senses in the gifts from the terroir of olives, lavender, wines, luscious fruits as well as many artisans’ creations, the magnificent artwork, the flora and fauna of the area. Just fabulous. I have a passion for Provence!

    Like

    1. Tuula says:

      That’s fantastic, Mary! You can’t beat St. Rémy for a home base – lucky you! Here’s to more travels in the near future, and thank you for entering the giveaway. Tuula

      Like

  10. Fidelma Ormsby says:

    There are so many beautiful towns cities and villages in Provence. We fell in love with Bandol for its charm, beutiful harbour surrounded by stunning mountains. Its quiet in the Winter months which suits us perfectly. The people are charming and have the patience to listen to my attempt at french,
    they will gently correct or just laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Thank you, Fidelma. We love Bandol, too. We’re only about 20 minutes away, and you’re right, it’s a nice place to visit in summer and in the winter. Best wishes from belle Provence, Tuula

      Like

      1. Fidelma Ormsby says:

        Tuula we are sincerely hoping and praying we can return in the Autumn this year but it will depend on Covid. Our last visit was Feb & March 2020 … We intended to return fNovember to April 2021
        If will let you know if we are successful.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Jill Hardesty says:

    I love Provence!! One of my favorite areas is the village of Bonnieux!! The lavender & the sunflowers are beautiful! The food is amazing!! I love hiking With family & friends in the Luberon Mountains !! All of Provence is magical!! The book sounds wonderful & I look forward to returning to Provence!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Bonnieux is very pretty! As you said, all of Provence is beautiful… looking forward to the spring and summer months to come. Thanks so much for entering the giveaway! Tuula

      Like

  12. Mary Lynn Redmond says:

    I love all towns and villages in Provence but St Remy de Provence is my favorite. It is such a wonderful home base from which to take short drives to surrounding towns and to be immersed in the beauty of this unique area of the world. The terroir, sunshine, and proximity to the sea offer a feast to the senses. I would love to read Gayle’s book. I have a passion for Provence!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      St Remy de Provence is a wonderful town, it’s captured the heart’s of so many. I too would love to return when things open up a bit more. Here’s to more travels to come! Thank you for your entry in the book giveaway. Tuula

      Like

  13. Geraldine Ventura says:

    After 12 trips to Provence, you can tell that I am also passionate about it! We started out when Le Thor was a small village. Loved it and the people we met. We also have spent several months in Isla sur le Sorgue. Loved these two villages because they were mid point to anywhere we wanted to visit. Would love to have your book to add to my collection which started with Peter Mayles book A Year in Provence. Each trip has been an excuse to increase my library.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Sounds like fantastic trips, Geraldine. We are very fond of Isla sur le Sorgue, I would absolutely love to stay there for a few months, lucky you! Many thanks for entering the book giveaway. Tuula

      Like

  14. Gijs says:

    I live about 10km from the French border in Belgium. So I can hop on my bike and 20 minutes later I’m in France. Although Le Nord is a beautiful region (with its roots in Flanders) I do adore the south. We have been all over France on our trips but the Luberon has stolen my heart. The hills, the smells, the colour, the ‘villages perchées’,… What’s not to love in Luberon. I really hope we will be allowed to travel this summer. Fingers double crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      I haven’t been to Belgium yet, but it’s quite near the top of my list when we can travel again. That sounds like a really great set-up you’ve got – I’d love to be able to live on a border, the best of both worlds! The Luberon is amazing… my last trip was a few spring’s ago and it left me with a lifetime of memories. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, best wishes, Tuula

      Like

  15. jbuchna says:

    Aix-en-Provence parmi plein d’autres endroits tous en Provence

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Patricia Hagan says:

    Coincidence? Maybe – I fell in love with Aix when I first visited in 2008. I finally returned in 2013 for an extended visit and attended IS Aix-en-Provence to attempt to learn French, I found the ex pat cafe, the lovely little cafes down the many passages, the wonderful fountains. I visited many villages nearby, but my heart remained in Aix. I constantly dream of returning and had hoped to return in September, 2020 – and we all know what interfered with that plan, Hopefully, it will be possible to travel again before too long.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Aix really is the place to be! I can’t get enough of that town either… I really hope you can get back soon, Patricia. Well, 2021 certainly has to be better than last year, right? At any rate, we have a lot to look forward to and a lot to celebrate when this is all over! Bonne journée! Tuula

      Like

  17. Snezhana Blazheva says:

    This is my place! This is my dream! Maybe sometime!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Bonnieux is a favourite of mine. I love the meandering multilayered streets as you go wander the village. Fabulous views. It has a great little market and when we were last there in 2019, the boulangerie had the most delicious selection of cakes and tarts. We stayed at the ‘Le Clos du Bois‘ which was just perfect and the owner and staff were so nice and helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      Thank you for your comment, Carole. Bonnieux is lovely! Sounds like a wonderful trip, and thanks for the hotel recommendation, going to add it to the list! Best wishes from France, Tuula

      Like

  19. Jane Dunning says:

    My favourite place is Villefranche-sur-Mer near Nice. It has everything plus it’s easy to walk to Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Cap Ferrat. Bliss!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      I need to get to Villefranche-sur-Mer sooner than later, everyone raves about it! Thank you for your comment, Jane, hope all is well 🙂

      Like

  20. Frank Laza says:

    I would love to have a signed copy of your book. My daughter, her French husband, and my granddaughters live in Aix – a few blocks from Cezannes old dwelling. We will be coming there to visit in September (after May 2020 and now May 2021 postponements). I fell in love beginning with “A Year In Provence” 20 years ago. Thank you. Frank Laza

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tuula says:

      That is wonderful, Frank. Your daughter and granddaughters are very fortunate to live in Aix, how nice. Hope you get back to visit them soon, what a lovely trip to plan… I too loved “A Year in Provence” – sums up perfectly what a special place this is and how unique the people and culture are that you find here. Best wishes from the south of France! Tuula

      Like

  21. Tuula says:

    Many many thanks to everyone who entered the book giveaway. Reading your comments, especially at this time, was so inspiring and uplifting.


    The winner of the giveway is Sue, comment number 3, chosen at random from the 20 submissions via random.org. Thank you again, merci, and wishing you a wonderful day from belle Provence! Tuula

    Like

  22. What a wonderful book! My first experience of living in France was in Aix En Provence and I fell in love with the town, so I think this book sounds like a great read!

    Like

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