Fun Stories from France

I’d like to introduce you to my friend Annette Charlton, part-time Frenchwoman and the author of a delightful new book, A French Life.

Some years ago, Annette and her husband bought a house in a small village in Brittany. This, you might think, is not particularly unusual. But they bought the house on their first-ever trip to France. And they live in Australia. All right, you think, this is not your run-of-the-mill couple.

Annette is the publisher of A French Collection, where she writes about all things French. And she occasionally writes funny stories about her life in France. She has now collected these blog posts into a slim volume that I very much enjoyed reading.

Annette begins with a straightforward question—how do you buy a house on your first trip to a country? While others might choose a different path, preferring to visit a few times first, the method she lays out will profit anyone thinking of buying a home abroad.

Then Annette starts telling funny stories about the life that she, her husband, and their three kids live in France. She describes an unusual French specialty, chocolate sausage. She tells how she once accidentally invited an elderly priest for a visit, then had to entertain him when neither spoke the other’s language. And she asks the vital question, what is the proper French etiquette when someone’s hair catches on fire?

Whether you buy this book, read the stories on her blog, or just dip into A French Collection from time to time, I guarantee you’ll enjoy getting to know Annette and her family.

You can purchase A French Life here.

 

A Delightful Trip to Middle-of-Nowhere France

Oh boy, I love books about France and this is one of the best.

France is full of fascinating places to visit, like Paris, Provence, the Riviera, Normandy, and more. There are so many that it’s hard to decide where to go! Well, it just got harder because Janine Marsh’s description of her tiny village in “middle-of-nowhere-France” is so delightful that you’ll want to go there, too. I know I do.

Fifteen years ago, Janine and her husband Mark bought a wreck of a house in the Seven Valleys region of northern France. They didn’t plan to buy a house; they were on a shopping trip from their home in London and stumbled into a real estate office to get out of the rain. The next thing they knew they were looking at a place that cost “less than a Hermes handbag.” They bought it as a bit of a lark, thinking it would make a nice place for vacations and the occasional weekend getaway.

But life had other plans. The little village captured their hearts and soon they packed up and moved to France. The next dozen years were spent refurbishing the house (including a septic tank explosion that earned Janine the nickname Madame Merde), collecting a vast collection of farm animals (including a demented chicken named Ken) and settling into the local community.

Janine and Mark are those rarest of birds, expats who have really become members of a French village. They drink at a local bar that looks like someone’s living room circa 1955. They play charades with their neighbors, where everyone fights to play Johnny Holliday or Edith Piaf. They chat with the bread delivery man—their village is too tiny to support a boulangerie—who occasionally has questions about English (“What means the expression, ‘It sucks?’”)

The best part of the book is the way Janine writes about of her neighbors, a friendly and occasionally eccentric crew who have welcomed Janine and Mark with great warmth. There’s Jean-Claude, who teaches them how to trim hedges and make crow pâté. And Claudette, always ready with a hot cup of coffee and a plate of something tasty. And “Miss Pepperpot,” the tiny lady who occasionally needs help getting wayward cows out of her flowerbed, and offers jars of homemade jam as thanks.

I love Janine’s writing and laughed when she described a young couple falling in love over a shared passion for mushroom hunting (“one fungi led to another…”) And her description of a strong local drink (“Calvados can blow your socks off, and after a couple of hours we were all pretty much sockless.”)

If you are stuck at home and looking for something to brighten your day, think about taking a trip to this delightful corner of France. I just loved this book and I think you will, too.

You can find My Four Seasons in France on Amazon.

Living Like a Local in Provence

Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy and we’ve tried to become as local as we can. An important part of that is getting to know our region’s history.

One way we’ve done this is through local associations, which are groups organized around a common interest. Associations are popular in France and every town and village has at least a few. They might be cultural, charitable, athletic—you name it. A friend of ours is in a walking group and she joins fellow members for “randonnées” in the countryside every weekend.

We’ve made it a point to go to lectures put on by our town’s historical society. Want to know about the women of the French Resistance? How about what the Pont d’Avignon looked like before it collapsed? Or maybe the REAL story of Mary Magdalene in Provence?

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

Book Review: (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

It’s summer: time for long, lazy days and maybe a book or two. Looking for something good to read? Then check out this hilarious true story of an American who buys a house in a tiny village in Brittany and begins living there part of the year.

As a part-time expat myself, I find that author Mark Greenside does an exceptional job of describing the many fish-out-of-water moments of life abroad. He also writes movingly about how his experiences in a new land have changed him. This is a book not to be missed!

Check out my review in My French Life.

Book Review of I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do)

I love memoirs by people who have moved to a new country. Some are funny (A Year in Provence), some are personal and moving (Under the Tuscan Sun), and my favorites are both.

One of the best I’ve read in a long time is Mark Greenside’s I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do). It combines hilarious stories of his adventures in France with lovely observations about how life in a new country has changed him.

A few months ago I reviewed Mark’s book titled (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living, which I loved. I loved this second book just as much. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel memoirs with a lot of humor and a lot of heart, especially those set in France.

You can read my review in My French Life!

My New Book Has Just Been Published!

I’m very excited to let you know that Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in Provence is now available! It’s the sequel to One Sip at a Timeand I’m thrilled to tell you about it.

Like One Sip at a Time, it’s the story of two part-time expats trying to create a life in France. And it takes a deeper (but still funny!) look at French people and their history, literature, politics, business, sports, and—of course—food and wine.

The Kindle version is available now and the paperback will be out in a few days. Here’s the link on Amazon.

I hope you like it!

Bises,

Keith

 

Can Two Americans Really Become French?

Val and Keith turned their lives upside down when they quit their jobs and began a part-time life in Provence. But they wondered: Can we fit in? And maybe become French ourselves?

Follow their adventures as they slowly unlock the mysteries of France…

– Is it true that French people are like coconuts?

– Can you learn to argue like a French person?

– What books have changed French lives?

– Most important of all, how do you keep your soup from exploding?

There’s more to becoming French than just learning the language. If you want the inside scoop on la belle France, you won’t want to miss this delightful book!

The 6 Stages of Becoming French

Admit it, you want to be French. Or at least be able to pass yourself off as French, like a spy who fools everyone with her secret identity. What a dream it is to speak perfect French, be stylish and sexy, and actually know what postmodernism means.

But to do that you have to pass through the different stages of Frenchness, slowly graduating from one to the next. Let’s take a look at these stages as they occur in France.

Real the rest of the article at Frenchly!

Book Review: (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

I’ve just finished a gem of a book and would like to share it with you. It’s (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living by Mark Greenside and it is funny as heck. I like to read a book before going to sleep but my wife wouldn’t let me with this one because I kept laughing so hard I was shaking the bed.

Mark is an American who spends every summer in a house he bought in a tiny village in Brittany. Somehow, despite living part-time in France for decades, he has not managed to learn the language. This leads to inevitable mishaps, all of which he describes in a hilarious style. As he puts it, “If you’re lucky, some of the things that happened to me will happen to you. If you’re luckier, they won’t.”

We learn what happens when you accidentally end up in the middle of a combination pig roast / talent show with a busload of elderly French tourists. And what it is like to try and fail (yet again) to prepare a meal that satisfies your French neighbors. There are funny stories about shopping, banking, driving (including a car accident that turns out surprisingly well) and more. Mark has an engaging style that allows him to tell these and other stories with humor and humility.

As someone who lives part-time in France myself, I think that Mark has done an especially good job at describing the cultural differences between France and the United States. And I was touched when he talked about his French friends, people with whom he can barely have a conversation, yet who have become “people I care about and who care about me.”

If you are looking for a book about France that is thoughtful, heartfelt and really, really funny, this is one you won’t want to miss. Highly recommended.

Synopsis

Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux pas–filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a roundabout? Where does he pay for a parking ticket? And most dauntingly of all, when can he touch the tomatoes?

Despite the two decades that have passed since Greenside’s snap decision to buy a house in Brittany and begin a bi-continental life, the quirks of French living still manage to confound him. Continuing the journey begun in his 2009 memoir about beginning life in France, (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living details Greenside’s daily adventures in his adopted French home, where the simplest tasks are never straightforward but always end in a great story. Through some hits and lots of misses, he learns the rules of engagement, how he gets what he needs―which is not necessarily what he thinks he wants―and how to be grateful and thankful when (especially when) he fails, which is more often than he can believe.

Introducing the English-speaking world to the region of Brittany in the tradition of Peter Mayle’s homage to Provence, Mark Greenside’s first book, I’ll Never Be French, continues to be among the bestselling books about the region today. Experienced Francophiles and armchair travelers alike will delight in this new chapter exploring the practical and philosophical questions of French life, vividly brought to life by Greenside’s humor and affection for his community.

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living  is available at Amazon.