Keith and Val Van Sickle are back again with another collection of wonderful and heartwarming short stories on their continuing adventures in Provence. Full of hilarity and nostalgia, Are We French, Yet? Keith and Val’s Adventures in Provence, gives us the inside scoop on what life is really like in Provence: the importance of experiencing good wine and food with friends, picnics and bike rides in the countryside, the difficulty of learning the French language, what Bouillabaisse really is a why the French love it, and so much more.
The love and sentiment that Keith and Val have for Provence shines through in every story of this book. The enjoyment I got from reading it is more than I could ever say. Provence holds a special place in my heart and reading about these experiences just reiterates that to me.
Are you still wondering and dreaming of what it’s like to live in Provence? Well, wonder no more, read on and you shall see.
Author: Keith Van Sickle
Available Formats: Kindle
Where to Purchase: Amazon.com
As with Keith’s first book, One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, each chapter of his new book is a self- contained, short story. Each story giving us a view through different windows into the world of Provence, which is undoubtedly a world of its own. Provence is a large region in France but for many, it sort of gets lumped together in one ideological sense. For those who’ve not visited or lived here, it would seem that all of Provence is the same, but surprisingly, it’s not. I live in a completely different area of Provence than Keith and Val do. The terrain is different, the wine taste different, and the culture and people are different. One of the many reasons why I love Keith’s stories so much is that with them, I get to see and experience Provence in a whole new way.
He doesn’t just write about being in Provence, he writes about learning how to become Provençal. Though he states that he and Val will always be les étrangers (foreigners) to the people of Provence, with each experience, with each effort made by them to learn the language and the culture, they step ever so closer to becoming as Provençal as they could ever be.
How breaking your wrist can get you a tour of a winery
Keith’s book begins by the retelling of how he broke his wrist just before he and Val were to leave for their trip to Provence. In, Not Quite What I Planned, he recounts his very unfortunate accident and in, The Interrogation, he tells of how this painful incident actually turned into a stroke of luck. Where else but in Provence are you going to get medical help from a doctor that just happens to know the owners of one of the best wineries around?
As most of us know, wine is a huge part of life in France and Provençal wines are among the most wonderful. Keith has some amazing stories of wine tasting with friends, of taking tours, learning the whole process of wine making, and learning how to schmooze your winery-owner friends into giving you the best of the best bottles from the best season! I learned a lot from this….and took notes. Let’s just say, my cave is going to pretty full in the upcoming months!
When in France, learn French
Part of “being French” is learning the language of course, and Keith and Val are hard at work on this. I’m quite impressed with the level they’ve gone to in order to understand, read, and speak the language. With any new learning experience mistakes are made and inevitably, some of them are quite funny! With humor and openness, Keith is very forthcoming on the fact that he isn’t an expert with language learning and he’s had a hard time of it. What I love is his persistence. He doesn’t give up, he really tries and it’s this state of mind that really makes me applaud him.
In, It’s All About The Tongue, he has no problem with telling you that the teacher laughed at him over his pronunciation and about how self-conscious he was when speaking. His way of telling how one has to learn to use their tongue (insert laugh here), their lips and mouth (another laugh), and how growling like a dog is part of speaking the French language…..well, trust me, you’re going to have to read it to believe it!
Another thing that makes the French language so difficult is the nuances and all the tenses. In, I will never be Français, Keith goes about explaining how precise the language can be and how the French pride themselves on the precision of the language and that is, in essence, part of its beauty. He tells how having 26 tenses is mind-blowing and I whole-heartedly agree with him on that! What in the world were the French language creators thinking???
Always learning something new in Provence
As if learning the French language wasn’t enough, Keith wonderfully gives the inside story on why the French are in love with scarves. In, Dressing in French, he shows how mastering that art of wearing a scarf was a big milestone for him. Scarves are one of those things that the French just seem to wear effortless and they always look good. Like, they are some sort of professional scarf-wearers or something. Always fashionable any time of year, the French just seem to know how to make it a beautiful accessory. How and why they do it is something that Keith sets out to discover and in doing so, his little research project gives him an answer that he was amazed to find out. You’ll see, it’s not all about fashion with the French. What else is there, you say??….Well, you’ll find out!
Another great discovery that Keith finds is the history behind certain, famous, Provençal meals. In, Exploding Soup and The Art of Débat, you get to learn how the dishes of “bouillabaisse” and “le grand aïoli” came to be known as traditional dishes in this part of France and how they are made. I was thrilled to learn about this because I never knew the reasons! It’s so much fun to learn new things about the places you live in and through Keith’s words, you get to have fun discovering them along with him.
Don’t forget to say Bonjour and make sure to use those French expressions
Being an American, I always thought that saying Bonjour to everyone when you walk into a place was sort of weird. If you walked in to a store in the USA and said hello so that everyone could hear you, they would think something was wrong with you. In, Learning The Rules, Keith explains that saying Bonjour to everyone means that you are being polite and if you don’t do it, you are breaking the rules and therefore, you are not being polite.
I loved that he included this in one of his stories. It’s a subtle thing that many people would miss, but it’s a very important aspect of living and being in France. He also points out that it’s harder than you would think and there are rules for using this rule! What are those rules, you might ask? Well, you’re going to have to read his explanation on that. For what I gather, he has it down to a science. Even politeness has a protocol to follow in France!
With learning a new language, you also get to learn those fun expressions that native speakers use. Keith’s love and desire to speak and understand French really comes across when he writes about learning new phrases and expressions in French. I just love how he jots them down in his memory for further use because, after all, saying them would mean you are that much closer to becoming French! I was able to pick up and note down some new expressions thanks to Keith and his friends!
I wonder if it would be a good thing to mix the two when entering a store or waiting room. You know, say Bonjour then use an idiomatic expression afterwards…on second thought, no. That’s probably breaking a major French rule somewhere……
It pays to be sporty in Provence
I love a good hike and I’m always looking to find new hiking trails. Well, Keith and Val’s love of biking leads him to tell some stories of their biking adventures and the trails they have discovered and taken on their bike tours. Though, I’m not much of a bicycle rider, these trails are great for hiking, too, and thanks to Keith’s stories, he’s offered up a few new places to go hiking around Provence.
In, A New Challenge ,Keith is quick to point out that Val is much less of a wuss when it comes to a challenging bike ride. However, he musters the strength to go on this very difficult ride and tells how the views were so well worth the pain. I can tell you he is definitely not a wuss! Through Les Alpilles, past vineyards, through forests, up to mountain tops, and with views of the Mediterranean, Avignon, Saint-Rémy and a lot of other places, you can’t help but want to get out and ride (or hike). His retelling of their bicycle rides just makes you want to experience the great outdoors of Provence. He’s able to describe so wonderfully the beauty that surrounds us here and the love he has for the region. It’s part of what makes this little corner of the world so special.
You want to come and visit now, don’t you???
What is a good book to read?
I thoroughly enjoyed sharing in Keith and Val’s adventures in Provence.
Whether you are an armchair traveler, and avid traveler, have been to Provence, or want to visit Provence, this book is for you. There is just something to be said about the writings of someone who has such passion and love for the subject they are writing about. It shines through and Keith has a way of doing just that. To laugh, to be confused, to question, and to discover is one of the best things about Provence. To say that you get it all here is an understatement. Provence really does have it all and Keith’s stories show what an amazing and quirky place this is.
Are We French, Yet? Keith and Val’s Adventures in Provence, will certainly delight you. Now….you really want to come and visit, don’t you?