Have you ever wondered or dreamed of what it would be like to live in Provence? Well, the dream came true for Keith and Val van Sickle. One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence is a colorful collection of little stories documenting their time in the sunny, south of France. It is a delightful read that will not only have you laughing at the hilarity of the predicaments they come to be in, but it will also fill you with nostalgia and sometimes just downright confusion on how, and why, Provence can be such an amazing and frustrating place all at the same time!
Whether you’ve experienced the same situations (because it’s happened to you in Provence) or you have been dreaming of having a life in La Provence, Keith’s stories will keep you turning the pages all the while wondering if his next adventure will have you laughing out loud or gasping in wonderment.
Book Title: One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence
Author: Keith van Sickle
Price: Kindle $5.32 or Paperback $8.99
Where to Purchase: Amazon.com
In the prologue of the book, Keith gives an overview of how he and Val arrived in Europe and how they eventually ended up in Provence, staying for three months. That short time period was just enough to have the south of France get into their blood and beckon them back for more. This is something to which I have whole-hearted knowledge of. Believe me, once you’ve been bitten by the Provence bug, there is no cure…..
Living in Provence
From the very first story of his second round in the south of France, Keith has you laughing as he and Val try to drive from Frankfurt to Provence. What should have been a nice, quiet, stop for dinner in the north of France becomes a comedy of errors from start to finish. Needless to say, a dog, a parking garage, the French police and French paperwork are all involved. So, first day in France?? Check!
Throughout the delightful stories, from drivers in Provence to parking your car in Provence, you seem to want to smile and gasp all at the same time. He perfectly describes what it’s like to be on the road with these crazy Provençal drivers and how you actually fear for your safety while driving with them. Every day is a race for your life! Another thing, these engineers must be thinking up ways to complicate the lives of their fellow drivers, from the roads that are too narrow to the enormous amount of road furniture, they just have to be sitting back watching the road cameras and laughing……. once you get to the story called Living Dangerously, you’ll agree.
A typical meal in Provence
Meeting their first French friends is one story that is particularly touching. If one thing is for sure, the French build their relationships around food and drink and if you’re building relationships in Provence, then all the more food and drink is going to happen. For Keith and Val, a simple coffee with their new friends turned into an entire afternoon of chatting, partaking in cake, drinking pastis and munching on snacks and instead of an hour or two, they left when the sun was setting. In another story called, Lunch All Afternoon, they quickly found out how time has no meaning in Provence when it comes to spending it eating with friends. There is no rush to get onto the next thing, there are no additional plans for the day. When the French make a date to dine, that means that the rest of your day might as well be a clean slate, because you’re going nowhere! Most likely your afternoon lunch extravaganza is going to turn into an evening dinner extravaganza, too! Food is so important to the French that nearly everything revolves around it.
As you finish reading the closing of Keith and Val’s second stay in Provence, you’ll have learned how to do the “French Kiss”, how to correctly say certain village names, how to learn to speak French, how to discuss the differences between American and French work-related culture and all the ends and outs of a quirky, but fantastical time spent in Provence. Will they be up to another stint in Provence??? You betcha!
Living in Provence, again
The second half of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, are the stories of the next time that Keith and Val were able to have a long stay in Provence. The previous time, they had rented a little house in the village of Ventabren, near Aix-en-Provence. This time around they found themselves in the village of Le Thor and staying in a monastery from the 1500’s. As you might have guessed, new adventures, new friends and new stories all happen.
When I read the part called, Tighter and Whiter, I knew right then and there that Val and I were going to be good friends! I must have read this story about five times because I laughed so hard thinking about how alike Val and I are on this subject. Let’s just say it involves men in tight, white, pants and that’s all I’m going to say about it……..
The Mistral wind
Keith’s take on the matter of the Mistral winds is aptly called Auntie Em. If you haven’t ever experienced these biting, cold, enormously furious and fast winds, then you have never lived. These winds would scare even Auntie Em so Keith knows what he’s talking about. His description of confused birds laying on the ground and the salad being tossed out of the bowl during a Mistral session will make you beg to not experience this while in Provence. Do not be fooled by the pristine, gleaming, and calm photos of the Mediterranean. When the Mistrals let loose, you’d better head for the hills (and don’t even think about your covered patio being an adequate refuge), Keith can attest to the fact that it’s not!
Of course, what would another year in Provence be without meeting new friends, eating delicious food, having drinks and throwing in a bit sight-seeing at the end of the day? When you get to meet someone who is a professional truck driver and knows all the beautiful routes to travel on, you’ve found your first class ticket in Provence. As luck would have it, in the story called, Spectacular Views, that’s exactly what happened. After reading this, I told myself I have to get out and meet some truck drivers…..
Why do I eat so much!
In, A Bite to Far, Keith and Val came to realize exactly how much the French can eat and drink! I got so full just reading about this, that I had to skip lunch! From the champagne to the appetizers to the wine to the chicken to the lamb to the sausages to more wine to the eau de vie (aka-fire breathing dragon mix) and on and on and on with the food that just kept coming, it was a night that Keith, Val or I will not forget and I wasn’t even there! Good grief the food!!
As their last trip in Provence comes to a close, Keith gives you a glimpse into the funny mix up between the French “college” and the American “college”, you get to be confused along with him on the crazy items the French supermarkets want to protect, you get more parking and driving know-how and you get to hear how wonderful the French medical system is, among other things.
What is a good book to read?
I thoroughly enjoyed “living” in Provence with Keith and Val.
Because the south of France is so near and dear to me and many of the experiences Keith has written about I know first- hand due to having also experienced them, I was able to smile the whole way through the book, even through the craziest parts! I love reading about others who are living in Provence. Knowing other people’s “adventures” here gives us expats a connection, a grounding, a commonality in this wonderful, yet sometimes infuriating, place.
This book isn’t just for those of us who live here, this book is for everyone who loves the idea of living in Provence. So, laugh, gasp, fill full and drink to your hearts delight as you enjoy this fantastic adventure of Keith and Val as they take it One Sip at a Time.