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Saturday, December 29, 2007


The only way I can describe Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence is to say I spent the entire book hungry!!! So hungry that I booked us into the Petite Auberge in San Francisco next May based on the reviews that claim it is like an authentic French Inn with a wonderful French breakfast and wine and hors d’oeuvres in the afternoon. But more on that in 2008. This charming book doesn’t make me want to close up shop here and move, but it does transport me to a lovely earthy world where life can be hard but where the fundamental joys of life are good company, good food, good wine, and pride in one’s craft. Say goodbye to the rushed pace of hours and days, and say hello to the passing of seasons and all that entails. Hard to imagine, and it took Mayle and his wife some time adjusting—about a year.

Mayle and his wife moved from England hoping to enjoy the temperate climate of Provence. Despite their faulty French, they struggled with the local tradespeople. These craftsmen renovated their home—bringing it into the present time, for instance, by installing a central heating system, a necessity once the Mistral winds blowing in from Siberia bitterly assaulted them! Some temperate climate! At every turn they met unique characters and gradually learned to accept a very different way and very Provencal way of approaching life.

Mayle also learned that their new home would become the stopping place of many friends, and many mere acquaintances from England. In fact, at Easter, August, and Christmas they became hosts to a variety of freeloaders.

In the course of the year, Mayle learned to hunt truffles, find ways to avoid outrageous taxes on goods and services, learn that beautiful pieces of carved stone can sit for months before enough labor to move the monstrously heavy work can be assembled at the same time, discover that distributing Christmas tips can be a challenging enterprise, and that the finest food and wine imaginable as well as life's real pleasures can be found little more than a stone’s throw from home.

The Mayles, rather than seeking to adjust life in Provence to them, worked to adjust themselves to life in Provence, and the resulting story is a delight to read. BTW, they still live there!
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