It’s happening! South of France Tour 2018

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Picture yourself flying to the breathtaking Côte d’Azur!

Introducing our September  2018 tour :

(Logo design by FoxandForeststudio.com)

It’s official! Deborah Bine (Barefoot Blogger) and I invite sixteen women to join this tour for twelve exciting days in the south of France. Most of you know that we both are totally in love with this part of the world and enjoy nothing more than sharing that passion with others. We will wine, dine and tour you to the most remarkable settings as you gather memories to last forever … avec plaisir!

We are SO pumped about the fabulous itinerary we have planned that combines the right balance of active and leisure time. Arrangements were organized through the talents of Nancy McGee, owner of Absolutely Southern France travel company.

We begin in Nice and explore, for five magical days, the Côte d’Azur settings from my Love in Provence series. Then we will stop in Aix-en-Provence for a market day morning and afternoon stroll in Cézanne’s footsteps, before we arrive in the ancient town of Arles.

Arles is the setting for most of my latest novel, Drawing Lessons. We’re going to be based here for the next week and I’ll share some of the characters’ favourite spots around town. We will feel the spirit of Vincent van Gogh throughout the winding streets and be surrounded by amazing monuments from centuries of Roman civilization. Some days will be spent discovering the fascinating environment of the Camargue.

 

During this second week, Deborah gives us the inside stories from some of the  special towns and breathtaking sights in the area she calls home! Drop by her website to see more photos and videos from the spectacular area around charming Uzès!

Click here to see more details about costs.

Per person US $4375 based on double occupancy / 16 participants

(There is also a roommate matching service or singles supplement, for those travelling alone.)

$ 100 Early bird discount (ending January 31st)

First three firm reservations will receive signed copies of Patricia Sands’ novels, Drawing Lessons and The Promise of Provence.

Past participant  $100 discount

Bring a friend $100 discount

Contact Absolutely Southern France to make arrangements and see all the details of the itinerary.  Don’t hesitate to contact Deborah or me, if you have any questions. The adventure is waiting to begin! Are you going to come along?

Win a signed copy ~ enter until January 22nd

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Until January 22nd, click right here to have your name entered for a draw to win one of two signed copies of Drawing Lessons in The Good Life France Winter magazine.

It’s as easy as that!

Once you’ve entered the draw, be sure to take a look through the rest of the magazine. The articles and photographs are always outstanding! The magazine is published quarterly by my good friend, the tremendously talented Janine Marsh. The day it arrives in my mailbox is one of my favourite times … and, as I like to say, it is FREE, FABULOUS AND ALL ABOUT FRANCE!

Speaking of Janine, have you read her hilarious memoir describing how she and her husband bought and restored a rundown old barn ( her words) in the Pas de Calais area?

My Good Life in France is a wonderful story that will have you laughing out loud and possibly will persuade you to follow a dream of your own. Pourquoi pas?

Have you ever considered spending an extended time in a foreign country? Another good book to read along this same line was featured here on my blog a few weeks ago. Click here to read about Keith Van Sickle’s, memoir, One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence.

On the subject of following a dream, here are a few photos that always stir my French fantasies and have me counting the days until I return to the Côte d’Azur. Enjoy!

Good luck with the draw!

Do you spend time dreaming of a life somewhere else?

 

 

2018 … the countdown is on …

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

The New Year is just around the corner … it presents a clean slate on which to write hopes and dreams … here’s one of mine …

In a world where uncertainty about many things often creates the headlines, let’s focus on the positives of 2017 and dream a few dreams for 2018 … 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J’adore ‘doors’

As many of you know, I have an addiction to photographing doors and windows in France. Today I’ve been writing about a door in a story I’m working on. I spent quite a bit of time sifting through door photos, so I thought I would share a few of my favourites here.

I walked past this door (below) several times a week on my way to the daily marché in Antibes last summer. I fell in love with it and it’s going to be on the cover of my 2018 calendar.

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The fancy iron grills at the top of many doors were part of the early method of “air-conditioning”. Fresh air would be drawn in through those openings and flow through to an inner courtyard where it would rise up and out an opening at roof level, helping to cool the interior. Look for them when you are walking through the vieille villes (old towns). These grills alone make pleasing photo collections.

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These intricately-carved doors of the 16thC parish church (that served as a cathedral from 1624 to 1790) in the intriguing medieval village Entrevaux, depict the history of the time. Katherine was here in Promises To Keep. (I’m certain she took this same shot.)

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The door in this wall leads to the restaurant terrace of the famed La Colombe d’Or in Saint Paul de Vence. Click that link to read the entertaining history of this inn. It’s quite the story! If you visit in the summer, be sure to make a reservation.

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Now we’re strolling in the charming village of Tourrettes sur Loup. Stop here for violet ice cream and visit Le Bois d’Olivier, IMHO, the shop with the best handcrafted olive wood products in the region. Click on that link and look at the photos on their website. I think you will agree.

Blue in Saint Tropez

Blue in Saint Tropez

Visiting Saint Tropez above. This pretty portal below may look familiar … I keep it on the home page of my website.

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Imagine the size of the keys they carried around!

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When one door opens, who knows what lies beyond?

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Something old, something new (note the repair at the bottom). What else do you do when your centuries-old door starts rotting away?

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The lower door was once for the donkey.

IMG_6311See the date on the left side? 1581 … After the villagers and farmers of the area survived a deadly plague, they had these doors carved for la chapelle Saint Bernardin in Antibes to give thanks to God for sparing their lives. When we lived in Antibes while I wrote The Promise of Provence, I would walk past these doors every day and often stopped just to press my hands on them. There was an aura and sense of history about them that inspired me.

Do you like to take photos of doors when you travel? Where have you found your favourite portals? Bon weekend tout le monde!

All photos on this site are the copyright of Patricia Sands.

Sharing the love …

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Bonjour everyone! It’s been a busy few weeks for me since Drawing Lessons was published on October 1st! How’s November going for you?

In fact, Saturday was here before I realized Friday was gone, so please excuse this post being a day late. There’s always a lot to do once a new novel is published and most of it includes writing blog posts to share on other websites. We all try to help each other passing along the good news!

If you have some time this weekend, you might want to pop over to my dear friend Steena Holmes‘ blog. This photo was taken at the NINC writers’ conference we attended in Florida last month. It was SO good to spend time together in person. Steena’s home is in Calgary.

It’s always a pleasure to visit on her blog and fun to share a few secrets … that’s one of her specialities! She consistently manages to tease a few tidbits from the friends she invites over …  just one reason she’s known as Sweet Steena! There’s also a giveaway for a print copy of Drawing Lessons, so don’t forget to leave a comment there to have your name entered! Click right here and Good luck ~ Bonne chance!

Be sure to investigate the great novels Steena has written and subscribe to her site so you receive all of her news. You’ll notice a lot of chocolate featured there too! Another passion we share …

Now, here’s some more love for you ~ a post written by another dear friend, Deborah Bine aka The Barefoot Blogger.

This photo, to the left, is from Deb’s visit with us in Antibes last summer. We were on our way home from the market that day. The house my husband and I were renting is just behind us with the blue shutters. We loved it! And the rooftop terrace … what a treat that was …

Deb’s visits to us on the Côte d’Azur, with her fab friends, Paula and Rich, have become a happy tradition.

Always a deliciously good time!

Deb lives in Uzès and gets around France more than most people I know. Then she writes great articles about her travels. This post of hers about the ancient and enticing walled town of Aigues-Mortes in the Camargue, ties into the story from Drawing Lessons and really tells you everything you would like to know about the history and the charm of the area.

I hope you will take a few minutes to linger there and feel like you’ve truly had a visit! Then you’ll understand why Arianna, the main character in my novel, was so smitten with the town and … well, I’ll let you read the novel to discover the answer to the rest of that sentence.

Click right here to read Deb’s article and enjoy Aigues-Mortes! In fact, it would be a good idea to subscribe to her site so you don’t miss all the other travels she shares.

This is a photo I took inside the walls of Aigues-Mortes when I was doing research for Drawing Lessons. Click this link to hear how to pronounce the town’s name. It’s easier than it looks!

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post a review for Drawing Lessons. I’m delighted you’ve enjoyed the story so much it has a 4.6 stars rating. Every time a review is written, it’s like sharing the love for an author … and it is most appreciated.

 

 

 

Living the dream in Provence

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

This photo is one I took from the top of the hill in the beautiful village of Bonnieux. There’s something about that patchwork quilt landscape that inspires one story after another.

Today I’m happy to bring you a visit with Keith and Val Van Sickle who are living the dream of spending part of each year in Provence.

Keith has written a delightful book of humorous vignettes about the daily life he and Val have experienced ~  One Sip at a Time ~ Learning to Live in Provence

PS ~ You live your life between California and Provence.  How did you make this decision?

KVS ~ My wife Val and I once had the wild good luck to be expatriates in Switzerland.  It changed our lives!  We traveled all over Europe on the weekends, trusty dog in tow, and discovered that life is a lot different over there.  For one thing, people don’t work all the time and are not constantly busy. There’s this thing called joie de vivre and it’s real—instead of constantly working, you spend more time with friends and family, especially over long meals.

Once our time in Switzerland was up, we dreamed of living in Europe again.  We searched for other expat gigs but couldn’t find any.  Finally about ten years ago we decided that hey, life is short, let’s figure something out!  And we invented our own expat gig.  We quit our jobs (that was scary!), became consultants to give us flexibility, and began living several months a year in Provence.  Oh, and we didn’t speak French.

PS ~ Excusez-moi! You moved to France without speaking French?  How did you overcome that rather large challenge?

Well, Val could speak a little and I could order at a restaurant.  But that was about it.

The thing that really helped us was finding language partners.  This is someone who is learning your language while you are learning theirs.  You get together regularly and speak in one language and then the other, patiently listening and correcting each other.

I still make mistakes but I don’t worry about it.  I can hold a conversation and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it—communicating?

But here’s what you have to watch out for…

There are many words that are the same in French and English, like nation, pause, and danger.  If I don’t know a word in French, sometimes I will just fake it by using the English word with a French accent.  It works most of the time but you have to be careful, because some words exist in both languages and have entirely different meanings.  These are the infamous faux amis, or “false friends.”  Ask Val about the time she shocked some friends by talking about preservatives in food.  Oops, preservative means “condom.”

PS ~ With your sense of humour and personality, I ‘m sure you’ve made many friends in France. How would describe those friendships?

KVS ~ Yes!  The French have a reputation for being standoffish, especially with English-speakers, but we haven’t found that at all.  We have lots of good friends in France and they are incredibly warm and generous.  We have vacationed together in France and they have stayed with us in California.  Our French friends enrich our lives.

When we moved to Provence we made a real effort to meet people.  We would make the first move by inviting them for coffee or by giving them a little gift from California—kitchen towels with the Golden Gate Bridge on them were a big hit.  It’s not easy to “put yourself out there,” especially when you don’t speak the language well.  So Val and I embarrassed ourselves plenty of times but what the heck? We have found that most people really appreciate the effort and respond in kind.

Luckily, Val and I love food and wine and there’s nothing nearer to French hearts.  Many of our friendships have been built over looooong meals that were bien arrosé (“well watered.”)

PS ~ I know you have settled in one of my favourite towns and can well understand why you chose it. 

KVS ~ We fell in love with Provence when we lived in Switzerland.  It has beautiful scenery, charming hilltop villages, fascinating Roman history, delicious food and wine—what’s not to love?  And all within a small area!

After exploring different towns in Provence we’ve finally settled on St.-Rémy-de-Provence.  It’s next to the Alpilles, the low mountain range where we like to (very slowly) bike around.

When did you feel inspired to share your vignettes in a book?  Have you always been a writer?

I’ve only come to writing recently, having spent my career in the high-tech industry.  My last company had a product so geeky I’m still not sure what it did.

My book started with a travel blog I kept for friends and family.  I would turn our many faux pas into funny stories—it’s always better to laugh at your mistakes, isn’t it?  My friends encouraged me to turn those stories into a book and I finally decided, what the heck—life is an adventure!

Writing has been a lot of fun and I’m now a regular contributor to Perfectly Provence, The Good Life France, Frenchly and other publications for those of us who love France.

This field of poppies says “Provence” to me.

It’s been a pleasure to chat with you here, Keith. I can feel your humour and joie de vivre resonating through all your answers! I wish you and Val a lifetime of happy years living a dream that many readers share with you. 

Click right here to purchase Keith’s book.

Follow along on this lovely adventure and find all social media links at Keith’s website.

Here’s Keith’s Facebook link too!

Thank you to artists, Lake Union Publishing and you!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

This Sunday, October 1, is the launch day for my fifth novel, Drawing Lessons.  

I’m happy to finally share this story with readers and owe a big thank you to the amazing team at Lake Union Publishing for making this launch happen. Writing the story is just part of the journey. The other part is the expertise and guidance of acquiring editors, developmental and copy editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and marketing wizards along with an indispensable author relations manager … and even that list may not cover everyone. Forgive any omission and know your contribution is valued. Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency, it all began with you. Merci!

Writing this story was a challenging and rewarding experience for me in many ways. In particular, was the opportunity I had to connect with several visual artists as I attempted to learn as much as I could about their world, in order to write with a degree of credibility within the story. I’m grateful for, hopefully, grasping a smidgen of understanding of the philosophy and craft of creating visual art in many different ways.  Thanks too for the detailed information about materials and their use. I couldn’t have written this story without that help.

It was Irish artist, Patrick McCarthy, who sparked the idea in my head of Arianna, the protagonist, being an artist.

In June, 2016, a few of us were spending an evening at a dinner party at the always rolicking home of dear friends, perched in the hills overlooking the Côte d’Azur.  I was fascinated as Patrick took out his traveling box of paints, his case of brushes and pens, and his sketch book, and began to draw the panoramic view, high above Saint-Paul de Vence.

Thus began the unfolding of a new story in my imagination. I had already decided the setting would be the area around Arles and the Camargue, where my husband and I had recently spent two weeks. But it was news to me that Arianna would be an artist. It’s fascinating how story details develop sometimes. That’s part of the fun of writing fiction!

I realized I had a lot to learn about sketching, drawing, painting and … gulp … the entire world of visual arts.

Little did Patrick McCarthy know what he unleashed in my mind.

To honour the aspect of the artists’ workshop/retreat that plays a major role in Drawing Lessons, I asked three of the artists with whom I spoke to write a few words for this blogpost.

Here are three brief contributions, each expressed from the artist’s slightly different perspective.

First, please welcome, JoAnn Sanborn. Our serendipitous meeting at her studio on Marco Island, led to an incredible coincidence. As I explained the basic premise of my story to her, she gasped as she said, “You’re telling my story.” I was covered in goose bumps as she explained. Read on, please.

“I’m a landscape painter whose main subject is the Florida Everglades.   When my husband  was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease,  I began to spend more time in my home studio to care for him.   When he passed away, someone at the funeral said to me “Now you will be able to do whatever you want.” Her words disturbed me.  I didn’t want to do anything but to have him back.

I barricaded myself into the studio playing sad songs of love and loss.  Two months later, I received an email from an artist friend offering to take a small group to paint in France.   Did I want to come along?  France!  At first I didn’t consider it.  Still, the idea tugged at my mind.  I made all sorts of excuses.   I’m in mourning—it’s too soon.  I’m an acrylic  painter—how would I manage with oils?   Would I be good enough? 

My friend’s words popped into my mind.  I didn’t have to ask permission of anyone—but did I dare?

I trusted my heart and jumped.  At La Vieux Couvent  there were stone buildings,  Caribbean blue shutters, climbing pink and yellow roses, church bells, sheep in the fields and delicious farm-fresh food.  I painted in the studio, in the gardens and at the lily pond.  Painting “en plein aire” in a landscape so different from my usual Everglades was refreshing.   Other artists shared ideas and encouragement.  Sketching, journaling  and shopping through the small French towns was fun.  There was even an exhibition of our work for the neighbors at the end of our trip. 

The decision to go had been the right one.  Taking that step renewed my faith in myself and taught me that although I will never get over my loss, it’s OK to keep on living.”

See? Goose bumps. Thank you, JoAnn. Please visit her beautiful website.

Next, please welcome Tessa Baker, a British artist living in Provence, who offers workshops just like Juliette and Maurice in Drawing Lessons. Tessa’s stunning property and website offered inspiration as I developed my story. We met online a few years ago through our mutual friend, Kristin Espinasse.

“What do you do when you are an artist living in an old tumble down Provençale farmhouse, surrounded by vineyards and hills with endless inviting views and entrancing medieval villages perched high on hill?

 What do you do when you live 35 minutes from some of the most scenic of coastal land and seascapes in all of France and 35 minutes from one of the most luxurious turquoise lakes deep in the valley of purple and ochre mountains, scented by lavender and wild herbs? With gorges of such extraordinary natural beauty you stand and gaze in awe?

Well, perhaps you do as I do. I run One Week watercolour workshops. You are looked after and catered for from the moment we pick you up at the airport or train station to the moment we drop you off. Anna is one of the best chef’s I know and provides us with gourmet meals and picnics.  

I teach techniques and colour mixing, observation and composition. We paint plein-air as often as possible. If the weather is rainy or cool, I have a spacious studio for us to use.

The whole week is filled with creativity, learning, joy and laughter and plenty of wonderful food and local wines. Every day we travel to yet another glorious location and everyday your art will improve.” An experience like Arianna’s! Connect with Tess at her charming  home ~ www.paintprovencewithtess.com 

Next, please welcome, California-born, Australia-based artist Georgia Mansur. We met, quite by chance, at  the Monastère Saint-Paul de Mausole, in Saint-Remy de Provence where Vincent Van Gogh spent 53 prolific and often tormented weeks, beginning May 1889.

Georgia travels the world teaching and mentoring groups of artists. Approachable and friendly, she and her students kindly gave me permission to photograph some of their materials and shared thoughts about painting in that remarkable setting.

Her musings:

“I have been taking students to Provence to paint in the footsteps of the impressionists masters for the past 8 years. The beautiful soft light and the gorgeous rural countryside inspire me to tell its unique story in paint so others can also enjoy it.

I am very passionate about sharing my creativity and art with others and helping them express themselves, whether they are a beginning artist or a seasoned professional.

My students have given me the nickname ‘The Art Whisperer’ and I hope to inspire, move and engage people more each day with art and the creative process.

We are all creative but some have lost touch with that part of themselves. I get a lot of joy helping others gain access to their artistic side and love sharing my favourite painting spots that only locals know. Although i teach about 8 months of the year around the world, Provence holds a special place in my heart.

In my workshops I share everything I have within my power with my students ~ in the words of Vincent Van Gogh,

“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in with all my heart.”

Please take some time to visit Georgia’s website.

My sincere thanks to JoAnn, Tessa and Georgia for everything you shared with me. In large and small ways, I gained valuable insight from each of you. It’s my distinct pleasure to have met you.

To you, dear readers, I hope this gives you interesting information about some of the research involved in writing fiction. I have another emotional and meaningful conversation to share with you in another blog post. This was with a friend who has also lived part of Arianna’s story. See you next week.

Bon weekend and thank you to everyone for celebrating the launch of Drawing Lessons with me. You are the reason I write!


 

Drawing Lessons ~ prelude to publishing!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

(There’s giveaway info at the end …)

It’s no secret that I have an obsession with France … the south of France, in particular. I love writing stories set in alluring and evocative locations there that bring history, beauty, character and ambience to the reader. When someone writes and tells me they were transported to France in the story … my work is done. And I am so grateful.

Thank you to every person who takes the time to share their thoughts in a review. Your words are important to me, as well as to other readers. Reviews don’t have to be long, just sincere.

October 1 is the publishing day for my fifth novel, Drawing Lessons. It’s always an exciting day for a writer after a long journey that begins with the seed of an idea. After months of research, writing, editing, re-writing, critiques from advance readers, re-writing, copy editing, proofreading, cover design, and many other details to consider, the release day arrives. Whew!

Drawing Lessons begins in Toronto before the story settles in and around the ancient town of Arles and the intriguing Camargue. After visiting Arles several times, my husband and I spent two weeks there while I took photos and filled notebooks with details.  Here’s an excellent tourism website. It’s definitely an area to visit.

I loved writing this story and learned a lot about many new topics in the process. That’s part of the fun of writing fiction. Every story is an eduction for the author. There are many other people to thank and that will happen in another post. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s the blurb:

The author of the Love in Provence series returns to the South of France with a poignant portrait of a woman who must learn how to create a new life for herself…

Sixty-two-year-old Arianna arrives in the South of France for a two-week artists’ workshop full of anticipation but burdened by guilt. Back home in Toronto, she has been living with the devastating diagnosis of her husband’s dementia and the heartbreak of watching the man she has loved for decades slip away before her eyes. What does her future hold without Ben? Before her is a blank canvas.

Encouraged by her family to take some time for herself, she has traveled to Arles to set up her easel in the same fields of poppies and sunflowers that inspired Van Gogh. Gradually, she rediscovers the inner artist she abandoned long ago. Drawing strength from the warm companionship and gentle wisdom of her fellow artists at the retreat—as well as the vitality of guest lecturer Jacques de Villeneuve, an artist and a cowboy—Arianna searches her heart for permission to embrace the life in front of her and, like the sunflowers, once again face the light.

Thanks to everyone who has pre-ordered! If you haven’t, you can do so easily by going to this link. This guarantees your book will be in your hands as soon as it is published. No waiting!

Until then, there’s still an ebook giveaway going on until September 30. ONE HUNDRED EBOOKS ~ CLICK RIGHT HERE TO ENTER … GOOD LUCK! BONNE CHANCE!

 

For your weekend reading pleasure …

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

I know what I will be reading when I take writing breaks this weekend …

… the autumn edition of THE GOOD LIFE FRANCE online magazine … as I like to say, it’s FREE, FABULOUS and all about FRANCE!

CLICK RIGHT HERE AND ENJOY! 

Then make sure you subscribe … in the meantime, you can be certain I will always share it with you right here!

Merci mille fois, Janine Marsh, for another exquisite publication! J’adore!

BON WEEKEND, TOUT LE MONDE! WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS?

A brief respite from bad news …

 

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Some days it feels like there’s nothing but bad news. Here are a few of my favourite photos from Provence to bring you a moment or two of day-dreaming … let’s fly away together … allons-y …

That top photo is our view of the eastern side of Nice and the vieux (old) port as we fly in. How is that for a welcome?

 

I hope this helped to brighten your day! Wherever you are, I wish you safety and, with any luck, a bon weekend. Our thoughts are with everyone.