Happy May Day!

Bonne fête du muguet!

I recycle this post every year because I don’t want to change anything about it. If you read it last year … or the year before , I hope you enjoy it again. And if you can find some Lily of the Valley to give to a friend, all the better.

En mai, fais ce qu’il te plait!

Provençal proverb ~ In May, do what pleases you!

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Here’s my May 1st muguet to each of you.

Every May 1st I like to share one of my favourite traditions in France ~ La Fête du Travail or La Fête du Muguet. The day is a national holiday ~ International Workers’ Day, like Labour Day in North America. But more than that it is an occasion when people give little bouquets or sprigs or pots of  le muguet (lily of the valley) to each other. Like so many of the things we love about France, the tradition has lasted for centuries. It began in 1561, during the Renaissance.

Click here to read an excellent article by Margo Lestz,  about this sweet tradition and all the history behind it.

Here’s another post about the tradition from Kristin Espinasse, everyone’s favourite scribe of daily French life.

Four years ago, my husband and I had just finished a magical stay (but then isn’t it always?) in Paris and the Loire Valley. We were driving south to the Dordogne region on May 1st and in every town, big or small, this was the scene. Even on a drizzly day. I loved it!

Dordogne and Les Muguets
Dordogne and Les Muguets 2
Dordogne and Les Muguets - Version 2

Obviously, young or old, everyone puts a lot of thought into this tradition.

A vivid memory of that rainy morning, is of an elderly woman sitting under an umbrella beside her small stand of bouquets of muguets. It wasn’t an appropriate picture to take … and no time to stop in the midst of traffic … but I’ve never forgotten the image. Does this happen to you sometimes when you travel? Your eye is the shutter and a particular image is captured forever in your memory?

Le muguet or lily of the valley represents a porte-bonheur, a good luck charm, to special people in your life.  I am offering one to each of you.

Does your culture or country have a special May 1st tradtion?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring!

Joyeuses Pâques, Joyeux Pesach, Joyeux Printemps!

Whatever joyous occasion you celebrate at this special time of year, may it bring family and friends together for reflection, fellowship, food … and chocolate. Let’s count our blessings and focus on how we can help those who cannot.

In France, the traditions around Easter are quite different than most countries. Here’s an excellent article from The Good Life France (my favourite website, as you all must know by now). It is written by my friend, Margo Lestz, who will give you all the history. It begins like this … “On the Thursday night before Easter, all the church bells go silent and they won’t be heard from again until Easter Sunday.” Click here to read more.

With the tragic fire that occurred this week at the beloved Notre Dame in Paris, thoughts will also be centred on the impact that has had around the world. Whether for religious reasons or for the tremendous historical symbol it represents, the hope is that what was lost will be rebuilt. Response has been heartwarming and unifying, from the greatest to the smallest level. The heroes of that day are les pompiers, the men and women firefighters who worked tirelessly to contain the flames and those who helped save the priceless art.

This photo is from my last visit to Paris in 2015. I will be back there in September for a few days, on my way to co-lead ~ (with my BFF Deborah Bine) ~ my fifth women’s tour in the south of France … click on that link if you want to know all the great things about that adventure! I hope some day I have the opportunity to take a photo of the newly restored grande Dame.

Bon weekend everyone!

Pain, Amour et Chocolat

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

Where else but France would a Valentine’s lovefest include bread? Some might look at the title and think “pain” = heartbreak, considering the love connection, but nope, not here …  le pain is the French word for bread.

This weekend, this three-day show will tempt crowds celebrating love and all its pleasures in Antibes which, as many of you know, is my favourite place on the planet. It was my home for 4 months in when I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence. My husband and I have returned every year since.

More specifically this show focuses on the simple pleasures of bread, love and chocolate. Click here for the 2019 information.

This may sound crazy to some but, for me, stepping into a French boulangerie (bakery) is the same as finding yourself in the most intoxicating chocolate shop.  Seriously, the display of goods in some French bakeries is like that in an art gallery.

IMHO, no one does baking better than the French – from the basic baguette, brioche, and croissant to the morning superstars of pain au chocolat and pain au raisin to the variety of round, flat and long loaves to the cakes and pastries that scream to be eaten at any time of day or night. Delicieux!

Bread has always been a staple of the French culture but nowhere was its political significance greater than at the beginning of the French Revolution. A shortage of grain due to droughts and poor farm management caused the price of bread to increase way beyond the means of the  poor who were also being taxed outrageously while the aristocracy cavorted. For some, bread was the only meal of the day. In response to growing unrest, one government leader suggested the peasants should eat straw … hmm, not a wise move … he was soon found hung in the square, his mouth stuffed with straw.

Bread riots spread and when a rumour suggested the government was hoarding flour at Versailles, the palace was stormed. Read about The Women’s March on Versailles, October 5, 1789.  King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, went by carriage back to Paris followed by an enraged mob that grew to tens of thousands, all hell broke loose and the rest is history.

This was one of the earliest events  of the French Revolution and, although it has grown into a bit of a post-Revolutionary urban myth, it proved to be a defining moment along with the  storming of the Bastille three months earlier.Click here to read more about the French Revolution and other political and social issues that brought it about.

This is a typical lineup at least twice a day, at one of my favourite boulangeries in Antibes.

After the revolution, the government made certain bread would always be affordable for even the poorest family and, as a result, bread is surprisingly inexpensive in France. Bakeries are found in every town, down to the smallest hamlet and bread is baked twice a day. Lineups are part of the tradition and very social although you need to know what you want to order when your turn comes up. Dawdling is not a good idea!

Every region of France has its own remarkable and unique stye of cuisine and that includes bread. Virtually every meal includes bread but no side plate for it … so don’t ask for one!

So here’s to love and chocolate and … well, why not … at least if you are in France … to bread!

I don’t usually eat a lot of bread but when we are in France it’s a different story and one of my mantras is “Vive le pain” as I waddle trot off to  join the lineup for our daily supply. Fortunately visiting that part of the world also involves a lot of strenuous walking and hiking so you can fool convince yourself you’re working off that croissant! Here’s a shot of our bread board on a typical day.

How do you feel about bread? Is it part of your normal diet or a once-in-a-while treat? Do you or have you ever made your own bread or pastries? Back in the day, my grandmother and my mother made bread every week. When you travel are there places you visit that serve traditional food  you love to eat?

February 14th is many things

Happy Valentine’s Day ~ Bonne Saint Valentin ~ One Billion Rising ~ V-Day ~ Break The Chain 

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Of course there’s a place for hearts and flowers and chocolate and mushy love songs, but there are many girls and women around the world who receive none of those. Not on February 14th. Not ever.

Have you raised your voice? “Every February, we rise – in countries across the world – to show our local communities and the world what one billion looks like and shine a light on the rampant impunity and injustice that survivors most often face. We rise through dance to express joy and community and celebrate the fact that we have not been defeated by this violence. We rise to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable.”

This year, once again, One Billion Rising is set to escalate RISINGS against all forms of violence against women and will continue to highlight where all these issues interconnect.

Here’s a song we should all add to our repertoire. It too is a song about love. This infectious anthem shares a message that is universal. Share it everywhere you can. Help break the chain of violence towards women and girls. BREAK THE CHAIN.

Click here to see V-day events happening around the world today.

“Like” the Facebook page.  Follow V-day on Twitter. Let’s all do our part …

Break the Chain

Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me
I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful
I feel my heart for the first time racing
I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand
I know there is a better world
Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand
Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise (x4)

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise (x4)

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

(Repeat chorus)

The indomitable Laura Bradbury

If you don’t know Canadian author Laura Bradbury, it is time you met her. And once you do, I have no doubt you will become as big a fan as I am. Not just of her books, but about her philosophy of life in general and the way she lives and writes about it.

As the tagline here on my website says, “Everyone has a story.” You know I am all about the unique experiences life presents to each of us … and Laura has quite the story to tell.

I’m delighted to have her visit with us. Here’s a quick introduction from her website. You have to love this: Described as the lovechild of Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” Laura Bradbury’s bestselling GRAPE books are a treasure trove of escapism and romance.

That gets your attention, doesn’t it? And having chatted with Laura during these past few months, the description sounds bang on … with a twist. Laura is also a survivor.

And now our interview:

PS ~ The story of your journey to writing novels is fascinating … and more than a little frightening. Please tell us how it all came about.

LB ~ I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life, but by my late thirties I’d started and abandoned about seven manuscripts. I was afraid to share anything I wrote, for fear I would be judged as talentless at the one thing I wanted to do for a career.

I went down a winding path of diversions, including a law degree at Oxford, a love affair with a Frenchman (now my husband), three children, renovating old houses in France… Just before I turned forty I was diagnosed, completely out of the blue, with an often terminal autoimmune condition of the liver and bile ducts called PSC. It was a complete kick in the teeth from life.

There is currently no treatment for PSC. There is no cure. The only hope for survival is a liver transplant, but first I had to get sick enough to qualify for one while dodging all the other ways PSC could kill me.

The day after I was diagnosed, I woke up feeling like I was being suffocated by a lead blanket of grief and fear. My entire life changed on its axis. I went downstairs, flipped open my laptop, grabbed a Post-it, and scribbled, “Fuck you. I’m not dead yet” on it. I stuck it on my screen and began to write my first published book, My Grape Escape. Ten months later I self-published it, and it quickly became a bestseller.

PS ~ The challenges you faced were immense with the sudden discovery of your degenerative liver disease. I will link to your blog here so you don’t have to repeat the entire story, but is it possible to say what the greatest lesson is from living through this epic struggle?

LB ~ There are several, but the most important one became crystal clear, especially in the moments before I was put under for my twelve-hour living donor liver transplant. Here it is: love is all that matters. I knew with absolute clarity in that moment that the measure of a life well lived is loving hard and being loved hard back. I had lived that, and I experienced truly life-changing acceptance and peace that had alluded me until that moment.

The other thing is to not waste a moment being untrue to yourself. Chase after your dreams—write that book, paint that painting, have that baby, take that trip. The hospitals I spent months in were full of people who, like me, were never expecting in a million years they would end up sick. Do not waste time in fear or procrastination.

PS ~ Such an impactful and frightening way to learn this important lesson in life! You inspire us. Now to the simpler side of life … If you had to choose between living in Canada or France, which would it be and why?

LB ~ That’s a tough one. My husband is French (from Burgundy), and our three daughters are Franco-Canadian, so our household is a grab bag of French and Canadian no matter where we’re living. All five of us are citizens of both countries.

In France, particularly at our home in the heart of the Burgundian vineyards, I love the food, the wine, the history, our friends and family there, and the rolling vineyards and benign landscape (no bears, cougars, tsunamis, or earthquakes—which for a West Coaster like me is not the norm!).

Typical village in Burgundy

In Canada I love the ocean (we live on Vancouver Island surrounded by the Salish Sea); the freedom to be an entrepreneur; the opportunities for our girls to play sports, get involved in clubs, and hold part-time jobs; my dad’s smoked salmon; and of course friends and family.

What actually feels the most natural for us is living half and half (and traveling a lot in between!). It’s impossible with school-age children right now, but half and half is our ultimate plan.

PS ~ Of all your books so far, do you have a favourite? Why that one?

LB ~ I think it has to be My Grape Paris. I began this most recent book in my Grape Series when I was extremely ill before my transplant on March 22, 2017. I dedicated it to my dear friend Nyssa, who donated 73% of her liver to save my life (we are both doing great). Writing My Grape Paris, a light, romantic, escapist story, got me through the scariest, darkest period.

I got back to editing My Grape Paris a month to the day of my transplant. The problem was that my advanced liver disease had adversely affected my brain prior to the transplant, and when I got back to work on it with a healthy brain and body, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I had written! I basically rewrote My Grape Paris from scratch.

When I finally published it in April 2018, it was so symbolic—even though the story has nothing to do with my illness or my transplant. I honestly didn’t know if I would be alive to finish the book, so when I finally had the paperback in hand, it was physical proof I survived. It also represented how writing had been a lifeline throughout my PSC journey and transplant.

PS ~ Do you have a set routine for writing or do you take it as it comes?

I work mainly when my two youngest daughters are in school, from around nine o’clock until three o’clock. My issue isn’t so much finding the discipline to write but the time. I pick up some hours on the weekends if I can, but unfortunately I am not an early-morning or late-night writer.

I create a newsletter for my readers every two weeks that I devote much time and love to, and that, as well as other marketing, is quite a lot to cram into my free hours these days.

As for the creation of new books, I am what is termed a “panster” (i.e., I barely outline, and my rough drafts are VERY rough) rather than a plotter. I’m so envious of plotters!

PS ~ LOL! As a confirmed pantser myself, I hear you! What can we look forward to next from you?

My goal is to publish my first novel this March, entitled A Vineyard for Two. It’s a romantic fiction set in the Burgundy vineyards. Here’s the blurb!

Up-and-coming winemaker Cerise Desloires believes in soul mates. Trouble is, she’s sure she’s already found—and lost—hers. Now the young widow has inherited half the vineyard she considers her own, and she’s got one chance to produce a vintage that could make or break her career. But when the flashy, impetuous Clovis de Valois is revealed as heir to the other half, her dreams of independence are dashed into chaos.

Cerise and Clovis seem to be opposites in every way that matters. Can their passion for winemaking—and secretly each other—unite them beyond their differences? Or will their clash ruin the vineyard, and the hearts, they’re both desperate to save?

A Vineyard for Two is my first fiction, so writing it has been a steep learning curve. I always want to expand and learn new dimensions of the craft.

PS ~ That’s definitely a story that will appeal to me and my subscribers! We will look forward to the release and I will share the news here, bien sûr! Now, please tell us what you would like us to know about your family.

Anyone who has read my Grape Series memoirs is familiar with my passionate, hilarious, and at times incomprehensible French husband, Franck!

We have three daughters. Our oldest, Charlotte, will soon be nineteen and is currently backpacking in Southeast Asia before university in the fall. Our middle daughter, Camille, is seventeen and already a world traveler with a deep interest in public service (she just returned from building a school in Sri Lanka). Our youngest, Clémentine, is eleven and quite a spitfire. She loves riding horses, playing the ukulele, and soccer.

Since my transplant my family is unequivocally my first priority, and I feel very fortunate to have them.

Laura, merci mille fois! Thank you for taking the time to visit here today. Your story inspires on so many different levels. It’s a pleasure to introduce readers here to you, your books and your contagious outlook on life.

Laura has graciously offered to giveaway three ebooks of My Grape Paris in my January newsletter. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, you can be by clicking on this link. Once you are signed up, go to the newsletter and enter the giveaway. Bonne chance/Good luck!

Dear Readers ~ you can connect with Laura in so many great ways! Here are her links:

Subscribe to The Grapevine – www.bit.ly/LauraBradburyNewsletter

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/Laura-Bradbury/e/B00GRGF6A0

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraBradbury/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/laurabradburywriter/?hl=en

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.ca/bradburywriter/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Author_LB

Bon weekend, tout le monde!  Take time to spend a while with a good book! Be kind to one another … and stay warm if you are in the parts of the planet experiencing a deep freeze these days. 

South of France Memories Tour 2019

It’s that time again! Time to book your place with us from September 15 to 27, 2019, to come along on our awesome South of France tour.

My good friend, Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger, and I have the pleasure of spending 12 memory-filled days with 16 women as we share our passion for the south of France. We visit the charming, historic towns and villages featured in my novels and on Deborah’s website. We only change hotels once in the 12 days 🙂

Bring along a friend or relative, but we also guarantee you will have a wealth of new friends after the first day! Read the testimonials from past tours to see what an unforgettable experience this is! Join us! 🥖🧀🥂☕️✈️🇫🇷 Sept 15-27/19 ~ four spots left!
Click on this link for all the details http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/memories-tour2019/

Click here to go to this page on my website.  You can then follow along day by day on last year’s tour. The following photos tell a small part of the happy story!

How it all begins!
Shopping at the markets!
Join us for the trip of a lifetime!

Does the word “truffle” mean chocolate to you?

Find out the real story about truffles and enjoy a short but sweet video from Deborah Bine/Barefoot Blogger. As well as being great friends, Deborah and I co-lead a women’s tour in the south of France in September. When she’s not visiting friends and family (especially adorable grandchildren) in the States, Deborah lives in the heart-stoppingly (I’m sure that’s a word in France!) charming vieille ville of Uzès.

Read on!

Much Ado About French Truffles in Uzès
BY BAREFOOT BLOGGER ON JANUARY 10, 2019
Uzès is famous for French truffles. Black ones. Pigs and dogs sniff them out from beneath the roots of trees.
Before I moved to France I knew very little about truffles. This naive southern belle thought truffles only came in a fancy gold box from Godiva. My favorite truffle was a divine, creamy dark chocolate.

To read the rest of this post about “black gold” in France and see the video, click right here!

Bon weekend! Relax, stay warm and enjoy a good read!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

I trust your new year is off to a good beginning! Let’s celebrate the first Friday of 2019 with a few of our favourite photos from France, that I hope will make you smile.


I hope you enjoyed this brief break from reality. I look forward to spending 2019 with you, sharing our thoughts about books, reading, writing, life, friendship and whatever else we want to add in there … and of course, France! Bon weekend!

Warmest wishes for the new year ~

Greetings one and all! Are you in post-holiday relax mode? Or are you in high gear to get this new year started?

WordPress has set me back a peg or two while I learn to navigate the changes they have decided we need to create our blog pages. So this message will be a short one. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it works!

I hope your Christmas was merry and bright! May 2019 bring you and yours the best of health, happiness and an abundance of fine books to read.

Let’s also continue with our never-ending wish for peace on earth, goodwill to all. We live in hope!

I’m going to take some time this week to figure out these layout changes. With a 6:30 a.m. flight to Florida tomorrow, I’ll have a few hours to play around with the different options … unless there are some good inflight movies. Just kidding! I want to understand what I need to know here, so it doesn’t take me twice as long as it should to create a post.

Thanks goodness, Barb Drozdowich has put together a YouTube video going step by step through the changes for people like me!

You know how it is when you have all kinds of plans and not enough time? I was definitely in that category for the past few months! The most important thing to me then was to get all the daily posts up for our amazing South of France Memories Tour. That took me longer than it should have, but I did it! Did you take some time and enjoy the tour here? If you didn’t, I hope you will scroll back through the posts and see the fabulous experiences Deborah Bine (aka Barefoot Blogger) and I had with the sensational sixteen women on this tour.

As a result my blog did not get much attention after that, while I was finishing editing and then publishing The First Noël at the Villa des Violettes.

But it’s a new year, with a new approach here. I’ve got some fabulous guests lined up to visit with us. So let’s plan some great adventures together! Who knows where the path will lead?

On Amazon, B & N, Kobo, iBooks and wherever fine books are sold.h

Memories tour/18 ~ day 12

And what a day this was! Have you dreamed of a mas in the south of France like this? Everyone in our merry band of travellers agreed they had.  This was a dream come true  … Mas de Valériole … on the edge of the Camargue. Established in 1456. Yes. The owner then was a doctor in Arles. Please click on this link to see a wonderful portrait of the three generations of the Michel family now in charge of this organic vineyard and rice farm. Read the history here.

Here’s how our memorable day played out. We were welcomed graciously by Madame Michel and then learned about the grapes grown here. A wine tasting followed. After that we were invited into the vineyard to learn how the grapes are harvested. The photos tell the story.

There’s a grape stomper in every group …

Quality control …

But that wasn’t all … next came a lovely buffet lunch in the shade of the magnificent centuries old trees …

And how could I ask for a better promotion shot for Drawing Lessons than this amazing collection of awesomeness? I’m grateful to each one of these ladies and the wonderful bond of friendship they generated during our days together.

No afternoon in France is complete without a game of pétanque.

But the day wasn’t over yet.

Nancy McGee had a surprise planned for our last evening that I didn’t even know about. Dinner in the courtyard garden at the 18th century Hotêl Particulier in Arles. Again the photos tell the story.

 

Is it any wonder no one wants to go home?

Deborah, you were in our thoughts all day and evening. We know you are recovering, but you have been missed.

p.s. Does anyone have a shot or two of the birthday “cakes and candles”?

Remember to visit Deborah’s Barefoot Blogger website for information on all of the places we have visited during our tour. When she isn’t in the hospital, that lady gets around!