This book is a real account of Peter Mayle's first year living in the Provence area of France, specifically in the Luberon. It's a witty account of the trials, tribulations and joys of not only moving to a new country, but also trying to learn the unique customs, re-modeling their new home, and experiencing the local culture through food without looking like a proverbial tourist.
The book is broken up by months, so there really is only 12 chapters in this 207 page book. So of course you start with January and the realization that there house sits on a fairly lucrative vineyard. The first custom to get through is of what to do with the vineyard. They own it, but there are families that have worked it for generations, what will happen with the new British owners. In conversation over pastis, there is no bargain struck but just a continuation of the last owners set up and all are happy. Next they find that living just a few hours from the Cote-DE-Azure, does not protect you from the freezing winds of the Mistral that blows from the north and that there new cottage is ill equipped for heat!
So through the months of the year we learn that re-modeling a home isn't done in weeks, but months, that people say they will return in 3 days but may arrive 2 weeks later and that nothing is rarely done without copious amounts of money, conversation, gestures, and of course alcohol! Mayle's breaks down customs such as handshakes, kisses, observances of holidays, seasons, and of course the French love for good food. Him and his wife learn that there is an appropriate bread for each kind of dish you will serve, wines that go with each course, and how to hunt for truffles and mushrooms in the wild forests behind their home.
The men working on their home always have tips and tricks on where to eat and how to avoid the tourist traps and you see the couple explore the local eateries and vineyards that surround their home. While in the meantime these people become their friends and as outsiders are taken in by their warm hospitality. It's an adventure in learning to slow down from the fast paced life of London, and their realization that good things take time including the re-construction of their home that literally last the full 12 months!
It's a wonderful fun read, full of colorful characters, including their reclusive neighbor who posts signs around his house to keep the Summer German Campers off his property and his mean vicious dogs who chewed through a tourists tire, to the tradition of the local towns yearly goat races. You almost feel fat after reading the book in your enjoyment of the description of all the cheese's, olives and olive oils, breads, and wonderful dishes made from beef to boar and you wish that you could take a year to go and live there yourself, realizing that just to be there on vacation could never satisfy your need to see, taste and drink everything.
It's a must read for anyone who loves to travel and for anyone who ever thought moving to a different country would be fun and adventurous. While you read through it quickly never wanting to put it down, you wish it would go slower as you would drink a fine wine. A definite must read! Of course if you enjoy this book, you must watch the movie "A Good Year" with Russell Crowe which will give you a great idea what life is like in Provence through film
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Beginning, appropriately enough, on New Year's Day with a divine luncheon in a quaint restaurant, Mayle sets the scene and pits his British sensibilities against it. "We had talked about it during the long gray winters and the damp green summers," he writes, "looked with an addict's longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards, dreamed of being woken up by the sun slanting through the bedroom window." He describes in loving detail the charming, 200-year-old farmhouse at the base of the Lubéron Mountains, its thick stone walls and well-tended vines, its wine cave and wells, its shade trees and swimming pool--its lack of central heating. Indeed, not 10 pages into the book, reality comes crashing into conflict with the idyll when the Mistral, that frigid wind that ravages the Rhône valley in winter, cracks the pipes, rips tiles from the roof, and tears a window from its hinges. And that's just January.
In prose that skips along lightly, Mayle records the highlights of each ...