Saturday, July 6, 2019

Golden days on the bikes in the Charente-Maritime

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
#KTTinyTourer in Brouage, Charente-Maritime

Ed has now finished uni for the summer and is back in my nest once more. This means it’s “Mum, can you drop me at …?” or “Mum can you pick me up from …?” on a regular basis, so we decided driving lessons were long overdue. With four sessions of highway code and two or three driving lessons each week, there is no let up on the study for him this summer. There is also no let up for us on the taxi service, for the moment at least.

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Golden fields in the marshes of the Charente-Maritime
Thursday was a golden day. The weather in the morning was not too hot, Adrian is home, Ed needed no lifts to or from anywhere and I had no meetings. We planned our escape on the bikes. The alarm was set early, a picnic was packed, our goodbyes were shouted up to Ed’s bedroom, the bikes were folded into the car and then we were off, direction Tonnay-Charente in the Charente Maritime.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Our drive took us through fields and vineyards where the wheat harvest was under way, the first sunflowers are in bloom and the landscape was glowing yellows, golds and greens. The cycle route then took us over the river Charente via the 1842 suspension bridge and onto a cycle path on an old railway line, fast and flat, that dropped us off by a lock in the heart of the marshlands around Brouage.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Storks in the marshes
Our morning was then spent slowing meandering the small tracks through the waterways, stopping for each new sighting of stork, heron, egret or spoonbill. 

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
I am still in awe that sights like these can be found so close to home and it remains one of my favourite locations for a warm weather bike ride.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Golden beer and sugary crêpes
We stopped for lunch in Brouage, a fortified village whose ramparts and turrets seem to rise from the marshland, and that is classified as one of the Plus Beaux Villages du France. Our treat for the day was crêpes and beer, the location adding considerably to the price, but worth it all the same.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
#KTTinyTourer Charent-Maritime marshlands
The afternoon took us back out into the marshes where the temperature had crept up to a tarmac-melting 35º and shade was almost impossible to find. Just south of Rochefort we began following the river Charente, past the Pont Transbordeur and finally back into Tonnay-Charente. 

French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Stork nest in a tree

We might have felt a little hot around the edges, but it had been a superb day out on the bikes and added another 63km to my annual total. I am now so close to my 2019km challenge that I have decided to move the goal posts. Katie the Brompton, made and bought in London, will be returning to cycle the streets of the capital in August, so I feel it would be fitting if I crossed my 2019km while in London, four months earlier than planned. In the coming weeks, I still need to complete at least 50km per week to meet this challenge, but I’m determined to succeed.
French Village Diaries #KTTinyTourer #BromptoninFrance Brouage Charente-Maritime Cycling
Even the cows had a golden glow
Today sees the start of the Tour de France, my annual period of wearing yellow and being glued to the TV every evening. The excitement, the colours, the views of la belle France and the cows who always make an appearance on TV, make it a special time of year I always look forward to. May the sun continue to shine down on these golden days of summer and cycling.

This post has been linked to the #AllAboutFrance blog link up, see here for more details.

Lou Messugo

Friday, July 5, 2019

Book review of A Very French Affair by Sue Roberts

French Village Diaries book review A Very French Affair Sue Roberts
A Very French Affair Sue Roberts


From Southport to the South of France – this is going to be a summer to remember!

Life just got a whole lot more complicated for thirty-eight-year-old single mum Liv. Her son Jake is practically perfect in every way, but he’s started asking some difficult questions, and the answers lie in a holiday romance twenty years ago. Back when Liv was staying with her aunt on the French Riviera…

Returning to the Cote d’Azur, with its white sandy beaches, her supportive aunt, and exquisite wine and cheese is harder than it sounds though. Because – if she’s going to give Jake the answers he needs – Liv knows she has to hunt down her first love Andre. And since she’s a professional baker rather than a professional investigator, she doesn’t even have a clue where to start.

At first, finding the one that got away proves even trickier than she thought. And if she succeeds, how will he take the bombshell secret Liv has been keeping? Liv has to do the best thing for her family, but does that mean closing the door on this very French affair?

A joyful, laugh-out-loud story about second chances, secrets and sunshine! The perfect summer read for fans of Carole Matthews, Jenny Colgan and Sophie Kinsella. 
French Village Diaries book review A Very French Affair Sue Roberts
A Very French Affair Bookouture books-on-tour

My Review:

Jake is 20 and things are not going great for him at uni, so he feels he needs a direction change. This has triggered his desire to know more about his Father than the name of a man who had left his mum’s life before she knew she was pregnant. 

Leaving her cake business in the hands of her assistant, his mum Liv realises now is the time to return to her Aunt’s patisserie in the south of France, where a holiday romance changed her life. Note, if your will power is low, this book could do serious damage to your diet! As she helps her Aunt, Liv also begins the detective work she should have done twenty years ago. Without knowing where to start, a few chance meetings get her on the right track, but even when finding André seems possible, what will she say to him after all these years and more importantly how will he feel about her and the secret she has kept from him? 

I don’t want to say too much, but there are a few surprises waiting for Liv on the Côte d’Azur and decisions to be made about Jake’s future. He might be ready for new adventures, but what about Liv, the independent woman who has brought him up alone? Whilst there are no great twists in this book, it is a warm, feel-good tale about what happens when your past catches up with you and offers you a second chance at happiness. There is a good mix of characters who form a close-knit group of family and friends and both the food and location descriptions conjured up vivid images.

If you are looking for something light and easy to add to your summer reading list, I think this would be perfect.

Purchase Links:

French Village Diaries book review A Very French Affair Sue Roberts
Sue Roberts

About the author: 

Sue was born in Liverpool and moved to Lancashire as a teenager where she has lived ever since. She has written three books, the third 'My Summer of love and limoncello.' will be published on March 6th and she is busy working on a fourth book. When not busy writing, Sue spends her time with her ever growing family. She enjoys walking, cinema and travelling. Her first book 'My Big Greek Summer.' was inspired by frequent visits to the Island of Rhodes in Greece. All Sue's books are available from Amazon in kindle and paperback format.

You can find Sue on Twitter here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Book review of Le Tour de Love by Lilac Mills

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills
Le Tour de Love by Lilac Mills

Le Tour de Love

“…the opportunity of a lifetime.”
When physiotherapist Molly Matthews is offered a dream job by a guy who shaves his legs and has an obsession with his bicycle, she has serious doubts about accepting. But, as she keeps telling herself, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and she’ll never get another chance like this. So, she does what anyone in her position would do – she agrees to join a professional cycling team for the most prestigious race in the cycling world – The Tour de France.

The reality, though, isn’t exactly what she had anticipated; instead of eating out at restaurants in pretty French villages and spending her free time lounging around the hotel pool, Molly finds herself living out of a suitcase for three weeks, massaging eight pairs of sweaty legs, administering ice baths and treating saddle sores.

And neither did she anticipate falling for a gorgeous, passionate, professional rider by the name of Alexander Duvall…

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills

My Review:

This weekend sees the start of the 2019 Tour de France, my favourite sporting event of the year, a kaleidoscope of colour and speed, as the best of the best battle mountains, sprints and long distances on their bikes. Imagine my excitement when I was offered a novel that brings the tour to life, offers insights into team life and a hint of romance. I was buzzing!

Molly is a physio who knows her sports injuries but knows next to nothing about cycling and even less about the world of professional cycle racing, until Alexander Duvall arrives for a last-minute appointment. She soon realises his drive and determination are different from her other clients and agrees to get him race fit in record time. Alexander soon realises Molly is just what his team need with the Tour de France due to start and no physio in their team. 

Molly is thrown straight in, learning the job, living out of a suitcase and doing whatever is required, whenever it is needed. It was great fun seeing the weird world of the Tour from the eyes of a total newbie, but I did feel for her when she assumed she’d be able to spend equal time sightseeing as working, while the team pedalled around France. She soon learns the Tour is intense, the days are long and the distances covered are extreme. There is a hierarchy to adhere to, it has an etiquette all of its own and the rules for the cyclists, on and off the bikes, are strict. Emotions soon run high when the chemistry between Molly and Alexander becomes difficult to ignore and with the highs of wins against the lows of accidents and injuries, has Molly got what it takes to be a team physio?

I really enjoyed this fictional look at life on tour and while it’s probably not one for the racing purists, I’m sure those (like me) with an interest in the Tour de France will enjoy it and its peek into team life. It is fun and fast paced, and just the book to get you into the mood for watching the 2019 Tour de France.

Purchase Link: 

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills
Lilac Mills

Author Bio: 

Lilac spends all her time writing, or reading, or thinking about writing or reading, often to the detriment of her day job, her family, and the housework. She apologises to her employer and her loved ones, but the house will simply have to deal with it!

She calls Worcester home, though she would prefer to call somewhere hot and sunny home, somewhere with a beach and cocktails and endless opportunities for snoozing in the sun...

When she isn't hunched over a computer or dreaming about foreign shores, she enjoys creating strange, inedible dishes in the kitchen, accusing her daughter of stealing (she meant to say "borrowing") her clothes, and fighting with her husband over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.

Social Media Links:

French Village Diaries book review Le Tour de Love Lilac Mills

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Lazy Sunday in France with the authors behind Serena Kent

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Serena Kent
Death in Avignon, Serena Kent


Serena Kent is the author of cozy mysteries Death in Provence and Death in Avignon and the pen name of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They enjoy slightly different takes on what makes a great lazy Sunday. 

You can read my review of book one, Death in Provence, here and Death in Avignon (released this week) here. For a taste of what to expect, you might like to read what their character Penelope Kite gets up to on her Lazy Sunday in France here.

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Serena Kent
Luberon ©DeborahLawrensonRobertRees


The first delicious aspect of a lazy day in Provence is getting up relatively early by myself while Rob slumbers on. I take a cup of tea and breakfast to the terrace which looks out over the whole length of the Luberon valley. The silence seems to swirl like the thermals that eagles ride in the intensely blue sky.
If the mood takes me in the summer, I’ll swim first of all. Our pool is unheated, so the water will be crisp and bracing as I plunge in. The number of lengths I do depends on whether I’m feeling I’m might just have over-indulged (again) in cheese, or patisserie, or rosé (sadly, all too often). 
Reading in the morning is an essential part of a lazy Sunday. I can completely relax and lose myself in a book, stopping to daydream along the way.
If I’m going to venture out, I love to wander around a classic Provençal brocante. This pleasurable activity is watched with basilisk eye by Rob, though, as he feels I have bought enough lanterns and oil lamps and garden furniture and should now be actively avoiding temptation. 
Lunch on Sunday in France traditionally means going to a restaurant, but it’s not my ideal. Honestly, I prefer simplicity at home: melon and jambon cru, tomato and mozzarella salads and baguette and ice-cold Perrier. Then back to a shady spot under a pine tree in the garden and my book and the piano music that often drifts from Rob’s music room. 
A truly lazy Sunday gives plenty of time to think and be in the moment. In the evening: a few glasses of rosé on the terrace watching the sun set in technicolor display, followed by dinner, cooked expertly by Rob, and a lot of laughs with him, our daughter Maddy and any friends who happen to be staying.
French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Serena Kent
Garden view ©DeborahLawrensonRobertRees


One of the most wonderful things about Sundays is a bit of a lie in. After a bit of a read in bed, or a snooze (usually the latter), breakfast calls. One of the first luxuries we allowed ourselves in the French house was a decent expresso maker. After a few minutes of issuing forth steam and strange sounds, it disgorges a thin stream of oily black liquid which is a necessity for me in my morning routine. The coffee is taken with croissants and the wonderful French loaves known as Tradition: hard on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside. 

French Village Diaries #LazySundayinFrance Serena Kent
Rob's music room ©DeborahLawrensonRobertRees

Once fed and watered I will turn the computer on, look at it for a few minutes, and then decide life is too short to answer any emails, especially as the music room beckons. A sleek black upright piano sits in an old stable conversion next to the house, offering a haven where I can relax and play, sound muffled by the thick walls, much to Deborah’s relief. 
Usually I have a large stack of classical music books brought from England, though I also have, over about ten years, amassed quite a lot of my own compositions. Some have stood the test of time, whilst others now make me cringe. If the muse visits then I will scribble a few ideas down or work on a new piece/song. 
In Provence, Sunday is the day for a big lunch out – sometimes with friends but usually at a local restaurant. If I can persuade Deborah that there is more to life than salad, there are any number around us, including one particularly classy joint in our local village called Le Sanglier Paresseux – the Lazy Boar. Which is, ironically, how I would classify myself on Sundays, especially before shaving.
Sunday afternoons consist of lazing by the pool with a good book, the occasional cooling plunge, and once the sun has passed the yardarm, a glass of ice cold rosé and olives on the terrace, looking out over the wooded hills of the Luberon stretching away to the horizon like a large frozen green sea.

As a bonus treat, here is a glimpse into Rob’s music room (don't forget to turn the sound up) from their sunny terrace. Bliss, I wonder if I could gatecrash?
You can follow Serena Kent at her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Book review of Death in Avignon by Serena Kent

French Village Diaries book review Death in Avignon Serena Kent
Death in Avignon by Serena Kent

Death in Avignon by Serena Kent

My review today is for Death in Avignon, book two from Serena Kent’s cozy mystery series set in Provence.

With the renovations of her house in St Merlot coming along nicely and following her super sleuthing to solve the murder of the body she found in her swimming pool, Penelope Kite is hoping her new life in the Luberon will be a little less exciting, in terms of dead bodies, from now on.

As a guest of Laurent, handsome Maire of St Merlot, Penny is looking forward to an evening at a local art gallery in Avignon, followed by dinner for two at an exclusive restaurant. The four artists featured by gallery owner Gilles de Bourdan are all very different, in style and personality. There is loud and brash Doncaster with his not-so-subtle commercial art, Nina the installation artist, Scarpio and his studies in black and Nicolas Versanne, friend of Laurent and an artist whose abstract work Penny enjoys. A commotion, a collapse and Penny’s excitement at dinner for two is replaced with disappointment. One of the artists has been poisoned and as the finger points to the other three, strange things keep occurring, including another murder, a disappearance and a fire. Can Penny leave it to incompetent Chief of Police, Georges Reyssens, who failed to solve the murder in her pool, or should she do her own digging around and find some answers?

With her good friend Frankie, larger than life and happy to indulge in all Provence has to offer, by her side, Penny’s questions may not always win her friends, but with lots of twists and unexpected turn-ups, this book is great fun with both characters and a setting that come to life. I had no doubt Penny would get there in the end, but when things reach a dramatic climax, will she find herself with friends or foes?

This book will be a great accompaniment to any French holiday, especially if it happens to be in Provence.

You can read my review of book one, Death in Provence here and find out what character Penelope Kite does on her ideal Lazy Sunday in France here. Join me back on the blog tomorrow to discover what makes a perfect Lazy Sunday in Provence for the authors behind Serena Kent, husband and wife writing team Robert Rees and Deborah Lawrenson.

Death in Avignon is published by Orion and available in ebook and paperback, links to Amazon can be found below.

You can read more about Serena Kent at her website and follow her on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.