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
Brouage
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
Spoonbill
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

A VERY FRENCH AFFAIR by 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’S LAZY SUNDAY IN FRANCE


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

Deborah: 

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

Rob:

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.
©DeborahLawrensonRobertRees2019
  



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.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Book review of Summer at the Little French Café by Karen Clarke

French Village Diaries book review Summer at the Little French Café Karen Clarke
Summer at the Little French Café by Karen Clarke

Summer at the Little French Café

My review today is for book two in the Little French Café series by Karen Clarke, Summer at the Little French Café. 

We are back on the beautiful Ile de Ré where another lost soul finds herself in the bosom of Dolly’s little French café. A chance discovery of a postcard from the island and a baby shawl has led Elle to the café, looking for clues to discover who her mother is. Her ‘holiday’ gets off to an unexpected start as before she realises it, she finds herself working at the café alongside Dolly and her son Charlie (who I developed quite a soft spot for in book one).

All Elle has to go on is an approximate age and a note, signed with the initial M, written on the postcard of the café that drew her to Dolly’s door. Between them, Dolly and Elle draw up a list of possibilities and with a little clever questioning of some of Dolly’s regulars, rule out those it can’t be. While Elle is determined to discover where she came from, Dolly is also working on a plan of her own.

I love a mystery and enjoyed the anticipation every time a new character arrived. I soon found myself playing along, analysing their stories, asking my own questions and wondering if they could be M. There is not quite the fire and passion that grabbed me in book one, but this book has lots of tender, emotional moments, a few romantic what-ifs and lots of laughter too, plus an unexpected twist at the end. Don't forget to pack this book (and book one if you've not yet read it) for your summer holiday.

I can't wait to get back to the café and catch up with Dolly and her café family in the final book in the trilogy, hopefully out later this year.


Summer at the Little French Café is published by Bookouture and available in ebook and paperback, links to Amazon can be found below.

You can read more about Karen at her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Summer in France, keeping cool in a canicule

French Village Diaries keeping cool in a canicule, summer in France
Precautions to take in extreme heat


Summer in France

Extreme weather

It was only two weeks ago when I was talking about rain, hurricane strength winds and seemingly no signs of summer (see here)

A week ago, 144km north of us Mother Nature rocked us with an earthquake that measured 4.9 and that we felt as it rumbled through the ground for a few seconds. It has been reported as the (or one of the) biggest earthquakes in France for many years. 
 
French Village Diaries keeping cool in a canicule, summer in France
Canicule alert  via www.meteofrance.com
This week the sun has arrived, the clouds have parted, but we have gone from one extreme to another and are now on canicule, or heat wave, alert, something France takes very seriously and is rather unusual for the month of June.

In August 2003 over 15,000 people died in France when a canicule hit with temperatures consistently higher than 35º for the first two weeks of the month, and often topping 40º. This was before we moved here, but in our time, we have occasionally hit the high 30º’s and it is exhausting. Most communes will now be putting into place their canicule plan of action. Information will be sent out on sensible precautions to take in the heat and lists will be drawn up to ensure those who are at most risk of heat stroke can be kept an eye on; those over 65, those with medical issues, people living alone, young children and pregnant women. Neighbours are actively encouraged to look out for each other and call the emergency services if they are concerned. Please do not underestimate the risk of extreme temperatures.

French Village Diaries keeping cool in a canicule, summer in France
Canicule weather 35º

Early yesterday afternoon the temperature was 33º, with a hollyhock-shaking warm breeze and the hottest it got up to was 35º at 18h, thankfully a little cooler than the forecast of 38º. Today it may top 40º. Poor Adrian is in the UK, his commute on Tuesday was in the pouring rain and on Wednesday the temperature only managed a weak 18º with grey skies and wind. It doesn’t seem fair!
 
French Village Diaries keeping cool in a canicule, summer in France
Refreshing cool water with mint, fennel and cucumber


Keeping cool in a canicule

My top tips for surviving a heat wave:
Do drink plenty of water. I find a jug of tap water kept in the fridge with a few mint leaves, some fennel fronds and slices of cucumber, sipped regularly, to be most refreshing
Don’t over indulge on the alcohol
Don’t forget to keep animal water bowls topped up, indoors and outside

Don't forget to eat - as if......

Do keep the shutters closed to keep the house as cool as possible
Do wear sun cream whenever outside
Don’t stay outside too long

Do utilise the energy of the sun and get as much heavy washing done and dry as possible
Don’t waste energy on other household duties

Do get up early when the temperature is a bit cooler
Don’t forget to pop back to bed for an afternoon siesta when it’s hot in the afternoon

Don’t expend energy unnecessarily 
Do spend your time reading, and as luck would have it, today is publication day for three fantastic new summer reads: 

Summer at the Little French Café by Karen Clarke (book two in her trilogy set on the Ile de Ré and that I will be reviewing here tomorrow). 

Death in Avignon by Serena Kent (the latest adventure set in Provence starring Penelope Kite and that I will be reviewing on Saturday). 

Date with Poisson by Julia Chapman (her latest cozy mystery set in Bruncliffe, Yorkshire where the temperatures are a lot cooler!).






Lou Messugo



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Book review of Overture by Vanessa Couchman

French Village Diaries book review Overture Vanessa Couchman
Overture by Vanessa Couchman
Overture by Vanessa Couchman
What if you had a unique talent, but everything conspired against your dreams?

France, 1897. Born to a modest farming family, Marie-Thérèse has a remarkable singing voice and wants to become a professional singer. But too many obstacles, including her parents' opposition, stand in her way. And, through no fault of her own, she makes a dangerous enemy of the local landlord.
When the family circumstances change suddenly, Marie-Thérèse and her mother must move to Paris to work in her aunt's restaurant. Her ambitions rekindle, but the road to success is paved with setbacks until a chance meeting gives her a precious opportunity.
She is close to achieving all her dreams, but the ghosts of the past come back to haunt her and threaten Marie-Thérèse's life as well as her career.

French Village Diaries book review Overture Vanessa Couchman
Overture blog tour 

My review

Marie-Thérèse has a talent for singing and would also have loved to continue her education, but life in a poor farming family in rural Aveyron meant neither were an option for her, as she was needed to work. Money was scarce, life was hard and suddenly made harder when tragic circumstances force the family from their farm. 

Leaving their beloved Aveyron, Marie-Thérèse and her mother find themselves in Paris, working long hours for a bed and good meals at her Aunt’s restaurant, Bistrot Mazars, Specialities Aveyronnaises. Here we are thrown into the Paris bistrot culture, where those who had left the countryside for better opportunities flocked to enjoy a taste of home and a friendly face. Life here couldn’t have been more different for Marie-Thérèse and Augustine.

As Paris opens up to Marie-Thérèse she gets a peek into the world of music and opera and a few chance opportunities to sing, all of which rekindle her ambition to become a singer. Despite a few false starts and many obstacles in her way, she meets someone who believes in her and wants for her to succeed. With the right encouragement and lots of hard work, could her dream one day come true? 

Vanessa Couchman has the ability to bring history to life and this book was no exception. I felt the hardships of Marie-Thérèse’s early life; the grief, the hunger and the despair. Paris was as exciting for me as it was Marie-Thérèse and the way she embraced her new life and work in Paris, meant I really wanted her to have the chance to grasp the opportunity to become a singer, and to succeed.

As well as the contrasts of rural France and Paris, world events including the Titanic and the unease in Europe before the start of the First World War are all woven really well into the storyline, along with the glamourous world of the Opera and European travel in the early 1900’s.

Overture is the first book in a trilogy and I’m really looking forward to reading the next instalment. If you enjoy historical novels, you should add this to your summer reading list.

Purchase Link




French Village Diaries book review Overture Vanessa Couchman
Vanessa Couchman

Author Bio – Vanessa Couchman is a novelist, short story author and freelance writer and has lived in an 18th-century farmhouse in southwest France since 1997. French and Corsican history and culture provide great inspiration for her fiction. She has written two novels set on the Mediterranean island of Corsica: The House at Zaronzaand The Corsican Widow. Her third novel, Overture, is Book 1 of a trilogy set in France between 1897 and 1945. Vanessa’s short stories have won and been placed in creative writing competitions and published in anthologies. 
Social Media Links – 
Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/VanessaCouchman


  
French Village Diaries book review Overture Vanessa Couchman
Overture blog tour 21st to 27th June 2019