*Blog Book Tour*: Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie Simons

Posted Saturday, 30 November, 2013 by jorielov , , 4 Comments

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Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie Simons

Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie Simons
Published By: Distinction Press, 1 March, 2011
Official Author Websites: Taking Root in Provence Site; Provence Today (personal blog)
Available Formats: Trade Paper
Page Count: 212

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a stop on the book tour for “Taking Root in Provence” hosted by France Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of “Taking Root in Provence” in exchange for an honest review by the publisher: Distinction Press.  I was thankful to be placed on the tour as I am attempting to read more non-fiction as time shifts forward into the New Year! I always thought I might appreciate travelogues as they are a bit of a window into the life of someone who lives elsewhere from here! I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read: My interest was piqued to read travelogues, travel diaries, ex-pat living adventures, & life overseas in a different country of origin by the motion picture “Under the Tuscan Sun”. I was completely enthralled with the story, the premise, and the execution of the film as it unfolded. I saw it initially at least three times in the theaters when it premiered, and since then, I have lost count! I oft quote directly from the story as there were wonderful lines of life lessons & philosophical musings that can directly apply to anyone’s life. I sought out the book that inspired the motion picture (same title) but felt that if I had read it, I might in-effect change my perspective of the film and that wasn’t something I wanted to do!

Therefore, I settled it into my mind that there would be ‘other’ stories to seek out! This is the first accounting of life overseas that has held my interest to take-on! I realise the setting is of France not Italy, but the appealment for me is not necessarily on the country itself, but on how people can pick up their lives by relocating elsewhere whilst discovering a piece of their lives they never knew they could achieve! I love the zest of adventure, the uncertainty of the risk, and the bliss of forging a new path by jump-diving in with your whole heart! Of course, having a wicked sense of humour is a step in the right direction, as when I requested to be put on this blog book tour, I was smiling as wide as a Cheshire cat as my laughter had carried me off into joyful ruminations! There are times in life to dare to create your own destiny!

Author Biography:Anne-Marie Simons

Anne-Marie Simons has worked as a translator, teacher, journalist, sportswriter (covering Formula 1 races), and director of corporate communications.

Her Argentine husband, Oscar, left a career in international development banking to become an expert on Provençal cooking and other local pleasures. [from the publisher’s website]

Synopsis of the Book:

Two expatriates left Washington DC in search of the ideal place to retire where climate, culture, accessibility and natural beauty all had a role to play. Curious about the vaunted quality of life in the south of France, they traveled the length and width of Provence where, preferring the city to the countryside, they decided to settle in the ancient town of Aix-en-Provence. That was in 1998 and Taking Root in Provence is the story of their slow integration into the French mainstream — both easier and more difficult than expected but ultimately successful.

In a series of vignettes Anne-Marie Simons gives us a warts-and-all picture of life among the French and with warmth and humor shares her lessons learned. Contrary to most publications about Provence, this book focuses on life in the city rather than the quiet countryside, and promises to be both informative and revealing to those who want to spend more than a passing holiday here. [from the author’s website]

Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie SimonsRead an Excerpt:


Food is important in this country and everybody cooks well, men and women alike. All social life takes place around the table, where one talks about food above all else. Recipes are exchanged, addresses offered, and recommendations made. It soon becomes apparent that not all market stalls are alike, not all farmers sell home-grown produce, and not all truffle vendors are honest. Of course, restaurants are not forgotten and recent discoveries are either praised or viciously attacked.

In asking for advice it is important, however, to consider the source. For example, a Parisian friend with a house in this area responded to our request for restaurant suggestions by saying, “In Aix? On ne mange pas à Aix.” (One doesn’t eat in Aix). A bit severe, we thought.

Food debate is not limited to the dinner table, and it is not uncommon to overhear discussions like this one at the markets: “Potatoes in brandade de morue? Jamais de la vie, Monsieur! Oh, your mother did? Where are you from? Alsace? Well, perhaps they do over there, but not in Provence. No sir! Just make sure you use a good olive oil. Now, what are you going to serve with that? Soupe au pistou? Excellent idea. You’ll want the three kinds of beans, onions, basil, carrots and tomatoes, this, that and the other…” while the other customers not only patiently wait but begin to participate. “You may also want to add courgettes, monsieur” says a woman in line. “And make sure you add lots of garlic,” says another. “My wife doesn’t like garlic but she doubles the parmesan cheese at the end” says a man. “Curieux,” says another with eyebrows raised. And so goes the daily market…

Daring to Forge a Path

In the very Introduction section of the book, I could draw a discerning eye towards the familiar: wanton dreams of relocating to a ‘place’ that ‘feels right and true’ to where you can firmly place down roots due to ‘belonging’ amongst those who live there. I might have been bourne in the Southern half of the United States (the Southeastern bit of it), but I have always longed to live in a climate where I could truly thrive on Autumn & Winter changes in season as much as captivating my wanderlust to roam, explore, and unearth cherished memories for the rest of my days! I wouldn’t constantly remember ‘oh, I’ve been there!’ or ‘it was alright a few decades ago’ or even ‘ah, alas Winter is only two short months this year!’ IF you have the tendency to ‘blink’ you will completely miss the two seasons in the Southeast I adore the most! I knew right there, in the opening sentences of Taking Root in Provence, I was about to emerge through a window portal in the shoes of a wife and husband who dared to do exactly what I want to do myself! If only for one small difference, as I am choosing to relocate within the States rather than outside of them!

I can relate as well, to selecting a slower pace of living rather than a hectically chaotic one! Where the empathsis is on appreciating your day rather than surviving it! I think we all are striving to find our niche and ideal spot for living the life we each dream possible to envelop our everyday lives. Each of us with our different wants, needs, desires, dreams, hopes, aspirations, and interests to fill a book at least ten times wider than the Earth herself; should always seek out where we’re being led and of where we are meant to be living next. I even can relate to the soft echoing murmurs of choosing to relocate to an area where the locals regard their secrets and their style of living to a large degree of protectiveness from allowing outsiders to gain the same information they have had for generations. In part, this is one reason I had such a bubble of a laugh when I first choose to read this tale! I was cheekily remembering a tale of similar origins!

It’s quite true indeed as well, if you were found to be in possession of making a radical lifestyle change, irregardless if you left your country or moved clear across it (from one direction or another!),… the flexibility of adapting to life as it arrives at your feet is a key ingredient that is needed the most! Portable as a post box, your life can be as adventurous as you dare to dream it into reality!

Locovores, Slow-Food Movement, & Getting Back to Farm to Table

Being a city girl bourne and raised, I must attest to the fact I have always known that the distance between my food on the table and from whence it came before it arrived out of our grocery bag was beyond worth comprehending! Food is trucked such large distances, its rather discerning to wonder when the ‘fresh’ produce was originally harvested much less how old the fruit is that appears as ‘fresh’ as the veg! Whilst transitioning to the countryside, I started to get involved with the local food movement in its infancy as it wasn’t all the rage ‘everywhere’ as it is now. I am referring to the standard farmer’s markets where cattlemen and livestock ranchers would be alongside the fruit growers and the vegetable farmers! Where I live now we have a seven day a week farmer’s market whose bounty is co-dependent on local crop yields, which is generally a miracle in of itself if you factor in heavy rains, severe droughts, lightning, tropical storms, and the possibility of tornadoes! I always felt the hands working the fields were a living experiment of faith, trust, courage, and patience!

Inside Taking Root in Provence, I see my future life brimming to the ear-flaps of the book, where going to ‘market’ is more of an experience in conversation than a steady picking and choosing of your weekly food needs! I love the aspect of direct communicating with your farmers, bakers, and fishmongers! Oh, the joy of conversing about cookery, farm-fresh and locally grown foods which were not trucked-in but rather delivered within a local scope of availability! She (Simons) whets your interest more and more as she reveals little surprises of what the French call ‘local and delicate’ as much as how they believe you should cook rather than accept you have your own style!

Living in places as vibrantly connected as these, where community transcends logic, and living is a co-experience with your neighbours, you start to step back in and through time as you adjust your adaptation. I would suspect that once your spirit starts to put down a threshold of roots, you would not feel as comfortable or as natural living anywhere else as your barometer of normalcy has now struck out into its own rhythm! You start to take on characteristics of your seemingly odd new neighbours and start to notice that your differences are barely even noticeable anymore! Living is an evolving journey. Each step we take, we endeavour to explore a new facet of our beings that we might not have even known was lying dormant.

I think I could argue the merits of using at least five if not eight cloves of garlic for most recipes, and how I enjoy incorporating such a wide variety of spices and herbs into the kitchen’s best turned out plates! I have a varied palette I suppose, as I simply adore: Chinese Five Spice, Garam Marsala,  Turmeric, Coriander, Cumin, Curry Powder, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Rosemary, Thyme, Fennel, Basil, Dill, Oregano, Paprika, and Herbs de Provence! I wonder if the French prefer including multiple spices and herbs, or if they’d rather feature one or two, letting the ingredients speak for themselves? An earthier way of cooking, for sure!

And, of course, I have long since traded in olive oil for grapeseed oil due to the higher set point! My preference is coconut oil, but lest I digress, as selecting the ‘right’ coconut oil is as dicey as selecting your favourite olive oil!

I am so enthused about where my food comes from and how to best make selections at the market, that I have now become quite the efficient sous chef in the process! I never knew the differences in shape, texture, width, or condition on the outside of fruit & veg as it directly pertained to their taste, smell, and flavourbility! If my future farmers are even half as engaging as Ms. Simons, I shall be in perpetual cookery heaven! Lest I mention, I am always celebrating the arrivals of strawberry onions, butternut squash, acorn squash, purple sweet potatoes, orange or purple cauliflower, swiss chard, elephant kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, kohlrabi, acid-free orange tomatoes, Dominican avacadoes, turnips, parsnips, apples, blueberries, zucchini, wild mushrooms, and all the other lovelies that make me giddy when ‘their season’ goes into effect! I adore using grains as well such as pearl couscous, Teff, long grain wild rice, Quinoa, pearl barley, spelt, amaranth,… as much as I want to try millet, kamut, sorghum, farro, and chia!

Eating seasonally changes your life as well. You notice things you don’t generally notice and you start to yearn for certain recipes and foods to re-enter your life whilst awaiting Summer’s wrath to conclude!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comMy Review:

As comforting as a smooth latte sipped with hesitation for the liquid will evaporate before you’ve had your fill of its sinfully rich decadence, Ms. Simons knows how to whet the palette of her reader by slowly allowing her to soak into the life of Provence! A place which is a full-step out of time, where the bits and bobbles of differences between America & France are made most apparent in such ordinary situations (i.e. quality of healthcare, affordability of said healthcare, road accidents, quality of education, etc as outlined by the author herself) I can still ascertain what her and her husband were truly seeking whence they exchanged one country for the other! A sense of place and a sense of being that filters up through your soul, warms your heart, and invigorates your ordinary hours by having the freedom of experiencing life through a new pair of eyes! Your eyes adjust to the sights they take in, but its the little things that first appear foreign to your nature that have a way of endearing you to them in time!

It’s a bit of a mindset and of a philosophy I have observed in life which stems from the fact that where your needed and/or where your motivated to go will always line up to occurring at the time in which you are meant to arrive! Timing I have found has a significance all of its own. I was curious what had tipped their scales for France over Spain and Italy for instance? Perhaps they read the hintings of their own path being laid before them and were wise enough to risk a short stay if it could lead to a more permanent one!

Her inclusion of fetes and events which marked the seasonal passages of time, brought me back into my own childhood where local flavour was readily seen in the parades, Harvest festival, and region specific vegetable beauty contest! (i.e. think “Grady” from “Doc Hollywood”) These are the treasured little moments that tend to get swept up under a rug in most recollections, and for Simons to draw a breath of focus on them made me smile rather fondly! She encourages you to ‘taste’ Provence as you would if you were a local. Straddling into Provencal life as though its not your very first introduction! Key insights and observations make this travelogue both hearty and enjoyable!

If you appreciate conversing with a new friend over fresh baked scones and a steaming latte in a mug, you will soak into Provence through the cleverly enticing narrative that Simons provides you to become addicted too! Your never quite certain what aspect of their French lives she will reveal, or how one of their experiences will lend its disclosure of connection to French history, but to me, those were the little nestlements of joy awaiting you as you turnt the page! As an added bonus there is a full recipe section provided by her husband, Oscar! You don’t have to tip your warming appetite aside for entering a French restaurant, as they have provided the reader with a good overview of key ingredients and recipes to bring France aromatically into your kitchen, hearth, and home!

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A heart for the natural world

I was in full gratitude reading that when they had relocated to France, they were operating on the theory that all areas have bike paths and designated trails. I would go so far as to admit, I might have considered that a working theory myself, except to say, of my knowledge of England what we would consider a walk on this side of the Pond, is rather a cross-country trek over unknown paths there! I find it intriguing how everyone who appreciates the natural world sorts out how to obtain a piece of it. I’ll admit, I never thought I’d be able to walk past a mile two years ago in January, but to say, I’ve reached the brink to walk eight miles sounds miraculous! Yet. I can do it without losing too much energy! My heart simply takes flight when I’m out-of-doors, the awe of discovery, the joy of seeing everything in its natural habitat, and being inside this hidden world from the modern world’s view is rather enticing!

I celebrated seeing that the author and her husband traded in bikes for hiking boots! As even on our trails here, I oft notice that there are only two sorts of people who are using them. Group A are the exercise concentrating souls who bike, run, jog, or otherwise engage in an excessive tenacity for burning calories than Group B, of whom I fall under as I am there for the natural environment.  Bikers whiz and whip past me, ring-ringing their little bells and claiming I need to yield to them even if the lane is free next to me! I am still lost how bikers have more rights than walkers!

I do admit that I am always slightly envious of Europeans on the level that wherever they find themselves, they are a stone’s throw from experiencing a piece of living history left behind! Our buildings are barely 200 years old if they are still structurally sound! We tend to tear down rather than repair or restore, which is a bit lopsided in thinking I’d suspect, as how else to leave a footprint behind of who we were before!? The achingly deep history of France in its buildings, landmarks, and monuments I could well imagine were appreciated when stumbled upon! As it had me flash back to when I was in the heart of the Mayan ruins in Mexico! Your touching the past whilst walking in the future! You feel a kineticity whilst visiting sites such as these as your literally in a place who has defied logic and stood through the sands of time!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThe “Taking Root in Provence” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

  1. 25 November: Guest Post & Giveaway @ Patricia Sands’ Blog
  2. 26 November: Review & Giveaway @ The French Village Diaries
  3. 27 November: Review & Interview @ I am, Indeed
  4. 27 November: Review & Giveaway @ Enchanted by Josephine
  5. 27 November: Review & Giveaway @ The Most Happy Reader
  6. 28 November: Highlights @ Words and Peace
  7. 29 November: Review & Giveaway @ Turning the Pages
  8. 30 November: Review & Excerpt @ Jorie Loves A Story

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:

France Book Tours

{SOURCES: Cover art and book synopsis of “Taking Root in Provence”,  Anne-Marie Simon’s photograph, the blog tour badge, and the logo banner for France Book Tours were all provided by France Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers were provided by Shabby Blogs, who give bloggers free resources to add personality to their blogs. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Jorie submitted  request to provide an excerpt with her book review, of which was supplied by the publisher via France Book Tours.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

Related Articles:

Bob’s Red Mill – Grains of Discovery – (bobsredmill.com)

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 30 November, 2013 by jorielov in 21st Century, Blog Tour Host, Book | Novel Extract, France, France Book Tours, Geographically Specific, Life in Another Country, Modern Day, Non-Fiction, Travel, Travel Writing, Travelogue, Vignettes of Real Life

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4 responses to “*Blog Book Tour*: Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie Simons

    • Audra,

      I was curious who was going to notice my inclusion of the latte being referenced! :) You’ll have to drop back and let me know how the stories she shares of France resonated with you after you read this installment! Oh, isn’t that the absolute best!? Being able to become transported directly into another person’s shoes & viscerally inhabit a writer’s realm!?

      I smiled seeing we had this branch of literature in common!

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