Book:Taking Root in Provence by Anne-Marie Simons
A Guest Post by Jessica Voigts
[Note: What you see below is a portion of a recent interview that Jessie Voigts published at Wandering Educators. I extracted just three of the questions and answers, but there is a lot more. Read the entire interview at Wandering Educators.]
Ever wonder what it is like to live in Provence? Yes, we’ve all read Peter Mayle‘s books, and dreamt of moving there. But to actually do it? What’s it like? We recently spoke with Anne-Marie Simons, author of Taking Root in Provence.
Taking Root in Provence is a dream of a book – slowly going through each season in Aix-en-Provence, complete with festivals, daily routines, and the joys of life. We learn of hot summers, markets, traditional horsemen, festivals, strikes, Cezanne, wine, food, mistrals, opera, and more.
Each chapter is an ode to living in Provence – and it’s not all smooth roads, as Anne-Marie ably discusses the challenges in living in a different country (with a new language!). This ‘year in the life’ book is such a fascinating glimpse into living in Provence – it inspires, teaches, and brings such joy in a life well-lived.
Wandering Educators: What was the genesis of your move to Provence?
Anne-Marie Simons: We moved to Provence because it was our favorite vacation spot but also because we felt that all around us in Washington people did not like the ” dolce farniente” that we liked. In our view, doing nothing is not a waste of time; it is a way of passing the time differently. After long years of hard work we do enjoy taking 2-hour lunches, a siesta now and then, going to the movies without taking the car out, buying our fresh fruits, vegetables and fish at the market every day, having frequent dinners with friends at their place or ours. At lunchtime, our American friends start looking at their watch after 45 minutes (yes, even the retired ones) and are out the door after one hour, and even dinners have to start early and end by 10 PM because the guests have to get up early the next morning. I know I am generalizing and that Washington is an all-work-no-play town, but you might say that we were interested in playing and found nobody to play with. Europe has a different rhythm that suits us very well.
WE: What are your favorite places to visit?
AS: My personal favorites are cities like Marseilles, Toulouse (only the old center), Montpellier, Nice, St. Tropez off season, and Arles or Avignon for different things (bullfights or theater). All these places are within easy driving distance from Aix. And of course, Paris, which takes only 3 hours to get to by TGV (fast train). There are many other French cities I have enjoyed visiting, but one of the advantages of Aix is that it is located within driving distance from Barcelona, Spain (4-5 hours), Genoa or Turin, Italy (4 hours), Milan (5 hrs) etc. Different cultures, different foods, different languages just hours away. Moreover, from Marseilles you can take a ferry boat to Corsica and Sardinia, or an overnight ferry from Toulon to Rome. It is a wonderful way to travel, taking your own car with you.
WE: What is your favorite thing about living in Provence?
AS: Provence seems to have everything: good weather, good food, friendly people, a relaxed pace, and great natural and man-made beauty. It has beaches, mountains, time-forgotten villages, sophisticated towns and glitzy resorts. Truly something for everyone, but to enjoy all these gifts to the fullest I would highly recommend to those who mean to retire and live there year-round that they learn the language and connect with the local people. Perhaps rent for a year, perfect your French, familiarize yourself with the local customs and adopt them, then decide whether or not you could live there for the long term. If you decide to do so, you will find the French quite open to other cultures and happy to welcome you in their midst. They might even brag about their new “ami américain.”
We stayed in the north of France when we were in that country. Have you been to Provence? Would you move there? We want to know. And by the way, how DO you pronounce it?