Keith Van Sickle
on Tour November 6-17 with
One Sip at a Time:
Learning to Live in Provence
Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence?
Keith and Val had a dream – to live in Provence, the land of brilliant sunlight, charming hilltop villages and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. But there were two problems: they weren’t French speakers and they had full-time jobs. So they came up with a plan…
Follow their adventures (and misadventures) as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split their time between two countries. Laugh along as they build a life in Provence, slowly mastering a new language and making friends with the locals over long meals and just a bit too much wine.
If you’ve ever dreamed of changing gears and learning what joie de vivre is really all about, you won’t want to miss this delightful book.
Fear the Beard
My beard trimmer broke so I went to buy a new one at the Intermarché. I found it on the same aisle that had hair dryers and curling irons and things like that. Except that the beard trimmers were kept in a locked cabinet. Quoi?
I tracked down a clerk and asked her to unlock the cabinet so I could get the one I wanted, one that only cost about twenty bucks. She took it out but wouldn’t give it to me. No, no, that would not be secure, monsieur! Beard trimmers must follow a special security procedure! I think it must be like the one for a nuclear weapons factory.
First, I was told to go to the “Special Bureau” at the front of the store. I did that, expecting the lady there to give me the beard trimmer so I could go pay. Oh no, monsieur! That would not be secure! Instead, she gave me a long code to hand to the clerk in the checkout line. This mystified the poor clerk, who must only deal with women, children and clean-shaven men.
But eventually we sorted it out. I paid him and got another piece of paper, this one with a new code, to take back to the Special Bureau.
At this point, I was nervously expecting a retinal scan or maybe a cavity search, but happily I got my beard trimmer.
I asked the lady at the Special Bureau why beard trimmers were kept locked up while the much more expensive hair dryers were not. She looked around carefully, leaned forward and said in a low voice, “Because of the thieves!”
Yes, it seems that beard trimmers were the most-stolen items in Intermarché stores
nationwide, thus prompting the lockdown. I thanked her for this important news and held the trimmer tightly, scanning the parking lot as I walked carefully to my car.
Later I thought, is this really the best way to deal with the nationwide epidemic of beard
trimmer robberies? Is French society well served by having its thieves unable to trim their
beards, eventually looking like refugees from a ZZ Top concert? Maybe I should lead the other men in town for a protest march, a very French thing to do.
After trimming my beard, of course.
The title really says it all. One sip at a time. Lots of short pieces on living in Provence, and it’s easy to read a few in one sitting, or many (how about half the book? Let’s just say dinner was late that night!) As a not very skilled speaker of French, I could feel awkward along with them, and wince or nod or smile, and then laugh. The stories really make me want to go to Provence!
One anecdote that especially made me chuckle (and wince!) was France’s Worst Off-Ramp. Who knew that the French too had horribly designed roads? No traffic circles, cloverleafs…. just survival of the fittest. I wanted to clench my steering wheel with white-knuckled hands, if I’d had a steering wheel.
This book was a welcome indulgence, a way to live vicariously through the fun and travails of others. Now, though, I think I need to go book a trip to France.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keith Van Sickle
is a technology industry veteran
and lifelong traveler
who got his first taste of overseas life
while studying in England during college.
But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland
that made him really fall in love with Europe.
After returning to California, he and his wife Val dreamed of living abroad again
but were unable to find another expat gig.
So they decided to invent their own.
Now they split their time between Silicon Valley and St-Rémy-de-Provence,
delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating.
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