“In the best romantic tradition of ALMOST FRENCH, a woman falls madly in love with a Frenchman in Paris. But it takes her twenty years to find him again …
Samantha’s life is falling apart – she’s lost her job, her marriage is on the rocks and she’s walking dogs to keep the wolf from the door. But when she stumbles across seven passionate love letters from the handsome Frenchman she fell head over heels for in Paris when she was 19, she can’t help but wonder, what if? Surely it wouldn’t hurt to try to find explain why she never wrote back. Closure is a good thing, after all.
One very carefully worded, very belated remail apology later, it’s clear that sometimes love does give you a second chance.
Jetting off to France to reconnect with a man you knew for just one madly romantic day is crazy – but it’s the kind of crazy Samantha’s been waiting for her whole life. Truth may be stranger than fiction but sometimes it’s better than your wildest dreams.”
I am delighted to welcome Samantha Vérant to Book’d Out today to feature her romantic memoir, Seven Letters From Paris.
Samantha Vérant is a travel addict, a self-professed oenophile, and a determined, if occasionally unconventional, French chef. Over the years, she’s visited many different countries, lived in many places, and worked many jobs— always on the search for the one thing that truly excited her. Then, one day, she found everything she’s been looking for: a passion for the written word and true love. Writing not only enabled her to open her heart, it led her to southwestern France, where she’s now married to a sexy French rocket scientist she met over twenty years ago, a stepmom to two incredible kids, and the adoptive mother to one ridiculously expensive Bengal cat. When she’s not trekking from Provence to the Pyrénées, tasting wine in American-sized glasses, or embracing her inner Julia Child while deliberating what constitutes the perfect boeuf bourguignon, Samantha is making her best effort to relearn those dreaded conjugations.
You can read my review of Seven Letters From Paris HERE, but first Samantha is sharing with us seven superb places to visit in the South of France…enjoy the journey!
Seven Places to Visit in the South of France
One of the major bonuses of living in southwestern France is the fact we can drive a few hours and the landscape changes dramatically. We don’t go on long vacations (unless we’re traveling back to the US to see my family), but we do take a lot of day and weekend trips. Plus, we’re pretty active. We hike, ski, scuba-dive, and (attempt to) surf. What I’ve discovered is that there is a whole lot more to France than just Paris…and here are seven of my favorite places in France to explore.
Note: I’ve been living in France for five years and have yet to make it back to Paris, where my husband and I first met. I think it would be utterly romantic if Jean-Luc and I re-traced the first steps we took in 1989. I’m working on this. But if it doesn’t happen…I won’t complain. Here’s why:
1. La Ciotat/Cassis/Marseille (Provence)
My husband, Jean-Luc, grew up in La Ciotat, about a 1/2 hour south of Marseille, and the neighbor to charming Cassis. It’s a bit of hike to get back to his hometown (a four and a half hour drive), but worth every second of the trip. In the summers, you can explore the famous calanques (inlets/coves) by boat and dive into the Mediterranean Sea. You can take a shuttle boat to l’île Verte (the green island), snorkel, and find a little piece a paradise to call your own. In the winter, our trips are all about family…and food. Christmas in France is one of my favorite holidays. There are usually twenty-five people at the dinner table and hazing is par for the course. What I love most about this area in France (aside from the jokers in my family) is the spirit of the south. It’s fun, convivial, and warm. To prove this claim, here’s a video of my first Christmas in France in La Ciotat, where you’ll see Max (age 10 at the time) and Elvire (age 12)
Dancing trees? Men on stilts? Love and laughter? Who could ask for anything more?
A few notes:
Pétanque, France’s version of Bocce Ball, was invented in La Ciotat.
The Eden, a movie theatre, is where a very startled audience viewed the first “moving picture” in 1896. It still exists and you can visit it.
Marseille is going through a renaissance, dusting off its old coat (and seedy reputation). I’ve been watching the city change for five years now. And, I can say, I’m impressed. New museums, hotels, and restaurants abound!
2. L’île de Porquerolles (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)
The island of Porquerolles, located off the coast of Hyères, is magical. Again, this is quite far from our home in Toulouse (a six-hour drive), but it’s one of my favorite places in France. With over 3,000 acres of pristine beauty and a sparkling sea, it is no wonder Porquerolle attracts thousands of visitors every summer, including yours truly. I’ve been one lucky girl, and have visited this magnificent oasis twice, thanks to Jean-Luc’s work’s scuba diving club. In addition to stellar diving, you can bike through vineyards, discover rugged beaches, swim in crystal-clear waters, or eat a gelato at one of the many cafés, the town laden with bougainvillea and oleander. Accommodations are extremely limited, so if you want to stay on the island, it’s best to book your trip at least a year in advance. Day trips are a possibility, but parking is hard to come by in Hyères unless you arrive early, before 9:00am.
3. Sarlat (Dordogne – Périgord Noir)
The village of Sarlat is two hours from my home. Sarlat is one of the best known villages in France and the best time to visit is in September or October, when the temperature is still warm and there are far less tourists. Aside from the quaint beauty of the town with its cobbled streets and bustling markets (sausages! cheeses! truffle oils!), the best part of staying in Sarlat is using it as a homebase to explore the surrounding areas. On a romantic weekend (sans les enfants!), Jean-Luc and I stayed one night a gîte (pictured above) just outside of Sarlat. The price was right – about 60 euro a night, including a breakfast made by the owner, a former pastry chef. You should have seen the spread! This wasn’t a continental breakfast, that’s for sure! Note: the dinner at 25 euro/person was incredible, too – five regional courses including an apéro (glass of champagne) and a bottle of wine. We visited beautiful medieval villages overlooking a flowing river, explored castles, like the famed Château de Puymartin with its haunting legend of the La Dame Blanche, and feasted like kings. Amazing!
4. Luchon (Haute Garonne)
The Pyrénées Mountains are situated an hour and twenty minutes away from us. And, yes, we take advantage of this. Voilà, Luchon, where we can ski in the winter and hike in the summer. Luchon is also known for its thermal roman bath. Trust me, the natural heat of the spa feels so good after hitting the slopes or the trails. Ahh, those aching muscles. I used to be a green skier, now I’m blue. On y va! (Let’s go!) Who is coming with me?
5. Cordes sur Ciel (The Lot)
Situated one hour north from my town is the beautiful and breathtaking medieval village of Cordes Sur Ciel. Famed author Albert Camus once said, “In Cordes, everything is beautiful, even regret.” I agree. The bonus? On the drive back home, you can take La Route des Bastides in the Gers region of France, where three delightful villages await. Keep one foot in history and keep one hand on your heart. If you were to visit me, this is my A tour. Tour B is my husband’s– the Route des Cathares, which includes Carcasonne, a medieval fortress. (He’s a real history buff).
6. St. Émilion (Bordeaux)
I’d be a really bad tour guide if I didn’t mention St. Émilion, two-or-so hours away from Toulouse. It’s wine country, and so incredibly beautiful with its rolling vineyards and beautiful estates! Oh, the charming village! Did I mention the wine tasting? This, my friends, is a must-see, a must-taste, and a must-experience place. Truly incredible. Did I mention the wine?
7. Bidart/St. Jean de Luz/Biarritz (Pays-Basque)
Finally, the Pays-Basque region of France is truly a special and spicy place, thanks, in part, to espelette de piment, and bordering Spain. Ola! Situated on the Atlantic coast, and three hours from my home, here, you can surf (on your knees, in my case. It’s hard to go from cobra to warrior stance with a wave kicking your butt!), eat moules à la plancha (grilled mussels with parsley and garlic), or just simply enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Like most regions in the south of France, the people are warm and welcoming and the landscape is drop dead gorgeous.
To close this post, I’d like to say that I had the best tour-guide on the planet: my husband. More than twenty years ago, Jean-Luc promised to show me France through his eyes. And that’s exactly what he did and is still doing. The love for his country, especially the south of France, has been infectious. It was hard to pick seven places when there are so many to choose from. But I’m thrilled to share some of our favorite spots with you.
Where are we taking you?
Seven Letters from Paris is available to purchase from
and all good bookstores.
Follow the Tour
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Friday 7th November – The Literary Gossip – Q&A
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Sunday 9th November – Starts at Sixty – Review
Monday 10th November – 1 Girl 2 Many Books – Review
Tuesday 11th November – Lets Review Stuff – Review
Wednesday 12th November – Paranormal Angel – Guest blog
Thursday 13th November – Book Muster Down Under – Q&A