Provence A-Z: A Francophile’s Essential Handbook

Published By: Vintage

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Travel

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Reviewed by Yuka Mizushima

(Also available in audio)

This winter on the West Coast was an especially good time to do some armchair traveling. I am a big fan of Mayle’s writing. I’ve read of all his previous books on Provence and would love to travel there one day. As the snow piled up outside, I eagerly dove into Provence A-Z, desperate for some sunshine and lavender.

Other guidebooks on Provence will provide lists of notable attractions, must do’s and where to stay and eat. All very useful information but I especially enjoyed Mayle’s book because it was like going to Provence and being able to stay with a friend. It’s probably not information that you’ll find in other guidebooks as Mayle’s criteria was to select entries that were interesting and amusing–in other words, hidden gems and neat trivia.
Provence A-Z ranges in topics from architecture to famous people to wines.

There are often sketches or photographs to accompany the entry. I enjoyed the photo of the Korthal because I had read A Dog’s Life by Peter Mayle and I was curious what these shaggy dogs with big personalities really looked like. (These cute dogs remind me of Sweetums, the big brown muppet from The Muppet Show.)

Mayle has amusing anecdotes because his writing is filled with humor, wit and some good-natured grumbling. He also writes vivid descriptions that engage the five senses. I could feel the snow and frozen earth in Hiver. I could see the kaleidoscope of colors in Automne: the leaves in the vineyard, the wines on the tables. Printemps celebrated rebirth and the first butterfly, the first asparagus. And while reading Été, I could smell the roses in the garden and the rosemary on the barbecue.

Reading his thoughts on various foods and wines will have your mouth watering and may have you pausing to find a snack to eat.

Armchair Interviews says,: Provence A-Z is the perfect way to banish the wintertime blues.

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