An Insider’s Guide to Provence by Keith Van Sickle
We recently met Keith and Val Van Sickle for a glass of rosé while we were all in Provence. They were in France for a short visit while Keith researched and completed final drafts for his latest (3rd) book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence.
Keith Van Sickle is a lifelong traveller who got his first taste of overseas life during a semester abroad in England. However, it was the expat assignment to Switzerland that made him fall in love with Europe. After returning to California, he and his wife Val dreamed of living abroad again but couldn’t find another expat gig. So they invented their own. Now they split their time between California and St-Rémy-de-Provence, delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating.
Keith’s first two books, One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence and Are We French Yet? describe the realities of living in Provence. Full of amusing antidotes and travel information, we highly recommend these books. Please read our reviews here and here.
Our Book Review
Keith’s latest book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence, is intended as supplemental reference material rather than a guidebook. Fodor’s, The Lonely Planet, and Rick Steeves are among a long list of in-depth guidebooks covering all aspects of travel, including accommodation in Provence. These books are typically updated regularly by teams of on-the-ground resources.
Think of An Insider’s Guide to Provence as Keith’s Rolodex (remember those?) about the region. This book includes the couple’s favourites – restaurants, picnic spots, vineyards, walks – a list of things Keith and Val do every time they visit Provence.
“This book is a supplement to those general guidebooks, the personal favorites of an American couple living in Provence. I hope it helps make your next trip here a little more special.” ~ Keith Van Sickle
An Insider’s Guide to Provence does not attempt to “boil the ocean.” Keith acknowledges in the initial paragraphs that covering this vast region in one book is impractical. Instead, the focus is on the areas that Keith knows best and places that they have visited time and again in the last 30 years. As they live in St Rémy de Provence when they are in the region, there is a lot of specific information on this town and other Alpilles villages. In addition, there are pro tips and proposed itineraries to the Luberon, the Southern Rhône vineyards, the papal city of Avignon and much more.
“There are hundreds of links in the book, so if you want to know more about a certain subject, or want to see something like a restaurant’s website, just follow the link.” ~Excerpt from An Insider’s Guide to Provence.
The first section – “Tips on Traveling in Provence” – contains valuable advice on why the region is all about slow travel and how to manage your expectations accordingly.
Should you plan to drive during your stay in the region. The “Driving” section covers critical things to know before you turn the key.
Whether or not this is your first time in southern France, “How to Spend a Week in Provence” includes ideas for excursions. Head to Avignon or Aix-en-Provence and follow Keith’s tips for where to have a coffee, lunch, a glass of rosé or pastis, and of course, the sites worth seeing.
There is an entire chapter dedicated to St Rémy de Provence. Discover this town’s interesting past, famous residents, and not to be missed highlights. The Wednesday morning market is fabulous but can be overwhelming for a first visit. Keith shares their favourite market stalls and shopping tips.
He has written similar sections on The Luberon Valley, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Roman Provence and Jewish Provence. An Insider’s Guide to Provence is an essential resource for your next trip to the region.
Don’t leave home without this book!
Some Questions for the Author
Why does the image on the book’s cover convey the Provencal lifestyle for you?
Val took the photo at one of our favourite restaurants, Château des Alpilles in St-Rémy. It is a hotel surrounded by an enormous park. That table makes me think of long, relaxed meals on a warm, Provençal day. And for me, those magnificent plane trees are the symbol of Provence. My favourite road in France is the one into St-Rémy, with the plane trees overhead and the beautiful Alpilles Mountains in the distance.
You previously published two memoir-style books. What made you decide to create this supplemental guidebook?
When Val and I travel somewhere new, we get a standard guidebook from Fodor’s or Rick Steves or someone like that. But we also look for a guidebook written by someone local because it gives us a different perspective from a general guide. As a result, we learn about things to see and do that we wouldn’t know of otherwise, the “insider secrets” that the big guidebooks miss.
We’ve now lived in Provence for over a dozen years, always looking for fun new things to do. And we have French friends who introduce us to their favourites. So, we’ve got a fair bit of local knowledge that we’d like to share with other visitors to this glorious corner of France.
Once you began the process, how long did it take to pull everything together?
It took about nine months from start to finish. The book is based on past research and articles that I’ve written for great websites like Perfectly Provence, and it would have taken much longer if I’d started from scratch!
Do you intend to continue updating the guide? Or create additional guides for other areas in Provence?
I’m always learning new things about Provence, so yes, I plan to update it occasionally.
There is a lot of material in the book about St-Rémy and the surrounding villages of the Alpilles mountains, so I plan to create a separate book just focused on that area. As far as I know, there is no guidebook dedicated to St-Rémy and the Alpilles, so I hope that visitors to the area will find it helpful.
Who are the Readers?
An Insider’s Guide to Provence is the perfect travel guide for anyone planning a holiday in Provence. In addition, regular visitors to the region will appreciate Keith’s “Pro tips” for new ideas and dining information. The Kindle/e-reader/smartphone version is for use while travelling and includes hyperlinks to websites, additional reading, and maps. Also available in a paperback version for easy reference while travelling.
Where to Buy the Book
The book is available online at Amazon in paperback and e-versions by clicking this link.
Or click the book cover below:
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