Books on ProvenceCarolyne Kauser-AbbottInspire

Book Review: Passion for Provence a Memoir by Gayle Smith Padgett

While reading Gayle Smith Padgett’s book, Passion for Provence, 22 Keys to La Belle Vie, I kept thinking this lady is someone you would enjoy getting to know in person. The book (her first) is just over 260 pages long, after each of the 22 chapters she shares her “key” (a motto or a saying) to coping with life in Provence. This memoir is a light-hearted view of what can be challenging for any couple; a strange country, new friends, limited language skills and oh-la-la the famous French bureaucracy.

Passion for Provence Book Gayle Smith Padgett

Padgett and her husband Ralph are American transplants who after working in Heidelberg, Germany for two decades decided to retire to Provence. Hardly out of the blue, their move was the result of several vacation forays (she calls it flirting) to the South of France over those years.

Passion for Provence, 22 Keys to La Belle Vie begins on the tennis courts in Arlington, Virginia where the couple first met. From the early pages of her novel, it is clear that Padgett is always focused on the task at hand, in this case encountering the good-looking man at the tennis club. Apparently, Ralph never stood a chance against her charms and tennis prowess.

Outside of the initial pages, Padgett’s book is a recount of their relocation to Provence, including a few house-sitting adventures and an apartment in Aix-en-Provence. Padgett is apparently one who has a preference for “don’t take life too seriously” each chapter in the book is an amusing short story about their new life in France. Many of these tales are ones that I could relate to, although I have to admit I have (yet) to confuse Port Cros with Porquerolles.

Porquerolles Provence

After a period in Aix-en-Provence, the couple relocated to St Remy de Provence, in the Alpilles. It is easy to understand why they were attracted to this charming town with its pedestrian-friendly centre, chic boutiques, busy restaurants, and plenty of history. However, probably the most important factor driving their move was the easy access to the Alpilles and the Camargue for Ralph who is an enthusiastic birdwatcher.

Pink Flamingos Camargue Provence @PerfProvence

Once the couple decided to make their stay in France a little more permanent, they set their sights on the carte de séjour (long-stay visa). As you might imagine, this application process requires plenty of paperwork. Padgett’s descriptions of their multiple visits to the sous-préfecture in Arles mirrored our own so tightly that I began to wonder if we had been there on the same day. After all, who else would notice the presence of a new coffee vending machine, but still no bathroom. Persistence is undoubtedly one of Padgett’s many talents, after five years of visa paperwork they can proudly call themselves Franco-Americans and flash their 10-year visa cards.

Order your copy of Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie and enjoy this funny, witty memoir. This book (available in paperback or on Kindle) is a useful resource for anyone considering an expat relocation to France.

How did Padgett write the book? Read How Journaling leads to Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie.


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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).


  1. April 26, 2018 at 5:49 am — Reply

    I just finished the book and really enjoyed it! As someone who also lives in St-Rémy, I can say that Padgett does an excellent job of capturing the sights, sounds, and especially the “feel” of the place.

    • April 26, 2018 at 7:25 am — Reply

      Thanks, Keith. I agree Gayle Padgett captured the “feel” of their life in Provence and with a dose of humour about expat realities.

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