Formula One Race Cars to Provence Today
It was hardly a race back to Europe. Anne-Marie Simons moved to the United States (US) in the fall of 1966, for one year. And, stayed for 32 more. From her birthplace of Maastricht (the Netherlands), Anne-Marie’s studies in French language and culture took her to Paris and then to San Francisco for journalism.
You can read Anne-Marie’s Christmas article here.
Post-graduation she found herself in Antwerp, Belgium, at the European offices of a South African biweekly news magazine called To the Point International. Under the same publishing house was a car magazine, SA Motor, and Anne-Marie was asked to cover Formula One races in Europe. She followed the race circuit and wrote track-side articles from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and the United Kingdom. After seeing all the fast cars, Anne-Marie says that her “Biggest thrill was Monaco – nothing like it.”
Meeting deadlines at two Johannesburg-based magazines was challenging in the days of writing before the Internet, mobile phones and laptops. We asked Anne-Marie if she would share some of the highlights from her career as a journalist.
I wrote a To The Point cover story featuring Alexander Haig Jr. when he was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (and rumored Republican presidential candidate in the US). After my interview, Haig told me off the record that he was concerned about the growing influence of Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranian religious leader was living in exile in a Paris suburb, and he was agitating against the Shah’s anti-religious and pro-Western policies. A year later, the Shah fled the country, and Khomeini became the Supreme Ruler of Iran. The scenario that Haig feared had come to pass. It was one of the rare times I felt ahead of the news.
After a fast-paced career following cars and politicians around Europe, it was time for Anne-Marie and her husband Oscar to choose a retirement spot. They chose Provence. We asked Anne-Marie how they made the selection, and this is what she shared.
France was an easy choice. I had always planned to return to Europe after my working life in the US and favoured France. We did look into northern Italy and Spain as well, but found that southern France had the most to offer to retirees who are looking for a pleasant lifestyle in a comfortable climate, with easy access to culture and to international travel.
Our choice of Aix-en-Provence was a bit of a stab in the dark but has worked out very well for us. It is small yet sophisticated, and if you add Marseilles to the equation there is more than enough choice in museums, universities, conferences and theatre to keep us contented. An added benefit of Aix turned out to be that it still has half a dozen bookstores in the center, as well as three multi-theatre cinemas, all within walking distance.
Since some of our Perfectly Provence readers are expats, we asked Anne-Marie if there was ever an occasion that made them want to pack their bags and leave Provence. Good news…
No, never. Our biggest frustration was with the French driver’s license, which is difficult and expensive to get. Other than that, it takes a bit of getting used to the shops’ opening hours and the frequent strikes, but as retirees this has very little effect on us.
Anne-Marie and Oscar are retired, but they are far from idle as they continue to explore Provence and all it has to offer. These discoveries have provided fodder for books and a blog. Anne-Marie shares some detail on both below:
My book writing is a rather modest affair. After we had moved, I felt the need to share my new lifestyle and discoveries with friends. After a while, I began doing research into the background of a number of things like religious and pagan festivals, the food fetish, the Provençal language, folklore and village traditions. This grew into material for my first book, self-published and not entirely to my satisfaction.
Three years later I expanded the first one into a second book (Taking Root in Provence) on the same general subject. This is one nearly twice as long, illustrated and issued by a publisher – a great relief for someone who is not good at marketing herself. Follow this link if you are interested in reading Anne-Marie’s book.
I just like to write, and after publishing my last book I started writing a blog, Provence Today. Whereas my books deal mostly with the cultural and lifestyle differences expatriates might find in France, drawn from my personal experience, my blog covers France from a socio-political angle.
Image credits: Photos were provided by and published with the permission of Anne-Marie Simons