The Traveling Bookworm in the French Riviera

Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… the French riviera!

Ever since I visited Nice, St. Paul de Vence and the Provence when I was fifteen, I’ve been dreaming of going back there. And it’s finally time! When covid hit, I couldn’t think of any reason why I hadn’t done that: go back. So I made a vow: as soon as it’s possible, I’m going. And now, the borders are opening up, I had a covid test this morning as it’s required and tomorrow morning, we’re going on a roadtrip! First stop is Dijon and the next day, we’re going to Nice! I cannot wait ♥ To make the waiting time a little easier, I’ve been reading books set in the French Riviera. Time for an overview of the best ones!

Non-Fiction

  • Travel guides are useful to discover which exact place you want to visit on your trip. I’ve got a bunch of them, one of them being for Nice. Useful, but not exactly fun to read as the information presented is often dry and dense. For this trip I discovered an alternative travel guide: Travels through the French Riviera by Virginia Johnson. The perfect booktitle for this blogpost, don’t you think? It’s an artist guide and it’s a crossover between travel guide and filled sketchbook. The book focuses on 7 cities, namely: Menton, Nice, Saint-Jena-Cap-Ferrat, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Vence, Antibes and Saint-Tropez. It mentions highlights, the best beaches, restaurants and shops but only a few, and only ones the author was interested in: the ones where famous artists lived and worked. The book also contains beautiful watercolor sketches and maps, which makes it a useful and beautiful book if you want to know more about the area. Especially for artists, as it also mentions shops where you can buy the best paints and what colors to use to depict the French riviera best, but it’s also perfect for those who love beautiful books.
  • Another book that is great if you want to know more about the area and are especially interested in authors that lived there and wrote about it, is The French Riviera by Ted Jones. It focuses on a couple of cities: Hyères, Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Cap Ferrat, Monaco and Menton, but also the back country. I really enjoyed reading it, as an who-lived-where but also who-wrote-what about the cities. Where did they get their inspiration and what were their findings about the riviera. I especially liked reading about authors and books that I have read and others I’ve added to my reading list.
  • A book that directly comes to mind when you’re traveling to Provence, is a year in Provence by Peter Mayle. Some 40 years ago, Mayle moved from England to Provence and chronicled his first year as an expat. The book has become very popular since then. It reads as a story with a little humor here and there and even if it’s more useful to someone who might want to live in the Provence, the book really does transport you to the area.

Literature

  • If you’re visiting Cannes, and in particular the famous film festival, a book you must read is The winner stands alone by Paulo Coelho. Coelho’s The alchemist is read by travelers worldwide but his other books are also definitely well worth a read. The winner stands alone describes one day at the Cannes Film Festival and follows multiple characters. All of them, except Igor, pursue the kind of fame the festival is known for. The book is about this fame and the illusion, about manipulated dreams, but also about how to get away with murder.
  • Bonjour Tristesse is a classic and is set in the French Riviera. Françoise Sagan wrote this book when she was only 18 years old. The story describes the summer where main character Cécile is seventeen, as she spends her days lounging in the sun, swimming and living the good life. Her father, who has a different girlfriend every couple of months, decides to invite Anne, an old friend of Cécile’s late mother, despite his current girlfriend Elsa being there with them. (I must admit that I found it funny they were named Anne and Elsa, though this book was written way before Frozen was a thing). Cécile doesn’t dislike Anne, but when her father decides to marry her, Cécile knows her luxurious life will come to an end and she has to put a stop to it. Even though she knows she is in the wrong, and she doesn’t really wanna go through with the plan, she still does. I loved this book because the characters are so well written. You can really see Cécile’s struggles and her dreams, the way she tries to justify her actions even if she herself knows that they’re no good. It’s a short coming of age story about a girl who really doesn’t want to come of age. And who can blame her, as her summer is one we’d probably all long for when we’re traveling to the seaside.
  • It’s funny how most books I’ve read describe the French Riviera as a paradise, with lounging, swimming, good food, alcohol and sex. Ernest Hemingway is no different. He wrote The Garden of Eden, a book about the honeymoon of David and Catherine. But there is trouble in paradise when Catherine shows her true self, as she is getting controlling, jealous and crazy. The book is not a difficult read but there are a lot of layers that I am still trying to unwrap. One of the best books I’ve read by Hemingway so far!

Fiction

  • If you want some great books that are easier to read, one you should pick up is Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands. It starts a bit depressing when Arianna’s husband gets dementia. The author quickly sketches his sickness and Arianna’s grief. Two years later, the husband is still alive but a shell of his former self and living in a special facility. Arianna needs to find herself again and after her daughter’s insistence, she goes on an artist’s retreat in Provence where she will rediscover the beauty of life and find her artistic spark again. The book is set in Arles, which is were Vincent van Gogh lived for a while and made lots of artwork. The book is about life, art and Provence and is on the one hand a beautiful story about what’s important in life, and on the other hand an informative account of the things Arles and surroundings have to offer, such as bloodless bullfighting, museums, the food, the history of Van Gogh and the Camargue. Though the beginning of the book is somewhat depressing, the greater part is light reading.
  • I liked The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. It’s historical fiction with mystery and what appear to be ghosts. The book focuses on two storylines, the first being the story of Dom and Eve. Eve falls quickly for this man who is 15 years older than she is, and who hides his past. When he decides to buy an old farmhouse in the French riviera, they start living the idyllic life while fixing up the place, until Eve wants to learn more about Dom’s ex wife and he refuses to answer her. What is he hiding? The second storyline is an older woman, living in the same farm but earlier (not sure how much earlier), who looks back on her life as the ghosts of her past come to haunt her. She especially focuses on her blind sister, who went to work for a perfume factory and became famous. Both of the storylines are detailed and well-written, and make it hard to put the book down. I liked how the stories intertwine at the end.
  • If you love romantic books, you should definitely pick up Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas. The book is about a woman who moves to Provence with her husband and when he decides to move yet again, she decides to stay. She has to make it on her own in a country she doesn’t know and a language she doesn’t speak. It’s a lovely story about finding yourself and standing on your own two legs, set in the beautiful area of the French Riviera.
  • Another great book, set in Nice this time, is Akin by Emma Donoghue. Protagonist Noah, a retired widower of 79, has planned a trip to Nice, where he was born and spent the first couple of years of his life before moving to New York city as a little boy. He never returned but now he wants to go back. But then he receives a call from social services. He turns out to be the closest available relative to his 11 year old great-nephew, whom he has never seen before. After quite a hassle, Noah feels obligated to take care of the boy, and takes him with him to France. There is so much in this book, a historical fiction set in the beautiful area of Nice, one I could really recommend.

The Traveling Bookworm in Iceland

Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… Iceland!

Last year we had planned an extensive trip to Iceland. We would hire a car an drive around the country. Our itinerary was packed with beautiful sightings and we were so excited to go. Of course, things didn’t really go according to plan, but the itinerary (and our travel vouchers) are waiting until we can travel again. I had already read a bunch of books about Iceland to get inspired for our trip. So even though we haven’t gone yet, we can travel to Iceland through books. Time for the best ones!

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The Traveling Bookclub: March

The traveling bookclub is a new bookclub focusing on books situated in a specific country or city. Books have a way of transporting us to other worlds, letting us visit cities and places from the comfort of our own homes. Especially now, when travel is simply not possible for most of us, books can be an escape. I’ve brought the Traveling Bookclub to life so we can travel these bookworlds together and chat about them when we finished reading.

The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt (february bookclub pick)

Last month we read The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, a graphic novel written by Andrea Wulf and illustrated by Lilian Melcher, accompanied by Humboldt’s own drawings/writings.
Humboldt (1769-1859) was an explorer and scientist with a severe need to explore and travel the world. This book focuses on his travels to south America and his findings.

In the bookclub we talked about how much we learned about him through the book, we talked about the pictures and the way the book seems to jump from highlight to highlight, without giving too much information on the in-betweens. We suspected that this represented the enthusiasm with which Humboldt explored the world. We also talked about favourite passages and what we did and didn’t like about the book. The consensus was that this is a great book for everyone who likes to travel and explore the world, and to learn a bit more about this specific famous explorer. Though the drawings could have been a lot nicer.

Besides this book, Andrea Wulf also published a non-fiction book about Humboldt, called The invention of Nature. I’ve been reading this book alongside the graphic novel to fill in the blanks and get a little bit more information about Humboldts life. I’d highly recommend this book too, as it is a great read and highly informative.

The Paris Library (march bookclub pick)

For the march bookclub, I had selected two titles the bookclub members could vote for. The book that won was The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles.

This book is set in World War Two and is based on a true story about brave librarians in Paris and the power of literature. Though I am not a big fan of WW2 literature, this book focuses on a lot of things that I love; namely literature and Paris. I’ll share the goodreads summary:

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

The bookclub will take place at the end of the month, and you can still join! The bookclub is free (you’ll only have to get your hands on the book) and we’ll chat away about the book on our discord server, which you can find here.

The Tiny Traveling Bookworm

This traveling bookworm post is a little different than you’re used to, because it is not linked to a city/country, but an age group. Normally, whenever I’m planning a trip I look for authors from the area I’m visiting, but today’s post will cover children books about traveling. Earlier I wrote Books for the stuck-at-home traveler, books that are about traveling in general and now I want to do the same thing with children’s books, because there are so many gorgeous books written for children that I want to share with you.

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New: The traveling Bookclub

I’ve got some exciting news for you! As you might have picked up by now, I love books almost as much as I love traveling. That means I really enjoy reading, but also that I love talking about books. I have been in a few bookclubs but had to cancel them when I moved to far away. Then I thought, why not start my own, international, online bookclub?

I’ve got a segment on this blog called The traveling bookworm where I talk about books that are related to travel. I focus on a specific city or country and recommend books written by authors from those regions or books that are set there. It’s something that I really love to do and I thought it would be a great idea to combine this with a bookclub where we can discuss those books together! I asked around on Instagram and quite some people were interested, so let’s make it official!

Wanderlust Wonderland – The Traveling Bookclub is now live!

The international bookclub will be live through discord, so everyone can join, regardless of where you are in the world. I think it would be great to have a community of both readers and wanderlusters, together, talking about traveling and books. So, are you in?

I want to choose a new book every month, and there will be a poll where bookclubbers can vote for their favourite book. The book that wins, is the book we all shall read. For the first bookclub, however, I have picked a book myself since that seemed an easy way to start.

The books that we will discuss in this bookclub will have to do with travel, or somehow engaging with the location it’s set in in a meaningful way. Think about books like Death in Venice, The Salt Path, Eat, Pray, Love or The Medici. For our first bookclub I have chosen a graphic novel that’s written by Andrea Wulf and illustrated by Lillian Melcher, called: The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt.

This book focuses on the life of (well duh) Alexander von Humboldt, who was an explorer and scientist in the 18th and 19th century and this book focuses on his travels, adventures and discoveries. Check out the goodreads page of the book if you wanna know more!

Join the bookclub by sigining up through this link and stay tuned for more information 🙂

Best bookstores in the Netherlands

For those of you who know me, or who have been following this blog for a while, know I’m a huge bookworm. I always look up books to read that are set in the area I’m visiting or written by authors from that country. In addition to that, I always love to find the best bookstores in town and have a list of bookstores I still want to visit. In today’s post, I want to show you all of the beautiful bookstores my own country has to offer! Time for a list of the 3 must-visit bookstores in the Netherlands!

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The Traveling Bookworm in Italy

Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… Italy!

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The Traveling Bookworm in Amsterdam

Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… Amsterdam!

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The traveling bookworm in Portugal

Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… Lisbon!

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