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About Neal Atherton
France came late to me as a destination, in fact so conservative was my travel upbringing that it was a long time before I even ventured to Cornwall. I have more than made up for the slow start and have enjoyed helping many others with their travel plans to France and especially to Paris and Provence.
I have written a series of four books on France - Three are now on Amazon:THE FIRST TIME WE SAW PARIS about our first steps in French Travel, THYME FOR PROVENCE our discovery of that glorious region and the people and places we met and discovered, A DREAM OF PARIS a personal memoir of our times in Paris with friends.
France has been fun, we have been burgled on our very first arrival, we discovered the best cafe that changed our travel lives on the very next day, we learnt about French wine, we escaped from the most horrendous gite, we found the best of gites, B & B's and people, we laughed and cried with dear friends in Paris, I was hosed down by a crazy owner to cool me down in Provence, our breakfast in a remote village was served by the French army, we stepped totally out of our comfort zone and discovered the best of French culture. The experiences are varied and many and please come with me as I retell the stories and my footsteps are there to follow.
I am also writing about ancestry and genealogy and my first book about our incredible family story themed around war and the military is now on Amazon - A BULLET FOR LIFE.
I love the English game of cricket, golf, soccer, photography, walking and cooking. Oh, and travel of course.
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Across the channel - a sense of wonder at seeing Paris for the first time - south on Autoroute du Soleil - Catalonia & the Mediterranean Sea - Innocents Abroad.
What did we find - what is France REALLY like?
We found a lifelong love of France BUT first .........
French travel has been fun, we were burgled on our very first night, we discovered the finest cafe that changed our travel lives the very next morning, we learned about French wine, we escaped the most horrendous gite, we found the best of gites, B & B's & people, we laughed and cried with dear friends in Paris, I was hosed down by a crazy owner to 'cool me down' in Provence, our breakfast was served by the French army, we stepped out of our comfort zone and discovered the best of French culture.
The experiences are many and varied and this is the first of four travel memoirs that tell the full story - PROVENCE is next - Please be with me from the start. - Please use the LOOK INSIDE feature
I will inspire you to find the most amazing places & people yourself in this wonderful land
For me it has been the most remarkable ride for a very reluctant traveller - Come with me
The opening of our story:
Walking down a bakingly hot Rue Alsace Lorraine in Perpignan I was feeling very sorry for myself and rightly extremely guilty about all that my family had endured now that their first French holiday had started so dreadfully badly. All that will be revealed later. On the right hand side of this narrow street we came across Le Malassis, a small typically French, Café bar, that shone out to our bedraggled party like the oasis of calm and welcome that we so desperately needed. For us this fine little café and its owner would become the turning point towards a lifelong love of France, its food, wine, culture and people. A small red metal table and four chairs was available on the narrow pavement terrace next to two young Japanese tourists sitting engrossed in their camera at the other occupied table. We were more than delighted to be seated at this welcoming oasis. The chef patron was leaning nonchalantly on the doorframe of the café taking a mid-morning cigarette break but keeping his chef’s hat, his toque blanche, firmly on his head. My exposed and I suppose I have to admit it, a head that was rather now lacking in top cover was swiftly heading towards the colour of a London Bus or a glorious Languedoc Rosé wine. Monsieur Le Chef headed languidly over from his station at the door and looked pityingly at my once pale Lancashire complexion. He slowly took off his toque and placed it firmly on my head to protect me from the blazing sun.
Two words were all he said, ‘Tete Rouge’.
Now France made sense, my mood transformed.
Kindle EditionVerified Purchase - Australian reader
'Found this well written and informative. Certainly gets the atmosphere of Paris and especially the gastronomic side of what Paris has to offer'
The long and wonderful evening we spent at Le Hide Restaurant on Rue du General Lanrezac just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe was sadly drawing to a close. The time spent at the table had stretched to around four hours and had been a joyous and unforgettable occasion for the eight subscribers of our member’s only village wine club – actually just our cottage dining room. Roman, our generous and delightful waiter who kept us entertained all evening with his patient, limitless good humour moved across the floor to present us with our extensive bill. “Roman, mais non, nous aurons tous un Armagnac” said James or words to that effect. Roman, heavy eyes already wanting to drift off to sleep, simply hooked his collar onto the coat rack and feigned a deep restful sleep somewhere, anywhere but still serving les Anglais in the cosy restaurant.
Is Paris More Beautiful in the Rain?
This is a personal memoir of our times spent in Paris and our love of this endlessly absorbing city and its people.
I recall many travels with friends, finding restaurants & cafes and enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris.
I travel in the footsteps of Hemingway and enrich the writing with the history and art the city has produced.
My fascination with how the city and its people were affected by the Occupation and eventual liberation in August 1944 and how that personally affected me. I face the challenge of returning to find out how Paris recovers from the appalling events of the night of the Bataclan attacks.
The theme of the film 'Midnight in Paris' threads through the strolls through Paris and 'Is Paris more beautiful in the rain?' I have not set it out to be a guidebook but it will inspire you to follow my footsteps but most of all make you dream of Paris and to visit making your own memories.
This is the third book of my French series.
"Like sitting with a friend telling you about his trip" Goodreads
"Descriptions were awesome" Goodreads "Lovely descriptions and atmospheric moments" Goodreads
"Real to life and not just a travelog" Amazon US Verified
This is an affectionate account of our French travels in Provence - meeting so many remarkable (and eccentric) people and places over a 20 year period travelling by car from the North of England.
Is it a guide book? Well, the people and places are there but I really want to inspire you to make your own journey and treasure this gorgeous region of breathtaking scenery and the finest food and wine.
If not, then be entertained from your armchair and let your imagination take you to the lavender fields in a delightful summer read. Enjoy until we can travel again.
PLEASE 'LOOK INSIDE' for the first part of the book :
‘Monsieur, vous êtes très chaud du voyage
- you are hot from the journey, oui?’
I could only agree that I was indeed the very picture of the Englishman in the noonday sun.
She broke away from watering her extensive and beautiful enclosed garden.
‘I will cool you down’
Turning the hose on my fully clothed self she most certainly did that.
PRAISE FOR 'THYME FOR PROVENCE'
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed
Reviewed in the United States on April 27, 2020
I enjoyed this book so very much. As I read it, I felt like I was sitting with a friend and he was telling me about his trip. The descriptions of the countryside were awesome only outdone by the ones about the food I recommend it and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
It was a wine tasting that was warm, generous and convivial, as warm and generous as the spicy red wine produced in his sun baked Southern vineyard. Our new friend makes up a case of red and rosé and carries it outside the ancient domaine to our car. As he does so two other members of the family are returning the ancient tractor from the fields and they smile at us, no doubt knowing that we have been charmed by the hospitality of their father. M.Oliver firmly shakes my hand and I bid him goodbye. Niamh’s hand he tenderly takes and bows to give it a gentle kiss. As we drive away down the dusty track we wave from the car and Niamh settles into her seat, her mind taken to another place. What a gentleman.
Our journey through the vineyards of the Languedoc is typical of the kindness and generosity shown to us by winemakers throughout France, from the Loire down through Burgundy to Provence. To taste wine and experience the pleasure of visiting the cellars and vineyards in the company of a knowledgeable and proud wine producer is a delight never forgotten.
As with my other three books that tell of our memorable encounters with the people and places of France this one is designed not specifically as a guide book but to inspire and encourage you to travel as soon as it is possible. I know you will not be disappointed.
However, I have in this book given the location and contact details of the vineyards and cellars we visited and all I am sure will delight you when you turn up at that cellar or domaine door.
Please use the Look Inside feature
Ancestry and Genealogy are so popular today and this is an inspiring story stretching over 200 years from a military perspective.
When a bullet in the Great War actually turned out to be a life saving event and the family survived to tell this remarkable story.
It travels from England to Spain and Ireland. On to South Africa and then the trenches of France. Finally the landing beaches at Salerno Italy.
Come and live through those times and experience it all set against a background of Victorian and early 20th Century England.
This was a 12 year labour of love and I include a full chapter on Ancestry research with tips and mistakes to avoid. I know - I made many.
PRAISE FOR THE FRENCH TRAVEL SERIES TRAVEL WRITINGS ★★★★★
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Those Dreaming of Travel
Reviewed in the United States on May 20, 2020
We haven't been able to travel much in this government panic, but this book can help you live through the eyes of another. Read this now and remember what it's like to travel, and read this to plan your next trip. What a great writer!
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed
Reviewed in the United States on April 27, 2020
I enjoyed this book so very much. As I read it, I felt like I was sitting with a friend and he was telling me about his trip. The descriptions of the countryside were awesome only outdone by the ones about the food I recommend it and hope you enjoy it as much as I did