I'm a real Euro-tragic. The months between trips to Europe are long ones for me. Forever planning what I'm going to see and do and what I'll visit on my next trip seems to occupy my mind much of the time. Sometimes the pleasures of running a European travel website can be painful - pondering which gorgeous cottage or apartment to stay in, choosing which tour will take me where I want to go - it can seem like torture if my next trip is many months away!
In order to keep myself immersed in the dream (and to save the sanity of my family and friends!), I love to read memoirs and real-life stories of people who have travelled in Europe, especially those who have taken the plunge and either bought a house to rent out or moved there.
There are heaps of books by English ex-pats for whom a move across the Channel is relatively easy (from a distance point of view), but I particularly enjoy books by Aussies who have purchased their own little piece of Europe.
My Christmas wish list often includes a new Europe travel book so I thought I'd share some of the books I've read with you in case you need some holiday reading.
Travel memoirs about moving to Europe or buying a holiday property in Europe
My most recent read is Susan Cutsforth's "Our House is Certainly Not in Paris". This is the follow up from her first book, "Our House is Not in Paris" and continues the story of Susan and her husband, two Aussies from the NSW South Coast, who have bought a farm house in France's Lot region. Each year Susan and Stuart return to their little house to tackle the renovations that need finishing - and to soak up the atmosphere of living in France, albeit for a couple of months.
Susan shares their trials and tribulations as well as the joys of owning a house in France, like visits to the weekly produce markets and the vide grenier (antique markets) where she often bags a bargain, the friends she has made and the simple pleasures of living in the country.
Sometimes the follow on book can be a bit of a let down after the first, but this wasn't the case with Susan Cutsforth's book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their ongoing journey in France and am now eagerly awaiting the next instalment.
Update: A third book, "Our House is Definitely Not in Paris" was released in March 2015 and continues the story of Susan and Stuart's renovation of their French home. I enjoyed it as much as the first two books.
Sarah Turnbull's "Almost French" is a well-known book about a young Australian woman moving to Paris. It's widely available in book stores and libraries.
Henrietta Taylor's three books, "Escaping", "Lavender and Linen", and "Veuve Taylor" are the story of this Australian woman's move to France with her two young children after she becomes a widow at the age of 36. Eventually, settled in Provence, Taylor starts a business renting out holiday cottages. It's definitely not all beer and skittles, but Taylor's story makes for an enjoyable read.
The trio of books by Sydney-born Penelope Green chronicle her move to Italy and the ups and downs of life as a single woman in an adopted country. "When in Rome" is the first book in the series, followed by "See Naples and Die", and "Girl by Sea". The books give a great insight into life in Italy and a bonus feature of the third book is the inclusion of delicious Italian recipes.
"Buying a Piece of Paris", by Ellie Nielsen, is the story of an Australian woman's quest to buy an apartment in Paris, after being left a bequest by a relative. Whilst Nielsen takes the reader on a real estate journey, she also shares her experiences of temporarily living in Paris while she finds her dream apartment and navigates the notorious French red-tape of bureaucracy.
After having travelled to France many times before, Sharon Stratford and her husband David decide to buy a house in the country they love. Sharon begins writing "My French Desire" in the depths of despair after having lost her first dream house in France. Luckily, she and David are able to find and secure another dream French house - for under $100,000 AUD.
The book alternates between Sharon and David’s travels in France and their property purchasing experiences. It is a must read for anyone wanting to visit or buy property in France.
No doubt I'll be continuing to add to this list as I discover and read more memoirs, but in the meantime, you could also take a look at Chris Harrison's "Head over Heel", a great read about moving to southern Italy from an Aussie male's perspective.
More books worth reading: Another book I've read (2015) and reviewed (here) is Carolyn Tate's book "Unstuck in Provence - the courage to start over" about her move from Australia to Provence for three months to get her life back on track.
“But you are in France, Madame" is written by Australian woman Catherine Berry and chronicles the relocation of she and her family to Annecy in the French Alps. A more desirable location to settle for a year would be hard to find but of course it’s not all plain sailing.
Berry shares her tales of the difficulties encountered as the family adapts to the French way of life and of her joys as they adopt a more ‘work to live’ not ‘live to work’ lifestyle. The story of the family’s move and new life in France had me hooked from the very first page.
Travel memoirs about holidaying in Europe
Travel memoirs that I've read about holidaying in Europe by Australians include:
- Anne Rickards' "Not another book about Italy", "Ooh La La! A French Romp" and "Three in a bed in the Med".
- Sally Hammond's "Pardon My French", "Just Enough French" and "Just a Little Italian". All books include recipes from the regions of each country that Sally visits.
What do you do when you’re struck down by a serious illness? If you’ve had a long desire to travel, that’s probably one of the first things on your list. That’s exactly what prompted Australian woman Elizabeth Bauer to finally pack her bags and head to France, a country she had always dreamed of visiting.
In her travel memoir “From Moulin Rouge to Gaudi’s City”, (published in 2017), Bauer invites readers to follow along on her three week journey to Paris, the south of France and Barcelona.
I really enjoyed reading the book, particularly as I have visited almost all the places Bauer visits. It was great to reminisce about my own travel experiences whilst being entertained by the author’s journey.
Coffee table books about Europe by Australians
A few lovely 'coffee table' books I have are "My French Life" and "French Essence" by Vicki Archer, "Irresistible Italy" by Bill and Patsy Rowe, and "French Ties" by Jane Webster. You should also take a look at Janelle McCulloch's gorgeous books "Paris" and "Provence and the Cote d'Azur" which I reviewed here. Just released is "Naples - A Way of Love" by Carla Coulson and Lisa Clifford - this one might have to be added to my Christmas wish list!
These coffee table books are great to pick up and browse through when a trip to Europe seems a long way off!
If you've read any of these books or have any others I should add to my reading list, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Here's a great story I received via email:
Just thought I'd let you know I decided to visit and stay in Procida, Italy on a whim after reading Penelope Green's "Girl by Sea". Was wondering where in Europe to go to get an "authentic" travel experience so was trawling bookshops travel section when this book caught my eye. Took it home, read it, booked accommodation and our family stayed there for a week and visited may of the places in the book!
"There were almost no English speaking tourists but it is definitely a holiday haunt for Italians! We felt very privileged to experience island life and the good life with many Italians stopping and asking us (complete with charades as we don't speak Italian!) in wonder how we ended up there on holiday!
"When I returned, I contacted Penny (an Australian girl) and got such a thrill when she replied to my email! A real live, published author!!"
Bronwyn L, Sydney
NOTE: Most of the books mentioned above can be purchased in hard copy format by clicking on the links on the book titles above. Some books may also be available via Kindle or iBooks.
For handy travel guides on travelling by train and car in Europe, click here.
(All book cover photos from author's own websites.)
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