A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France Paperback – 16 Sep 2012
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About the Author
MARIBETH CLEMENTE is the author of The Chic Shopper's Guide to Paris, The Riches of Paris: A Shopping and Touring Guide and The Riches of France: A Shopping and Touring Guide to the French Provinces. She lived eleven years in France and then moved to Colorado where she has lived for over a decade. Maribeth hosts a travel radio show, blogs on her website, www.bonjourcolorado.com, and writes for various travel publications and websites. For more related to A Tour of the Heart, including a travel guide to the regions she covers in this book, visit www.atouroftheheart.com.
Top customer reviews
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From the beginning I loved Maribeth's style, the descriptions of the areas they visit and their meals transported me from the cold foggy winter into the delights of holidaying in France. Although I will admit to being insanely jealous of the doors that opened to her because of her status as journaliste americaine!
The book is set in two parts, the first part their journey through France the second their return to cover the 2001 Tour de France. Set at the height of Lance Armstrong's fame, things have a different edge to them now, but she certainly portrays the hype and excitement of the time.
This is probably not the book for you if you are a bloke looking for a book on cycling in France, as like her companion Pete you may find there is not enough cycling, however if you want an inside snoop at what goes on in the mind of a woman read on - but be aware, be very aware! It certainly brought back memories of how with boyfriend number one I was constantly trying to analyse the relationship and work out how I could change or become a better fit, in order to make `us' work. Something I had forgotten I'd done as maybe when you find the person who fits just right you don't need to analyse any more - either that or it is just an age/length of time together thing.
Maribeth is a travel writer who has lived in France and obviously loves France so it is no surprise that the one thing that came across and stayed with me in this book is her descriptions of France, the places they visit and the food they taste.
She sets off with boyfriend Pete in the late Summer of 2000, a time before the public demise of Lance Armstrong, and they start their tour in Paris; from there the route will encompass Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon and the South West Basque area. Their remit is to enjoy the countryside and take in the sights, whilst savouring the food and discovering a wealth of beautiful accommodation (no, not jealous at all). Interwoven into the itinerary are some of the stages of the Tour De France, which is a terrific challenge for Pete, who is a cycliste extraordinaire, determined, resilient and focussed. Maribeth does on occasion seem to struggle to keep up with his devotion to his sport.
There is cycling jargon aplenty but not enough for ennui. The peloton (essentially group riding) has its purpose, drafting is avoided; the riders will often need to replenish around 8-9000 calories per day (they even were spotted having a glass of wine of an evening!); and having read this memoir, I will watch the event with greater interest as she explains some of the intricacies with aplomb. Imagine, for example as Pete climbs the Ventoux, a mountain in Provence where the Mistral wind can howl mercilessly – the Tour de France riders whizz up it like it is a Sunday stroll. Imagine getting lost as night falls as she tries to get back from Nuits-St-Georges to Beaune, the tension and anxiety are palpable (remember, Sat Navs weren’t ubiquitous when she was writing this memoir). Or erring onto the highway with lorries thundering past…
Enjoy the foodie moments, ginger honey ice cream, a Blanquette de Limoux, Collioure being the ‘only place’ to eat anchovies and Agen the place for the top plums (prunes); experience through her eyes the maïs festival in Laàs and stay with her in the company of Georges and Marc at the Domaine de Clavié..
She interweaves French into the text and gently enables understanding, which makes it feel more of an altogether French experience. She is an American writer and therefore the text is American – and as ever UK English and American English can be poles apart, the rift widening every year I think. Amusingly, “You’ve bonked” has a very different meaning in UK English than it clearly does in American!
Oh, and what becomes of her relationship with Pete? They clearly have tender moments and she adores him, but are her feelings as deeply reciprocated? He can be quite irascible at times and she spends quite some time patching and pacifying – the intensity of their mission of cycling around France for sure has an impact on the relationship, yet some of the cracks feel like an insurmountable emotional mountain to climb….
The cover is worth a mention only in that I don’t feel it really does justice to the content. It is done, I think, in bright pastels, and is therefore eye catching, yet the central figures are a bit patchy. But the sense of speed and romance is certainly present.
I was drawn to the author throughout for her clear intelligence and honesty about many aspects of her life and travels. I feel, however, she spent too much time trying to satisfy her boorish travelling companion and too much time telling us how he needed to be considered...whereas I would have kicked his butt!
Good book, buy it!
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