*NEW* ‘An Insider’s Guide to Provence’ by Keith Van Sickle—interview

Introducing Keith Van Sickle

We met Keith two years ago as part of our MyFrenchLifeTM Member Interview Series, at which time he told us about his life in Provence with his wife Val, and how they split their time between Provence and California.

Keith is the author of two funny memoirs about their Provençal life and has been, for some time, a regular Contributor to MyFrenchLifeTM magazine.

And… he has just written a guidebook titled ‘An Insider’s Guide to Provence‘ and we wanted to know all about it and thought that you would too.

So let’s go!

Keith, how did you come to live in Provence?

Val and I were once expats in Switzerland, living and working in the French-speaking part of the country. It was life-changing! After our expat assignment ended and we returned to California, we longed to be back in Europe.

We tried to find another expat gig but had no luck, so about a dozen years ago we decided to invent our own. We became consultants so that we could sometimes work from a distance, then began living part-time in France.

We are not city people and we enjoy warm weather, so we decided to live in Provence.

We tried different towns and finally settled on St-Rémy-de-Provence, famous as the place where Vincent van Gogh once lived. It’s a perfect size for us, large enough to have plenty to do but small enough that we can be walking in the countryside within minutes. And it’s near the Alpilles Mountains Natural Park, a wonderful area for hiking and biking.

Why did you decide to write a ‘Guidebook’ to Provence?

When we travel to new places, we look for guides written by locals, as a supplement to our guidebooks from Rick Steves or Lonely Planet or whomever. We find that local Guides give us a point of view that’s missing in general guidebooks, and sometimes we learn about places we wouldn’t know of otherwise.

Having lived in Provence for some years, with many French friends, we now have a lot of local knowledge that we thought would be fun to share with others.

My book is a collection of our favorite things to see and do—restaurants and wineries, hiking and biking routes, quirky things to see, that sort of thing.

My hope is that readers will learn a few things that they won’t find in a standard guidebook, that will help make their trip special.

A real ‘local’ guide.

Does your book include the main tourist sites or the Insider Secrets?


It has some of the same material you’d find in a standard guidebook, like a suggested seven-day itinerary and resources for planning your trip.

And I cover the major regions of Provence, with recommended restaurants and wineries, that sort of thing. 

I also offer dining suggestions for vegans, vegetarians, and also for those who are gluten-intolerant, which I’m not sure all guidebooks include.

While my book covers many popular sites, I try to offer a different perspective. I describe how the Popes came to live in Avignon, for example, and explain how to explore Provence’s rich Jewish heritage.

And there are definitely insider secrets, like a hidden parking lot that only the locals know about. Or a secret picnic spot with a magnificent view of the Luberon Valley. And do you know about the winemaker who still makes wines the way the Romans did?

How is your book different from other guidebooks?

It is designed to be complementary to the standard guidebooks.

I try not to be redundant—there is no information about lodging, for example, and it is focused primarily on the part of western Provence where I live.

But by focusing, I can offer more depth.

My book is designed to be useful on the go, therefore it includes hundreds of links.

If a reader would like to know more about a particular subject or go directly to a restaurant’s website, they can just click on the link.

Or if they’d like to know where something is, they can click on the map symbol and Google Maps will show them.

These links are available in both the e-book and paperback versions, and there is also a page on my website with all of the links that you can access at any time.

I also include useful information for daily living, for example, how to navigate a French pharmacy, and how to interpret the symbols at a tollbooth.


  • I share some interesting local culture (how many kisses to give someone),
  • history (the town that banned UFOs), and
  • funny local expressions.

Where can we find your book?

‘An Insider’s Guide to Provence’ is available on Amazon, as both Kindle and paperback. If someone is interested in buying it, I suggest they use the “Look inside” feature and check out the table of contents to see if it’s the right guidebook for them.

Praise for ‘An Insider’s Guide to Provence’ by Judy MacMahon

“It was so refreshing to read ‘An Insider’s Guide to Provence‘. Keith, your passion to share local knowledge is infectious and allows us to feel local even before we arrive. Travellers today are looking to be more intimately informed and I’m sure that they’ll love learning about Provence through storytelling and humour as I did. They will not be disappointed with this modern guidebook, so generously compiled with interesting information and practical recommendations—it is a bottomless treasure.”
Judy MacMahon – Fondatrice – MyFrenchLife Magazine

Merci mille fois Keith !

So, how well do you know Provence? Well, now here is a fun QUIZ about Provence by Keith Van Sickle.

There you’ll have the opportunity to win an e-copy of Keith’s brand new ‘An Insider’s Guide to Provence

To be eligible to win:
1. make a comment about Provence below – your favourite place perhaps AND

2. try your Provence knowledge in the QUIZ

Have you been to Provence, which is your favourite place? Share with Keith in the comments below.

Image Credits:
Photos of Van Sickle via Keith Van Sickle
Alpilles mountains via Alpilles From the Air © Gilles Lagnel
Roman harvest via Mas des Tourelles © C. Parent
Pont du Gard via Pont du Gard website   
Synagogue via Carpentras synagogue website
Toll booth via Wikimedia.org 

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife.org MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon - MyFrenchLife.org

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.