Franco File Friday: Karen Wheeler (+ Book Giveaway!)

6 September 2013

After a brief, summer hiatus, Franco File Friday is back and I can think of no better feature to reignite the series than a writer with an interesting love affair with France.

Karen Wheeler, a former Fashion editor and beauty writer, left behind her fast-paced London life in 2005 to pursue a more humble and relaxed adventure in a small French village in rural Poitou-Charentes. What was meant to be home for a year turned into a permanent residence, laying the groundwork for a multitude of new stories and ideas that she would mold into three memoirs, including “Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My Heels for a New Life in France” and most recently, “The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight”, equal parts personal anecdotes and diet book hinged on the eating habits of the 18th century queen. (Available now on the Kindle or in print in early 2014). Here she shares snippets from her French life.

Describe what you love about France in three words.
Countryside, history, sunsets.

Advice for anyone dreaming of picking up their lives and settling in France?
Learn the language, make sure that you will be able to earn a living before you come, and don’t move anywhere too remote. It’s best to be in a village or within walking or cycling distance of one.

Your region’s greatest asset?
The vast, unspoilt countryside and the big sky – I’ve seen some incredible sunsets here. The Poitou-Charentes is also known for its goats’ cheese (the best in the world), melons and sunflowers.

Go-to spot in France for a getaway?
The Ile de Ré – a beautiful island off the Atlantic coast. I was introduced to it when it was still an insider secret. It isn’t a secret anymore but I still love it – there are hollyhocks everywhere, cycle paths, picturesque ports and beautiful villages.

(Karen’s petit salon, finished result. Photo by Chris Tubbs)

Most amusing or frustrating interaction with the French?
There have been so many! Once, while renovating my house, I asked my decorator to paint the wooden slatted ceiling of le petit salon in white gloss paint, before going on a work trip to London. I returned to find that he had painted the entire room – walls, doors, floor, even the fireplace, in (very expensive) high-gloss white. A misunderstanding, to be sure (I guess my French wasn’t as good as I thought it was!) but I felt as if I’d dropped off a ski slope into a crevasse. I then had to pay him again to sand it all off, which took weeks.

Yikes! Home improvement in France is shorthand for mini nightmare.

Two chances to win:

1 – In the comments section below, tell me where in France you would live if you could effortlessly pick up your life and move.
2 – ‘Like’ Lost In Cheeseland on Facebook

Each action counts toward one entry (please leave a comment per action). Entries must be posted by September 12th to qualify. The winner will be drawn at random and announced at the bottom of this post. Open to readers worldwide. Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations Sue Johnpeter!

For more of Karen’s stories, pick up copies of her books, follow her updates on Twitter and subscribe to her blog, Tout Sweet.

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