Friday 10: Fall Books and Nooks

A couple of weeks ago I updated my reading list and started thinking about how great it is to read a book set in the place you're visiting.

This week's Friday 10 is about just that: five autumn-worthy books paired with five dreamy nooks to read them in.

Rebecca & Cornwall

Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is an atmospheric, suspenseful, gothic tale of love and fear. The narrator, the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter, is newly married when her widower husband takes her to his grand estate, Manderlay, on the Cornish coast. She is young, timid, and quickly becomes overwhelmed by the house. She is also haunted by the spectre of Rebecca, Maxim's first wife. I won't give much more away, but it is one of those books that sucked me from the first line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again." And it didn't let me go for weeks after I finished reading it. 

There is no other place to stay when reading Rebecca than Polridmouth cottage on the Menabilly Estate. It's tucked away between the south coast of Cornwall, a freshwater lake, and private woodland.

Menabilly was one of Du Maurier's favorite places. She lived there with her family from 1943 to 1969. Although Milton Hall was the model for Manderlay, Menabilly was the inspiration for the estate's setting.

The Thirteenth Tale & Yorkshire

We're staying in England for our second pairing. Diane Setterfield's novel The Thirteenth Tale is about a young biographer, Margaret Lea, who is chosen to write the biography of ailing reclusive novelist, Vida Winter. Lea is confused as to why she was chosen, especially since she has never read Winter's work before. Since her father owns an antique book shop, she is able to get her hands on a rare copy of Winter's Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. When Lea realizes there are only twelve tales in the book, she become increasingly interested in unraveling the mysteries surrounding Winter's life. 

The Thirteenth Tale takes place on the Yorkshire moors, so I thought Unique Home Stay's Bramblewick would be the perfect place to get cozy with the book. It has just about everything I could ask for in an English cottage: stunning views, a wood fireplace, numerous comfy places to hunker down with a book, and lots of walking trails from the house through the North York Moors National Park or around the Robin Hood's Bay (to fish and chips!). 

Imagine spending an afternoon walking the beautiful, wild moors and coming back to a hot tea, a view of the sea, and a gothic tale.


The Shadow of the Wind & Barcelona

We're off to post-war Barcelona now with Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind. The book begins with Daniel and his father walking through the streets of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel's father owns shop full of used and rare books. He is also one of the few people in the city who knows about and cares for the labyrinthine Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which keeps out of print books from being lost forever. Tradition dictates that when someone visits the cemetery for the first time, they must choose one book to keep and watch over. Daniel chooses (or does the book choose him?) a novel entitled The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. As soon as he starts reading it, he becomes enthralled with the story and wants to find more from the author. 

Soon afterward, Daniel learns that all of Carax's books have been destroyed except for his copy, but someone is bound and determined to destroy it, too. While trying to protect the book, Daniel stirs up--and puts himself in the middle--of an old, dangerous unsolved mystery. 

The city itself is like a character in The Shadow on the Wind. My copy of the book even includes a walking tour of the important spots, which you can also find here. So the place I chose is a luxurious boutique hotel in the Barri Gòtic/Gothic Quarter called the Mercer Barcelona. I didn't go with a rental here because they tended to be very modern inside. I wanted something that seemed rooted in the past while still feeling luxe. It looks like the Mercer does that beautifully with its stone walls and exposed beams. It's also located within a short 10 minute walk to most of the major spots in the book. You'd be right in the middle of it all, but have easy access to the rest of the city. 

The Lantern & Provence

Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern is a lush, modern gothic tale reminiscent of Du Maurier's Rebecca. It's the story of couple, Eve and Dom, who have a whirlwind romance and then fall in love with a dilapidated house with a beautiful garden in Provence called Les Genévriers. As the seasons turn and the relationship cools, Eve becomes suspicious of Dom's past. Meanwhile, Les Genévriers begins to reveal that it has its own mysteries. The book switches back and forth between two time periods, slowly revealing secrets and unraveling the stories along the way.

I chose Le Mas de Belleroche for where I'd want to stay while reading The Lantern. It's a private, sprawling farmhouse perched on a rocky hill within walking distance village of Les Baux de Provence. It's also a short drive to the beautiful St. Rémy de Provence. The house has a gorgeous garden, plentiful outdoor spaces, an inviting pool, and lots of typically Provençal rooms. I can imagine spending hours relaxing and reading about Les Genévriers here after touring around Provence for the day. Add in some wine, some fresh melon, and charcuterie platter. . .well, I don't think I'd ever want to leave.

Neverwhere & London

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is something a little different from the rest of the books I chose. It tells the story of Richard Mayhew, your average, everyday good guy businessman living in London. His life changes in an instant when he stops to help a peculiar young girl who has been injured. Suddenly, Richard is part of the strange, magical subterranean world of London Below.

I downloaded the audiobook version of Neverwhere for the Audible free trial a few months ago. I've only listened to a bit, so I can't tell you how I feel about the whole thing, yet. I've loved every moment of it so far, though. The story is unique, magical and makes me feel like I'm listening to a fairytale for adults. I usually hate audio books but Gaiman does the reading and he has a way of making everything come alive. I only wish I had picked up the book before our trip to London last year. I think it would have been fun to imagine it coming alive around (and below) me. 

Naturally, I had to choose an interesting London flat for Neverwhere. When I stumbled across the Salisbury on London Perfect, I knew I'd found one! It's located in Kensington, close to the Tube and within walking distance to Museum Row and lots of shopping. The furnishings are opulent and modern--oh how I wish I could lazily read on that red leather couch right now--and there's a lovely little terrace overlooking a garden.  

That's it for this week! I hope these ideas stir up some fall reading and travel inspiration for you. It was fun to put together! I might have to do more of these. 

Do you have any book recommendations? I'm always open to ideas!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Daydream Destination: Lourmarin's Market in Provence

As I'm working on getting my first Vignette Guide done, I think it's time to revive my Daydream Destination posts for a little Friday inspiration and escape. They will be short and sweet posts of places and spaces from cities to specific restaurants to tiny village corners. Just to set the mood--and because I've been a bit obsessed with this song for a while--here's some Carla Bruni.



Today's destination is the Lourmarin market in Provence. 

Each Friday morning it unfolds throughout the narrow streets and into the main square. The lovely setting, from plane trees to time-worn, ivy covered shops, makes it easy to meander from stall to stall, even when the quiet of the early morning fades.

Like most Provençal markets, it's a mix of fresh food, housewares, linens, lavender, soaps, clothing, "Provence stuff," and miscellaneous odds and ends.

It was, by far, my favorite market from the trip. I think part of it had to do with being able to walk out of our front door and be in the middle of everything. But Lourmarin has a nice feel to it. It's compact but not cramped, time-worn but still lively.

I mostly did a lot of looking (and drooling over the food, despite having just eaten breakfast). I have a rule about only buying things that I fall head over heels in love with when I travel.

This time around , it was soap. The owner of our house left us with different types to try. One particularly questionable looking brown square turned out to be an amazing verbena. And that was that, I had to have a stash of verbena and lavender soap. It was in this market that I finally found exactly what I was looking for and bought about $30 worth. It lasted me a year. I wanted to cry when that last tiny sliver slipped from my hands and went down the drain.

So, what I'm trying to say is, if you're in Provence and in the market for soap, Lourmarin's market might be your place. If you want soap-buying tips, then drop me a note because I could go on and on. . .I'm only half kidding.

Besides soap, my second favorite part of the market was the sausage guy. He was at the back of the main square, wearing a great hat, one of those old leather butcher's aprons and drinking beer, beer, and more beer. He was jovial. Don't let the picture below fool you.

That man could probably convince me to give him my watch and then sell it back to me and I would probably leave a happy customer until a few days later when his charm spell wore off. He was fantastic!

Needless to say, we bought a lot of sausage.

I'm not sure how much more romantic life can get than waking up in real linen sheets in an antique bed in Provence, having coffee with whatever looks fresh and delicious that day at the bakery, and then walking out to a beautiful, bustling market with an empty woven basket that is just begging to be filled. When meandering gets tiring, you can wander back into town for a Perrier menthe or a small pitcher of cold rosé and snack on the 700 types of sausage you bought on impulse, because it seemed like a deal at the time.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sweet Simplicity: It's Time for Perrier Menthe

  The first time I had a Perrier menthe was the day we arrived in Lourmarin in Provence. The couple from which we rented our townhouse took us on a tour of the town to show us where to buy bread, the restaurants they liked, where the grocery store was, the bank, etc.

The way Lourmarin is laid out makes it easy to do a loop around the town on the main roads and end up back at a little square where a few cafés meet. It is the perfect spot for people-watching.

It was late August and wonderfully hot outside--at least to me. Our hosts chose a café owned by one of their friends and suggested we have Perrier menthes. Mint syrup and Perrier. That's it. I had never heard of it before, but they assured us it was delicious.

The drinks arrived in tall glasses with long spoons, dark green mint syrup at the bottom, and a bottle of Perrier on the side. I poured my water into the glass, gave it a stir, and took a sip of the bright green liquid.

It was delicious. Cool, refreshing, sparkling, and slightly sweet. The mint was just prevalent enough give me a nice cooling sensation on my lips and tongue.

Since that day, I haven't been able to get enough Perrier menthes. Even my dad, who hates mint, really likes these. They are perfect for summer and a little different from the usual.

Lately, as the heat rises and the days get longer, I find myself craving them. Although I can't be in Provence right now (despite some really good attempts at teleportation), I can bring a bit of Provence to me by making these.

Here's what you need:

  • Perrier (or your favorite sparkling mineral water)
  • Mint/menthe verte syrup. I'm using Chateau Thierry crème de menthe syrup right now. Teisseire is a popular brand in France but I haven't found it here yet. I love the green color, but I'm sure you could use a clear syrup or make your own if you want to be different.
  • A pretty glass
  • Ice (optional/if you are one of those ridiculous North Americans who must have ice)

I like ice and my Perrier was fresh off the store shelf and hot. So, ice it was.

The general recommendations are 1 oz of syrup to 7-9 oz of Perrier. Just play with the ratios until you find what tastes good to you. I tend to like mine a little less sweet, so I'm probably closer to the 1:9 ratio.

Pour the syrup first, add the water, give it a little stir. Easy peasy.

Optional: Put on a white linen shirt and some khakis or a white linen dress, top your head with a Panama hat of some kind, and sip slowly while pretending you are at a café.

Enjoy! I highly recommend you repeat this until you are sufficiently refreshed and/or you feel like switching over to pastis or a cold, dry rose.


  • Menthe à l'eau - using still water instead of Perrier. I'm also sure club soda would be fine if you prefer it.
  • Diabolo menthe - mint syrup and lemonade or 7Up/Sprite. I haven't tried this yet but I've seen both lemonade and Sprite/7Up mentioned.
  • Test out another flavor. Mint seemed to be the most popular syrup when I was in Provence but most cafés had lists of other available flavors too.