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Review of VAGABONDS in France by Michael A Barry

So, what would YOU do if you lost your house? Panic, desperately search for another one and then take anything you can get? Well, when this happened to Americans Michael and Lisa, they decided to take the glass half full approach. When their rental home was no longer available, they put their furniture into storage and set off from Florida on a fantastic adventure with their final destination being France.

An exciting adventure

Michael Barry’s vivid descriptions of the south of France are guaranteed to make you want to pack your bags and go there straight away. His wife Lisa has taken some fantastic photographs throughout the trip, and these liberally decorate the book, which I think immeasurably enhances it. You really feel part of their experience as they travel around enjoying the wonderful old towns and amazing views. My favourite in this particular part of the book is the description of Avignon, with its bridge immortalised in the popular children’s song ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon,’ and the majestic Papal Palace with its fantastic views.

However, don’t be fooled, this is no glossy tourist story, the book contains the nitty gritty bits as well.  The rooms and receptions they received wherever they stayed are openly portrayed, and the vast differences between life in other countries and France is honestly acknowledged. Whilst we are on the subject I have to say that an important, amusing, interesting and sometimes somewhat horrifying subject which features highly is the ‘Bathroom Reports’ which are regularly given. For those who haven’t been here (I am an English expat) it may seem a strange thing to write about but trust me, it can be incredibly difficult to find a toilet in France, and if you do, it might not look like you would expect….

After visiting the south of France, Michael and Lisa spent a month in Paris. In the City of Light they explored many of the world-famous places, marvelling at the majestic Eiffel Tower and sightseeing at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame whilst a service was being held. They took a cruise down the river Seine, visited my all-time favourite Paris landmark the breath-taking Sacré-Cœur, and enjoyed many more wonderful experiences which they share with the reader.

Throughout the book you gain a real flavour of what life in France, and Paris, is like. It was lovely to walk with them through Montmartre and capture the real essence of the metropolis and its people. There are many interesting facts sprinkled throughout its pages, and I really enjoyed reading about the enormous Père Lachaise Cemetery which is the final resting place of many famous people including Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison.

One of the important things I took away with me from this book is the benefit of getting a Museum pass. There are many museums in Paris, of course the most famous is the Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa, then there is L’Orangerie Museum which contained some wonderful paintings, the amazingly beautiful Musee d’Orsay, and so many more to discover.

This book is highly entertaining, and it contains a wealth of information. As in all countries the natives can be friendly or not depending on how they feel, or indeed their own experiences of your nationality. The author and his wife did seem to catch Paris at a particularly wet time which I think made a difference, however I have to applaud them for their bravery in having this adventure. I think this book would appeal to young and old, and I highly recommend it.

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