Tuesday, April 03, 2012


 Amanda Taylor-Ace’s philosophy is ‘joie de vivre unlimited’ - living life with unlimited joy. So when, in 1996, Amanda Taylor-Ace looked at her life and decided she wanted more, she packed her bags and took her son to live in the south of France for a year. 
But life never does run smoothly and My French Affair is the story of how and why she decided to stay and how her new life unfurled.
After desperately searching for that perfect house and falling in love with a Chateaux only to have her dreams dashed by a sexist sheik, Amanda found two eighteenth-century villas in the small village of St Maximin. Not content with simply living there, she decided to renovate the houses and convert them into guest accommodation.

The French of course have their own way of doing things and Amanda had a lot to learn. Not only did she have to work with French tradesmen (both good and bad), and deal with French bureaucracy without speaking fluent French, she also had to get to know the local villagers, forge new friendships, renew old ones and of course enjoy lovers the way only the French can do. Throughout all this Amanda started bringing in paying guests from around the world, both to stay in at Maison de Maîtresse and to learn the art of french cuisine in her kitchen.

Throughout My French Affair Amanda tells her story frankly but with humour. You will feel for her when she doubts her decision that saw her move to the other side of the world and revel in her joy when she finally finds Maison de Maîtresse. Through Amanda you will experience French life and discover what it’s really like to start over in a new country. And for those who are in love with French food Amanda has included some of her favourite recipes.

“In the twelve years I’ve lived in the south of France as a single woman running my own business, there have been moments of joy and sorrow, of simplicity and complication, fun and frustration, passion and disappointment... and I’ve relished them all.”

Amanda Taylor-Ace (right - photo by Babiche Martens) runs the Maison de Maîtresse guesthouse and cooking school in Saint Maximin, in the south of France. For more information about Amanda’s cook school and guest houses please visit www.joiedevivre-unlimited.com

Title: My French Affair
Author: Amanda Taylor-Ace with Ann Rickard
RRP: $40.00
Publication:  5 April 2012
Imprint:  Random House

Excerpt from My French Affair. Here are the first couple of pages of the Prologue reproduced with permission of the publisher:

 "It all started with a bout of arm-wrestling with Ringo. John and Paul were there. George too. Watching us and laughing in disbelief as I tried to force Ringo’s arm down onto the table. They’d never met a girl who could arm-wrestle. And I’d never met four fresh-faced lads on the brink of becoming a global phenomenon.
It was 1964, a private party with the Beatles in a hotel suite in Auckland. I was in my late teens, engaged to a local plumber, having been raised, as most of us in New Zealand were at the time, in a gentle and unremarkable manner, insulated from anything worldly by our geography and limited methods of communication.
Apart from the plumber, digging for pipi at the beach and riding my horse in the paddocks of Auckland’s North Shore were my two great passions. And arm-wrestling with my brother.
Partying with international rock stars had never entered my teenage thoughts. Actually, I barely knew who the Beatles were then — not many New Zealanders did. The world had only just started coming into our lounges via hazy black-and-white pictures on television, and even they went off at nine at night when the channels closed down.
Fate had raised its fickle finger and pointed it at me that June day in 1964, changing the course of my life. I’d been walking back from training college where I was studying teaching. I had on a new bright red coat with large covered buttons, black leather gloves and a perky peaked black cap with a bow on the front. My blonde hair fell out from the cap in a long fringe and little wisps floated down my back. I remember feeling particularly pretty. I came across a crowd of excited girls outside the Royal Hotel. Not much happened in Auckland then, certainly nothing to bring out a crowd of breathless young women on the verge of hysteria. I recognised one of the girls, the sister of a friend.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked when I could get her to stand still.
‘The Beatles are staying in this hotel; we’re trying to get in to meet them,’ she panted.
‘How are you going to do that?’ My curiosity was aroused. I’d always loved a challenge.
‘My cousin is the head of security but he’s inside. I can’t get to him. We have to wait here.’
To me it seemed simple. Knock on the door and ask for him. So I did.
When he came out he looked slowly at me, taking in my red coat, my eyelids thick with black eyeliner, blonde hair peeking out beneath my cap.
I met his look. ‘I want to get in and see the Beatles,’ I said confidently, never doubting for a minute that my request wouldn’t be met.
He laughed at me. ‘You and 10,000 others.’ But something made him pause and consider. I like to think it was my cute hat. ‘Come back at 2 pm,’ he finally said. ‘The Beatles’ official fan club has an appointment then. I’ll sneak you in with them.’
Later, up in the suite with the famous four and their mop-top haircuts and contagious enthusiasm, a photographer took photos while we chatted. As I linked arms with George and Ringo to pose for yet another photo, I was hit by a succession of intense feelings: anticipation, expectation, eagerness. It wasn’t just meeting these charismatic young musicians. It wasn’t even their marvellous sense of fun, their easy humour and boundless confidence. Nor was it their unique music. It was what they represented: the outside world. Until that moment, in that hotel suite, I’d never reflected on my limited surroundings, never questioned my future as a devoted young housewife living with a plumber in Takapuna. But there in front of me was a representation of far-away places, intriguing foreignness and unknown adventure.
As the Beatles made their impression on me, I must have made an impression on them. They invited me to come back later that evening for a private party. That’s when the arm-wrestling began and . . . well . . . it’s enough to say the next day I broke off my engagement to the plumber.
After that one enlightening afternoon and giddy night, the urge to leave behind the adolescent comfort and exasperating isolation of New Zealand was overpowering. I wanted to go far away, to colourful, crowded places, hear foreign languages, eat exotic food, seize life and milk it for every little pleasure.
Within a year I’d saved enough to money to walk up the gangway of the MS Achille Lauro for the six-week voyage that would take me to England and onwards, to whatever might be waiting for me, gloriously ignorant in thinking I could start my experience by asking Ringo for the return of my tortoiseshell bracelet, removed to arm-wrestle and forgotten in the thrill of what followed. By then the Beatles were untouchable, protected by multiple layers of managers and minders. But their fleeting entry into my life had changed the course of it forever".

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