Giveaway: Grape Escapes, Memoirs, and a Market Basket

Note: This giveaway was planned before the horrible attacks on Paris on 13 November, but I think celebrating Laura Bradbury’s love of France is a way of honoring what so many people have found when they’ve gone abroad. Travel makes the world much smaller, and turns every person we meet into potential friends, and strangers into people we care about across great distances. Paris, nous sommes tellement désolé.

Last year, and again this year, I met author Laura Bradbury at the Surrey International Writers Conference (NB: if you like thoughtful, accessible, intimate, inclusive and terrific writers conferences, I can’t say enough good things about the SiWC). In 2014, I heard about My Grape Escape, her memoir about buying and restoring a French home in Burgundy — and you know that memoirs about starting life over in a new location and in new directions are very much my catnip. I learned a lot about French home repair and restoration, and dealing with small town bureaucracy, which is worse than knob and tube wiring, I’m pretty sure.

This year, Laura was signing My Grape Year, the story of how she ended up in France in the first place as an exchange student, and how she met her now-husband, Franck. AND she was giving away these gorgeous French market baskets at the signing for SIWC. Seriously. They’re beautiful. So when we were part of the same dinner group, I asked if I could do a giveaway for one of the baskets, and the books as well. And because Laura is Canadian and required by law to be nice, she said yes, and then she probably said sorry for something she didn’t do, which is also required by Canadian law. The market baskets are really nice, too –  I’m so excited to be giving one away.

My Grape Year
A | BN | K | AB
I liked My Grape Escape and My Grape Year because they combine a lot of things I enjoy in a memoir: new locations, fish-out-of-water experiences (and as a former fellow exchange student, a lot of what Laura describes was very familiar), deciding to take a mulligan and do-over a major decision in one’s life – like I said, catnip ahoy. I haven’t read My Grape Village yet, but it’s on the TBR.

Laura uses her market basket as a general all-purpose bag – and there’s plenty of room inside.


Market basket with purple leather handles
Isn’t it pretty? It holds a LOT, too.

For our giveaway, we have copies of Laura’s memoirs about life in France, My Grape Escape, My Grape Year, and My Grape Village, in paper or ebook, winner’s choice, and a market basket to put your books or your e-reader in — also winner’s choice. You can carry both if you want, obviously. We won’t judge.

So, want to enter? YAY! Drop a comment below and tell us about a place that changed you in some way. For me, it was Spain, when I was an exchange student at 15 and again at 20. For Laura, it was Burgundy. What about you? Is there a place that is deeply important to you, that changed your life? Nearby, far away, on the couch next to you? Tell us about it.

 I’ll select a winner at random on Friday 20 November, and announce the winner same day. Standard disclaimers apply: void where prohibited. I’m not being compensated for this giveaway. Open to international residents where permitted by applicable law. Must be over 18 and prepared to read and possibly also crave wine and maybe even snails. Do not read these books while hungry. I am not even kidding about that. Not even about the snails.

Thank you to Laura Bradbury for the giveaway, and the market basket, and the written taste of France.

Winner winner! The winner of the market basket and the Grape series is Christine! Congratulations, and thank you, everyone, for sharing your memorable and life-changing travels.


Comments are Closed

  1. Tam B. says:

    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada.

    My husband got sent there for three months for his work (end of Dec – end of March) and we were then living in Singapore. When people told us the -9C was unseasonably warm, we were … somewhat disbelieving. And then there was a cold snap (-20+) and we acclimated.

    That was the first time I’d ever lived with snow, driven in it (and on the wrong side of the road) and had the experience of wearing an unbelievable (to me) number of layers of clothing. By the end of our stay -7C was jeans and jumper and jacket weather instead of rugged up to the eyeballs.

    Now I find every year, I miss the snow and the cold (something I’d never before believe) and the city itself.

  2. Mathilde says:

    Ireland changed my life.

    I decided to drop everything in May 2008 after giving up my first year in University (I had foolishly thought I’d enjoy law school).

    I went there as an au pair and ended up with the best family I could have hope for. Even though they arrived late to pick me up in Dublin airport. I had managed not to start panicking somehow.

    This stay taught me so much. I grew up in 9 months. Funnily enough that’s where I learned how to drink wine even though I’m French. I also learned maturity and how to be organised, reliable and devoted to the people I love.

    When I think of it now I always feel a little nostalgia but also a lot of happiness.

  3. camilla says:

    New Orleans, where I went to Tulane and met people from everywhere

  4. Lostshadows says:

    Maybe “changed my life” is stretching it, but Toronto, Canada in 2000.

    My trip was short and touristy, but I traveled ALONE to a FOREIGN country and things went WRONG and, despite a few dire predictions to the contrary, I was just fine. (Seriously, mom, it was Canada and like six hours away.)

    I haven’t actually had the chance to travel since, but the prospect of going alone seems less scary.

  5. LaurA says:

    Limbe, Haiti. A boarding student from my high school was from Haiti and j went home with her over a spring when I was 16. It changed my life – both because it blew open my understanding of what the world was like, but also because I found a spirit of adventure and love for travel that shapes who I am.

  6. Kate says:

    Tanzania. I lived there for 3 years, became fluent in Swahili, made lifelong friends, increased my confidence in myself, and preached my first sermon (in Swahili) (I am now in seminary)…

  7. Erin says:

    Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. I spent a semester there and found my independence and sense of adventure. And developed a healthy suspicion of tequila.

  8. RebeccaS says:

    I have traveled quite a bit and every place I’ve visited has of course left its mark, but my trip to Barcelona in 2002 changed my life in profound and unforeseen ways. I was studying in a student exchange program at the University of Cantabria and decided to visit Barcelona over a long weekend with another young woman from my program. We took the overnight bus to the city and almost immediately upon disembarking were mugged by a group of street youths. We weren’t hurt but of course were left feeling pretty shaken, but we both decided not to let that experience ruin our vacation. Our trip ended up being magical and the experience completely cemented our friendship. After we both returned to the States we reconnected, resumed our friendship, and she introduced me to her brother…who is now my husband! Thanks, Barcelona.

  9. kirsten says:

    Nicaragua in 1992. I’m from a white, middle class background. It was the first time I’d ever seen for myself what a privileged existence I lead. I remember standing in a market in Managua not understanding how there could be no groceries on the shelves to buy. You can travel in other first world countries and never really get “out” of your own experience.

  10. PamG says:

    Lake City, Florida

    Lake City is the opposite of a tourist destination and still contains traces of old, frontier Florida. I used to visit family there. and in spite of the relatively short times I’ve spent there, Lake City is a place where I have a strong sense of roots.

  11. bnbsrose says:

    It’s actually been a number of places: San Antonio, Boston, Anapolis, Bellingham, WA Portland, ME, Covington, Ky. All of them places where I’ve traveled with my father to his service reunions. Every few years I spend three days with the most amazingly warm and welcoming people. They cross several generations from WWII through Viet Nam and every level of the social strata. Their connection being this ship they called home, the friendships they made there and their respect for those who served before and after, and especially for those they lost. Every time I come back I marvel at the amazing people there are in the world.

  12. Jaime says:

    For me, it’s Minnesota. I grew up in Missouri, and moved to the Twin Cities on a whim when I was 21. I never expected to stay here very long – at that point, the ultimate goal was California – but something about this place let me be myself more than I’d ever been before.

    There’s a lot of talk about how home should be the people you love, and that’s true to a certain extent, but I think place has a large role in your feeling of home as well. I never felt like I belonged in the place I grew up. But almost immediately upon moving to Minnesota, something in me settled and said “yeah, this is where I belong.” And nearly 18 years later, I’m still here.

  13. Christine says:

    I went to Nantes, France, as an exchange student when I was a junior in college… and now I’ve been married to my host brother for 16 years! Vive la France!

  14. Chantal says:

    Living and working in Ottawa, the Capital of Canada, for 4 months during the summer gave me a whole new appreciation for how beautiful Canada is. It also gave me a new appreciation for how fortunate I am to live somewhere with a (relatively) long history of peace in this country.

  15. Gina says:

    Oh wow, these sound lovely. I live for these kind of books.

    I had a lovely opportunity to study abroad in Besancon, France, and it really made me reach out and do new and difficult things. While I was there, I did more travel, seeing a friend in Budapest and making new friends in Zurich. I always fel fortunate that I got to go.

  16. Kay says:

    I’m from Kentucky and I’ve visited California, DC, Florida, and many states in between. But the thing that changed my life was a hotel room in Cincinnati when I was eighteen. The view we had wasn’t of the Ohio river, it was a mile or two of the street. I remember looking out into the streets at night and seeing the many cars driving by and the people walking on the sidewalk. It was the first time I really grasped how big the world was.

  17. kkw says:

    I’ve travelled a lot, so much that it’s impossible to pick just one place as the most meaningful or transformative. But given the recent attacks, of course I’ve been thinking about Paris. I can’t think of anything to say about it that hasn’t been said a million times and more, but it’s all true. I love it, its food, its people, its art, its architecture, its light, its energy, its fashion, its history, its future. I love the things people complain about: the rain and the noise and the rudeness and the streets that are so treacherous to the high heeled shoes that are so irresistible. I love getting lost, I love cheap table wine, I love cake for breakfast, I love the look of horror that crosses people’s faces when they realize the sounds I’m producing are supposed to be French, and the lengths they will go to stop me from doing it again. Though it seems a bad time to say it, I love the cemeteries.
    I’m just gutted by what’s happened.
    I don’t know that Paris has truly made me more beautiful, intelligent, insightful, resourceful, and fabulous, but it makes me feel that way.

  18. Cate Morgan says:

    New Orleans, without a doubt. Before you even reach the city you can feel the energy leaking out of the pores (what I call “Jazz Magic”). Our first time we went during Halloween, because my husband surprised me with a trip. We were just dating, and following a band that was on tour because we knew them personally, and I fell asleep in the car after ooooooone too many rum drinks in Alabama. I thought we were continuing one to Atlanta.

    Nope. I woke up, and the first sign I saw was “20 Miles to New Orleans”. I’m surprised the car didn’t come apart at the seams with the force of my Squee!

    Naturally, when my husband asked me to marry him on Halloween night on Bourbon Street, I said yes. We went back every year after that for several years, including our honeymoon. We still make those rum drinks on our anniversary (13 years married now!)

  19. kitkat9000 says:

    I went to Egypt when I was 20 for a 2 week long archeological study tour as part of an adult continuing studies program hosted by Johns Hopkins.

    Having always loved history, literally walking in the footsteps of those who came before was fascinating. It just somehow became more real to me when walking along 4,000+ year old stone paths leading to mortuary temples.

    It was also the first time I traveled without family or friends. Even though I traveled as part of a group of maybe 40 (?) people, I had no one actually with me, per se. It was both frightening and liberating.

    I loved the trip, the sights and the journey overall. 25+ years later I still remember it with great joy. Haven’t had tangerines as good since.

    I wouldn’t go there now, there’s far too much political instability and violence but it was a fabulous opportunity and I’ve always been grateful for going.

    Since then, my willingness to get into a car and drive pretty much any distance alone has, I think, played a part in my mother’s recurring nightmares.

  20. Nam says:

    Two years ago, my sister and I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and it was physically, mentally, and emotionally arduous thing I’ve ever done. It changed me in a profound way.

    With every step “pole, pole” – slowly, slowly, I learned how deep my well ran. Now, anytime I face a challenge, I think, I can do this because I effing climbed Kilimanjaro.

  21. denise says:

    I love the mountains of East Tennessee. They brings me peace and love.

  22. Deb G says:

    Vienna. I tagged along on an ex-boyfriend’s work trip with no knowledge of the city and no expectations. By the time the plane landed, I had read through my “Let’s Go Vienna” and was ready to have a wonderful time, and the city did not disappoint. It is so refined, and lovely, and erudite, and coffee-centric, and and and…I just loved it. So gorgeous!

  23. Kareni says:

    A place that changed me was college; I’d moved around a lot as a child (fifteen schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade), so it was novel to actually be somewhere for four years (even though my parents moved again while I was there). I learned a lot there and not only in the classroom. I also made friends that are still in my life some thirty years later.

  24. Heather R says:

    Honolulu, Germany, Kansas…the various places I lived as a military brat that shaped my childhood.

  25. Another one with the exchange student experience, mine to Chiba Prefecture (between Tokyo and Narita Airport), Japan in 1986.

    After about six weeks in Japan I took the train and subway into Tokyo alone to do souvenir shopping. I had figured out the money and the pay telephones by that point, and Japanese restaurants have little windows filled with realistic plastic food out front, so I copied the characters for what I wanted to order and showed it to the waitress. I could go back and forth between my train map that had the English and Japanese on it, and the Japanese-only signs, and navigate well enough.

    I spent a fabulous day alone, made it back to my host family’s, and that was that. I was hooked.

    So clichéd, I know, but that day alone in Tokyo at age 16 changed my life. I came from a small town of about 5000 people, and I felt like i had conquered the world’s biggest city. I believed I could do pretty much anything after that, by breaking it down into small steps, and problem-solving each part.

    I also knew after that summer that I wanted to go to college and major in East Asian/Japanese studies – which, in that “breaking it down into smaller steps” thing meant I had to join the military to pay for the college I wanted to attend.

    My husband is someone I first met at the college that I chose because of the reputation of the East Asian studies department, so that trip to Japan had a big yield: college decision, career path, husband, lifetime willingness to eat anything.

  26. Joy says:

    Austin, Texas. I had family there and loved visiting them. My mother always said she would love to move there….but part-way into my senior year of high school! It’s strange to be in TWO senior class pictures and to have a graduation ring from a school I didn’t actually graduate from. It was traumatic, exciting and an opportunity to re-make myself. I also spotted an announcement for application to the college I ultimately won a full scholarship to (even though Austin is itself a college town). I met my husband in a college mixer activity and am still married almost 50 years later. It remains one of my favorite places and a symbol of the wonder of “strangeness”.

  27. Beth says:

    It was Virginia and Harper’s Ferry, WV the summer after I graduated from high school…I was so excited to be near Washington, D.C. and to visit a historical site. It influenced both my love of travel and my B.A. in History–and, all these years later, it turns out my sister-in-law lives in the area and I visit the area once or twice per year 🙂

  28. Jill says:

    London! I lived there for a college semester and then brought my mother for a vacation.

  29. ReneeG says:

    I think going away to college was the big place that changed me – I can see everything branching out from that decision to move 12 hours away from family (yay!) but still with friends. From there, I took off and never looked back!

  30. Inna Z says:

    The place that changed me the most was the US, although I didn’t realize it until college. We moved when I was young, and I grew up in a place where being nerdy was OK: I could read in the mindset, play video games and board games with my friends and discuss geeky TV shows without being ashamed of it. (There was reading, of course, but by peers, not teachers or parents or others in authority.). I didn’t realize this until I met some people in college who had grown up in Russia, but the US is incredibly tolerant towards decisions in taste and style from the “accepted”. If I had started in Russia, I would not be who I am today, and would probably be a lot less happy with who I am as a result.

  31. LauraL says:

    A business trip to Toronto was a life-changer for me. I was working as a boothbabe/salesperson at a pest control trade show, my job right out of college, complete with an American Express card and nearly skanky business suits. Working in the booth next to me was a gorgeous man from Arkansas with a great sense of humor. It was Halloween and he invited me to go out for a drink with him at one of the local bars he knew. We left right from the show. One of the bartenders asked us what our costumes were. He replied “conventioneers, of course” and pointed to our badges. My date was a bit older than me. He told me he was married and didn’t know how much longer he was going to last in the trade show business. He asked me, “Do you plan to do this the rest of your life?” I told him, no, I had bigger plans. Of course, I didn’t know what they were. The night before, my then-boyfriend had called me from a party and was having a much better time than me. That trip made me realize I didn’t want to spend my life traveling and avoiding passes from married guys. Three years had been enough. A few weeks later, I found an apprentice job in publishing that started me on to the path to being the geekette I am today.

  32. Trish says:

    Haha! We don’t really go anywhere, but I have to say my honeymoon in Walt Disney World. Totally across the country from us (we live in California), and we try to make it back every 5 years or so on our anniversary. We’ve now been able to share it with our kids. Worth the long airplane ride!

  33. Aliyah says:

    So there are a couple of places that I loved, that changed my life.

    I worked for an NGO from 2009 to 2013 and I went to Syria for work before the war started. This is a country with some of the world’s oldest synagogues, most beautiful ancient architectural remains and some of the kindest people that I had ever met.

    I also fell in love with what I saw of Mali. The spirit of the people, the rhythm that they seem to live to captures the imagination and gives me hope that tomorrow can be better than today.

    My first love, the city my husband and I went on honeymoon to, was Paris. Sitting at a cafe near the Pompidou museum, having a stranger sit down and talk to me in this language that is as enchanting as it is enraging (finding the right word at the right moment in French is super hard for me), having hot chocolate out of a bowl and falling in love with a way of life. Paris is both unforgettable and enchanting.

  34. MW says:

    La Vita Romana.

    Rome was my home for my junior year of college. I was a Classics and Art History major so it was like spending a year walking around an epic theme park filled with everything I loved.

  35. Kate K.F. says:

    New Zealand, after graduating college, I saved up to go there. I did one year on a worker holiday visa, the first time I supported myself as an adult. Then I went back and did two years of graduate school, its still one of my favorite places in the world. I learned what I can do there.

  36. SB Sarah says:

    This thread is so beautiful – thank you for sharing all your special places! I kind of want to travel for a few years now.

  37. giddypony says:

    Nashville. I went alone for a conference, drove on the freeway (my stupidpower is getting lost and it took me an hour to get to my hotel, which is 10 minutes from the airport) (I also have anxiety about driving on freeways.) (I also got lost in my gigantic hotel.) I put over two hundred miles on the car in 3 days, didn’t have a panic attack and got to meet one of my heroes, Dr. Jack Newman.

  38. Penelope Crampton says:

    For me it was living in Argentia, Newfoundland for three years, where I fell in love with cold weather and deep snow, discovering myself to be a True Snowbird.

  39. Wendy Clements says:

    Victoria, British Columbia–my significant other, his dad, his step-mom and I visited there for a week in July of 2012. It was only my second real vacation and I had really wanted to go there. I adored it! Everyone was _so_ nice, the architecture was beautiful (and all of the flowers), and the bookstores! I had the best conversation with the young man working in the Young Adult section of Chapters (I worked in a bookstore once). I loved the Natural History Museum.

    It was a really special vacation because it was the last one we were able to take with my boyfriend’s dad, a wonderful person, as he was in the stages of a type of dementia that would have made the trip impossible even a couple of months later. It wasn’t so obvious on our trip, except when he was separated from us in the Natural History Museum and went to security to tell them he had lost his son. When they asked how old his son was, he told them, “41.” He could still make everyone laugh. We were surprised when we were called over the museum’s loudspeaker, though.

    It was a beautiful, magical trip, and I didn’t want to come back (but we do have a sweet kitty who was waiting at home for us), but it was even more special getting to spend it with my boyfriend’s dad and stepmom.

  40. Mara B. says:

    I studied abroad Carpi (NOT Capri) Italy for a year when I was 17/18. I left the States on September 14, 2001 on the first day that planes started flying again. It was my first big trip by myself and I also appreciate that I was able to experience the aftermath of 9/11 in Europe, as I was able to have easy (and constant) access to reactions from outside of the States. It definitely solidified my desire to read articles about major world events in as many different sources as I can, especially sources from other countries.

Comments are closed.

By posting a comment, you consent to have your personally identifiable information collected and used in accordance with our privacy policy.

↑ Back to Top