Literary Adventures: Travel in France and Italy With Best-Selling Authors

by | Feb 17, 2024

Overlooking Gordes Village, Provence France
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Last updated on April 24th, 2024

Featured image: When women come together on trips with best-selling authors, magic happens! | Photo of Gordes, France by Neil Gibbons from Pixabay

Discover beloved places with four well-travelled celebrities  

by Carolyn Ray

While a book makes a perfect travel companion, traveling with its author is even better. All of that is possible with a new travel concept developed by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France that brings women together on trips with best-selling authors — including Patricia Sands, Jules Larimore, Steena Holmes and Cheryl Jamison. Hosted against the stunning backdrops of France and Italy – two of the world’s most desirable destinations – McGee hopes to bring beloved places to life in new ways for her clients.  

“Traveling with a celebrity adds a touch of glamour to an already rich cultural experience,” says Nancy McGee, Founder, Absolutely Southern France. “Our France and Italy tours are carefully curated with the author to ensure no day is ever the same. Even if you’re not familiar with the author’s works, the days will be filled with memorable experiences such as exploring historical sites, participating in culinary workshops and wine tastings, browsing the markets for local crafts and even being a source of inspiration for the author’s next novel.”

Not only do guests have an opportunity to learn from the authors, but they can also contribute to the development of a future novel. And in some cases, they also receive copies of not-yet-released books and participate in private culinary workshops or wine tastings, curated by the authors themselves. The trips are either one week or two weeks long with 8 to 14 guests depending on the tour.

“We’re thrilled to have four authors participating in our women’s trips and hope to attract more,” says McGee. “We find that there are three types of guests on these trips: women who like to travel with someone famous, fans who have read the authors books, and those who follow the trips on our social media and love seeing the pictures of women travelling to the places they have always dreamed of going to.”

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Four Small Group Trips with Best-Selling Authors

Originally from Baie Comeau, Quebec, Nancy McGee founded Absolutely Southern France in 2011. In 2018, she met best-selling Canadian author Patricia Sands and ‘Barefoot Blogger’ Deborah Bine, an American solo traveller who had also relocated to the south of France. 

“All three of us were passionate about the south of France and wanted to share our passion with women by offering them an opportunity to discover our favorite places in the South of France,” says McGee, who also travels with the groups and shares her knowledge as a local. “It was an instant hit. This year will be our fifth edition!”

(Just for JourneyWoman Readers, McGee is offering a 150 Euro discount with the code JOURNEYWOMAN24.)  

1. Discover the South of France with novelist Patricia Sands in September 2024

This tour combines active and leisure time and follows in the footsteps of beloved characters in best-selling Canadian author Patricia’s Love in Provence trilogy, her novel Drawing Lessons and her latest release, The Secrets We Hide. On this tour, Sands shares her favorite places in the South of France, including marketplaces, towns, and cobblestone streets she’s grown to love and write about.

”It’s a pleasure to see readers excited to visit locations they have visited with characters in my novels,” Sands says. “There are also always a few women on the tour who have plans to do some writing and they appreciate talking about an author’s journey with me.” 

During the tour, Sands provides writing and coaching sessions. She also shares undiscovered places, such as the seaside Promenade des Anglais in Nice, the cobblestone streets of Saint Paul de Vence, the spectacular hilltop town of Eze and market day in St Remy de Provence, to name a few. Learn more about this trip from September 2-14 here.

Author Patricia Sands, sitting in front of a provencal house, holding up one of her novels.

Author Patricia Sands, sitting in front of a provençal house, with one of her best-selling novels / Photo provided by Nancy McGee

2. Join a Sweet tour to the Christmas markets in Paris and Strasbourg with Author Steena Holmes

With over 40 novels, Steena Holmes has written a variety of genres, from sweet romance to women’s fiction to psychological suspense. Her Love at the Chocolate Shop series includes Charmed by Chocolate and Captured by Chocolate, which serve as inspiration for a chocolate-themed tour in Paris, France. 

I love to create personable experiences with my readers and build lasting relationships with them,” says Holmes. “Not only do they help me create characters for upcoming books, but sometimes they become a character themselves (with some changes and their permission – of course!)” 

During the trip with Holmes, guests can explore the streets of Paris, sip hot cocoa (or mulled wine) in the market, be dazzled by gorgeous lights and displays – and of course, indulge in chocolates and macarons. Special experiences include a hands-on pastry workshop in Paris, sharing highlights of the day over dinner, including a French etiquette workshop in a chateau and more that could be used as scenes for an upcoming book. Guests can also help Holmes create and name characters within this “Paris-themed” story and will receive a signed copy of a “special” novel to be released during the Sweet tour.  Travel with best-selling author Steena Holmes on her “Sweet” Tours in December 2024. 

Holmes is also hosting a second “Sweet Tour” to the breathtakingly beautiful Amalfi Coast and historic Naples in May 2024, perfect for foodies and history lovers. May is the best time of the year to travel to the “land of lemons” where the orchards will be laden with vibrant yellow fruit, and Positano is one of Italy’s most  picturesque towns. Learn more about this trip here. 

A group at a chateau in France with best-selling chef Steena Holmes.

A group at a chateau in France with best-selling author Steena Holmes / Photo provided by Nancy McGee

3. Step into history in Languedoc, France with Jules Larimore 

Influenced by a love for history and anthropology—from ancient times through the Renaissance and Enlightenment—Jules Larimore uses captivating historical settings, then distills and blends them with a dose of magic, myth, and romance. In Languedoc, guests travel with Larimore to the Cévennes mountains of Languedoc, France, the setting for her best-selling historical fiction novel The Muse of Freedom

“I value a personal relationship with my readers,” Larimore says. “It gives me a chance to learn how reading my novels has enhanced their travel. They help me to create characters, or character reactions.” 

Inspired by the true story of Lamiore’s relative Jean Pierre Bondurant dit Cougoussac, guests visit the Jacobins Monastery in Toulouse, the walled fortress city of UNESCO heritage site Carcassonne and the Musée du Catharism to learn the fascinating history of the Cathars. In addition, Lamiore brings readers to settings from The Muse of Freedom, including the magical Castelbouc, the ancient menhirs of Les Bondons, the home of protagonist Jean Pierre Bondurant in medieval Genolhac, and a stop at the intimidating Château du Portes.  Travel with author Jules Larimore on the “history and heritage” tour of Languedoc, France from September 13-20, 2024.

Author Jules Larimore speaking to a tour group during one of Absolutely Southern France's trips with best-selling authors

Jules Larimore, author of “The Muse of Freedom”, speaks to the group / Photo provided by Nancy McGee

4. Cook with Cheryl Jamison, celebrity chef and cookbook author in France and the Amalfi Coast

With over two million cookbooks sold, Cheryl Jamison is a four-time James Beard Book Award winner and one of the United States’ premier food writers, author of numerous cookbooks, former Food Editor for New Mexico Magazine, and the host of Heating It Up, a food talk radio show. 

“I’ve been fortunate to travel to these destinations in France and Italy on many occasions on my own,” says Jamison. “I feel they’re some of the most beautiful, charming, and sensuous destinations in the world. Of course, they also have extraordinary flavors! I love sharing these exceptional destinations with readers and other guests. I love to see their pleasure and sense of discovery as a part of these insiders’ culinary tours.”

During the trip to Provence during lavender season in the south of France with Jamison, guests can play pétanque beneath plane trees with a glass of pastis at hand, go on a truffle hunt followed by champagne and truffle treats, craft their own lavender wands and savor a picnic lunch and wine tasting in a family-owned vineyard.  Travel with Jamison on her culinary tour to France in June 2024.

Jamison is also hosting a culinary trip to the Amalfi Coast in October 2024, which includes making limoncello, the area’s famous liqueur, indulging in authentic lemon gelatos and other regional delights, meeting one of Italy’s best pastry chefs and hands-on mozzarella making experience with a renowned cheese master. Learn more about Jamison’s culintary tour to Amalfi in October 2024 here. 

Cheryl Alters Jamison with a group in the Luberon village of Gordes in the background.

Cheryl Alters Jamison with a group in the Luberon village of Gordes in the background / Photo provided by Nancy McGee

More women-only trips with best-selling authors planned for 2025

Looking ahead, McGee hopes to expand the author’s tours, McGee hopes to expand the author tours, providing a unique way for authors to connect and build their brand authentically. McGee says that the trips with authors to France and Italy have been so popular that the company is now expanding to Morocco, Belgium and Austria in 2025.

“These trips are a win-win for both the author and guests,” says McGee. “Thanks to the convivial atmosphere of a small group, new and lasting friendships are often formed. Aspiring writers gain invaluable insight from the author on writing and publishing a book. The authors gain feedback and inspiration from the different personalities encountered, interesting destinations and unique cultures.” 

McGee is hopeful that more authors will want to participate in her tours. For those who would like to learn more, contact Nancy McGee at Absolutely Southern France. 

Disclaimer: We’re always proud to showcase companies from the JourneyWoman Women’s Travel Directory who are leading the way. Since we haven’t experienced this tour, we want to let you know that the material  for this article was provided by Absolutely Southern France, as part of a sponsored campaign with JourneyWoman. 

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As the CEO and Editor of JourneyWoman, Carolyn is a passionate advocate for women's travel and living the life of your dreams. She leads JourneyWoman's team of writers and chairs the JourneyWoman Women's Advisory Council and Women's Speaker's Bureau. She has been featured in the New York Times, Toronto Star and Zoomer as a solo travel expert, and speaks at women's travel conferences around the world. In March 2023, she was named one of the most influential women in travel by TravelPulse and was the recipient of a SATW travel writing award in September 2023. She is the chair of the Canadian chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member Women's Travel Leaders and a Herald for the Transformational Travel Council (TTC). Sometimes she sleeps. A bit.


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