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Marina author Kimberly Lovato lands travel writing awards

Proving that a lifelong love of France can pay off, Kimberley Lovato received two awards in September from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.

Lovato’s book Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne (Running Press, 2010) won the gold award for best travel book, and her article “Lost and Liberated in the Dordogne” from received a bronze in the personal comment category.

Lovato was “shocked, then thrilled” when she learned of the awards, which were announced on Sept. 13. “Believe it or not, I found out on Twitter,” she told the Marina Times. “S.F. Chronicle travel editor Spud Hilton was tweeting out the winners from the conference in Indianapolis.”

Her book focuses on the Dordogne, “a culinary-rich region of France — about two hours east of Bordeaux — that is not well-known by American tourists,” Lovato said. “But it’s real and authentic France, and I wanted to shine a light on it.”

She expresses a strong love for France that manifested itself even as a young girl when she hung posters of the Eiffel Tower in her bedroom. “When I moved to Europe in 2004, I had the opportunity to write an article about an American chef, Laura Schmalhorst, [who was] leading culinary tours in the Dordogne region of France. I instantly fell in love with the beauty and the people of the region,” she said. “Chef Laura and I brainstormed, and I solicited a dear friend and San Francisco native Lou Lesko to do the photos, and — voila! — the idea [for the book] was born.”

The awards are named for the late journalist Lowell Thomas, whose achievements included publicizing the work and life of T.E. Lawrence. Besides Lovato, 2012 winners of the awards include National Geographic Traveler, New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle.

Lovato grew up in Southern California and has lived in many places, but two years ago she moved to the Bay Area. “Once my daughter was accepted at a high school in the City, we knew we wanted to settle in the Marina and buy a house, which we did in April,” she said. “My husband and I love being near the water, and walking along Crissy Field. It’s great to leave the car in the garage all weekend and walk to neighborhood restaurants and shops. It’s lively enough to keep us entertained but still feels like a quiet residential village sometimes.

“The beauty of San Francisco, especially the iconic views from the Marina Green, always inspires me,” she added, sounding every bit like the travel writer she is. “Of all the places I’ve been in the world, the site of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise still takes my breath away.”

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