Postcards from Europe, #7

Over a month ago, Mademoiselle traveled solo by train through Paris and up to Rouen to visit her friend, Darrin. I had asked her never to travel alone in Europe, but she is an adulte, and she made her own decision. All went well, as you can read about below.

Just so you know, “Relay” refers to Relay for Life, the organization that helps raise funds for cancer research, that Mademoiselle and Darrin are/were involved in at UNC. I met him last spring, when my husband and I traveled to Chapel Hill for the event. He’s now a UNC grad, I’m told, and is teaching English in France before doing something else. I’ve never visited Rouen (or, tried to pronounce it), but I know it’s in the north of the country, in or near Normandy. A long way from Montpellier…

But it sounds delightful.

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Bonjour from Rouen!

I went to visit my friend from Relay, Darrin, this weekend and Rouen is so fun! Besides being the hardest city to pronounce ever, we spent the whole day exploring, window shopping, going to the Musée des Beaux Arts, and finding the best places to get crêpes.

Love,

Mademoiselle

10-10-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #6

Mademoiselle loves to read, and she’s a much faster reader than I am. We’ve both read “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and I thought it was cool that she visited the Chateau. I’ve never been to Marseille, but I think I’ve had bouillabaisse. I know I didn’t hike The Calanques, like she did. She put the rare photo of herself there on Instagram, and she looked very contente.FullSizeRender 2

Bonjour tout le monde!

Voici le Château d’If!

This fortress is only a 10 minute ferry ride off of the coast of Marseille, and it was absolutely spectacular. This was the setting of “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas, where the main character is wrongfully imprisioned and escapes from. We spent the rest of the day exploring Marseille, got bouillabaisse for dinner, and explored The Calanques all the next day. I hope you’re having a fantastic fall and I love you so much!

Love,

Mademoiselle

28-09-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #5

NOTE: Mademoiselle was in Paris on Friday night, November 13, 2015, but was unharmed and is safe. She had planned to visit Versailles the next day with her friends, but instead the group traveled back to the south of France, and they are safe.

Up until Friday, I had received 12 postcards from her, and I will continue posting the series as planned. Vive la France!


 

This painting is L’attente (Margot) by Picasso, and is at the Musée Picasso in Barcelona.

Shortly after I received this one, I asked Mademoiselle about her trip to Barcelona, and whether she’d go back, since it’s so close–just a short train ride away. She shrugged (I imagine) and said, probably not; she has more places to see before she comes home in December. When I spent a year in Montpellier, I went to Barcelona three times. I found it fascinating and lovely. Read what she says below; it’s exactly what I and my friends did, too. I felt the same way when I got back “home” to France.

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“Barcelona, Spain

Bonjour!

Just got back from our trip to Barcelona! It was beyond fun. We ate tapas, paella, and drank so much sangria. The Museo Picasso was fantastic, we walked along La Rambla, drank coffee, saw the cathedral and the Sagrada Familia, figured out how to navigate the metro, and probably walked close to 20 miles for the entire weekend. Yet, I was enormously happy to be back in France, where at least I can speak the language!

Stay tuned,

Love,

Mademoiselle

13-09-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #4

Carcassonne is not too far from Montpellier, and I do wonder what it looks like now compared to a few decades ago, when I visited it with my group of study-abroad students from UNC. I remember that we had a picnic and did not eat at a restaurant, but we did drink wine. I also recall that my fear of heights kicked in as we toured it.

While Mademoiselle was touring Carcassonne, I was appearing at the Decatur Book Festival. She’s been such a great cheerleader for me this fall, as I go here and there to book signings and festival/writers’ conference panels! Something I never dreamed I’d ever do the day I spent in Carcassonne.

 

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Bonjour!

On Sunday we visited Carcassonne, a medieval fortress that has been completely restored and maintained in its original state. For lunch we went to this fantastic restaurant where we had cassoulet, a specialty of the Languedoc region, and plenty of wine (of course). After, we toured the castle and the cathedral and visited all of the touristy shops! So glad you had fun at the Decatur Book Festival!

Love,

Mademoiselle

06-09-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #3

This carte postale is hands down my favorite one so far. Nîmes is a town right next to Montpellier, and when I was the age of Mademoiselle, my coloc (roommate, and apartment mate) and I visited it one day toward the end of our year in France. However (and don’t tell Mademoiselle this), to get there, we “fait du stop” (hitch-hiked). But that’s another story.

We saw the Arena (L’Arène) too, but we didn’t get to tour it. I’m sure we looked in the guidebook before we went, but we didn’t see as much as  Mademoiselle and her friends saw. Wish we had!

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Bonjour!

We went on our first solo trip to Nîmes for the day, “une ville avec un accent,” and saw almost all of the sights on the other side of the card! La Tour Magne, Le Temple de Diane, La Maison Carrée, L’Arène, Le Jardin de la Fontaine, and the Cathédrale St-Castor. Nîmes is a beautiful small town with fantastic Roman architecture (apparently it was the largest city in Gaul/France during the Roman Empire). We did not get to see the Pont du  Gard (bottom right) but it was such a fun trip! Hope all is well!

Love,

Mademoiselle

5-9-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #2

With the exception of Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Carcassonne, France, all of Mademoiselle’s many travel destinations so far have been different from mine when I spent a year abroad in France. Her first excursion was to Collioure.

Mademoiselle and I have similar tastes in art, and she is much more knowledgeable than me about history. And we both adore the beach!

Quelle jolie carte postale, n’est-ce pas?

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Bonjour!

This is from our excursion to Collioure, a medieval port town that’s known for its art scene. Apparently painters like Picasso and Matisse lived there at one point and painted the scenery. Also visited the castle that was once controlled by the Visigoths, the Spanish, and the Huguenots at some point or other, and then laid on the beach (far right).

Love you,

Mademoiselle

30-8-2015″

Postcards from Europe, #1

My daughter (I’ll call her Mademoiselle, but if you’ve read ALL THE ABOVE, you know her name), is a junior in college, and is spending this semester studying in the south of France. She’s living in the same city I did (Montpellier), when I did the same (as a student at the same university*) for a year. Like me, she’s somewhat of a chronicler, and since August, she’s been sending me postcards (cartes postales) via la poste (snail mail).

Just as I’ve been doing with “Pizza and a Movie” posts, and as I’m starting to do with “Wine with Wendy on Wednesdays,” I’m going to do a series of posts sharing her postcards sent from Europe. Notice that she uses the French way for dates (day/month/year):

Voici la première carte postale:

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Bonjour à tous!

Today I visited the Château de Flaugergues, a small summer home built in 1696 by a member of the French Royal Court! Today it has sprawling gardens and the family that lives there makes wine (the rosé is the best) and it’s only 15 minutes away by train! I hope everything is good at home and I love you all!

Love,

Mademoiselle

28-8-2015″

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Of course, she’s been in touch with me and her father by telephone, text, email, and even the odd photo on snapchat or instagram. But her postcards seem more special, and they kind of link her time in France with mine.

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*The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

 

Pizza and a Movie: Ricki and the Flash

This weekend’s Pizza Toppings at Corner Pizza:

  • Feta Cheese
  • Green Peppers
  • Mushrooms

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Movie:

Ricki and the Flash

No matter what the film, I’ve always loved Meryl Streep.

The first one I remember seeing her in was Kramer vs. Kramer, and I saw it in France (with French subtitles) when I spent a year there in college. In that and every other movie I’ve seen her in, I was awed by her performance. In Ricki and the Flash, she’s wonderful, as usual. I loved the music in this film, too, and hearing her sing.

I won’t say this is the best movie I’ve ever seen – or ever seen her in – but it was good. There was one scene at a round table in a restaurant (near the beginning) that was very funny, and there were many other great moments. Near the end, as people danced at a wedding reception, I found myself wishing that my own had been as memorable, and as much fun.

Which brings me to the pizza pictured above. No, my husband and I didn’t have pizza at our wedding, but we did share this one. And no, we didn’t eat all of it – we saved a few slices and took them home.

I picked all the toppings this time. He agreed, with the caveat that one had to be Green Peppers, because (since he’s been keeping track of our toppings) it was the only one we hadn’t chosen yet. We both like them, so we didn’t know why we hadn’t had them yet; for some reason, we had forgotten to.

If you’re a fan of Meryl Streep, don’t forget to go see her in Ricki – especially if you like stories about the choices we make in life.

 

Ceci et cela (This and That): List Post

  • Recently received: 2 handwritten thank-you notes in the mail. One from France, one from Dunwoody, GA
  • The one from France written en anglais, avec une photo; the other, from une amie de longue date (old friend)
  • Writing research: Found (long) paragraph in THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES describing how Sherman McCoy is “going broke on a million dollars a year!” (Chapter 6, p 137)
  • Missed her: mom’s neighbor, “Z” (with whom I practice français de temps en temps) home from France where she was for the summer, but already on her way back there for a week
  • Stacking up: Books to read, on my nightstand (see my Goodreads “to read” list)
  • Falling: Temperatures…and time to enjoy the patio le soir
  • Tried it: Zumba! Toning. A break from spinning class…Fun! but hard on knees.
  • Writing: between now and Thanksgiving: 50K words in WIP? (that’s just 5K a week)
  • Planning: My (solo) 20 minute Author Focus panel at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, CA, le 15 novembre à midi
  • sprechen Sie Deutsch? Amazon Crossing of Amazon Publishing is translating UNDERWATER into German! Release date sometime next spring.
  • Organisez! My notes for Book 4 (WIP) and my French notes!
  • Traveling: Not me (until November), but those I know, to the Bahamas, Rosemary Beach (FL), Folly Beach (SC), Turks & Caicos, Martinique, Las Vegas, Australia, Fiji, Prague, The Dordogne (France), Paris…Of those, I’ve only been to Vegas and Paris
  • Preparing: Book 3, ALL THE ABOVE, a true story, for publication in early 2015 (probably February). It’s been edited, but needs a cover. Can keep some quotes of song titles in it, but not song lyrics 😦
  • Finally….watching: Football! UGA Bulldogs, UNC Tar Heels and Atlanta Falcons!

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Getting yesterday back

Yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back.
– Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove
 

As a writer of fiction, I draw from my own experiences. But I also tell stories that I make up, out of my imagination. I don’t tell a story the way it happened, but the way I thought it should have. *

So “yesterday” is a good place to look for ideas, even though in life, you can’t get yesterday back.

Lots of things that happen in my novel MAKE THAT DEUX really happened (or a version of them did), but lots of other things didn’t. I did spend a year in France when I was young, and I missed my boyfriend back home. When I wrote the novel, I got to tell the ending of our story, not as it really happened, but as I wished it had.

My latest novel, UNDERWATER, isn’t based on an experience. But some of the characters’ internal conflicts are drawn from my own struggles. The water “down the river” isn’t always calm. Even if it looks okay, in my characters’ lives, there’s a lot lurking below the surface: Guilt. Lies. Jealousy. Hurt. Bitterness. Regret.

The tension builds, and as an author of suspense, I know that

worry = suspense.

As I wrote UNDERWATER, I knew that its “yesterday” had to be problematic at best. I wanted to keep you, the reader, worried about what was going to happen next.

And since by nature, I’m a worrier, I just had to let the river flow.

* to paraphrase Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: “A story was something you made up out of something that might have happened. Only you didn’t tell it like it was, you told it like you thought it should have been.”

 
 

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