Small silver souvenirs trigger memories of sites sighted by the Seine.
Flying to France again is still a fantasy. But a flanuer through fall’s fanfare of colors provides consolation for continued Covid-caused confinements.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, Fireworks, Fantasy & Firebreathing
Montmorillon is a magical medieval town in the middle of France that has been called “The City of Writing and Book Professions” because of its history as the center of paper-making and book binding. It is also where my dear, dear friend Suzanne, and her family, have made a second home. Her place on the town square is charming. The village has a typewriting museum and probably more Harry Potter-like bookshops per capita than any other town in France. There is a huge expat Brit community, a lovely, quirky tea salon run by a former Playboy bunny, welcoming locals and fantastic views all around.
Vacances in France –After a week of classes with some pretty impressive literary and creative speakers…and a final soirée, I decided to wind down by taking the train to Biarritz, France, near the border with Spain, in Basque country. There are hills, palm trees, ocean breezes and roaring waves. If you need a momentary break from Paris it might as well be here — just saying.
I wanted some sea time, so I took a train to St. Malo in Brittany on the Atlantic coast. I stayed overnight at a wonderful hotel with a room overlooking the beach, walked the boardwalk at high and low tide, watched surfers ride the waves, saw a glorious sunset, had a great fresh lobster lunch when I got there, but stayed in my room in the evening with pizza and wine to listen to the storm out on the ocean…And then, on the 2+ hour train ride home made a new friend — a beautiful young woman who was born in Senegal, raised in Paris, spent 10 years in Atlanta and now lives in Brittany. She invited me to come visit when I return next year. I’m going to try to do that.
Best-buds Cronan and Sebastian were there for my 3rd SpokenWord reading. Girlfriend and jazz singer extraordinaire, Joan Minor (Google her if you’re into jazz) and her husband Paul, hosted a lovely dinner party. Then, after agreeing that cathedrals get old if you’ve seen too many, Cronan and I took the train to Chartres. We lucked up (big time) because 85 year old world renowned Chartres Cathedral historian Malcolm Miller was giving a tour. I learned more in 2 hours through his interpretation of biblical stories portrayed in stained-glass windows dating back more than 1000 years, than I have in a lifetime of going to church. And to top off the week, I got into the Sorbonne on one of only 2 days every year it is open to the public. It was phenomenal! One of my most valued privileges has been a good education, and this is where the most privileged have been educated for centuries. Even knowing I wouldn’t have been allowed in until recently, being in such a beautiful place of learning brought tears to my eyes.
Magical Weekend in Semur — As soon as we crested the hill in Burgundy, where Semur En Auxois appears on the horizon, I started grinning. With Thomas, my French tutor, his girlfriend Stephanie and the fascinating artists, musicians and artisans I met, this weekend trip was extra icing on the cake that is my life these days. I stayed with Jacqueline and Gerrard in their hilltop home overlooking the fortified medieval town, walked lots of cobbled streets and alleys thick with flora, had more French lessons in a garden besides the rapids of a river and enjoyed wine in the town square late at night after an outdoor cinema music party hosted by a French film director.