St. Paul de Vence

Cobble Streets in St. Paul de Vence

My camera clicked a photo everywhere I turned. The cobbled narrow streets, the signage over medieval doorways, windows flowing with bright trailing flowers caused my finger to push down on the shutter release as if afflicted with an uncontrollable tremor. The scene sets the writer in me to scheme a hide and seek chase, my protagonist, Ruby Draker, as always running for her life. “He will never stop hunting you”. It echoes constantly in her mind. Oh, stop it, Marianne. You’re on vacation!  But that’s part of the reason we came to France, to find some new inspiration in a setting where the exotic meets the modern everyday life.

St. Paul de Vence is a medieval hilltop village. It is completely walled and fortified from invasion; not that it’s barricades stops tourists on this pleasant spring day. I can only imagine what life might have been like in this town in the seventeenth century. Its spirit still lives and I can feel the hum of that ancient time.

There’s a story in every stone, window, and lookout point. It’s brewing for now. Perhaps in the third Draker novel. I can draw on it’s ghosts to enchant my readers.

To write is to live; to read is to dream. There are so many stories to tell.

Have a lovely day mis amis.

Market Day in Provence

Market Day in Provence

We took the Peugeot on market day. At home, I’m accustomed to a hand full of outdoor stands where farmers sell their home grown produce. In Le Muy (pronounced mew eee) there are multiple and varied vendors, more than vegetables, berries, fruit. It covered both sides of three narrow streets where vendors offered bread, cheese, meats, paella, pottery, fabric, table clothes, shoes, handbags, crafted products and clothing as well as souvenir type products. Whew; such a selection of wares. It was truly an open-air sort of shopping mall that somehow felt intimate and quaint. The fact that it was scattered among the historic section was a bonus. It was swarmed by locals and tourists on this hot sunny Sunday morning.

We purchased mostly food products to enjoy back at the country house. Though Ingrid and I are shoppers, she having purchased a blue linen blouse and me yet another table cloth (my third). Yet the food was the best. The bread and cheese in France is delicious. We serve it around 4PM with a cool beverage of choice and sit on the shaded veranda back at the country house, three couples chatting and reviewing our day. Oh, c’est la vie!

My passion is pottery and table clothes, all in Provence patterns. Not sure how I will get the pottery home without breakage. I will likely have to take it in my carry-on for the flight home. I can see the airport security personnel rolling their eyes as my carry-on luggage goes through the x-ray machine. However, I’m sure they’ve seen it before. These lovely pieces will remind me of our stay in France after we get home.

Today may be a day of leisure because traipsing about Provence, though very enjoyable, takes it’s toll on your energy. A bit of blogging perhaps. Au revoir mis amis. Have a wonderful day where ever you are.

Lost in Provence

Lost in Provence

It was bound to happen. Being left to our own resources with maps conflicting with an all knowing electronic voice telling us where to, it was a recipe for disaster. I’m blaming the round-a-bouts. As soon as you get off A8 (Provence’s super hi-way) you cross a round-a-bout every 300 to 500 meters. It completely turns your sense of direction around, kind of like spinning in a circle when we were children making us dizzy and disoriented. Not a good thing when driving in a foreign country trying to find your way to local sites. Today we wanted to go to Grasse, a town in Southern France, where the ladies wanted to visit Fraganard, a perfume shop. Mais oui! Oh; the joy of experiencing French perfume and face creams. Merveilleux. It seems that Madame (the female voice of our GPS system) wanted us to go via the super hi-way and we wanted to go on D562, per map directions, the scenic winding hi-way to get a feel for the real Provence. We were at odds.  Madame was most insistent but in the end our guys won the day, albeit we wasted an hour programing and reprograming the GPS to convince Madame of the virtues of the route we wanted to take.

It was a rather trying ordeal though hilarious. Fighting with your car, a rental one at that, certainly seemed ridiculous. But finally taking an additional hour and a half we arrived at our destination pleased that we triumphed over a machine.

Grasse is famous for it’s perfume companies. It also has a historic section where shops and boutiques bore the signature of old century atmosphere. We stopped for ice cream and then found a little shop that sold only nougat. Yum! Couldn’t go back to our rented country home without a good size chunk. Also, found a lingerie shop that fit the description of Ingrid’s novel, Winter Pleasure and French Lingerie. The shops were quaint and most unique. The fight with Madame was well worth it, round-a-bouts and all.

Tomorrow – the open farmers market in Le Muy where merchants sell products grown and produced locally. Stay tuned and subscribe so you don’t miss any posts. Au revoir mis amis.

 

 

Euphrussi de Rothschild Gardens

Euphrussi de Rothschild Gardens

If your timing is right, the nozzles in the reflecting ponds will erupt into plumes of water keeping time to classical music, animating the garden into a performance fit for royalty. When the show is over and the fountains subside, the pathways that run either side of the water features, draws you further down into it’s exotic spell.

This garden features prominently in my novel, but as a writer, I’ve taken some liberties to redesign its landscape and layout. This is the pathway where Ruby jogs and where she starts to realize that the Drakers are trying to reach out to her and help her embrace the new life that she has been unwittingly thrown into. The story is described on pages 46 – 48 of Finding Ruby by Marianne Scott.

One of my favourite sections is the rose garden. In my novel, I place the rose garden at the base of the temple which I’ve also relocated to the very end of the peninsula situated precariously near the edge of a high cliff that overlooks the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The spot is where young Roscoe imagines he hears the voices of his deceased parents and sister talking to him, giving him comfort and consoling him when he’s lonely. Ruby is drawn to him. He reminds her of the little brother she too lost.

The plant selection is not indigenous. I love all the exotic species that we are not able to grow at home. Paul and I have taken many photos to enjoy again as we review the places we visited but especially this wonderful garden.

Today we’ll take a drive to Grasse, another example of old town Provence. See you then and have a most wonderful day.

 

Newly Inspired in St. Jean Cap Ferrat

Newly Inspired in St. Jean Cap Ferrat

The inspiration flooded back the moment I smelled the jasmine. Two years ago, Paul and I had visited the Euphussi de Rothchilds Villa in St. Jean Cap Ferrat and the setting for my novel sprang to life. It imprinted on my writer’s mind. Immediately I knew that this was the place for the Draker’s safehouse. Merci Ruby, I thought, for inviting me back to refresh that image.

My novel, Finding Ruby, was stuffed into my purse, but Ruby’s character manifested at my side as Paul and our friends Ingrid, Andre, Lyse, and Guy joined me to explore the original surroundings of my story of a contrived family of  spies hiding out in an exotic location –  a very tropical one at that, the azure Mediterranean visible from both sides of the villa, the villa stately and towering on the  steep  cliffs that looked down on the Bay of Villefranche where yachts floated scattered in the bay. Yes, yachts. The French Riviera is abundant and ripe with the very rich and famous.

The mansion is a work of art. How could a writer not be overwhelmed with the details of its exclusivity? The exquisite furnishing of the house would make my character Rachel Draker, a family member, drool. Decorated all in French period, the house tells a story of its own. For me, a highlight feature is what I call the silo staircase located in a side vestibule with enormous windows that boasts views of the bay below. A delight to the eyes each time one of the Drakers climb to the second floor where their bedrooms were located.

And then there are the exotic gardens! But that will have to wait for tomorrow’s post. Till then my darlings (as the matriarch in Finding Ruby would say). Au Revoir mis amis.

 

Blogging in Provence

Blogging in Provence

Our little band of vacationers have been whirling around Provence, soaking up the attractions and distinctive culture. Provence is pastoral, romantic, serene; it has a flavour all its own. Yesterday, we decided to take it easy. I took the opportunity to do a bit of blogging. This spot will stay in my memory long after we leave this bucolic French farm house. I may have to find an outdoor spot in our hometown where I can be inspired by the local atmosphere. But Provence is very special.

Today we are visiting the Euphrussi de Rothschild Villa in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. This mansion and its exotic gardens was the inspiration for the Draker safe house in my spy thriller, Finding Ruby.

I’ll tell you all about it in tomorrow’s post. Have a lovely day mis amis.

PS: It’s sunny and 24C here.