Travels in France, Part Two

Josephine’s boudoir in Malmaison

Pat here. I will attempt to stop drooling over French food this time and dive into a few of the historical places I actually went to see. (that’s a lie. I went for the wine and cheese but Josephine’s boudoir is worthy of a gawk or two)

Avignon papal palace
Papal Palace of Avignon

Our first major stop was Avignon and the pope’s palace. The original palace was begun in 1252 so the king of France could install his own pope. Later, as the political conflict in Rome became more violent, (really, one would think clergy would behave better) Clement V, of Gascony, fled there in 1309. Clement lived with the monks, but by the time Pope Benedict XII came along, the old building wasn’t sufficient for his safety. He began reconstruction of the old palace into a fortress with a cloister around 1334.

model of Papal Palace in Avignon
model of Papal Palace in Avignon

After 1342, under the next popes, an even grander palace grew on the site, taking almost the entirety of the papal budget. The conflicts in the church did not end when Gregory XI returned to Rome, ending the Avignon Papacy in 1377. The pope’s Avignon retreat was finally besieged in 1398 by antipapal forces. Eventually, as all things do, the palace deteriorated. In 1791, it was the scene of a massacre of counter-revolutionaries, whose bodies were thrown into the latrines. Much of what we see today is a restoration that has been going on since 1906. So much history in one magnificent building! This is why it’s impossible to blog about my travels. I dive down bunny holes.

Read more

Travels with Food

wine and cheese tablePat here:

I’m just back from a two-week vacation and wondering why we call it a vacation. Perhaps in the days of maids and butlers time away from chores was a relaxing getaway, but I spent a year of research on the itinerary, and weeks on packing, and now that I’m home. . . I’m sure you all can relate to the stacks of laundry and bills, overgrown grass and weeds, and all the work (like this blog) that didn’t get done while I was away. Where are the magical fairies when we need them?

But in exchange for mounds of unfinished work, we had two wonderful weeks of maid service and catering, so I really have no reason to complain. I’m five pounds heavier and I’m here to tell you, the food was worth every ounce. Well, it was France, after all. If only I could bring that cheese home with me. . .

Read more

Giving Old Books A Makeover

Cyprian USNicola here and today I’m talking about reprints of my old books that come out all around the world. Although I now write timeslip books – and some of those are being published in different countries – my Regency historical romances are still regularly reprinted and reissued. It makes me very happy that books, some of which were originally written 20 years ago, are still in print somewhere in the world and hopefully reaching new Regency readers!

When I first started writing, back in 1998, I was published only in the UK. The books were shorter, sweet romances, sometimes with no sex and if there was a hint of it, the bedroom door closed quite quickly! After a few years, by great good luck, my books were selected (along with a certain brilliant author called Anne Gracie!) to be published in the US. I vividly remember the day the first one came out; not only did it feature a cover model called Mike Dale, which seemed to cause some interest, it was published in the week that I gave up my office job to become a full-time author. It also gained some pretty scathing reviews that almost sent me scuttling back to the day job, convinced my writing was no good, so the timing wasn’t great but I stuck with it.

Read more

From Paris with Love!

FestivalNicola here, fresh back from Paris and the amazing Festival du Roman Feminin, Festival of Women’s Fiction. The festival is an annual event for readers and authors, and when I was invited I was thrilled; the combination of books and Paris was, of course, irresistible! I’m so glad I went. It was an opportunity to meet new-to-me authors as well as old friends, and also to have time to chat properly with readers in a relaxed way (chatting in Franglais and with the help of some awesome interpreters!)

Thursday morning found me at St Pancras Station in London all ready to board the Eurostar to Paris. It was a fast, smooth and 1024px-Seine_by_Eiffel
comfortable trip, delivering me to the Gard Du Nord whilst I was still wondering at how quick and easy it all was! The taxi ride through Paris to the hotel reminded me of how mad French traffic can be but also gave the opportunity for a whistle-stop sight-seeing tour of the city from Sacré Coeur to the Louvre, with the river Seine shining in the sun. (The photo is from the same bridge of the river at night and it's from Wikipedia.)

Read more

National Days!

by Mary FireworksatWashingtonMonumentJo

Most countries of the world have national days that celebrate their identity. That usually usually means the day that independence was proclaimed, as in the US, or negotiated, as was the case in many countries that had been colonized like much of Africa. But there can be lots of variations.

Hungary, for example, celebrates St. Stephen's Day. The United Kingdom doesn't exactly have a national day, though sometimes the Queen's Official Birthday the second weekend in June is treated as such. (Her birthday is actually April 21st, but the weather is better for speeches and parades in June.) 

However, the UK is composed of four separate countries and they all have celebrations on the day of their patron saints: St. George for England, St. Andrew for Scotland, St. David for Wales, and St. Patrick for Northern Ireland.

A lot of countries have a Constitution Day since creating and affirming a constitution creates a nation in a real sense. (There are Americans who believe crafting and confirming the US Constitution was more vital than declaring independence, and they have a good case for that.)

There are other interesting national days. Albania celebrates Albanian DuckinCanada2Day on November 28th, for example, and it's a celebration of its independence. Alderney, one of Britain's Channel Isles, celebrates Homecoming Day on December 15, which was the day in 1945 when the German occupation ended and islanders who had fled were able to return home.

Our neighbor Canada has a neighboring national day as well: July 1st is Canada Day, which commemorates the 1867 joining of several British colonies into one, the AnniversaryFlagDominion of Canada. Happy 151st birthday, Canada!  Here's a picture of the giant rubber ducky that visited for last year's sesquicentennial celebration. (I love that duck. <G>)

France's national day is Bastille Day, July 14th, and it commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which is considered the beginning of the French Revolution.  France and the US have a lot of history in common Australia_Day 2004 by Philip Whitehouse  Wikipedia Commons

Australia Day is January 26th and commemorates the 1788 landing of the First Fleet of British ships when they arrived in New South Wales and raised the British flag in Sydney Cove, which became the site of the great city of Sydney.

Celebrations are similar around the world. Parades are always popular. In my Maryland county there are three Independence Day parades in different areas of the county, and the timing is staggered so that local politicians can attend all three, riding in convertibles and waving at their constituents, which is about as close as we usually get to them.  Fireworks are definitely popular world wide because–noisy and pretty, something for everyone.  <G>

There are floats and bands and social clubs marching together, but my very favorite local parade entry was the tattooed and bearded biker slowly cruising along on his hog, with his two very well behaved basset hounds draped over the big  fenders. Great fun!

The Fourth of July is also a time for family gatherings and barbecues with hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. From what I've heard from friends in other EiffelTowerFireworks.Pierre.Caradoc.WikipediaCommonscountries, this kind of celebration is global, though the food and drink might vary. 

But mostly, national days are for honoring our countries and the best that is in them. What are your national days, and what do you do on them? Because all nations are special, and we are part of our nations.

Wherever you live, what are your special days and how do you celebrate them?  With pride and gusto, I hope!

Mary Jo