Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fall into Winter


Following our Europe by Train travels, the jet lag really hit. 


I was fuzzy for quite a while, but finally found my way back to my computer. By the first days of winter came the Bouchercon Mystery conference, a kind of place where writers gulp down companionship after all the solitary hours writing. It was a lively, informative weekend where I got to hang out with friends and make some wonderful new ones. 


One of my writer-friends, the very talented Deborah Crombie invited me to do a Jungle Reds guest blog. Having not posted for awhile, I poached it for myself:

Id been so buried in work that my desk was piling up. After returning home and sending a book to my editor, I finally cleaned it. Then behind my office door, I noticed the cross-body bag I’d worn on the trip. I reached inside. My heart began pounding when I withdrew this map of Rome, our last stop. After a lifelong relationship with France, I fell hard for Italy.


The Bloomsbury Trail map sent me back to our first days in London, where Britain’s Literacy Trust had commissioned a series of author book benches.


One sunny day in the park, we found the Agatha Christie book bench, Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly.


The bench that spoke most personally to me was Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, which I discovered quite by accident in the basement of Stanfords, a treasure trove of books and maps since 1863. (Love those Victorian travelers!)


While my Fellow Traveler husband researched “The Caf├ęs of Europe,” my daughter and I pounded the cobblestones, exploring vintage shops, bookstores, and old libraries, including the immense Klementinum in Prague and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.


I was also unfaithful to Paris in Amsterdam, which I found seriously captivating and arty. We went to pay homage at the Van Gogh Museum.


Vincent gave us some good advice, which we followed throughout Europe. 


In Florence, we ended our visit to the Pitti Palace and Gardens with an opulent costume exhibit, where we ran into Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.


Our last museum was Rome’s Villa Borghese Gallery, and I still can’t get over the Bernini sculptures.



In a zippered section of my bag, I found these pound and euro notes, some coins—oh wait, one of them is an Indian rupee (but that’s another story).


Great sense memories arise from the restaurant cards and matchbox (setting from an earlier book)—spicy Asian noodles at Londons Siam Eatery, sublime roasted porcinis in Florence, yummy vegetarian at Prague’s Maly Buddha (its owner a North Vietnamese architect). Gorgeous, plump house-made noodles at Fattoincasa, the site of our last dinner in Rome, right off the Piazza Navona.


The Navona is truly of Roman scale, breathtaking, and a lively place to hang out and enjoy a gelato after dinner. Or before. Or any time.


To finish things off, a mint—Swiss or Hungarian?


It’s funny how these odds and ends can evoke such real feelings. In French, souvenir means both memory and to remember. However much I admire minimalist design, my house is overflowing with books and travel treasures. I prefer to call it cozy rather than cluttered.