Want to know what your favorite authors are reading?
Throughout the month of September, you will find out!
As part of 30 Authors, an event created by The
Book Wheel, authors will be sharing thoughts about their favorite books in posts
across participating blogs. For more details, click here.
Thanks to The Book Wheel for including me in the group of
authors! Please check out my post on Love At First Book on Friday, Sept. 12. In
the meantime, let’s see which book author Jenny Milchman has chosen as the best
of 2014. Click here. Please follow the hashtag #30Authors throughout the month to keep up with the latest or visit the Facebook page.
I promised my almost 4-year-old daughter P. that she could “guest
post” on my blog, so she has decided to share a drawing with you. (See above.)
P. tells me that it is “the ceiling, decorated with photos”
and the pink lines are “the doctor” and the yellow lines are “the grass.”
(Believe me, our ceiling looks nothing like this.). As you can see, P. has more
than her share of creativity.
P. dedicates this drawing to our friend X. who hosted us during our recent trip to China.
P. often sits at my computer and tells me that she is
working, or even more specifically, working on her blog or on her book. Maybe I
will be surprised one day when I have a look in the local book shop and see P.
in there signing autographs! After all, she is getting pretty good at writing
her first name.
I’ll keep this post short… Thank you for giving my little
one an audience today!
I was itching to see The Great Wall. Then I realized that the
one hour plus car trip from Beijing with a three-year-old who easily gets carsick wasn’t ideal. And
then walking along the wall in the heat and driving back. No. Impossible.
So we took the much shorter car ride to The Forbidden City,
the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming through the Qing dynasties. This
massive series of pavilions seems to stretch into infinity. With a temperature
of 99 degrees F, it was impossible to walk through the entire complex without
falling victim to heatstroke! No wonder most of the Chinese ladies walk around
with delicate, ornate umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun’s intensity.
We compromised, walking through the first few pavilions… and
then a few days later in Shenyang, we visited that city’s “Forbidden City.” It
is smaller, but actually more beautiful. Instead of locked pavilions, we found
open doors and much to see within.
People's Park, Shanghai
In Shanghai, my favorite stop was the Yu Garden, with its
lovely plants, traditional buildings and rocks. I had dreamed of visiting a
traditional Chinese garden and wasn’t disappointed. It is especially
interesting to see this sort of natural setting in the midst of Shanghai’s new
constructions, reaching high into the sky. For a taste of this “new” Shanghai,
a walk along the “Bund” at night was the perfect choice…
I loved Beijing for its history. There are many temples
and sights to see, and the city is so big and the heat so intense, that only one
or two sights can be covered in one day. Shenyang was a wonderful example of a
typical big city in China. And Shanghai, with its massive modern buildings and
endless streets of European and American shops, reminded me that the east isn’t
too far from the west.
For me, China was a lesson in history and the future. Not a
relaxing vacation, but one filled with discovery and movement.
On my first trip to China, I realized that many general ideas
about the country and culture are far from the truth. Some of my observations…
Made in China makes many people think of inexpensive clothing or
plastic toys. Sure, those are some of the things made in China. But that is
only a small part of the picture. On my trip, I discovered so many beautiful,
quality products made in the country. Lovely jade bracelets, silk scarves,
quality paper goods (I couldn’t resist buying a notebook even though I have a
full stock), and the list goes on.
Chinese food is not like what we often are served in Chinese
restaurants in the U.S. or France. It isn’t all fried, heavy or loaded with
MSG. In reality, there are grilled meats and fish, a large variety of
vegetables and fresh fruits. Eating Chinese food can be synonymous with eating
Some of my favorites: sauteed green beans, fried rice and scrambled egg with tomato
I’ve been told (even by Chinese people themselves) that the Chinese
are shy and reserved. While this is true, I found the people we encountered
also to be very warm and welcoming to “westerners.” They were generous with
their smiles and many stopped to say “hello.” What surprised and amazed me in
particular was the fascination with my three-year-old daughter. In many
instances, Chinese children would come up to her, hold her hand and their
mothers would ask us if they could take photos. While I am very cautious about
having strangers snap shots of P. at home, the experience in China was
different. I couldn’t resist this friendly, cultural exchange.
I love the Chinese population’s interest in the culture of the
west, but one thing saddened me a bit. I noticed that so many advertisements
for goods and services featured Caucasian models. How does it feel to be
Chinese and faced with so many images that reflect the western world? How can
this impact the self-image of a young person, for example? I’m not saying that
all of the models should be Asian, but I think that those billboards could use
a bit more diversity.
A strange ad I kept seeing in taxis
In the coming days, I’ll wrap up my China posts with one that is
a bit more tourism related… I’ll share with you a couple of my favorite spots!
My grandmother always dreamed of visiting China. She collected a few Chinese objects here and there, including a shiny black and red chest that clashed with her light Floridian furniture. But Grandma didn’t care. She loved its beauty and kept dreaming of China. Unfortunately, she never made it that far east, but thanks to my French-Chinese friend X., I was able to visit the place that intrigued and enchanted my grandmother.
Beijing, X.’s home of Shenyang and Shanghai were our three destinations. So many beautiful historical sites and gardens to see. But I won’t go into the detail that you can find on many tourism websites. Instead, I would rather write about the feeling and the people.
X’s family owns the Huayuan Hotel in Shenyang and we stayed there for a week while my husband, a personal chef, learned recipes from the hotel chef and taught the kitchen team some French recipes. A perfect cultural exchange. X’s family and the hotel staff treated us like royalty and showered us with attention and warmth. They were eager to share their culture with us and learn about ours. I found this openness and kindness a common trait among many people I met in China.
Somehow, even with a huge language barrier, certain feelings are easy to express… such as the sadness I felt saying goodbye.
I’ll be back with more about China… There is so much to write. But for now, here are a few photos from Shenyang. Enjoy!
This post is part of
the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year!
Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea,”creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.
The last day of
July and the scent of vacation is in the air for many Parisians. With a minimum
of 25 vacation days a year, Parisians traditionally take at least two weeks off
in the summer – and the most popular time is August.
The shops and
restaurants surrounding tourist attractions are usually open in August but if
you go into a neighborhood just off the tourism route, you will get a feel for
the real Paris in August: quiet, calm, sleepy.
neighborhood, our usual bakeries, cheese shops, and other artisans close during
the same period, leaving us with the grocery store and one bakery. There is always
one baker among the five or six in each neighborhood who will remain open so we
don’t have to resort to industrial bread. (Whew!)
If I want to have
lunch or dinner at a small café or restaurant, I think to myself: “It’s that
time of year… I’d better call to make sure it’s open.” And it usually isn’t.
All of this until
the August 15 Assumption holiday. Then, slowly but surely, shutters lift,
hurried footsteps echo in the streets, the sounds of laughter and the scent of
cigarettes permeate the air. And Paris awakens.
I hope you have
enjoyed this year’s Paris in July. I certainly have! A big “merci!” to Tamara
and Karen for asking me to co-host this year.
July is one of my
favorite months in Paris, but if you love Paris as much as I do, don’t hesitate
to visit during any month. Paris is a place for all seasons.
Fellow Paris-based author Vicki
Lesage is teaming up with me on a few “Paris in July” posts. We each will be
writing our own take on a particular Paris-related theme. Here is Vicki’s wrap-up post for the last day
Parisin August is a unique phenomenon. It's
both empty and crowded. Loud and quiet. Parisian and not Parisian. It passes
slowly but is over with before you know it, and then it's back to the hustle
and bustle of work. You have to enjoy it while it lasts... Click here to read more…
This post is part of
the Paris in July blogging event. I’m delighted to be co-hosting this year!
Please check out the blogs of Karen at “A Wondering Life” and Tamara at “Thyme for Tea,” creators of the event, for links to all participating posts.
OK, so it might not be as obvious today as it was in the day
of Hemingway. I know, I know: When you walk by such historical places as Café
de Flore or Les Deux Magots you’re more likely to see a tourist or tired
shopper than a writer. You won’t see many solitary individuals scribbling in
notebooks for hours or writers regularly running into each other and having
To my great dismay, you won’t see the literary figures of
the moment meeting daily in a café and discussing the writing life or gathering
at the home of a mentor like Gertrude Stein for writing advice.
Gertrude Stein's former abode
But… this doesn’t mean that the Parisian café has lost its
artistic element. A recent trip to Flore – not the bustling terrace, but the
tranquil upstairs dining area -- proves my point. That day, the upstairs room
was the site of a photo shoot for an album cover: photographers snapping away
as an elegant woman in an evening gown posed. The audience? Only me, waiting
for my meeting with a literary contact. A couple of the camera crew members
chatted with me, the woman changed in the bathroom: a very low-key, artistic
A few weeks later, a meeting with another publishing contact
brought me to a café. In the cases of my meetings, they could have been done in
But there is something about the café that makes it an integral
part of the writer’s life, the obvious place for anything from the actual
writing to a professional rendez-vous.
Why? There is the idea of inspiration… a café is a great place to
watch the world go by. That certainly helped me when I was developing the
characters in my first novel “Paris, Rue des Martyrs.” Each moment at a café is
a story in and of itself.
There is also the idea of tranquility without isolation. You
know that when you are in a café, you can sit in a quiet corner for as long as
you would like and think and write. Yet you aren’t alone. There is a quiet
activity, a pulse that imparts energy.
As for a meeting, it makes the encounter warmer and more
amiable than one held in a cold office. Talking is much easier over a really
good café au lait.
So, the next time you happen to be in a Parisian café, keep
your eyes and ears open. If you sit around long enough, you just might get a
glimpse of a discreet writer at work. And you might end up a character in the
writer’s next novel!
Fellow Paris-based author Vicki Lesage is teaming up with me
on a few “Paris in July” posts. We each will be writing our own take on a
particular Paris-related theme. Here are Vicki’s thoughts on the writing life:
As a new author, with my first two books published in
January and May of this year, I'm still getting used to the label
"American writer in Paris." That's partly due to the fact that I
still have a day job. Click here to read more…