Traveling through the Coronavirus


Image from Pixabay

Notice I wrote traveling through, not traveling with. Although I wouldn’t know if I have COVID-19, the Coronavirus. I haven’t been tested, I’m not showing symptoms, but yes, I could be infected. After all, I was in the midst of thousands of others this past week, at Boston’s Logan airport, Reykjavík’s Keflavik airport, Zürich’s airport, the train from Zürich to Fribourg. Then the markets and coffee shops and restaurants and stores in Fribourg. And, sadly, just a few days later, the packed train from Fribourg to Zürich, a flight from Zürich to Dublin, four hours in the jam-packed Dublin airport, six hours on the full airplane to Boston.

My little vacation and book research trip was cut short after president Trump declared Wednesday evening that, effective Friday, all travel from European countries to the US, was banned for 30 days. That’s what he said, what he supposedly read off a Teleprompter. (Yes, I know that Homeland Security later clarified it, but he’d already stated the mistruth.) I watched the speech, at around 2:00 in the morning in my hotel room, with a sense of dread. I was scheduled to be in Fribourg until Monday, 16 March. Under his directive, I would be stuck in Switzerland for another month. Now, you know I love Switzerland! But I couldn’t stay for a month. So, at 2:00 am Thursday morning, I began packing. I thought, just in case. I sent an email to my husband, letting him know I was awake and aware of the situation.

A half hour later, he called me. After a few choice words for Trump, he implored me to come home. “Do whatever it takes,” he said. “Don’t worry about the money. Just come home.”

By 3:30, I was dressed and packed. I sent messages to my friend Barbara, with whom I’d spent a lovely day on Tuesday, and to my friend Fabiola, with whom I was supposed to spend Saturday. I had friends sending messages to me. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘I’m worried about you.’

Fribourg train station
Thursday, 12 March 2020 5:45 am

I checked out of the hotel. Four nights unused, and although the guy at the desk said he’d look into it, I don’t expect a refund. I walked through dark and quiet streets to the train station (that brought back memories of my student days!), purchased a ticket from a smart machine, and rolled my bag up a ramp to track 3. The 6:04 train left on time – of course – and filled up at Bern, its next stop. Every time I heard someone cough near me, I pulled my scarf up over my nose.

I arrived at the airport by 8:00 and traveled up escalators to the departures area. When I inquired about where to find the Icelandair check-in desk, I learned that Icelandair doesn’t have a desk in the airport. (Note to self regarding discount airfares: sometimes you get what you pay for)

I was sent to FinnAir. I tried calling Icelandair and was told I was number 76 in the queue. After twenty minutes, I was number 72. I asked the woman at FinnAir if Swiss was flying to Boston that day. She directed me to another counter, where a very nice man looked up flights available Thursday to Boston. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was operating on zero sleep, one cup of coffee. I had last eaten at 4:00 Wednesday afternoon. He told me my best option was on Aer Lingus, Zürich to Dublin, Dublin to Boston. $1,397.00

I handed over my Visa card. The crowds at the airport, my understanding of exponential growth, and my intense desire to be home propelled me to the Aer Lingus check-in counter and down to the waiting area.

Both flights were full. Two women who had arrived in Prague on Tuesday and were flying back to Seattle, a nine-hour flight. “We had one day, yesterday,” one of them said. Four male college students on spring break, heading home early because their parents were “freaking out,” one said. When I defended the parents’ concern, they grinned and acknowledged it was the right thing to do. Most of the passengers, it seemed, were there because of the speech. Even the officials at passport control understood.

Only one time I was asked if I’d been to China or Iran. No one cared that I’d been in Switzerland, where there are nearly 650 cases and 4 deaths. That was on Wednesday. One day earlier there were only 500 cases.

I am home. My husband was at Logan last night to pick me up. I’d been awake for nearly 48 hours straight. I’m going to self-quarantine while I monitor myself. I hope others do, but many won’t.

Photo M. Reynolds

As for Fribourg, it’s been in my memory for over 40 years. It’ll stay there, even if some of those memories aren’t quite as sharp as they once were. And the book? It’s still going to be written. A self-imposed quarantine gives me plenty of time to write.

Forty Years Back


Nice, France

Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.

My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.

I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.

But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭

Plus ça change…..


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

(Rue des Epouses, Fribourg, Switzerland)

I recently returned from an all-too-brief writing trip to my beloved Switzerland. 38+ years since I first traveled there as a wide-eyed college junior, bound for life with my classmates on a journey of discovery and appreciation. I’ve been back numerous times, with my sister, my mother, my husband, but this solo trip gave me space to contemplate.
A lot has changed in Switzerland, and I noticed it more this time. Certainly, technology plays a huge part. Mobile phones are attached to everyone, train schedules are available on the phone, tickets are scanned by the conductor’s phone. 


(Rue de Lausanne, Fribourg, Switzerland)

Tastes change, and reflect the demographics of an area. This restaurant used to be known for its raclettes (from the French verb racler – to scrape – it’s a meal of melted cheese, boiled potatoes, and gherkins). Now it offers gourmet burgers. The Lucerne train station has plenty of takeaway food shops – Indian, Middle Eastern, vegan.


(St. Nicholas Cathedral with the Schweizerhalle in the foreground, Fribourg, Switzerland)

And yet, some things remain. A cathedral dating back to 1430. 


(Pizzeria Mary, Lugano, Switzerland)

This café in Lugano, exactly as it was when my husband and I dined there in 2009. Even the  same gruff waiter was there!

(Atop Mt. Rigi)


(Marie and Marcel, proprietors of the Chemin de Fer in Fribourg, 1979)


(Brian Falzetta, Terry Cook, Mike Sirius, 1979, Fribourg)

Some friends have passed, too soon. We can hold onto memories and smile at photos.


(Martha and Fabiola Abbet-Dreyer, 2017, Chernex, Switzerland)

And when we have the chance to reconnect, we take it. ❤❤❤

Happy Book-iversary (to me)!


99centsMy first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was published on August 12, 2012 – nearly four years ago! (It was republished with a new cover in April 2013.) In those four years, I’ve written and published six novels, all of which have given me tremendous pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, and that is sufficient. Well, pretty much.

New novels can trigger a sales flurry, but sales drop off after a time, even for beloved best-sellers.

So….for the coming week, every one of my six novels will be discounted to 99 cents for the e-book (Kindle version). I have no control over the print price, but if you come to the RI Authors Book Expo on December 3, 2016 http://www.riauthors.org/riexpo/ , I’ll have print copies available for a great price.

You can grab a three-book series, described by one reader as “writing (that) draws wonderful pictures of the characters and allows you to really ‘fall into’ the book ~ which is one of my favorite things about reading.” Or read about a group of classmates readying for their 25-year high school reunion and visiting old grievances. A novel about a young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a best-selling author, only to face a harsh reality check. And finally, a lighter story involving two friends who gamble on a dream of turning a rundown farm into a premier wedding venue. If you’ve already read these books, here’s a chance to give some gifts. In any event, I’m grateful – so very grateful – for all the positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received, from friends and strangers new friends, over the past four years.

Smile and Say……”V” is for Vacherin Fribourgeois


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For my friends who thought I’d cop out and feature this

 

VelveetaLet me just say that “V” is NOT for VELVEETA!

No, “V” is most definitely for Vacherin Fribourgeois.

Creative Commons/Tombat24
Creative Commons/Tombat24

Vacherin Fribourgeois is a Swiss semi-soft cheese made with raw cow’s milk in the towns of Bulle and Fribourg. The milk for the cheese is sourced from the Fribourgeois breed of cows that graze on the Alpine grass and wildflowers all the way through the late spring and summer. As early fall arrives, the cows are brought down to graze on grass and summer hay. That’s all they eat!

This traditional cheese making process ensures that Vacherin Fribourgeois has a pleasant nutty flavor underpinned by notes of fresh hay and milk. The inedible rind is stinky (it is!), but the cheese is not. The cheese itself is smooth and buttery.

Today Vacherin Fribourgeois is produced only by small number of artisanal cheese makers and is very difficult to find. Vacherin Fribourgeois is used in the best fondues, cooking and as a table cheese. It is a great melting cheese. Big and bold wines such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, or reds from the Rhone Valley in France will compliment the cheese well.

 

 

Not a Sad Cafe for Us


I was a fan of The Eagles in college; I mean, “Hotel California” was in just about every dorm room. This song, though, “The Sad Café,” was unknown to me until I heard it on a compilation CD that was released in 1993. The last song on the disc, “The Sad Café,” is sung by country singer Lorrie Morgan. It reminded me a lot of a place in Switzerland, the Café du Chemin de Fer on the Route Arsenaux in Fribourg. This is a photograph of the proprietors of that café – Marcel and Marie. (1979)

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

That café is no longer in existence – in its place is an Indian restaurant.

www.theresto.ch
http://www.theresto.ch

www.theresto.ch
http://www.theresto.ch

www.theresto.ch
http://www.theresto.ch

“…now I look at the years gone by, 
And wonder at the powers that be. 
I don’t know why fortune smiles on some 
And let’s the rest go free.”

I don’t know why, either. This past weekend I’ve thought a lot about the friends I made 35 years ago, some of the best friends I could ask for. Fortune has indeed smiled upon some of us, or all of us, because fortune is relative. Here’s the song:

Write What You Don’t Know About What You Know


Today I was a guest on Samantha Stroh Bailey’s blog, and in case you didn’t see all the leads to it through social media, I’m reposting it here.

Welcome Martha Reynolds!

Martha Reynolds’s first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, effortlessly transports the reader to Switzerland,  and she creates a main character you just have to know more about. The story is heart-wrenching, fascinating and delicious, and I’m so excited to read the sequel, Chocolate Fondue. Martha as a person is kind, warm and funny, and I’m thrilled to have her here today. Welcome, Martha!

Write what you don’t know about what you know 
Elan Barnehama is a straight male who wrote a book (Finding Bluefield) about two lesbians in 1960s Virginia. How did he write about a situation so different from what he knew? We’ve all heard the mantra: “write what you know.” It makes sense, doesn’t it? But the story can be so much better by writing what could happen, perhaps what should happen, instead of what did happen. And it doesn’t mean you can’t use what you do know. Ann Hood’s first novel, Somewhere off the Coast of Maine, involves a teenage girl, Rebekah, who believes her tortured high-school life would be so much better if she could just get a nose job.
Readers thought Hood must have gone through the same trauma.  She didn’t, but her memory of wearing too-thick eyeglasses, and having to constantly repair them in class, evoked the same kind of feeling that Rebekah knew. For me to write about my character Bernadette’s experience of an unwanted pregnancy and subsequent decision to carry the child to term and give it up for adoption was sometimes challenging. I don’t have children, and writing about a young woman who makes the decisions Bernadette made provided opportunity for me to dig deep for emotions that would help me to write these passages.  Yes, online research is available, but it’s tapping into the inner emotion that will help you write your story.
Elan Barnehama says that all his writing is autobiographical – in that it comes from him – but it’s not biographical, because it’s not about him. Connecting with the essence of the characters’ humanity is what the reader wants, and it’s what propels me as I write about what I don’t know.

Light tasty breakfast, on wooden table
Young Bernie (Bernadette) Maguire is in for the journey of a  lifetime when her junior year abroad takes her to Fribourg, Switzerland. Ripe  for love and adventure, she is seduced by a handsome Swiss banker, but is horrified when she discovers she’s pregnant. Protected and befriended by those  who help to keep her secret for as long as possible, this moving rite-of-passage  tale will warm the heart as a young woman struggles with an all-too-familiar  dilemma. Yet after an unexpected death and the discovery of her pregnancy by a  classmate, Bernie’s life takes some unexpected turns that will take decades to  resolve.

Martha’s second novel, Chocolate Fondue, is a continuation of the story told in Chocolate for Breakfast, her award-winning début novel.

Twenty-three years ago, Bernie Maguire, a young student in Switzerland,  delivered a son. Giving him up for adoption was the right decision, she knew,  but Bernie always wondered about the boy who was now a young man.
Back in  Fribourg, Switzerland for vacation, Bernie is stunned when she sees the man she  knows is her son. Now she must decide whether to identify herself to him and  hope for a connection, or say nothing and leave the young man to live his life.  The matter is complicated by a hotel employee who discovers the truth, and who  intends to get in the way of Bernie’s plans.

Martha Reynolds ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and began writing full time in 2011. Martha Reynolds published her début novel, CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST, in 2012. It follows a young woman into adulthood during a year abroad in Switzerland. CHOCOLATE FOR BREAKFAST was voted the 2012 Book of the Year in the category of Women’s Fiction by Turning the Pages Books. She and her husband live in New England, never far from the ocean.
Connect with Martha!
Read and follow the writings of Martha Follow her on Twitter @TheOtherMartha1
Buy the books in both paperback and digital versions! Amazon