travel

I’m Here, Not There



This morning I’m here, not yet there. By tomorrow morning, I’ll be there, not here. For a time that seems not long enough, yet is the only length of time I dare be away. And I’ll be by myself, not with the man who’s been my travel partner for nearly 23 years.

There were a lot of trips abroad, mostly to Switzerland, so I do know my way around. This time, on my own, I have a purpose – to continue with a new novel I’ve only scratched out so far, but have written in my head. And I’ll be meeting up with two women – one I haven’t seen since that first year spent at the university in Fribourg, the other someone I’ve never met in person but who found me through my books. How great is that?!

And on Friday, I’ll be there, not here. Yeah, I’m okay with that, as I had no intention of watching the inauguration. It’s going to happen with or without me. And I’m not going to say anything else about it. Instead, here’s ‘there.’

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.

You’re Going to Leave the Country?


1980t

In 1980, I was a recent college graduate, intelligent but politically ignorant. I’d first voted in 1976 for Jimmy Carter. My father was infuriated. But I tended to lean left then, even if I wasn’t entirely sure why. I made the bold proclamation that if Ronald Reagan was elected president, I’d leave the country. Oh, how easy! I was 22 and full of ideas.

Reagan was elected, and in April 1981, I flew away. It wasn’t just because of Reagan, of course – I’d desperately wanted to return to my beloved Switzerland, so I bought a one-way ticket and had enough money to last a few months.

A former professor at the university where I’d spent my junior year of college helped me answer a couple of ads. One was local – a couple needed an au pair for at least the summer. The other was at the prestigious Monte Rosa boarding school in Montreux. One paid very little, one paid considerably more. I heard back from the couple first, and, needing to secure employment, accepted their offer. (The Monte Rosa contacted me a few days later, and, trying to be honorable, I turned them down and another American took the job.)

The husband of the family interviewed me at the hotel where I was living. We sat outside, at a tiny table, and drank strong coffee. His Italian-accented French was easy to understand, and we conversed without problem. He said to me, “You Americans, you’re always saying, ‘We’re Number One!'” He demonstrated with his index finger while smirking at me. I answered, “That’s because we are,” and grinned back.

I’m reminded of this exchange, and that long-ago summer, as I hear and read about people – adults my age – saying they’ll leave the country if Donald Trump is elected our next president. I’m sure some feel the same way about Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee on the other side. It’s not that easy to move to another country, and you know it. Unless you’re loaded with money and extraordinary connections, relocating for at least four years is nearly impossible. My life abroad in 1981 lasted less than six months. The Swiss government made it clear that my ‘visit’ was coming to an end.

If you go, be sure to send me a postcard!

Following Three Rivers


I’m in final edits for my new novel, Bittersweet Chocolate, which is the third and final book in the trilogy that features Bernadette Maguire, Karl Berset, and Jean-Michel Eicher, among others. Presently the manuscript is with a couple of readers for feedback, so I have a non-writing day planned for tomorrow – something that will lead to a new book.

In June 1924, my grandfather, Earl R. Handy, and his pal John B. Hudson set off for a two-week canoe and camping trip along three rivers in Rhode Island and Connecticut: the Moosup, the Quinebaug, and the Pawcatuck. This was two years before he married Dorothy Kenyon, my grandmother. Locals hikers are familiar with the name John Hudson – there’s a hiking trail named after him. Hudson and Handy did a lot of hiking and camping in this area, as well as up in New Hampshire. As a child, one of my fondest memories is traipsing through the woods behind their house in Perryville, a marked route we called the ‘bunny trail.’

"Hemlock Hill" Perryville, RI

“Hemlock Hill” Perryville, RI

My grandfather kept a journal throughout the two-week trip, and I have it. Tomorrow I’m going to trace the route – not by canoe, of course, but by car. We’ll head west through Rhode Island, following the Moosup River into Connecticut, then follow the Quinebaug as it heads south all the way to New London. We’ll continue along the shore, passing Groton, Mystic, all the way into Westerly, where we’ll pick up the Pawcatuck and head back north toward Bradford and Worden’s Pond, following the Pawcatuck to Thirty Acre Pond, next to the URI campus, where the journey ended. I have some old photos from 1924, but I imagine whatever pictures I take will look nothing like what these two men saw from the water nearly ninety years ago.

So that’s the plan! Something a little different to work on, and I hope to publish the book in time for the 90th anniversary of the trip.

GIVEAWAY! If you haven’t read my most recent book, Bits of Broken Glass, you can enter to win a print copy here via Goodreads. I’m giving away five copies and a couple hundred people have signed up so far. You can enter up until December 2nd.

Snapshots of My Mother


This photograph, which I’m guessing was taken around 1940 by my grandfather, shows my grandmother, Dorothy Kenyon Handy, enjoying a day with her children, Joyce, John, and Carter. And some four-legged friends. My mom would have been about twelve in this photo.

Dorothy Handy with Joyce, Carter, John (around 1940)

Daughter

Girl Scout

Girl Scout

My mother died six years ago today, although my sisters and I had lost her long before that, to the ravages of dementia, a disease that is not as cruel to the victim as, say, cancer, but that torments the loved ones who watch it take away memory, recognition, speech. The loving but stricter-than-most mother we knew had become a passive childlike woman who smiled nearly all the time. Her eyes seemed to recognize us, but she was unable to speak any of our names (at one point, she thought my name was ‘Fizzy,’ another time, “Swamp’ while she could still say a few words).

The summer I turned twenty-one was also the summer I returned from a year abroad, and the summer after my father died (three months earlier). A difficult time for everyone, especially for my mom and me, navigating our way through a too-empty house together, me wanting the same freedoms I’d enjoyed in Switzerland, she, probably afraid when any of us was out of her sight for too long. She was a widow, younger than I am now, with three daughters, one still in college, one yet to go. A woman who attended college but whose greatest joy was being a wife and mother. Intelligent, she set the bar high for her children, and didn’t tolerate bad manners, bad language, or kissing a boy in a convertible parked in the driveway late on a sultry summer night. She and I found our way eventually, as mothers and daughters do, and one of my fondest memories is of a trip we took in the early nineties to Switzerland (her second time there). Days were filled with train trips to points around the country. I had a rare opportunity to teach and translate. At night we played cribbage and she won every single hand.

Bride

Bride

I watched her take control of her new life as a husbandless woman. The invitations to parties and bridge games on Saturday night vanished. She learned what her assets were and how to manage them. She traveled, eventually, seeing places she might only have dreamed about.

Travels

Traveler

Montauk

Montauk

Dementia takes its sweet damned time, and my mother lived with the progressive disease for more than four years. It didn’t surprise me at all that she waited until her three daughters and two sons-in-law were gathered around her bed before she took her last breath, as morphine helped her wind down just like a clock.

But today, instead of focusing on that one moment of loss, I’ll finish a crossword puzzle and make a Rhode Island chowder in her memory.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “Z” is for ZERMATT


photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds

Of course I’d end up in Switzerland!

The name of Zermatt, as well as that of the Matterhorn itself, derives from the alpine meadows, or matten (in German). The name appeared first as Zur Matte (“in the meadow”) and became later Zermatt. It does not appear until 1495 on a map or 1546 in a text, but may have been employed long before.

There are no cars allowed in Zermatt. You can take a train, but once you arrive at the station, you can walk, ride in an electric car, or climb into one of the lovely-horse-drawn carriages

photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds

This photo, above, was snapped at Sunnegga, a ski area on the Rothorn mountain. As the name implies, there’s usually a lot of sun here. My sister, my mom, and I were here in the early 90’s.

The photo below is from Gornergrat, at 3,089 meters above sea level, March 2007. Yes, the air is thin, but look at this view!

photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds

Honorable mentions go to Zurich (where our dear friends Paul and Athena reside and have welcomed us), Zug, and Zweisimmen. “Z” was easy!

Thanks for following this blog during the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I hope you enjoyed visiting some of the places that are part of my travel history.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “Y” is for YARMOUTH


Bass River, South Yarmouth - photo by John Phelan

Bass River, South Yarmouth – photo by John Phelan

Ah, but which Yarmouth?

  • There’s Yarmouth, or Great Yarmouth, in Britain, on the eastern coast near Norwich, an old fishing port now servicing natural gas rigs. Never been there.
  • There’s the town of Yarmouth in Maine, northeast of Portland and bordering Freeport (LL Bean area). Been there, great New England town.
  • There’s a Yarmouth in Nova Scotia, located in the heart of the world’s largest lobster fishing grounds. Want to go!
  • There’s another Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, one of the island’s earliest settled regions. Would love to visit sometime.
  • No, this Yarmouth is close to home, in Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. The town itself is made up of South Yarmouth, West Yarmouth, and Yarmouth Port. As the land was inhabited by Native Americans prior to English settlement, many of the tribal names remain and are familiar in the region: Wampanoag, Cummaquid, Algonquin. And the town is named after the first Yarmouth listed, Great Yarmouth.  The land was used to raise pigs, sheep, and cattle until the late 19th century, when developers began to turn it into a fashionable summer resort. Hotels and summer cottages sprung up along what is now Route 28.  Yarmouth Port boasts the headquarters of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the very first Christmas Tree Shop.
Judah Baker Windmill, South Yarmouth - photo by John Phelan

Judah Baker Windmill, South Yarmouth – photo by John Phelan

For us, it’s always been a great getaway destination, but only off-season (I wouldn’t go near the Cape in the summer!).

Okay, there’s your “Y.” Tomorrow is the last day. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………………..  🙂

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “X” is for AIX-en-PROVENCE


It is not cheating. Besides, I’ve never been to China, where all the X’s reside (and you thought all my exes lived in Texas…)

So, first a little history lesson. Aix was founded in 123 BC by Sextius Calvinus, who gave his name to its springs. A few years later, in 102 BC, its neighborhood was the scene of a big battle. In 477 AD it was occupied by the Visigoths. And then the town was repeatedly plundered by other groups and tribes, and it wasn’t until after the 12th century that Aix settled down and became a place for art and learning.

Finally, in the late 15th century, Aix and the rest of Provence became part of France.

I traveled to Aix on my own. It was the summer I returned to Switzerland, in 1981, and accepted a job as an au pair (nanny) to a totally undisciplined two-year-old. Two days later I received a job offer to work and teach at an exclusive boarding school somewhere near Gstaad. Yes, it would have been incredible, well-paid, perhaps even life-changing. But I’d told this couple I’d work for them and I was a woman of my word. So many times during that summer I wished I wasn’t.

Anyway, before I started working for them, I took a weekend and traveled by train from Geneva. I stopped in Aix because even then I loved all things Provence: fields of lavender, soupe au pistou, pastis……

The Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains. It follows the line of the old city wall and divides the town into two sections. The new town extends to the south and west; the old town, with its wide but irregular streets and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, lies to the north. Along this avenue is the Deux Garçons, the most famous brasserie in Aix. Built in 1792, some of its more famous patrons have been Paul Cezanne, Emile Zola, and Ernest Hemingway.

Aix! Just say “X.”  We’re almost done with the A to Z Challenge. I’ll showcase “Y” and “Z” on Monday and Tuesday.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “W” is for WOLFEBORO


Quick – Name the Oldest Summer Resort in America. Okay, you read the title of this post first, so you already know.

Main Street, Wolfeboro photo from www.wikipedia.com

Main Street, Wolfeboro photo from http://www.wikipedia.com

Well, I was surprised. I really thought our own Newport (RI) would have won.

Wolfeboro is situated at the head of Wolfeboro Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. It’s a popular summer destination, particularly for families from parts of New England, especially Boston and southern New Hampshire. This long tradition as a summer colony led to the motto “The Oldest Summer Resort in America.” Recently, it has also become a popular year-round home for many seeking a small town existence in “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire. Its downtown is picturesque, with shops lining the main street, and large public docks at the lake shore.

The town has seen a steady stream of famous individuals visit on vacation, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Kurt Vonnegut, Drew Barrymore, and Jimmy Fallon.

Last January, we drove around the lake from Meredith to Wolfeboro. I looked out the car window to the right, the lake side. There were giant houses, three- and four-car garages, all closed up for winter, but monstrously big and quiet. I looked out the left side and saw trailers, piles of wood to fuel the stoves, blue tarps on roofs, the homes of year-round residents who know what hard winters are like.

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “V” is for VENICE


 

photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds

Kathy and I arrived at the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station a few days before Easter in 1979.  Before we left Fribourg, someone advised us to arrive at dusk (“it’s so pretty at that time of day!”). As we walked through the station, I noted a half-dozen or so people lying on the floor. We checked our guidebook and walked from pensione to pensione, only to find every single hotel booked solid. Finally, someone who spoke English told us we were crazy to come to Venice during Holy Week and think we’d get a hotel room. Ah, now the station-sleepers made more sense. And yes, we joined them. I unrolled my sleeping bag (pure luck that I had it with me) and Kathy and I bedded down for the night, our valuables tucked under our heads. The station was patrolled by a couple of the local polizia, which was comforting, I guess.

Venice was a stop on the way to Greece, anyway, so we spent the next day in Saint Mark’s Square, which was constructed in the 9th century. The square was laid out in front of the original St. Mark’s Basilica, which at the time was a small chapel attached to the Doge’s Palace. Besides people and magnificent architecture, the square is also home to a great many pigeons. They’re everywhere. They’ve caused a lot of damage to the delicate mosaics, but all attempts to reduce the population have failed.

photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds

Anyway, Kathy and I spent a long day in Venice and boarded a train that evening, one that would travel all the way down the eastern coast of Italy to Brindisi. The train was packed full of people traveling somewhere for Easter, so we had the pleasure of standing all night. I think there were finally seats available by the time we stopped in Foggia, probably around five in the morning. From Brindisi, we waited around all day until the ferry departed at night for Greece (remember “C” is for Corfu?).