Writers have always found solace and inspiration within the French culture and among its people. Americans, especially, have a rich history of flocking to Paris to exercise their creativity. In the days following the attacks on free speech, I have been thinking about this and have reached a few conclusions.
The light in France is dreamy; soft, glimmering, often filtered through grey clouds or reflected off of golden facades of limestone, bounced back from colorful stained glass, (Troyes has a museum dedicated solely to stained glass.)
Courtyards, like rabbit runs, embrace us while giving just enough room to exercise our bodies and our minds. Ancient roots heave upward from the ground. Ivy creeps along the stone walls, threatening to take over.
Details — downspouts, doorknobs, metal work, studded heavy wooden doors, window boxes full of flowers, wares fabulously displayed in store windows — all seen by the French as opportunities to be decorous.
Art is ubiquitous and displayed not only in museums and churches but often on sides of houses or reproduced and placed on easels where the original was created.
It is easy to travel around France. Trains are fairly dependable. I say ‘fairly’ only because of the propensity of the French to strike and shut down or seriously reduce schedules. Buses are available, as are private shuttles, rentals, taxi cabs.
The markets in France are opportunities to give all of the senses a workout. I can’t imagine anyone experiencing writer’s block when there is a market nearby. Such an orgy of colors, textures, sounds, smells, tastes would seem to defy a writer to pass by without jotting notes on slips of paper.
Food, food, food! Eating well is perceived by the French as a basic human right. I wholeheartedly agree.
Champagne! (Needs no further explanation.)
Sensations of the past ride a continuous loop with the present. Stone steps are worn concave in the center where generations of feet have left a cavity. Bakeries and vineyards have existed in their foundations for centuries. Craftsmen and artisans use old world techniques and are proud of it.
French philosopher Rene Descartes penned the idea: Je pense, donc je suis; I think, therefore I am. Today, I believe he would amend this statement to say: Je pense, donc je suis Charlie.
Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.