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.Essoyes - Rue Voltaire Sign

We love France because of its open-minded people.  Ideas, affairs of the heart, race, religion, sex, are embraced freely.Essoyes - Micheline, Lena, Maurice, Karin, Ann, and me

Street performers are full of personality.Paris - street performer

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.)

Troyes - St. Peter's light through stained glass Troyes - St. Peter's golden sunlight on side of bldg Troyes - St. Peter's stained glass  Troyes - St. Peter's lit by the golden light of setting sun

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.  Troyes - Champ des Oiseaux - courtyard garden from the garden

Architecture is brilliant, whether castellated towers, medieval houses, Gothic churches, or stone farm sheds.  We can run backward through time as easily as taking a walk in any village.Troyes - Architectural quarter with famous houses Church of Saint Remy Essoyes - School Troyes - Half-timbered buildings

Paris - Renee with Napoleon's tomb Paris - Sacre Coeur Paris - Eiffel Tower from Montmartre   Notre Dame 5

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.

Troyes - iron studded door Troyes - Catholic School Building with colored roof tiles and iron gates Troyes - Buildings with Timbers, shutters and iron Troyes - St. Nizier - Gargoyle kept company by pigeonsTroyes - Flowering pots Essoyes - Yellow flowers and lavender against dark wood and stucco with rounded door - gorgeous!

Reflections through a glass window in Troyes Essoyes - Window Display of the Wine Shop

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.

Essoyes - Gabrielle's House Essoyes - Drunk Frenchman bottom right with his 'box' of wine Essoyes - Pierre Auguste Renoir's place of burial Essoyes - Renoir Reproduction of Gabrielle on the entire side of her house

Paris - Rodin sculpture  Paris - Sculpture with Eiffel Tower

Even the metro walls are painted.metro art 1 metro art 3

And sometimes sculptures pop out of walls.Paris - art

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.

Le Metro cafe ruc metro entrance

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.

Troyes - Las Halles - market fruit basket  flea market3

Paris - chickens  Paris - market

Food, food, food! Eating well is perceived by the French as a basic human right.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Paris - dessert Paris - chocolates Essoyes - cheese cart Essoyes - dinner Essoyes - tart Essoyes - dessert

Champagne!  (Needs no further explanation.)

Champage in a glass Champagne Tasting

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.

MSM facade Morrison Paula Renee catacombs9 Essoyes - Old tuileries structure Essoyes - Street scene with Boulangerie Champagne Press Essoyes - Village Road MSM group

Essoyes - grape vines Troyes - cobblestone street scene

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.