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.
We love France because of its open-minded people. Ideas, affairs of the heart, race, religion, sex, are embraced freely.
Street performers are full of personality.
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.
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.
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.
Even the metro walls are painted.
And sometimes sculptures pop out of walls.
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.
I just explain it in one word, France. 🙂 Great points there.
You are right Gene. Just the word ‘France’ is all that is required. Our hearts are all there right now.
France has never been on my “I want to go there” list. You’ve made me reconsider this. You’ve also made a wonderful tribute to “Charlie”.
Oh Michelle, you would love it I bet. France is spectacular is so many ways. As for my ‘Charlie’ tribute, it was the most ‘philosophical’ I could come up with. Glad you liked it.
Thanks for sharing your beautiful photographs, Renee. I’ve never been to France, but now I kind of feel like I have.
Thank you Jill. I was trying to create a collage of sorts — big city vs. countryside and everything in between. Glad you enjoyed the trip.
I have Paris on my vision board this year:). Your photos make me want to go and travel the French countryside also! I hope I am not disappointed. I imagine feeling at home, save for the French being spoken all around me . . .
The further into the countryside you go, the more spectacular the views and the people, but the more French you need to speak as well. Enjoy it, Kay. I’m planning on going back this year as well.
Thanks for the trip back! Lovely country.
You are very welcome Elyse. Glad you enjoyed it.
Beautiful photos! The first few lines of your blog made me think of Hemingway (and Hadley), I’m reading The Paris Wife right now. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your top ten list.
I loved The Paris Wife. My writing teacher suggested I read Hemingway’s ‘The Moveable Feast’ first and it was wonderful advice. If you haven’t already read it, get the original version and fall in love with him as I did.
Having been to Paris and the rural villages in the Dordogne I totally agree that France is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos Renee and your top ten list…especially now… ❤
Thank you Sherri. I could have listed a hundred. I almost wish I’d put sounds on the list, but eleven sounded weird. Ten seemed best. But the bells, the jingly sirens, the poetic language…ahh…
Ahh indeed…Bon Temps mon amie 🙂
Look behind Notre Dame and its flying buttresses. Follow the bridge to the Rue Saint Louis en l’ile and you will cross Rue Poulletier where I lived back in the early 70’s when I attended courses at the Sorbonne. Add students to that. Writers and students love Paris.
I love this about you, Georgette! You are such a smarty — studying at the Sorbonne. Wow. I’d love to sit down with you, sipping a good wine (French of course), and hear all of the details of life in Paris in the 70’s. What a story it must be. I’m jealous just thinking about it! Yes, writers and students love Paris!
Each trip to France seems more enticing than the one taken just before. Each time my work took me there, I’d tack a couple of days on both ends for extended exploration and was never disappointed. Of course, I also spent 2 months just outside Paris where my cat had surgery and I had a wonderful time. If you’d asked Morti, I’m sure he would’ve told a different story.
Poor Morti. With that aside, I am so happy for you that you could spend that much time in France. What a treat. I bet you have some interesting stories to tell.
Renee – The tragedies that have occurred in France make my heart heavy but my memories are strong and fast tucked into my heart. When I was there with Morti, I didn’t have any real work responsibilities other than to write a few legal briefs so I was pretty much a free agent to roam the cities and the small villages. When Tom is able to travel, France is still on our travel destination but we are watching the violence issue also. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around France and violence in the same sentence. It hurts. A beautiful country with beautiful people, customs and so friendly. It hurts to see how they are suffering. I still want to go back. Thanks for the post. You flooded me with great memories of my many times there and brought smiles to my heart.
I am so happy to have brought the good memories back to you at a time when all of our hearts are breaking for our beloved France. It makes me want to go back even more than ever in order to show that tourism won’t be stopped either. You sound like you had the perfect arrangement — a little work, a lot of sightseeing! That’s the job I want Sheri.
It was the perfect career and I’m glad it was mine but it definitely belongs to someone that’s a workaholic and doesn’t have other obligations.
We will return to France and Belgium – the de Grom ancestors are in Belgium. We just don’t know when. I sincerely believe being a tourist in DC will be just as dangerous as anywhere else.
Unfortunately, I think you might be right. We just have to keep going forward, in faith and good spirits. Anything can happen at any time. I’d go back to France tomorrow. In fact, I plan to this year!
Very nice, Renee. An elegant tribute to a wonderful people.
Thank you, Janet. I know how much you love France, and I bet you recognized a few of these pictures from Essoyes. Whenever I think of our time at The Essoyes School, it feels almost spiritual and perfect.
Wow. What a feast for the eyes! Total and complete overload. Such details and overwhelming beauty everywhere! Just wow.
Thank you. So good to see you back on the blog. Perhaps I should add photographers to Georgette’s students and my writers. We all love France!
Oh boy! I am so looking forward to my second visit to France, coming up this summer!
Yay Linda! I always leave one thing undone, that way I know I am going back again!
Stunning post… Oh la la, La France!~ I much enjoyed the reading !
Thanks for sharing!. Happy weekend to you. Best wishes, Aquileana 😀
Thank you so much Aquileana. I am glad you enjoyed my small tribute to a country I find inspiring and tres belle! Best wishes for the happiest new year to you!
Great photos and you’ve built up a wonderful picture of France as an inspirational place.
Thank you Andrea. It is such a magnificent culture and the birthplace of my first published works.
What a beautiful post! I love Paris in particular, always feel like I need to spend more time there…my two trips have barely scratched the surface! I truly feel for the plight of the French with the political/religious/terrorist issues that have unfolded. It seems there are no easy answers, and a lot of uncertainty on the horizon. I am horrified by the tragedies of senseless killings, and hope that whatever solutions can be found bring dignity and freedom of speech for all! Vive la France! ~ Sheila
Beautiful comment Sheila. Vice la France indeed.
Artists have always loved France too and probably for the same reasons. Love all the great photos, Renee. 🙂
Yes, artists have long enjoyed the inspirational qualities of France. I think the light has something to do with that as well. Thanks Elizabeth.
What a lovely post, Renee! I have seen much of our country, many states and brief glimpses into Canada, but have never left North America. It is my dream to travel, and France is definitely on my list. I spent all four years of college learning the language — and only wish I had someone with which to practice it today! I recently started teaching my children French, in the dreams that we may all use our language skills someday on a grand journey abroad. I have bookmarked your lovely post, and hope to return here and study your pictures! Thank you for the inspiration! 🙂
You are the best mom! Teaching a foreign language to your children is a gift they will never lose. I took French in school but it wrestles with me — perhaps sounding less than ideal since I am southern and have a definite drawl. Thank you Melissa. I hope you get to visit France soon.
Awesome post 🙂
what a STUNNING, magical, Amazing feast for the eyes. I mean, who wouldn’t want to write in France while sipping expensive red wine and delectable pastry? WOWWWW. xx
And always some new inspiration. I am ready to go back.
Great post, thanks for the lovely tribute to my home country! Just got back to the Philippines and you already managed to get me homesick 😉
Thank you Estelea. I love France. I guess you can tell by all of the pictures I’ve posted. Enjoy the Philippines and visit with me again.
Oh I will, I am very happy you introduced me to your blog and turned me into a follower 🙂 Talk to you soon, here or there
Yes, Estelea, we will, because you have a great blog too! So much fun ‘visiting ‘ with you!
1000 Mercis 🙂
Great post. And I would say that for the same reasons photographers are in love with France as well.
The light and architecture –right? It’s amazing! Love France!