Connelles, France, French hospitality, Travel

An Empty Bowl in France

French pastries,

There is such a thing as too much pain du chocolate, pain ou raisins and baguettes. 

We buy our staples, basically starches, water and wine at the reception area. Pastries can be ordered each evening for a morning delivery to the lobby. Guests take a morning walk from the small duplexes to pick up their baguettes and pain.

My mon ami (friend) Amada and I are craving the crunch of a sweet apple or carrot, the feel of ripe tomatoes, salad greens wet with tart balsamic vinaigrette. 

We stroll down a grassy road towards the village, a bag tucked into a pocket, just in case we find vegetables and fruit. “We’ll put our quest for vegetables out into the universe,” Amada says.  We will be just like the monks who go out each morning with an empty bowl, trusting that their needs will be met.” 

My crooked smile gives me away, but I say “Okay.” 
A dirt path detours toward a meadow next to the Seine. We follow it and soon find a woman pushing a pram, blue eyed baby inside, a red shirted young boy ahead, and a man at her side. 

Bonjour,” we greet each other. Through Amada’s French we learn the baby is named Angela, the boy Louie, the woman their aunt, the man her brother. 

My craving for vegetables initiates the question about a grocery store. 

“There are no stores in Connelles, no vegetable stands. Would you like some tomatoes from my garden?” 

Mild shock on my face but I manage to nod several times and say “merci.”

“Knock at the gate when you’re ready,” the woman says, points to the gate. She turns back to the path. 

“Please, there is no hurry,” Amada says. “Enjoy your stroll.”

The woman explains it’s cold for the baby. “Don’t forget to come over when you’re ready.”


We smile and wave to the family that departs. “Merci Boucoup.”

Now is a good time to write. We sit on the bench on the bank of the Seine, pull out our journals. Mowed grass sits in mounds like miniature haystacks around the area. Violets dot the bank, fish jump to catch water spiders, doves coo, the odor of goats wafts by. We’re finished. 

We knock on the gate. The woman opens it wide, smiling and waves us inside the flower filled courtyard. Another woman stands to greet us, and we are welcomed to sit at the patio table. Louie and another boy play tag while two grey geese honk their greeting. After introductions we find out they are Michele/Michael, Margot and her belle soeur (means sister in law, literally pretty sister).

french hospitality-alvaradofrazier
Amada and the family converse. I catch some words. Michele loves Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and most country music. His wife likes Tracy Chapman. Margot offers coffee and cinnamon cookies. We find the café Brasilia delicious, the cookies delicate.

Margot shows us her flower garden, which sweeps around the large courtyard. Pink and red fuchsia, geraniums, hydrangeas (Hortense) fill a wishing well. Across the road, where we first met, is her vegetable garden and goats.
After we finish our coffee, Margot goes into her kitchen and brings out a bag of red leaf lettuce, arugula, and other greens. Another bagful of tomatoes and huge zucchini fill another sack. We thank them for their generosity and say goodbye.

Before we get into our room, we pick some herbs from the colorful ceramic pots that line the walls of our hotel.  Dinner is tossed salad with tomatoes, basil; zucchini sauteed in butter, flavored with chopped chives; baguette, Camembert with rosemary; lentils and Burgundy wine. We toast to the universe and French hospitality. 
How about you? Have you ever needed something and received it when you asked? 

Amada Irma Perez, Connelles, France, La Residence Normandie, Latina writer, Normandy, Paris, Seine, Travel, Writing

Writers in Connelles, Normandy, France Day 1

Amada Cafe St. Lazare, Paris
It took a plane, bus, train, and taxi but we made it to Connelles, Upper Normandy, France 18 hours after departing LAX. Our first stop, Cafe St. Lazare, with mon ami Amada. 

the pit Paris, Fr. 

The bathrooms in old buildings require strong thighs and an overwhelming urgency to go.
I decided to wait until we walked to Gare St. Lazare Train Station. The .50 E worth it. Talked with very nice people in cafe and station, very helpful teenagers helped with luggage-just because. It helps so much to know some French.

We arrived at the village of Connelles 1 hr. 30 minutes later. La Residence Normandie sits among meadows, corn fields, forest and the River Seine. 

La Residence Normandie, Connelle, FR-MFrazier
After we got our bearings, unpacked and rested we found out there are no grocery stores for 5 miles, no shuttles, no village buses. 

The reception lobby has a grocery store, behind a counter, where one orders Cote d’Rhone or Burgundy wine; Camembert, for 2.30 E, daily bread: pain du chocolat, baguettes, croissants .92 E. 

first French dinner in Connelle AlvardoFrazier

We enjoyed our first dinner, Spagetti 
Bolognaise and haricorts verts (green beans) immensely before we dropped into our beds for a rest before getting our second wind.

A stroll across the bridge, journals in hand. Enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells. The perfect bench awaited us.

our perfect writing spot Connelles, Fr. AlvaradoFrazier

Ah, to take time to explore around our new surroundings to walk over across the unassuming bridge, over the deep dark waters of the Seine, traveling beneath us. Mona and I stopping just long enough to take pictures. Our only neighbor the restaurant next door that looks like a castle with pink geranium boxes.

Turning on all of our senses… sitting down to let the beauty and serenity reach way down- soul deep. Stopping to sit on a bench which seems to be placed here just for us, a perfect place to be the writers we are and live the writing life we’ve chosen or has chosen us. Oh, this place, this day, is the perfect beginning to our writing retreat. Amada Irma Perez.

Buzzing bees, curious flies, soft coos of mourning doves. Birds twitter in Morse code, two visitors approach. Dancing iridescent blue dragonflies chase one another over the deep green of the Seine. A bevy of geese glide over the glassy surface. White butterflies flit over fuchsia sweet peas.

 Mulberry trees, Willows, Blue Spruce sway in the cool breeze, signaling the nose to take a deep breath.

sunset over Seine Connelles, FR AlvaradoFrazier

Who sat on this wooden bench before me?  Did they photograph their moments in their mind. MAlvaradoFrazier

What do you see? 

Books, France,, Renni Brown, self editing, Shelly Lowenkopf, Toni Lopopolo, writer routines, Writing, Writing Resources, writing tips

Tips for an Incredible Writing Weekend

It is the evening of my departure for my month long adventure to France. Some anticipatory butterflies are fluttering through my stomach. 

My bags and travel apps are packed. (And yes, I do need to recharge the battery). 

The kids have heard the Riot Act in a couple of different versions. Everything seems like a go, but I’m sure once I’m on the airplane I’ll remember one or two things that are sitting on my dresser at home and not in my suitcase. 

I know I’ll miss my family, my boyfriend, my dog Chip, (but not KiKi the cat- the feeling is mutual). What I didn’t expect was something that crossed my mind a few minutes ago. 

I’m really going to miss my writing ritual. 

The one where I roll out of bed, stretch, push the power button on my laptop,before I go into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and return to my swivel chair with a big mug of steaming coffee, a dash of half and half, and my peanut butter toast. For two hours, sometimes more, I type, refill the coffee cup, and blow crumbs off my desk.

When my friend Amada and I arrive in Upper Normandy on the 1st of September we will have to  establish new writing routines. Luckily both of us are early morning writers and both of us like quiet. 

During this Labor Day weekend, I’m sure you will want to squeeze in some time to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. With that thought I’d like to share some tips for your writing weekend. 

1-These 10 gems for first time novelists to think about are from former St. Martin’s Press editor Toni Lopopolo, Agent in her “Bare Knuckle Writing Workshops.” One of the most important tip is: 

Mistake # 9: Poor Self Editing Skills: FTNs haven’t learned to self edit by editing other writers’ fiction, or by reading the recommended books

Sure, you can pay for a professional edit (anywhere from $4 a page to a flat rate of $ 2000) or you can learn how to self edit, make your story stronger, and save the $$$ for a trip abroad or a new roof.

2-A terrific book, Self Editing for Fiction Writers (How to Edit Yourself into Print) by Renni Browne and Dave King (Editors at William Morrow and Writer’s Digest) is a must for a writer. I belong to a writing group, a writing club, and recently the Goodreads pick for our online writer’s group, Wordsmith Studio. This book has been a must read for all three groups. 

The topics which first time novelists find hard to grasp and usually lack in their stories are:

  •  three dimensional characters, 
  • maintaining point of view, 
  • interior monologue, and 
  • voice

This handy reference book delves into subjects such as showing and telling in a way as to engage the readers’ emotionsEach of the 12 Chapters has a checklist so that you can apply the concepts to your work. 

If you’re not at the self editing stage yet, here are some amazing questions and tips about story, from an instructor I’ve had the privilege to meet. 

3-Shelley Lowenkopf is an editor, writer, and Professor Emeritus at USC. In his Seven Things You Write A Story to Discover you are asked to consider the who, what, where, why and more of story. The question, “Why should we care?” is most important.

We tend to care about stories dramatizing experiences that squeeze characters in ways similar to the squeezes and pressures we have experienced.  We care if someone we identify with is vulnerable.” 

 If the reader doesn’t care, they will stop reading. End of story. 

4-For those of you who are in the throes of revision here’s a handy guide that explains editing marks-you know those scribbles all over your work in progress or manuscript.  

Author’s Success Platform

I’m going to skip tip # 5 for another day, another post, because this one is longer than I anticipated. IF you have a 5th tip let us know in the comment section. We really want to know.

Now, I must get back to the suitcase on the floor and cast out some unlucky clothes. 

And remember, before you start your Writer’s Weekend please:

 Au Revoir Mon Ami’s.