“I have lost the church.”

About once a week I find myself on Montpellier’s tram line 2. And when I do, I always look out for the Gothic spire of a church reaching above the trees between the Beaux Arts and Jeu de Mail des Abbés stops. I fight the urge to get off the tram and see it up close, but I always have to get to where I’m going.

Today, though, I had a bit of time and the afternoon light was pleading to be photographed. I hopped off the tram and, with the spire as my guide, made my way down a side street. Continue reading

Albatross Marketing

albatross

When I was 16 or 17, I decided to start collecting Champagne flutes – not sets, just individual ones I thought were pretty. During the acquisition phase, I hatched a plan to have a cocktail party when I turned 25 and invite only as many people as there were glasses to go around.

(Pre-P.S.: I’m literally LOLing right now at the thought of the poor people who will happen upon this post from Google. It couldn’t be more filled with randomly associated search terms. If that’s you, sorry! But take a moment to read it anyway, it’s cute.)

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My Entirely Personal TBEX Wrap-Up. WARNING: Excessive Hyperbole

I started this blog in August of 2007 with no agenda other than to write about being an expat. I certainly had no way of knowing that three years later, I’d find myself among a group of people who have helped me, hired me, inspired me and, most importantly, who understand my insatiable need to live the life I do. The conference was called the Travel Blog Exchange TBEX10, where travel writers, bloggers and PR professionals gathered to teach, learn and party like freaking rock stars.

There are many, many people who have already written about the conference with insight and intelligence. I’m not one of them, because I’m still on such a high that it may be months until I gain any kind of perspective on it. But I want need to write about it just the same, because otherwise I may just burst into flames from the awesome. Continue reading

Good Day, Sunshine

Marco went to work early this morning. I heard him rattling around the kitchen, running the shower, running late. Usually when he leaves I go back to sleep, but this morning I could see that the light in the room was different. As soon as he left I got out of bed, opened the shutters, and breathed in deep the morning sunlight. Gone is the paper white sky of the last six, seven, eight months. Have we thrown off the bad weather for good? Is the Mediterranean ready to act like it should?

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One Travel Writer’s Dream Pitches

Viterbo Primo Maggio

Some people are scared of speaking in public. Others have nightmares about showing up at their school naked. Me? I am terrified of pitches.

Pitches are what writers submit to publications in hopes of getting paid for something they’d like to write. I actually don’t work that way – I get most of my writing gigs from people who contact me, or from Elance.

And that’s because I can’t write a pitch to save my life. I’ve ghostwritten thousands of pages on every subject imaginable, and edited probably tens of thousands more. Give me a topic – I’ll bang it out, and chances are it’ll be pretty good. But pitches, cover letters, proposals – I look at a blinking cursor on a blank page, smoke cigarettes, and quit Word. I can’t tell you how many loads of laundry I’ve done simply to avoid writing a pitch.

So I’m just going to write them here – something I’m sure my peers will tell me is a horrible idea, lest someone unethical happens upon them and steals them for their own gain – but I want to commit them to server space anyway. Continue reading

The Figs On The Train From Vienna

Figs

I once attended a three-day wedding with my boyfriend during the summer solstice in Krems, Austria. It took place at the groom’s father’s castle. One of the events of the weekend was a masquerade ball; we dressed in costumes rented from the Vienna Opera and were treated to a waltz lesson in the ballroom by a relative who was in the Vienna Ballet, followed by a private, spectacular fireworks display.

The ceremony itself was moved from the courtyard to a hay loft because of the weather. The couple took their vows accompanied by the steady beat of the rain and a view of the mist rising from a neighboring vineyard. It was the fruit of that vineyard’s labor that filled our glasses all weekend.

But this is not a story about celebratory feasts, or our last-minute decision to empty our bank account and fly halfway around the world for a party. This is a story about figs.
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Ladies’ Lunch at St. Privat

St. Privat

In Montpellier, there are four very special women whom I am proud to call my friends. They’re all married, or have been at one point or another; between them they have 13 children of varying ages; one is a (albeit young) grandmother; and I’m pretty sure that under close scrutiny, they could be certified as clinically insane.

I see them as often as their hectic schedules allow, which usually means I have at most two of them together at any one time. But sometimes, the stars align and The Coven is reunited in one long afternoon of food, wine and laughter. Continue reading

Want To Live In France? Read This First.

“I spend most of my year in the South of France,” I tell people when they ask where I live. They swoon. I smile and change the subject. Why? Because of days like today.

I set out to run a few quick errands before starting my work day: Drop off things at the tailor, pick up new yearly calendars at Gilbert Joseph, pay the electric bill at La Poste. Pick up a Coke for Cal on the way home, and Bob’s your uncle.

First stop, the tailor. She’s at the end of our block, and before I get into this tale of woe let me state for the record that she is a very, very nice woman. Continue reading

On Reverse Culture Shock

A week from today, I’m heading back to the States for the first time in three years on a month-long visit with friends and family.  This is the longest I’ve been away, and a significant percentage of the total seven years I’ve lived overseas.  And I am bracing myself for a whole new level of reverse culture shock.

Reverse culture shock may seem like something expats made up in order to remind people back home that they lead an impossibly exotic life, but I can assure you from my own experience that it’s very real, completely involuntary, and can be hugely embarrassing.

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