Saturday, December 18, 2010

Maggie Does Europe (Again): Part 1, France

So I know I've been putting off posting about my second European tour, but the problem was that I keep thinking about how best to write about ten stuffed days of fascinating stuff without creating the world's longest blog posts or forgetting anything important. And the idea was so daunting that I decided it would be easier to do the next day. Rinse and repeat.

I've been home since Monday, and somehow this policy hasn't gotten the post written. So here I am, attempting it. 

On December 2nd, Thursday evening, Lover and I trooped to the airport for the eight hour flight to Europe. Because I'm allergic to preservatives, plane food is a no-go for me, turning most travel into a hunger strike. But because of my animal cunning, I've discovered a solution.

My first stop was Paris, France. Paris, France's first response to my presence was to immediately call down snow. As my ears and nose turned red for all official photographs and snow collected in my hair, I was told again and again how unusual this was. Behold this proof of me in Paris.

(I realize that in this photo, it looks like I'm pointing directly to the Australian flag, but I swear, I was pointing at the Eiffel Tower.)

I feel that I was somewhat deprived of a full and meaningful Paris experience for three different reasons.

1) Aforementioned snow. While it made the city almost revoltingly pretty, it also ensured that the sky was a leaden gray for the entire four days I was in Paris, and also turned to rain. Lots of rain. I didn't see the sun until eight days later, when I got to Bulgaria. I was thinking this would be a great town for the Cullens. (The Cullens were on my mind as my French publisher, Hachette, is also the publisher of Twilight).

2) Jet lag. I kept saying: I have two hours free, I should go see the city! And then Lover would nod. And then we would both go to sleep.

3) FOREVER. Editor Mixtape kindly sent homework with me: the copy-edits for FOREVER. Technically speaking, copy edits are just supposed to be fixing typos and timeline issues and repeated words. Easy stuff. I'm quite certain Editor MixTape didn't mean to kill me. However, what really happened was that I completely threw out the last scene and redid it, and then I cut 2,700 words from the middle and replaced them with 2,900 new ones. SURPRISE, EDITOR MIXTAPE! SURPRISE!

I did, however, get to frolic at the Montreuil Book Fair, which is a book fair unlike any I've ever been to before. It's entirely open to the public (unlike our BookExpo or ALA Conference), and kids and adults run around, buy books, and meet with a few hundred authors. Of which one of them was me. Here I am in the Hachette booth with my French books.

And I did get to meet with actual, amazing French readers. I also, bewilderingly, got to meet with a reader who'd come from Belgium. She'd read my blog and she remembered how I'd forgotten my German cookies on the plane in Frankfurt. And she gave me some Belgian chocolates to take back with me. Whoo hoo! 

Too bad I forgot them in the back room of the Hachette booth.

You may shake your head at me now. Okay, that's enough. Stop. I was jet-lagged, okay?

Anyway, for four days, I did interviews, a live chat with French readers, and ate fantastic food, all the while walking between raindrops and snow flakes. Scholastic got wise to the fact that Lover and I have our wedding anniversary in December and sent us to a pretty amazing restaurant for our anniversary dinner. And still it snowed and rained.

We had one entire day free in France, and under a gray, heavy sky, what did Lover and I decide to do? Climb the Eiffel Tower? Go on a patisserie tour? Walk the Louvre?

No, we decided to rent a Hyundai and drive three hours to Omaha Beach in Normandy.

Now before I hear the howls of rage and indignation from your Paris-lovers out there, I should hurry to explain. First of all, Lover really wanted to see Omaha Beach in Normandy. Second, I am busting my @#$% to finish writing Secret Novel by January 1st, and Secret Novel has cliffs in it. So I have gone to great efforts to see cliffs while writing. And more effort. And more, more effort. So when I found out there were cliffs near the Normandy landings, you better believe that cinched the deal.

So off we went, as snow turned to rain turned to snow again. Our GPS spoke to us in English, but it sounded confused, and the road signs spoke to us in French. This resulted in some odd side trips that resulted in patisseries being visited and croissants and Opera cakes being purchased.

A place to get croissants. Near Rouen, maybe? I was working on copy-edits while driving*, so I was slightly out of sorts.

*By which I mean, while Lover drove.

The weather took a turn for the more dire and apocalyptic once we started getting into Normandy. The locals warned us against trying to get down to the beaches. There was massive flooding and rains of fish and two-headed calves (well, everything except for the fish and calves). But did that stop us? 

HA! DOUBLE HA! Of course not. And aren't those cliffs worth it? But, um, it was cold.

Also, Lover saw this and wondered what it said. I translated: CLIMB THIS PATH AND DIE OR BE KILLED, YOUR CHOICE.

But he climbed it anyway, because he wanted to look in the concrete thingy. Bunker. He neither died nor was killed, which is only going to encourage him the next time.

And so that was France. I have left a few things out, like how amazing my French editor and publicist are, and how we spent hours searching for cassoulet and found it, and how a blogger gave me chocolates at an interview and I ate them at 3 a.m. in the morning to counteract jet lag, and how my French publisher saw me ogling this gorgeous book by Rebecca Dautremer and gave it to me, and how I've now eaten duck three times in my life and liked it every time, and how basically lovely and expensive Paris is.

But I think I hit the bulk of it. And then it was on to Hungary.

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