I have a new and exciting project – a book called, “100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go,” to be published by Travelers Tales in Palo Alto, CA in 2014. This is not a guidebook per se, but more of a bucket list with a women’s perspective for people who love France, or might yet fall in love with it. This is not a simple task, as I can name 100 places just in the Marais, Bastille and Oberkampf neighborhoods of Paris where il faut aller. Without divulging any of my choices, I can safely say that Provence – the area from Arles to the Alpilles, and down along the Mediterranean coast from Frejus to Menton on the Italian border is likely to figure prominently. Americans are drawn to the James Bond sexiness and insouciance of the South of France as much as the act of puttering around the markets to inhale the scent of persimmons picked this morning, and a cool glass of rosé at lunchtime with fish just pulled from the sea. Not to mention the cinematic perfection, which filmmakers have been making good use of since the days of Louis Lumière.
So far, I’ve been writing, writing, writing. Taking notes on the color of the sky. Picking a cluster of tea olive blossoms that I press into my notebook. The clouds thicken up on the road to St. Paul de Vence while I’m at the wheel of a 1968 white Mustang convertible, the same one driven by Honor Blackman when she was 007’s foil in Goldfinger. I round one hairpin curve after another and the sea disappears into the distance, as does the awareness of my role on earth. I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend but right now I’m all focus and drive. There is one road underneath and my mind is on only it. Get there safely, note the shifts in the air now that the temperature has dropped, press the brake. Note the sight of the medieval walls. Note the pattern in the footpath. Note the banyan tree near the Colombe d’Or.
It’s not a hard job (well, making a living and getting people to return your e-mails can both be rough) compared to telephone pole repairmen and triage nurses. But the work comes with me everywhere I go. Now, my mind ticks as I start to collate the search for 100 places in France, my print articles, the stories I want to write, the other unknown places I wish to know. As I descend to Nice, then settle onto the indoor terrace in my sea blue and green room at the Hi Hotel, the ideas are slamming onto the walls of my brain. The day spent galavanting along the Riviera in a sports car was an gorgeous one, but it was always and ever a workday.I’m not a car person and neither is my husband. He has a pickup and I have Toyota, and we use them to take us places we need to go, usually to the Stop & Shop for groceries. But today, the question looms: is this why people love to drive? There are wheels below, a sky above, a mission to accomplish in getting there, wherever ‘there’ is, and little else.
Except for writers who by definition, are always working. Even a stop at the CVS for a pack of gum is a chance to observe human behavior, sponge it all up, glean snippets of conversation.