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Sometimes you just have to pack your bags and go there…

My husband and I have taken a week of vacation and driven to Kaysersberg, Alsace, France. As I’ve said so many times before, it is my favorite Alsatian village. The people are enchanting! It’s the perfect place to set a novel in the Middle Ages, which is just what I’ve decided to do.

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1. Restaurant LE CAPUCIN, 60, Rue du Général de Gaulle. 2. View from our window.

We found this fantastic apartment online. The ground level is the restaurant. The next three floors are apartments to rent. Our apartment is on the top floor. The views are amazing, enchanting, transporting. I look out the windows and am taken back to a much earlier time. When there were no cars, no telephones, no internet. At first this can seem fantastic until I take a deep breath and remember there was no sewer system, and I see the woman below me dumping the waste from her bed chamber pot onto the street below. The horses have left their deposits in the streets, as well. Hmm. Snap out of it. Back to the enchanting view.

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View from my writing spot.

As I sit and write this post, the church bells are chiming. They’re beautiful. A few days ago, it was Pentecost Sunday, and the bells rang long and loud. It’s was a beautiful call to prayer. This is sweet music to write by. When we first arrived in Kaysersberg, our landlady met us at the bridge to show us the way to the apartment. We parked on the street, which was filled with tourists (It being Saturday.) and quickly unloaded our things. After finding a parking spot nearby, we returned to the restaurant and met the owners in their private garden in the back for a glass of wine. This was the only warm sunny day we’ve had. It was perfect. Gabrielle speaks English quite well. She’s delightful. Her husband, Jean-Jacques, grew up in Kaysersberg in this very building! It was his home, and he has inherited it. They turned the garage into a restaurant. And his father’s dentist offices into apartments. Their family living quarters are also now apartments.

When I told them I’m a writer, and I’ve come to research and write, they got very excited. Gabrielle said, “Oh, my husband will be so happy. He started a book about this area, but his computer died, and he lost it all. You must talk to him and help him.” And, talk we did. Over several glasses of wine and as many hours. Jean-Jacques’ English is not as good as Gabrielle’s. But that didn’t stop him. He did drink quite a bit of wine. He said he also speaks Chinese, but only after the 7th glass of wine can anyone understand him. So as our conversation went along, he would pour himself another glass of wine, saying, “Oh, I need another glass to lo0sen my tongue so my English will improve.” It was such a fantastic afternoon. He told me that Arthurian legends really began here. Lancelot in particular was from here. I gasped when he said this and told him I had already written this into my novel. They both looked at me and said, “We have been waiting for you to come!” Magical!

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Local delivery truck.

So you’re asking yourself, Is everything in this village cute? The answer is a resounding YES! Even the delivery trucks are cute. I wish I would have stood next to this one so you can see how tiny it really is. And it has a stork hanging from the rearview mirror, a symbol of good luck in this region.

When I wrote my first novel, The Stone Manor (which will be published at a date soon to be announced), I had been to Scotland before, but not to the Isle of Skye, which is the location of the novel. I did all my research from books, libraries, online, and memory from my first trip. Then, when I had finished writing we took a trip to Skye, and I retraced the steps of my novel to make sure it was all accurate. Or as accurate as a work of fiction should be. It was wonderful walking through my novel so to speak.

This is a similar feeling but in reverse. I’ve come here many times. But I’ve written very little so far. This week is a “jump start” for my novel. It ‘s incredible to sit here in this village and write my story. To hear the characters speak to me as I walk through the narrow cobblestone streets. I love living in the middle of my story. I’d love to bring you along as I write and explore. Stay tuned for A Night at the Museum.

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(Faerie Glen with wee loch, portal to the Otherworld, and Castle on Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

While writing my novel, I searched the internet for photos of the Isle of Skye. I’d never been there, and since it was the main setting for “The Stone Manor” I needed to find out all I could about the island. I came across a couple of pictures of the Faerie Glen and a short travel post. I was hooked! I googled it and began reading all I could about it, which at the time wasn’t much. It became the focal point for my back story that takes place in the 1700s.

I’ll never forget the feelings I had when we first drove into the wee glen with our personal tour guide, Peter Macdonald. It was 2008, and my husband Jim and I were spending a week on Skye so I could research my ancestors and check out all the places I’d written about in my novel. Like the actual time it took to drive from the Glasgow airport to Skye. Did I guess correctly? And did it really look like I said? That kind of thing. I’ll elaborate on this more in a later post. Lots of craziness happened. Anyway, back to the Faerie Glen. Peter didn’t normally take people there. In fact, I had to tell him how to get there…and that wasn’t easy. It was tucked away down a one-track road just outside Uig. He humored me and we found the road. As we rounded the corner there it was!!!!! I gasped and yelled, “Stop the car. Stop the car.” He did. I jumped out  and stood next to the miniature loch, crying and laughing at the same time. It was MAGICAL. It was BEAUTIFUL. It was ENCHANTED. And I was there!

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(Me walking along the sheep trails in the Faerie Glen, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Photo by Jim Hale)

As I wandered off up the hillside toward the Portal to the Otherworld and the Faerie Castle, Jim tried to explain to Peter (a former police officer/faithful Presbyterian Skyelander) that I was off in search of the faeires. After a short visit in the glen I made my way back to the car, and Jim promised we’d return and stay as long as I’d like. When we did return several days later I wandered and searched and dreamed to my hearts content. It was glorious. Really! As we were leaving I picked up a tiny stone from the loch, as I am in the habit of doing. (I have a collection of memory stones from around the world. Doesn’t everyone?) But as I climbed into the front seat of our rental car I remembered what I’d read. It had to do with taking things from this faerie land. I even wrote about it in my novel. How could I have forgotten?! If you take anything…anything at all from the Faerie Glen you’ll bring very, very bad luck on yourself. The faeries will not take kindly to it. Not at all. So I got back out of the car and returned the stone to the loch, placing it exactly where I’d found it. I apologized and walked back to the car. (I’m serious people.) I was really sad not to take a part of this amazing place back home with me, but I just couldn’t. As I reopened the car door I looked down and on the ground by the car was a coin. I smiled. I picked it up. I thanked the glen…and the faeries for the gift. This did not belong in the glen, so it was a compromise of sorts. I still have the coin. It sits in the coconut-hull bowl filled with all my tiny treasures from the many places that are special to me.

So, there it is. Just as you’ve always suspected. I’m a bit of a nut. Actually, I’m a romantic…a romantic with a universe size imagination and a love for all things enchanted. Which is why I wrote my very own fairy tale. And someday, I hope you’ll be able to read it. Till then, I’ll keep blogging.

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