Oh, the Places I Write!

Our Kaysersberg flat

I’ve been taking every spare moment of late to finish my second novel (and begin the sequel to THE STONE MANOR), so my blog has sat dormant. With Book One of my YA Fantasy ready for an agent, I thought it might be interesting to backtrack a few of the many enchanting places I sat creating this fairy tale. It began in our cozy flat in the Alsatian village of Kayserberg, the setting for the novel. The village, not the flat. That’s our building. The ground floor is the restaurant, the next three floors are apartments. Ours is on the top floor, sitting up under the eaves. It was the old family flat, so lots of room, full kitchen, lovely antique furnishings, fantastic views.

Jean Jacques restaurant

This is the enchanting restaurant on the ground floor of our building, Le Capucin. It was home to my writing fits on numerous occasions. I ate more tarte flambée than should be allowed, but then I was in Alsace. If you are ever in Kaysersberg, which everyone should be at least once in their life, stop in and eat. Tell Jean Jacques and Gabrielle, I sent you. They are enchanting! More about them later.

Me writing in front of Kaysersberg apartment

When not writing inside the restaurant, I might be found outside in their sidewalk cafe area.

Me writing in kitchen in Kaysersberg

Some days I chose to stay in our flat and write at the kitchen table.

Me writing at bakery in Kaysersberg

Just down from our building was a trendy little French cafe. If the weather was nice, which it was often, I could be found here, trying to focus on my writing and not on the people around me.

Me writing at favorite bakery in Kaysersberg

A bit further down the street is my very favorite pâtisserie, Au Péché Mignon. Have you noticed a pattern? I eat, and I write. Why wouldn’t I? Right? The chocolate pastries are legendary. It’s a good thing our flat was on the 4th floor. Lots of walking, climbing, walking some more. And then we eat.

Me writing on bench Kaysersberg

Another of my favorite places to write was on this bench, above the village, near the chateau ruins. I would say this one does not have to do with food, but I think we actually picnic’d here.

Me writing at apartment in WF

When I was first diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2012, we got an apartment in Wichita Falls, Texas to be near our daughter and her family and near my oncologist in Grapevine. When we weren’t in Europe training and traveling for Young Life, I was here. And when I had moments of clarity and small windows of creativity, I would write . . . this fairy tale. I believe this story, this Alsatian tale, has been a therapeutic exercise for me, a means of escape through difficult times. There were days I killed off characters, and it was the right thing to do. I felt guilty the first time it happened because, as is often the case, she didn’t deserve it. I loved creating a world of my own making, some parts of it drawn from history, some drawn from folklore told me by people from our village, and some from my own imagination. I love being a writer!

My writing studio

We are no longer in that little apartment, a place that became my sanctuary. We now live right around the corner from our daughter in a lovely home. A gift to our family from God when we weren’t looking for it because we didn’t know we needed it. A few months after buying the home and moving in, our daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now, this is where I write in those spare moments when we are in Texas and not in Europe, my very own space. It is as quirky and eccentric as I am.

The End screen Amélie

It is where I typed this. Book One of my Alsatian trilogy has come to an end and is waiting to be discovered and given wings. I am very attached to this story because of the life I lived while writing it. Amélie and I have gone through a lot together. I am so grateful she introduced herself to me in that enchanted village in France. I have loved telling her story so far, and I can’t wait to continue the adventure that is her life in Book Two.

The smoke rising from lavender candle

And now, we wait.

 

Guinevere’s Grave and Pictish Stones

img_3911

Image: Meigle Kirk

The wee hamlet of Meigle lies just thirty minutes north east of Perth, Scotland. It doesn’t sit on a tourist route, but for those interested in Arthurian legends or Pictish stones, this village is a must see. In the graveyard of the local kirk stands a mound with a plaque. It reads Vanora’s Mound. This is where legends begin.

img_3381

The plaque reads:  Vanora’s Mound

This mound is by tradition the burial place of Vanora or Guinevere, the legendary queen of King Arthur. The stone claimed to be her monument is now situated within Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum at the south west corner of the churchyard.

img_3869

Image: Vanora’s Mound

There are several variations of this local legend. One says King Arthur was leaving for Rome on Crusade and left his nephew, Mordred, as regent of the kingdom and Guinevere in his care. Mordred soon took Guinevere as his wife, either by force or of her own free will and then made himself king of the Pictish kingdom. Arthur learned of this treason and returned with his army. They battled until Arthur killed Mordred, but was himself mortally wounded. He died before Guinevere was able to seek his absolve. She was arrested and held at the fort at Barry Hill nearby until tried and found guilty of treason and adultery. She was torn to pieces by a pack of wild dogs as her punishment and buried in the kirkyard. A curse was placed on her burial mound, and it is said that to this day if a young woman walks upon the mound she will be barren.

meigle-2-rear-viewmeigle-2-close-up

Image credit: Pictish Stones at Meigle Museum from Undiscovered Scotland

In a small former school building, 26 Pictish stones are housed. One is an 8 foot carved stone. A series of figures on horseback are carved on the top back side with mythical animals carved along the lower section. In the middle is a carving of a person in a long robe with four animals tearing he or she apart. The official interpretation says this is a rendition of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Even though, Daniel was not torn apart in the Biblical account. The local story says this is the depiction of Guinevere’s death. This stone once stood at the mound, and her name is found on the stone.

img_3876

Image: Me at the mound

I found this amazing landmark while researching for Arthurian sites in Scotland. This is only an hours drive from where we office while in Europe. What makes this personally fascinating and quite enchanting pertains to my second “yet to be published” novel. It begins with a backstory, a piece of Arthurian legend having to do with this very story. However, I had not heard this particular version. I took one of the more romantic tellings and added my own personal touch. Being a fiction writer and lover of legendary tales, this was not a difficult undertaking.

This is one of the many reasons I love writing. I love finding myself in the middle of a story, even when I’m not looking for one!

 

 

 

The Fairy Bridge: A Bridge of Sorrows

fairy-bridge-in-waternish

Image: The Fairy Bridge on the Waternish Peninsula, Isle of Skye.

Just off the A850 between Dunvegan and Edinbane is a small road that cuts across the Waternish Peninsula, the B886. Turn onto the single track road, and the Fairy Bridge sits to the left. It has been closed to anything other than foot-traffic for a long time. This is a very old bridge, but not as old as the story tied to it. I would like to believe stones from the original bridge were used to form the current one.

This is believed to be the very bridge on which one of the Macleod clan chiefs said a sad farewell to his fairy wife. She was the daughter of Oberon, King of the Fairies. He had agreed to the marriage, but only for a year and a day, after which time she must return to her own people. A son was born to the happy couple, but she had to honor her father’s agreement and said her goodbye to her husband and son at this very bridge. It was a much lamented farewell. (This is one of many versions of the story and my personal favorite.)

skye-day-one-08-047

Image: Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle, home of the Macleod chiefs for centuries, is where the story gets even more enchanting. Some say she gave her husband a fairy shawl to remember her by, a magic shawl of protection. It could be raised three times, and three times only, if he or any of his clan were ever in need of help. On the third time, aid would come but at the expense of the clan standard and all their possessions. It has been raised twice with great success and is kept in a glass case for preservation and viewing inside Dunvegan Castle.

fairy-flag-1

Image from Dunvegan Castle website: Am Bratach Sith (The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan)

There is little left of the fairy flag, it is quite faded. It was such a thrill to see this remnant of an enchanted tale. It was magical, indeed. Experts have never been able to determine it’s origin. Possibly Persian, 4th century, or maybe it is the missing battle flag of King Harald Hardrada of Norway, of whom the Macleods descend. I like to believe it is the shawl of the fairy princess.

me-walking-on-fairy-bridge

If you are fortunate to visit this wonderful bridge, you must remember this: anyone who walks across the bridge must acknowledge the fairies by waving to them and greeting them politely. Of course, I waved and spoke a genuinely friendly “Hello.” Mustn’t be rude to our hosts.

me-on-fairy-bridge

Sitting on the Fairy Bridge on a recent visit, I recalled a story my friend, George Macpherson, the Skye Storyteller, shared about one of the battles that took place on the hillside behind his home in Glendale, just a few miles away. It was one of the times the Macleod’s raised the fairy flag and called for aid from King Oberon and his fairy army. It’s a wonderful story. A story for another time, perhaps.

If you could possess your own wee family heirloom, given to you from a fairy princess, what might it be? How might it be used?

 

The Last Skye Seannachie: George W. Macpherson, Scottish Storyteller

IMG_2415

George W. Macpherson is the last traditional storyteller on the Isle of Skye. His Gaelic name is Seoras. He is a national treasure, truly. This man has stores put to memory that span thousands of years. He has the ability to tell a story in his soft thick Scottish accent that will transport you into a different time and place where giants roamed the landscape and the fairy folk danced. As I sat in his living room, along a ridge above Glendale on the Isle of Skye, his voice carried me away. I was surrounded by color and scent, I heard the voices of those he described and stood in the middle of each tale, fully engaged, fully part of it. It was magical.

I asked when he first began telling stories. “Well, I started when I was three years old. My grandfather took me on his knee, and he told me a story, and I’d have to tell it back to him. And he’d say, ‘No, that’s not the way it was.’ And he’d tell it to me again, and I’d have to retell it till I was tellin’ the story the way he told it. And I did that then for seven years till I was ten. Then, I was allowed to tell a story outside the house for the first time. That was the kind of training at that time for a seannachie. After that I was collecting stories and telling them ever since. So all together I’ve been learning and collecting and telling stories now for over eighty years.”

He comes from a long line of seannachies. (Pronounced  shan-nach-hee.) Both his paternal and maternal grandfathers were seannachies, as was his father. So all the stories and all that comes with this ancient bardic office funneled down to him. He told me there are three levels of stories for story tellers, the “big stories,” the “middle stories,” and the “small stories.” Only a seannachie could tell the “big stories,” and they must be told exactly the same, word for word, as they were passed down. If you aspire to be a storyteller, you should begin with at least fifty stories committed to memory, always building your collection to include more and more. George has hundreds of stories. Eighty years and generations upon generation of stories passed down from his ancestors and others. He has one story that takes three days to tell. “I’ve only told it once!”

He also said he knows many story tellers today who practice in front of a mirror, so they can get all their facial expressions and hand motions and body movements down just so. “They’re trying to tie attention to the teller not the story. And that’s wrong, it’s not the teller that’s important it’s the story.” The power is in the story. I loved these words. So much truth in them on so many levels.

Seoras Macpherson is the last Skye Seannachie and one of the last three in all of Scotland. He has been writing his stories down and publishing them, so as not to lose all of them. It is an oral tradition, an oral office of bard, clan historian, druidic heritage, but we have lived long enough to see the last of these great men and women aging without apprentices to carry on this legendary gift. I found myself saddened as I listened to this wise, gentle man and his powerful stories, and I wished with all my heart to be three again and sitting on his knee, repeating them . . . word for word . . . until I heard him say, “That’s just right. Now for the next story.”

IMG_3212

Sample story by George W. Mapherson

 

 

Taking Legends and Making Them My Own: The Invisible Castle of Lac Blanc

IMG_0608

There are many legends in the region of Alsace, France. One that I have embraced and made my own, weaving it into my latest work of fiction, transpired in and around Lac Blanc (White Lake). This beautiful pristine lake is nestled inside a glacial cirque and sits atop one of the Vosges Mountains at 3,458 feet (1054 meters) in Haut-Rhin, France. It’s counterpart Lac Noir (Black Lake) sits just below at 3,130 feet.

IMG_0594

This view across the lake shows the rocky white shoreline surrounding the water. 

One of the legends states there is an invisible castle that appears only to those who are pure of heart and mind. It rises up out of the waters and extends a walkway for the righteous one. I was told by someone who lives nearby that “once upon a time” a young man who was pure of heart came upon the castle and when he crossed the walkway he met a beautiful young woman who resided within the castle walls. They immediately fell in love and lived “happily ever after” under the water of the lake in the castle. Stuff of legends, people.

IMG_0605

 

In my novel, at the far end of the lake, Coventina’s castle appears to Ursula who is hiding behind the rowan trees, watching her brother Lancelot play along the shoreline. Then, four hundred years later it appears again to Ursula as she brings her daughter to meet Coventina, the Lady of the Lake. Yes, I said four hundred years later. And, yes, I said Lancelot. I love that Arthurian legends abound in this part of France.

IMG_0610

This is a photo taken of the opposite end of the lake. The large granite tower to the left is known as Château Hans. It has its own stories to tell, for another time, perhaps.

IMG_0601

The day we drove up to the lake the wind was howling. This is the fourth and final attempt to have my picture taken. I grabbed my hair, wound it tight and held it down, but to no avail. It would not be tamed. Thus, with my wild hair flying this way and that, a story formed in my head. I walked along the shoreline and tried hard as I might to see the invisible castle. It did not appear! No righteousness of my own to bring it forth. No surprise there, but disappointed all the same. So I did what all fiction writers do. I used my imagination, and voila, the castle presented itself to me. It was at that very moment I met the Lady of the Lake, and we have been friends ever since.

IMG_0626

She introduced me to the Enchanted Wood that surrounded Lac Blanc. We have taken a number of walks through the forest, and of late she showed me the hidden Hermitage where old knights retire and spend the last of their days.

IMG_0620

As I said goodbye to Lac Blanc, I knelt down and picked up a small rose quartz stone along the water’s edge. A stone of remembrance, as is my habit. I looked into the crystal waters hoping for a glimpse of something otherworldly. It was then another tale came to mind, of water horses, who would take you for a ride into the depths of the lake from which you could never return. I stood, put the stone in my pocket and walked rather quickly to the car. Yes, I would live to see another day, write another chapter.

IMG_0731

Once back in Kaysersberg at our little apartment, I grabbed my notebook, ordered a cup of hot chocolate from Jean Jacques and put pen to paper. It has been a year since that day at Lac Blanc. The scenes are finally where they belong, in chapter form. And, I continue to listen as my characters reveal what happens next. I promise you it is as much a surprise to me as it will be to you, someday, when you read the novel.

 

French With Friends

126 French Books

Learning a new language is always . . . always an adventure.

I’ve decided to learn a new language. French. Why, you’re asking, if you live in Germany would you be learning French? Such a good question. I have a bit of a complicated answer. We now live minutes from the French border in the Black Forest. Near the wine country of Alsace. I’m absolutely in love with the small villages that wind their way up the valley wedged between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains. It’s breathtaking scenery, and the people are delightful.

I speak Spanish. I’ve learned that because of this, I’m not entirely lost when people are speaking French. Not entirely. I speak German, somewhat. They speak Alsatian there, which is a form of German. And some people speak a bit of English. All the same, these villages are in France, where they speak French.

127 Jean Diedrich Shop

I’m setting my second novel in one of these small villages, Kaysersberg. I’ve written about it in previous posts. I’ve stayed there in the past for short visits, but this fall we will spend a full month in the same apartment from our previous trip. I am determined to be able to speak, if only like a five year old, to our many new friends there, in their language. French.

I’m currently using a program by Pimsleur,  goFrench. You listen and repeat. No dictionary, no books, you cannot look at a French word. Only listen! These are the rules. I’m afraid if I cheat and look up a word in my stack of books, the CD will immediately begin to self-destruct. Now I have you thinking of Mission Impossible, a likely title for this new adventure of mine. But what I want you to be thinking about is Friends. The sit-com. I was reminded of the episode where Joey was learning guitar from Phoebe. She would only let him practice the chords with his hands in the air, not touching the guitar. This is how I feel. (This is where I must confess I am a visual learner. It’s been difficult.) That being said, if you heard me repeating after the native speakers YOU’D be reminded of yet another episode of Friends. The one where Joey is learning French from, you guessed it, Phoebe. She would say a phrase and he would repeat it. The problem was it sounded nothing like what she’d just said. Get the picture?

DSC_0629

(Me, pretending to be French.)

I am determined! I’ll let you know how it goes. I have till October. I’d love to close this post with a lovely French phrase, but I don’t know how to read or write anything I’ve been saying. Ha!

Finding Yourself Inside The Story

IMG_0086

Luc Grun and me in his studio in Riquewihr, France.

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Our new friends and owners of the apartment we’d rented for the week invited us downstairs one evening to their restaurant to meet some of their best friends. We walked down from our third floor apartment and entered the restaurant. There at the table by the door sat Jean-Jacques, Gabrielle, Isabeth, and Luc. They’d started the party without us. Jim and I sat down, and we were all introduced. I sat next to Luc and Jim sat next to Isabeth. Let the magic begin!

125 La Capucin Restaurant

Inside Le Capucin Restaurant.

Luc is a mathematician, turned linguist, turned painter. He has a deep voice and an infectious laugh! We six spent the evening together, discussing all manor of topics. Our conversation was a constant mixture of French, German, and English. Most of the time all at once. It was like being in a movie, an indie film…French comedy. I love finding myself inside a story. Full of the most amazing characters. People I could never write. Bigger than life. Luc is just such a person. Jim and I drove to Riquewihr a few days later and visited him in his studio. It is a must see if you ever go to this delightful village. He’s on the main walking street mid-way up the hillside. #37. Tell him we sent you.

121 Me and Gabrielle

Gabrielle and me in Le Capucin Restaurant.

I love finding kindred spirits in unexpected places, though I should have known I was destined to find just such a person in Kaysersberg. In fact, I’m so excited about our new friendship, one that will last a life-time, I’ve decided to take French this summer. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m laughing as I type this just thinking about summer posts…could be funny.

120 Gabrielle Lamp

One of Gabrielle’s pottery lamps.

Okay, I said she and I were kindred spirits. Look at what she can do with clay! She makes the most wonderful, whimsical lamps. The restaurant is full of them. I’m hoping to place my order when we return in the fall. We will definitely be visiting them at their farmhouse in the mountains near the village. Her studio is there.

This is where I need to tell you that the following day after meeting Luc, we had lunch at the restaurant with two more of their dear friends. A retired couple who were professors of Biology and English. They were delightful! Jean-Jacques prepared a traditional Alsatian dish for us for lunch (which was delicious) and we spent hours eating and talking about life and legends. We talked about how there were many people in the area with the family name Ancel. Now the reason this is important has to do with Arthurian Legends, Sir Lancelot in particular. If you break down his name in French, which he was according to legend, it is L’ancel’ot…Little Ancel. My mind was spinning with ideas for my novel. Sadly, our time had to end, as I had another appointment with a local historian on the other side of the village. We made a date to visit our new professor friends at their farm, which is very near Jean-Jacques and Gabrielle’s home, when we return in the fall. I can hardly wait!

123 Ancel Restaurant

Me in the doorway of  The Golden Lion Restaurant in Kaysersberg.

Notice the name above the door at the restaurant in the above photo. J. Ancel. Jim and I had walked by this restaurant, next door to our apartment all week long. We decided to try it out our last night in town. We walked in and immediately loved the place. The tables were beautifully set, the light fixtures were iron, there were huge beams across the ceiling, and the food…well, DELICIOUS. As exciting as all this was, I had no idea that fate once again had led me to this very place. The owners of the restaurant were none other than, you guessed it, the Ancel’s. Sir Lancelot’s family. Here I was, inside my own story, and loving it. I giggled like I was a little girl when we first noticed the name on the menu. What a perfect way to end a perfect vacation.

124 Lamp Post Vins

My room with a view.

As I sit upstairs on my final night in our apartment the church bells are ringing. I open the window and lean out, looking toward the steeple rising above the house tops. It’s dark out, except for the lamplight on the street just below our window. No one is around. The bells are suddenly quiet, and I listen for ancient voices whispering on the street below. I look up at the castle tower and see a loan figure standing in the open window. She waves to me, inviting me to come closer. It’s her story I find myself a part of. Her name is Amélie.

 

Heroes Real and Imagined: Knights Across the Centuries

113 Me and Knight

Knights in Shining Armor are not always what they seem.

In April, we drove to France for lunch. (I love saying that!) We met several friends in Riquewihr, another lovely Alsatian village. After eating something very delicious (I’d like to tell you what it was but I don’t remember. You just need to know that everything I’ve eaten in Alsace has been delicious.), we walked up the main street and looked in the many wonderful shops. I saw this Knight standing in the doorway of one of the stores and knew I had to have my picture taken with him. I say him, though he never spoke to me, nor did he raise his helmet so I could see his face! Anyway, I took the photo and sent it to our grandson, Graham, back in Texas. He and I have this thing about knights and dragons and such. One of the first things I noticed about this particular Knight in Shining Armor was the size of the armor itself. If I stepped up on the platform, it appeared to be just my size. So, this could have belonged to Joan of Arc. Hmm. All this to say, in my new novel, a trusted knight is sent on a dark errand . . . not a shining one at all. His travel takes him across the valley from Kaysersberg to the Rhine, then on to the Black Forest. In order to familiarize myself with the terrain, Jim and I drove in as straight a line as possible to the river. It was a beautiful drive. Looking across the vineyards toward the Vosges mountains and the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg. As you can see the weather was lovely. Cold and rainy. The perfect day for a dark ride east. The first body of water we came to was a small river,

114 Weiss Valley View

Le Fecht.

We’re going to need a small bridge to get across. Wood or stone. More research.

116 Ills River115 Fecht River

Le Fecht.                                                                                                              L’ILL.

Next, we came to the L’ILL river. Even bigger. Bridge or Ferry? Continue the research. A few miles further down the road, we took a side trip from my story in search of a more modern knight. Jim had read there was a monument honoring Audie Murphy in Holzwihr. An intense battle took place in the woods outside the village in WWII, and he saved the day, the village, and much more. A true knight. Do a little research of your own and check it out. Very interesting!

118 JIm Audie Murphy Site117 Audie Murphy Site

Jim next to the Audie Murphy Memorial near Holzwihr, France.

Leaving Holzwihr, we traveled on across the valley to the Rhine River. It’s very industrial along the river in this area today. I was continually asking myself what this all looked like seven hundred years earlier. So many questions. Finding the answers is part of the adventure I find myself a part of.

 

119 Rhein River

The Rhine River bridge at Breisach am Rhein, Germany.

Join me next time for the final days of my writing vacation. I’ll introduce you to Luc. You won’t be disappointed. A current knight  who yields a paint brush in place of a sword!

Of Carriages and Chapels: Medieval Moments

IMG_8912

Chapelle de l’Oberhof

“Will I ever get through those locked gates to see the 14th century chapel?” I’ve asked that question for a number of years now, and FINALLY, I learned the answer this week. This chapel is privately owned by the Thomann family. They also own Salzmann Thomann Vineyards. I went on their website, found their email address and explained my quest. I said I was writing a novel set in Kaysersberg in the Middle Ages and would love to tour the chapel.

IMG_9960

Inside the gates, in front of the chapel.

That very evening, as if by magic, I had an email from the owner telling me to ring the bell or call at the shop, and he would let me in to see the chapel. I was so excited; I could hardly sleep that night! I imagined sitting in the chapel, listening for the voices of the characters I’ve created, and possibly those I have not yet met. However the next day I realized, it was impossible to be left alone inside the chapel, as it was filled with wonderful art and icons. Truly a beautiful place of worship. And, I, being a complete stranger, was still afforded a personal tour by the owner.Jim took lots of pictures while I asked questions

. IMG_9937

Window above doorway into chapel.

IMG_9941

Beautiful kneeling benches at the front of the chapel.

IMG_9940

Gravestone in the center of the chapel floor.

The interior was beautiful. The stone floor was fantastic. In the center was the carved stone slab in the above photo. I asked the owner about it, and he told me it was the grave of the builder of the chapel. There was a glass encased ornate staff from the Abbess of the nearby Abbey of Alspach on one of the walls. I stood in the center of the chapel and listened. I heard Amélie speaking with someone I did not recognize. Aha, a new character! I can’t wait to write the scene. The funny thing is I have no idea what I will write. But, I know once I begin the characters will have such a story to tell! Speaking of telling a story, here is a scene from the opening of my novel. (This is just the first draft, still a bit rough around the edges.) The village cheered as the opening procession of La fête des Vendanges marched down the main street toward the royal platform. The Harvest Festival had been celebrated in Rois de Montagne for centuries. As Madeline stood with her family near their shop waving her homemade banner, she felt a bite to the breeze that blew through her long black hair. Pulling her shawl across her belly, she shivered. Her unborn child stirred. Something was not right. First, the foot soldiers passed carrying flags representing the kingdom and the royal family. Madeline’s young sons yelled and jumped up and down with excitement. What boy did not want to be in the royal guard? Papillon, Rois’ town cryer, followed the soldiers announcing Borchard, the mayor, and his wife, Marie, riding on horses modestly adorned with flowers. Musicians played while jugglers and fire-eaters entertained the villagers along the main street. Several wagons with barrels of the new wine from the local vineyards rolled past the crowds. Everyone cheered, excited to indulge in the celebration following the parade. Finally, King Ulrich appeared, riding his war horse, flanked by his most trusted knight, Sir Galle de Oberay, steward of the castle. Each villager bowed. However, only briefly as the queen’s litter came into view. Everyone tossed flowers to Queen Giselle and shouted blessings. She was greatly loved and her beauty was unsurpassed. Her golden hair, braided and wrapped into a bun, gleamed in the sunlight.

IMG_1520

Philippe waiting to carry me through town!

IMG_1521 - Version 2

Me and my lady-in-waiting, Nina.

First, the chapel. Now this! There next to the bridge across from the chapel stood my carriage awaiting me! For a mere, 8 Euros, you can take a 30 minute ride through the medieval streets of town. Yes, please! I didn’t look like Queen Giselle as I rode in my own carriage along the same street I’d just written about, but I waved at passersby just the same. It was beyond fun! Tomorrow, we go for a drive across the valley toward the Rhine River to get a feel for the lay of the land. What do river crossings look like now? What might they have looked like then? Wait till you see what we found along the way!

A Night at the Museum: Kaysersberg, France

103 Musee Entrance

Enter at your own risk!

May 18 from 7:00 pm to midnight across France was “A Night at the Museum.” All museums were open and I assume free. At least the historical museum in Kaysersberg was. This museum is normally only open for one month during part of July and August. I was determined to see it hoping to find more information for my novel. When I asked if I would be able to get a private tour, the girl at the tourist office told me about Museum Night in France. I must say I had visions of the movie by the same name. I imagined Medieval knights and cloaked monks coming to life at midnight. I’m sad to say this did not happen, but it was still wonderful.

104 Musee Stairwell

Candlelit stone stairwell to the museum.

We had to climb a candlelit stone stairwell to get to the museum. It was only three rooms, mostly housing replicas of icons from the local church. There were some medieval weapons, a collection of neolithic stone tools, and random apothecary items. I would like to tell you more about what we saw, but our elderly tour guide spoke no English…French or German. We chose German. I must say I missed a lot, but he tried very hard to speak slowly and explain as best he could. He seemed very excited about the subjects he was talking about so I tried to do the same.

105 Me at Musee

View from the museum level into the courtyard below.

It was worth the tour  just to see inside this very old building. Actually, I would have paid money just to walk up the spooky stairs. There was a very large illustration of the town from the 1700s inside the museum. It was really fascinating, with specific houses and buildings marked with their construction dates. This will be useful when setting up the village in my novel.

106 Musee Courtyard

Ancient tower ruins.

Attached to the museum building was the remains of an ancient tower. We wondered around in the dimly lit courtyard taking in the medieval atmosphere. I replaced the plastic tables and chairs with wood and stone, threw in a few large scruffy dogs and…voila! Tonight the museum, tomorrow the chapel built in 1391. So much history. Meet me at the chapel!