Living Life Alive in Summary

I am thrilled to be writing again!

Over half a year has passed since I last posted on my website. In that time, I have been doing less cooking, less writing, and no posting—all, mostly on account of the excruciating pain in my left leg, which has yet to resolve, however, in the past month, at last, I have managed to strike a balance between the pain relief medication, the pain level, and the distressing side effects of that medication.

So, with no resolution in sight, and no evident cause for the pain—which, admittedly, feels like a tooth ache throughout my whole body, all day and all night, every single day, sometimes easing into a feeling of walking on broken glass while having a barbed wire pulled through the inside of my foot (and I don’t think that I’m exaggerating much when I say this)—thanks to the pain relief medication, with all its own troubles, I have been somewhat more functional and eating more in the last month.

Amazingly, through all this time, I feel fantastic in my mind and heart. Funny things happen when I choose to feel content, regardless of my physical circumstance.

Being barely functional, I have managed to live some fantastic experiences:

Camping by the Rustic Skookumchuck Hot Springs

I camped by the rustic Skookumchuck Hot Springs near Pemberton, pampered myself at the domesticated Harrison Hot Springs, and enjoyed catching the sun with some long-time friends in Vernon;

I cycled with the new Mobi shared bike system we now have in Vancouver, as well as cycling with our own bikes a few times with some friends to the lovely cabin on the majestic Galiano Island;

Cycling With the New Mobi Shared Bike System

Cycling, Hiking & Being Around the Majestic Galiano Island

The Writer in Her Native Europe–Dubrovnik, Croatia

my friends, relatives and eager readers of my story (hand-delivered to them in the Boobs anthology) in my native Europe were such a joy to visit with again, as was seeing the Pet Shop Boys in concert when I returned to Vancouver (they were the first band I ever saw back in high school in Toronto), and, while it was nearly impossible for me to write while standing up, with the pain from my leg screaming in my brain, reading several books—such as Pope Joan—while standing up at night, proved to be a sanity-saving proposition. I have also never taken so many baths, which together with the hot tub and steam room at my local YMCA, were comforting to my body and soul in general.

The Writer at the Pet Shop Boys Concert

Historical Fiction Novel, Pope Joan, Gives the Writer Reprieve & Healing Tips

Temporarily losing my ability to speak more easily during this timeframe has been disappointing; realizing that I am able to choose not to feel frustrated and to feel curious instead has been wonderful. With more sleep again, and while managing the number of sources and intensity of my pain, I feel encouraged in my approach to retraining myself to speak more fluidly–in that, my less dystonic speech is more consistently back again.

Yesterday, on the last day of February, the world observed “Rare Disease Day“—and although I don’t consider dystonia to be a “disease”, presently referring to my diagnosis as a condition, the effects of my condition do cause some “dis-ease”, to me and to those in contact with me. Hence, I do appreciate that one day in the year is designated for raising awareness of less common conditions that many people live with, while some thrive more than others.

“dystonia

a neurological condition that affects movement and speech

it does not affect intellect or ability to enjoy life if given the opportunity”

The Writer, Living Life Alive, Maggie’s Way

For the occasion, I am penning a 500 word summary of my dystonia story—a remarkable feat in light of my having embarked on telling my story in over 100,000 word book. The synopsis was inspired by the Chicken Soup for the Soul – Dystonia Edition writing contest by the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation Canada. My good writer friend, Rena Graham, offers her editorial skills to help improve my summary-story, as does another good friend from Belgium..

Today, on the first day of March, I begin my 2017 birthday month celebrations. My day was a lovely balance of working on my income taxes, receiving another installment of my acupuncture trial, and visiting with a lovely friend.

Feeling grateful for all who’ve reached out in mutual support.

living life aliveMaggie’s Way

Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice

Though my relationship with Christmas is evolving, and perhaps because of it, I find myself engaging with others more during this Season this year. I continue my Christmas visits with friends and family, on Skype and in person, taking in this year’s solstice lantern festival at Sun Yat-Sen Garden with a few old friends and new. Inspired by several Christmas letters, I decide last-minute to prepare my own—taking stock of my 2013 year’s achievements and blessings, some more in disguise than others—in the form of a Christmas poem.

Lantern Festival at Sun Yat-Sen Garden

Lantern Festival at Sun Yat-Sen Garden

Following a few ancient Polish traditions, and developing some new ones, I celebrate Christmas Eve with a small gathering of friends and the requisite multi-course meal. I try to give up sledzie (the pickled herring) as one of the courses, but simply cannot—and am happy that my dinner companions enthusiastically indulge in this delicacy with me. I greatly enjoy our after dinner activity, too—a game of pick-up sticks, which I had not played for years, perhaps even not since becoming more shaky. With some trepidation at first, I find I thoroughly enjoy it and even do alright with it. Then, most thematically for this Holiday of new birth celebration, I spend Christmas Day dinner with my relatives that now include 3 new babies, all born on the same weekend!

Christmas Eve 2013 Wigilia Dinner

Christmas Eve 2013 Wigilia Dinner

Nice Book Writing Retreat Supplies

Nice Book Writing Retreat Supplies

I spend the next few days packing for my first of two upcoming writing retreats—although I run out of time, and steam, for identifying what specifically I want to work on writing while there—so once again, I improvise. With a few days remaining in the year, I commence my Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice, in the South of France. I bring along a couple of writing support books among my book writing retreat supplies—and this time, unlike the last, I remember to pack some posted notes and a highlighter. Forgetting, though, to pack the red tape, a roll of scotch tape gets added to the book writing supply kit.

The Writer's Nice Workspace

The Writer’s Nice Workspace

Inspired by fresh fruit and veggie markets of Provence, and reinforced by seeing the movie by its title, I make Ratatouille as my Special Dish for the Week in Nice. There are two daily markets in Nice: one at the Libération tram stop, catering perhaps more to the locals, where I pick up some miel de lavande; and the other in Vieille Ville, so a little more touristy, but that one has the olives and dry herbs and spices! Both markets, a true sensation for the gastronomic and visual senses!

Nice Market Inperations

Nice Market Inperations

New Year’s Eve dinner celebrations see my writing retreat companion and I sharing a charcuterie board of cured meats like prosciutto jambon and speck; a selection of goat cheeses and some camembert; hardboiled egg (left over from my journey there); delicious green olives with garlic and herbs; some nice and spicy Dijon mustard; and a cornichon pickle. Accompanied by a fantastic artisan baguette, with Bio butter (that does not cost $10 per pound like it does in Canada!), and sipping on a small bottle of delightful Châteauneuf du Pape, this feast completes with a piece of Belgian chocolate and a macaroon. We partake in the traditional promenade niçoise (though not quite down to and along the fully traditional for New Year’s Eve Promenade des Anglais). We bring in the New Year 2014 by sipping on wine and watching the film “Amélie”, en français.

New Year's Eve Charcuterie Board Dinner in Nice

New Year’s Eve Charcuterie Board Dinner in Nice

Vieux Nice et Palais Lascaris

Vieux Nice et Palais Lascaris

Throughout my Nice Book Writing Retreat, I weave my hours of daily writing together with exploring the charming narrow streets of Vieux Nice, ducking into souvenir shops and taverns for some vin chaud when the uncharacteristic deluge comes upon us, stumbling onto the Palais Lascaris filled with baroque instruments, and not very successfully avoiding tourist trap restaurants in this off-season period. I do not, however, get the opportunity to experience the Vélo Blue bike share, because I fall in love with the Nice tram. And if there is a cemetery to be found, I will find one—or two—on a hilltop, when possible. I feign a statue at the one in Nice on The Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau), and marvel at the other in the medieval hilltop village of Èze.

Nice and Eze Cemetaries

Nice and Eze Cemetaries

Day Train Trip to Ventimiglia, Italy

Day Train Trip to Ventimiglia, Italy

As I wipe away the tears when I write about the time when I nearly gave up, I keep engaged in life now by taking a day train trip to Italy for the Ventimiglia Friday market, and drop into Monaco for a crèpe and a glass of rosé, at the medieval hilltop Monaco-Ville, on the way back to Nice. How fortunate am I to experience life at such extremes, oscillating between death and life?!

Ventimiglia Friday Market

Ventimiglia Friday Market

Crepe et Rose in Monaco on Return from Ventimiglia to Nice

Crepe et Rose in Monaco on Return from Ventimiglia to Nice

My writing is inspired by following, for a distance, the footpath of Nietzsche to the medieval hilltop village of Èze, along which I picnic in solitude on my croissant de jambon and disguised rosé—as though the surreal Èze was not inspirational enough. High up, towards the skies, the ghost of Nietzsche and I rendez-vous for an Artist Date.

Artist Date Picnic on Nietzsche's Footpath

Artist Date Picnic on Nietzsche’s Footpath

Medieval Hilltop Village of Eze

Medieval Hilltop Village of Eze

The Writer's Workspace at Frankfurt Airport

The Writer’s Workspace at Frankfurt Airport

On my return flight to Vancouver, the frigid weather in Toronto—where one of my two plane connections takes place—delays my flights by a couple of hours. I feel a little annoyed by the inconvenience of the trip lasting 2 hours longer than the regularly scheduled 18 hours of flights, until I realise that the Frankfurt airport makes for as good a place to keep writing as some of my other inspirational nooks and crannies around the world, and my contentment returns. The delays prove to be a bit more trying once I get to Toronto—where my return gets stretched by another 4 hours—but the lovely mid-air chance encounter with a good-looking and kind-hearted Francophone and “Art of Living” breath teacher—who is captivated by my story, and I by his—makes for a gratifying ending to my 30-hour journey back.

Though as usual, while engaging in my Nice Book Writing Retreat, I constantly feel that I am not doing enough: enough of writing; enough of exploring; enough of living. Taking stock of my achievements and experiences like this, in a post, brings a more balanced perspective to my endeavours—and I am glad for having made the trip.

Special Dish for the Week: Ratatouille Provençale de Nice

For the last Special Dish for the Week of 2013, I prepare an authentic version of this favourite dish in one of my favourite places on Earth—Provence in the South of France:

Ratatouille Provençale de Nice

Ratatouille Provençale de Nice

Ratatouille Provençale de Nice

When in Provence, where I currently am over New Year’s for my Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice, I take advantage of the local produce that my retreat companion picks up from the daily market while I make my way in from the airport, and make the colourful, nutritious comforting ratatouille.

Following the recipe now well-ingrained in my mind, I peel, grate, dice and slice some garlicgingeronion and red pepper. These I sautée, till soft, then browned, in generous amounts of cold pressed virgin olive oil. I add some chopped cilantro stems to enrich the base flavour. Plus some slices of red Thai chili pepper for a little added spice. Next is coarse dicing of zucchini—or courgette—and eggplant—or aubergine—which I add to the pot to make tender and juicy. Then, I coarsely chop some tomatoes, adding them towards the end, along with some chickpeas. I add more chopped cilantro, fresh basil, herbes de Provencethymepepper, and some salt—from my dried spice travel stash! I let all the veggies cook—covered, to soften, releasing and intermingling their plentiful juices—for about 1/2 hr.

For protein and carbohydrate source, I separately cook some jasmine brown rice with a dash of cinnamon. I serve the ratatouille next to the cinnamon rice, for a change of pace rather than on top, and enjoy with a glass of rosé.

Macaron and Baklava Dessert

Macaron and Baklava Dessert

For dessert, I enjoy macarons for the first time in all my travels in France (a little beat up by the time I get them to the apartment, but still tasty), with a side of baklava morsels left over from my journey from Vancouver.

Ratatouille Provençale de Vancouver

Ratatouille Provençale de Vancouver

Ratatouille Provençale de Vancouver

Back in Vancouver, for the first Special Dish for the Week of 2014, and in an attempt to keep fresh the memory of my visit to Nice, I make another Ratatouille Provençale.

This time, the cinnamon jasmine brown rice also includes the sweetly moist and delicious raisins. To the base ratatouille, I add some turmeric and black pepper for some variety and more anti-inflammatory action.

The star of this meal, however, is the wine glass from which I sip my red wine. It comes from Europe—Hamburg, to be more precise—by mail, no less! A gift for Christmas from my good Hamburgerin friend. It is customised specifically for me, and intended to accompany my Special Dishes for the Week. It has engraved on it a memory from our South East Asia travels: Santé, machine à manger! Yes, “the eating machine”—c’est moi, bien sûr ! How thoughtful—and how incredible that it made it all the way from Europe in the post, in tact!

From London to Ontario

Garden Dining in London

Garden Dining in London

During my last days in London, and the last days of the European leg of my Book Writing Tour 2013, my London host and I continue the daily morning smoothie and 3-minute Pilates routine, to feed the body, in preparation for feeding the mind with my Daily Morning Pages, weekly blog story posts, working through and writing down my life’s story, and reading some insights that others share about book writing and publishing from their own experiences. In the evenings, we complete the day with some rosé to feed the spirit. We gladly retreat back to our garden dining, after our all-you-can-eat sushi tradition gets us again, before I leave that continent once more.

The Writer in Brampton Garden During Toronto's Heatwave

The Writer in Brampton Garden During Toronto’s Heatwave

I land in the midst of a Toronto heatwave, with much relief after spending the 8-hour journey in frigid temperatures, with most passengers repeatedly complaining to the flight attendants, to no avail. At first, the 45ºC on the thermometer in the sun, and the 30ºC at bedtime, are welcoming. I try to do a little bit of work in the shade and among the vast greenery of my Mom’s Brampton garden, but quite quickly the heat overwhelms even me! I give in to nature, and for a couple of days, I simply visit with my Mom and Sister, going for slow walks, eating great Polish food, and engaging in many a chat, much of which assist me in sorting out my story.

Writers Collaborating in Toronto's West End Coffee Shop

Writers Collaborating in Toronto’s West End Coffee Shop

Even nature gets tired of the heat, and after a few massive thunder and wicked lightening storms, the post-thunderstorm cooling brings me to downtown Toronto for a week-long writers retreat visit with my fellow writer and Toronto hostess. There, I join Melissa in a few of her daily writing and creativity-boosting rituals. She invites me to her early morning coffee shop sessions of writing, drawing and connecting with other local artists. I get a weekly guest-pass and we expand her yoga routine to include Pilates at the local YMCA, also down the street like mine in Vancouver. Throughout the day, we exchange tips on writing habits, software programs, and helpful internet resources. Our joint feedback sessions and collaborations are interspersed with creative alone-time as we migrate with our laptops and sketchpads throughout her lovely artist’s home and garden.

The Writer's Garden Lunch

The Writer’s Garden Lunch

We make smoothies for breakfast and fabulous salads of kale and quinoa for dinner. I excitedly get to try out her stylish bright red Vitamix – the most renowned and coveted blender among vegans, raw-foodies, and most soup chefs, alike. The sweet yet spicy Watermelon Gazpacho soup tastes even better the next day for a mid-morning snack, once the flavours have had the time to infuse together. These dishes are supplemented by various goodies from my Mom’s garden and oven in the care package with which she sent me off to Toronto. All quite spontaneously, I meet several close friends of my Toronto hostess, and reconnect once more in-person with another long-time friend who is very supportive of me and my efforts.

The Writer at Toronto’s Kensington Market

The Writer at Toronto’s Kensington Market

My impressions of Toronto as a land of BBQs, cottage-getaways, and urban sprawl are slightly augmented by the highly multi-cultural Kensington Market area we lunch and shop for groceries at, and the diverse and livable West End where I am staying. This area is very close to the Polish community of Roncesvalles that was one of my first homes around Toronto as a kid when I first came to Canada. I look forward to possibly trying out the Toronto Bixi bike share, as I patiently await its installation in Vancouver, hopefully as soon as next spring!

London Calling

The Writer's Garden Office

The Writer’s Garden Office

Things are a little different for me in London this time: it is finally warm here when I visit for once! Most days, I work from the garden office and enjoy my super salad lunches while sipping a glass of rose. My writing is going a little slower after my mini-holiday, and I am also at another challenging spot in my story: What really happened, and how did that actually shape what happened after that? Is what I now say really true, and will it still be true for me 5 years from now? It feels that writing down your past for others to partake in, and possibly dissect, requires a certain commitment to your own truths. I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes, by Margaret Laurence: “A popular misconception is that we can’t change the past – everyone is constantly changing their own past, recalling it, revising it.” I must keep reminding myself that a book, whether auto-biographical, historical, or otherwise, is but a snapshot in time of someone’s interpretation of their truth.

Super Salad and Rose Lunch

Super Salad and Rose Lunch

My London Cycle, The Viking Prelude

My London Cycle, The Viking Prelude

I am now, for a while, back in the land of the daily breakfast smoothie and 3-minute Pilates routine, brilliant public transport (for the able-bodied, anyway), and a pub at least on every other corner. I am also, briefly, reunited with my second love: my London cycle, the Viking Prelude. Life is better from behind the handlebars, I once said to a friend, and it still feels true today. My favourite images of people on bicycles that I have seen on my various travels are the 50-something ladies, smartly dressed in skirts or jeans, swinging their high-heeled foot off their bicycle as they slow down to park; the mothers and fathers with one, two or a bucket-full-of-kids mounted onto their bicycles; and the (usually) elder men cycling blissfully with a cane attached to their bicycle frame for when they must walk. It is visions like these in most countries I have travelled to, that inspire in me the “live as you are” feeling.

Artistic inspirations surround me here. On our walks around town, my London host and I get artsy with the street art (and a little Photoshopping afterwards).

Artists' Walk

Artists’ Walk

Ballet Inspiration

Ballet Inspiration

I find additional inspiration from the Billy Elliot and Spamalot musicals. The latter was even more goofy than the Monty Python movie version, but the former was quite breath-taking and moving – as many sniffles and sounds of search for tissue from the audience can attest to. The elegance of movement of the ballet prodigy has given me some fresh ideas. This lead child-actor was superb to watch. Bravo!

My tech-savvy London host equips me with a few more book writing and reading gadgets to try out during my stay. The handheld iPod Touch (iTouch) picks up the wireless keyboard via Bluetooth as a possible on-the-go writing option… I test out reading an ebook on the iPad Kindle app as a possible book publication format… I am amazed by all this technology that I barely understand, and I think I can increasingly relate to the generations that came before me. Various friends advise me of links to potentially useful blogs written by others about writing and publishing a book. It is incredibly supportive. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up with what helpful words of wisdom and interesting experiences others may have to share, and this, too, helps me better relate to the readers (or would-be-readers) of my stories on this website.

London Calling Phonebooth Pose

London Calling Phonebooth Pose

When feeling nostalgic about the past, and a little sad about a current plan ending, it is advisable to start making a new one. This wisdom was prompted by a timely invitation that I received from the Vancouver Writers’ Meetup Group. As I wind down my Book Writing Tour 2013, with one more 12-day stop in Ontario before I return home for my 3-week finale, it heartens me a little to know that I have a weekend writing retreat in September to look forward to in Vancouver. With both London and Vancouver calling, I remain forever with “One Foot in Europe”.

And in Europe is where I celebrated my 4th anniversary of my possibly life-saving, or at least life-prolonging, surgery of 2009. Unlike in previous years, instead of hosting a potluck open-house for caring friends and acquaintances on a Sunday afternoon around July 14th, I spent the day having a relaxing garden breakfast, cycling around London, acquiring a very pretty designer-style summer dress, and making Beet Bourguignon with Lentils and Brown Rice – all with a good friend here. With this very special adaptation of the better known beef bourguignon, I am now back on track with the Special Dish for the Week. With my London host, we also made a mid-week dish of another Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea and Coconut Sauce over Spelt Pasta.

Hamburg and Poznan Mini-Holiday and Storyline Confirmations

On the German (Hamburg) and Polish (Poznan) leg of my Book Writing Tour 2013, I take a little time out from daily writing, and concentrate on eating and visiting with friends and relatives. But the book and storyline creation process does not stop.

Hamburg German Breakfast 1

Hamburg German Breakfast 1

After the land of the great French baguette, I crave the generous and diverse German breakfast. I am told that this meal remains the most authentic in German cuisine. I also debunk my own perception of the currywurst being a recent addition, particularly in Hamburg, which is a very large and long-time vibrant international trading port city, and where spices such as curry from the Far East have long-since engaged the Germanic sausage. The German breakfast, rich in breads, cheeses, fruit, veggies, eggs and fish, with a dab of marmalade if so desired, does give way on a couple of mornings to some homemade fruit smoothies that I have been missing for three weeks since leaving Vancouver on my Book Writing Tour 2013.

Hamburg German Breakfast 2

Hamburg German Breakfast 2

I spend a day writing and another one updating my website with the previous week’s stories, in written word and with visuals. It happens to be Canada Day, and I am huddling up wrapped in a blanket, wearing two pairs of socks, and a European-must-have thin scarf.

The Writer Shivers in Europe on Canada Day

The Writer Shivers in Europe on Canada Day

I eagerly await some higher temperatures on this continent, while receiving news of the heat-wave I am sadly missing back in Vancouver. In addition to the chilly weather, my uncertainty around the all-German menus at the nearby restaurants, which are otherwise most inviting with their rows of benches around long tables happily shared by strangers, keeps me close to home. I grow even more wary of venturing out on my own when, upon one such act of bravery, I receive now an international confirmation of a dreaded and unpleasant identity imposed on me because of my visible physical condition: this time in Germany, I am once again mistaken for a troubled drug addict unable to maintain control over her body. I manage to regain my composure and am happy with how much better I am able to handle the situation, explaining with a touch of humour to a partially-English-speaking German that their comment made me uncomfortable and that my body simply works differently because of my neurology. I am not crying this time, neither on the inside. Nonetheless, I decide to stay away from peering eyes and insensitive commentaries for a couple of days, and I write and take my meals in my apartment. I no longer feel as much of a need to prove that I, too, can live fully. I, now, know it more, that I can.

In Hamburg This Time, We Eat Again!

In Hamburg This Time, We Eat Again!

While staying in Hamburg, “The Eating Machine” (me) is happily reunited with her travel-partner from their “against all odds” South East Asia 2009 ventures. They cook up a storm, exchanging delicious recipes. Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup as an appetizer to Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea and Coconut Sauce over Quinoa on one evening; a fig and green peppercorn soup to whet the appetite for Eggplant, Lentil, Tomato and Cashew Curry on another. I am spreading the flavours of my favourite dishes across continents, travelling like a seasoned spice trader with my own collection of the more exotic spices. When we are not cooking or eating, my Hamburg hostess and I cycle around this most bicycle-friendly city. By bicycle, we join all types of other regular people: young and aged, business-suited and high-heeled, parents hauling children. We take in views of the historic city centre, the city’s centre-piece lake, the overcast beach, the still under construction new harbour HafenCity, and for an hour, switch to a boat for a favourite Hamburgerin past-time: boat tour of the working harbour while sipping a cold beer.

On my way onward, most surprisingly for Germany in my view, my train is cancelled when I get to Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof station. Without a minute to spare for an explanation, I rush to catch an earlier train and spend the 2-hour journey from Hamburg to Berlin peering out the window at the unvisited countryside from the cushioning comforts of my folded jacket on the floor in the train’s hallway. Most of the other overflow passengers pass the time in cyberspace, hunched over their handheld game devices. After making lemonade of my cancelled train, when I at last extract my 200mL bottle of Bordeaux on my connecting train from Berlin to Poznan, my compartment co-traveller, in true East-European fashion, produces a Litre of whiskey. We both indulge in relative style: I sip from a miniature wine bottle; in my co-traveller’s hands appear a real glass and an entire lemon for his spiked Coca-Cola.

Poznan "Rynek" Main Square

Poznan “Rynek” Main Square

Another co-traveller in my Poznan-bound train compartment is a Polish-German nurse, with whom I quite happily strike up a conversation in my native tongue after my weeks of learning French and not understanding German. Having briefly discussed my neurological condition as a mutual point of interest, the nurse shares with me a perspective of a friend’s daughter, whose muscles are neurologically degenerating, and the lengths that this teenage girl goes to so as to grab onto life while the opportunities offered her are limited. I offer my still-limited-access website details so that my co-traveller nurse can share them with the girl. Her English apparently is quite good. It is only one sign of her unimpaired intellect that she is intent on nurturing.

Poznan Family Visit

Poznan Family Visit

In and around Poznan, several family visits are arranged. For the long-weekend that I am there, my Dad and his Lady Friend join me from my birthplace in Krakow. I am on a mini-holiday from my book writing, but my eyes and ears remain attentive for details of my childhood and for impressions of what my life might have been like had I not been transplanted to my new homeland in Canada. Some of my story and my perceptions are confirmed; some debunked. My quest for my own truths continues.

Another multi-cultural Artist Date, this time in Polish and about the Jewish culture, unexpectedly presents itself when one of my relatives, a screenwriter herself, invites us to a Sunday afternoon outdoor theatre performance of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”. It is informative and entertaining. It also inspires a fresh perspective for me on what my book is about and how I might describe it when asked versus how I have been describing it until now. There is something true to the Artist Dates, and how art inspires art, and thought, and life…

"Fiddler on the Roof" Outdoor Theatre Performance

“Fiddler on the Roof” Outdoor Theatre Performance

My more frequent relocations of the past week and my mini-holiday from writing are intruding on my Special Dish for the Week routine. They are also making me crave getting back to my keyboard to write!

À Bientôt, Paris! Moin Hamburg!

The final week of the Parisian stop on Book Writing Tour begins with a second Pilates en français class, to exercise the body, the mind, and together, the spirit. My Artist Date this week, while not quite alone amongst friends of my Parisian host, is nonetheless a relatively solitary artist-nurturing experience consisting of three solid hours of four theatre performances – entirely in French! A midnight Vélib bike-share ride home is the day’s welcomed mind-clearing finale.

French Cafe Lunch with Parisian Writer Colleague

French Cafe Lunch with Parisian Writer Colleague

Writing, though, need not always be an entirely solitary activity. Collaboration and mutual support with other writers is highly beneficial and recommended, particularly over a tasty meal of French onion soup, mixed salad, and dessert crepe, in a typical Parisian café, on the odd sunny summer afternoon. This is where Maria and I meet for the second time, to share our biographical writing experiences. It presents an opportunity to share my story of how I came to be working with my Developmental Editor.

Taking advantage of a rare sunny day, I return for my morning writing to the little park by a church on rue Mouffetard, where I wrote on my first writing day in Paris. I slowly begin to say my au revoirs to Paris.

Jardin du Luxembourg - A Writer's Haven

Jardin du Luxembourg – A Writer’s Haven

Still intermittently sunny in the afternoon, I grab a small picnic on the way to le Jardin du Luxemburg, on the Vélib bike-share, of course. This garden park is the working artist’s haven, with visual inspiration abound in the statues, the flower beds, the diversity of trees, period buildings, a pond that serves as a fountain in the centre, and lots of places to sit down with a laptop computer or handheld easel. A multitude of chairs is provided throughout the garden park, as grassy knolls and patches are strictly forbidden from trespassing with a blanket. Joggers and strollers of all ages complete the setting.

Jardin du Luxembourg - A Writer's Picnic

Jardin du Luxembourg – A Writer’s Picnic

I observe the carefree happiness of a little boy ducking in behind a tree as he marvels at the wonders around him, and witness the innocence of childhood slowly stripped away from him as his scolding mother yanks him into obedient motion in the direction she feels they need to be taking. Here I write, while sipping my Bordeaux and munching on my baguette, for four hours into the early evening. In the quite life-inspiring setting, I write about one of my own life re-inspiring events.

That evening I am rewarded with one of my better restaurant meals, which in the café-filled Paris means quite a lot! After nearly sitting myself directly into a tourist-trap, I leave my pedestrian alley courtyard table and opt for a more authentic French gourmet across rue Saint Andrés des Arts at Vins et Terroirs. The two dishes I order, accompanied by a small carafe de rosé, are both excellent – and by now, I have some good points of reference to say so. The saumon tartare with avocado paste topping and a beetroot sorbet are only barely outdone by the salade Landaise, which, in a word, is a mixed salad with all things duck: steaming gizzards, smoked duck breast, and a medallion of foie gras.

Saint Germain Post-Writing Dinner Delights

Saint Germain Post-Writing Dinner Delights

Fully satiated in my dining, writing, and life-witnessing experience, through the streets of Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés, past the Saint Sulpice church, I take the Vélib bike-share home. Located south of the river Seine and west of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Saint Germain becomes possibly my favourite area of Paris, rivalling even the by-now-famous rue Mouffetard.

Saint Sulpice Church near Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint Sulpice Church near Quartier Saint-Germain-des-Prés

After ensuring that my tastebuds experience a cheese fondue and a traditional quiche, both back at rue Mouffetard, I take the night train from Paris to Hamburg. In my six couchette comportment reserved for four passengers only, I spend the first part of the evening enjoying the space all on my own. Thinking about a nice bottle of Bordeaux I did not bring on my journey, I crack open the dark chocolate with sea salt, and settle into a couple of hours of my evening writing, occasionally peaking out the train window. In the morning, after a relatively good sleep on the top bunk, fully trained by the conductor in compartment door security, I am happily met by my Hamburgerin hostess at the main train station.

Heading to the Schlagermove Parade in Hamburg

Heading to the Schlagermove Parade in Hamburg

It is Saturday, the first weekend in July in Hamburg, and it is cool and over cast. Naturally, it is time for Schlagermove parade of 1960’s and 1970’s music, eclectic vintage clothing, and lots and lots of happily drunk Germans from across the nation. My Hamburgerin hostess is joined by a few of her closest friends – fortunately for me, they are all German-and-English-speaking. We have some cake and few drinks, I get a white feather boa, and we head out for a five-hour afternoon walk along 40-some music party parade trucks. We finish in the Reeperbahn red-light district around dinner time, and end up at a Polish restaurant of all places!

I am a little behind in adding my pictures of my visits and activities from my Book Writing Tour 2013 on a location map – continually under development so check back again!

This week, we enjoy two varieties of Special Dish for the Week: Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup and Tomato, Cardamom, Chickpea and Coconut Sauce over Quinoa.