Monday, August 30, 2021

Climb Every Mountain

 There's a strange upside-down mountain in the Aude of France and today we climbed it. 

Earl at the peak 

Pic de Bugarach is about 45 minutes away. It's lore is probably bigger than the mountain though. It's called upside down because the lower layers are younger than the higher ones. Some legends say there is a space ship inside the mountain. In 2012, as the Mayan predictions of the end of the world circulated, people gathered at Bugarach where they thought they would be safe from destruction because the aliens would take them to another planet. About 10,000 people gathered there on December 21, 2012. But the world didn’t end and they stayed on earth. 

We had no such expectations as we started our hike today. Our friends Alain and Isa led the expedition. Alain had climbed Bugarach before. He’s French so typically underplayed how difficult it would be. 

When we started, all fresh and hopeful

Alain said the first part was difficult but then it was easy. About an hour and a half, he said. Then when we arrived he said the first hour was difficult. Gulp! 

The walk was uphill as you’d expect on a mountain. There were some tricky bits, but as we rounded a corner, the wind began to blow ferociously and I climbed with my hands up a rocky wall. 

Isa and Earl looking like they're at the end of the world, maybe walking to Mordor
The part that nearly did me in

I felt like a kids’ picture of a stick person on the side of a mountain. I sat down halfway up and took off my hat then pulled on my sweater. Before I turned around and started up again. Holding onto the rocks as I climbed against the relentless wind. Half way up, I stopped and took off my hat so it didn't blow away. I also put on my jacket. As I turned around to start climbing again, a water bottle fell from my backpack but I wasn't about to scramble down to get it. I would retrieve it on the way back. 

Looking a bit bedraggled at the top of the mountain

I have never felt a fear of heights while climbing before, but I think the wind added to my fear because it was so strong. 
We enjoyed Isa's stories as we climbed and we made fun of a man behind us who was carrying his fluffy white dog while scrambling over rocks. We saw a few vultures.

At the peak, we ate our sandwiches and some trail mix before heading down again. 

I had been dreading the downhill, wondering how I would get down that rock face. I anticipated sliding on my butt for much of the trek. 
Alain and Isa were not put off by the strong winds at the peak
A gap between ridges
High and rocky

But the hike down was fairly quick and I was halfway down before Earl stopped to pick up my water bottle and I looked behind me. I was walking down the rock face, no problem. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Kirkus Review Mention

 Searching for some news articles I had written, I googled myself and came across a Kirkus Review article that featured my book Paris Runaway. Not the initial review, which was flattering, but an article call "The Last Time They Saw Paris" by David Rapp in March 2018.

Hmmm. What could I have been doing in March 2018 that I didn't notice? Oh, I know. I moved to France and was trying to sort out my new life. 

The article is very flattering. Here's the link in case you want to take a look. 

But I'll let you see the first two paragraphs here: 

The city of Paris has long captivated American writers. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and James Baldwin set key works there, and the City of Light’s rich history, gorgeous structures, and stunning artworks remain sources of fascination for authors in all genres. Here are a few eclectic works that Kirkus Indie has reviewed that take full advantage of the French capital’s many charms:

Beginning with -- moi!

 Paulita Kincer’s Paris Runaway (2016), 50-year-old American Sadie Ford finds out that her 17-year-old daughter has gone to Paris with the intention of losing her virginity to a French foreign-exchange student named Luc Rollande, so she hops on a plane to stop her. Along the way, she meets Luc’s attractive father, with whom sparks soon fly. Kirkus’ reviewer calls this novel an “enjoyable romp,” noting that “through [Sadie’s] wanderings, readers get a first-rate tour of the city, complete with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that make it unique.”

Oh la la! I can almost pretend I'm in the same league with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Baldwin. 

I do think that Paris Runaway is a fun read with a lot of French scenery, wine and foods. If you haven't read it yet, here's the link to and another link to the book on

Here's the original Kirkus Review of Paris Runaway and the link

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Canoeing and Tipping in the Aude

 Monday, we finally made it on a long awaited canoe trip. We have changed the date three times because of bad weather. 

Old bridge supports framed our back and forth movements down the river. 

We went with our friends Ray and Claudine who are into more extreme sports than we are, but they assured us this was a level 1 canoeing trip, just a calm ride down the Aude river in the south of France. 

Earl and I have limited canoeing skills. We haven't gone canoeing very often, and certainly not in areas with rapids. We have been kayaking on a canal in the past few years and of course we floated on rafts down a river in Massachusetts several times, but that did not prepare us for the canoe trip. 

The biggest problem was mostly the yelling between the two of us. That and getting stuck on rocks and having to get out on slippery rocks where the water is running fast to budge the canoe off the rocks. And one time, we did turn over completely with Earl going under the water because it was deep there. 

Tipping over
Although it looks like I'm leaning on the canoe to keep Earl from emerging, I wasn't.

The circus-type atmosphere did not prevent us from enjoying the beauty during the calm parts of the river. At one point we saw two blue herons take flight and crisscross above the river like a beautiful dance. 

Ray and Claudine would stop and wait for us. That's how they took so many pictures.

The water was low, so that might have been part of the problem as we got stuck on rocks. Earl and I were just too heavy and weighed down the canoe rather than skimming over the rocks. Surprisingly, there were a lot of important decisions to make as we paddled along the canoe, watching Ray and Claudine go before us. If they had a hard time or got stuck, we would try another route , but it wasn't usually better than the route they had taken. 

Ray and Claudine were much more in sync than we were. 

At one place, we pulled the canoes up on some rocks and looked at caves. My phone was tucked away in the waterproof container that stores important things on the back of the canoe, so I don't have pictures. But Claudine did take this picture of us before we climbed back in the canoe. 

 It wasn't far from the caves to the end, so it should have all gone splendidly, but as Earl got in the canoe, I pushed it off the rocks and hopped in, I felt a pain in the back of my thigh just below my swimsuit. Had I sat on a burr from the hillside? Nope, a bee sting. What are the odds that I would sit on a bee in a canoe. Very rare. Luckily, the cold water helped ease the pain of the sting and I'm not allergic.

We provided our friends with a lot of laughs as we meandered down the river, getting stuck, turning over, getting stuck again, going down some whitewater backward at one point. But we agreed that we would try it again in the future when the water level got a bit higher. 

After canoeing, we stopped at a friend's restaurant in Couiza. Andy is an English chef who has worked on Russian yachts among other places. Last year he started a restaurant right before Covid hit. We had been there once before for English roast, which is a Sunday thing with meat and Yorkshire pudding and lots of roasted vegetables. But we aren't English so it was hard to judge. 

Monday's meal assured us that dining at Andy's restaurant À Table, which means "to the table" or "come to the table" in French, is a great experience. It started with some amuse bouches, baba ganouches (like a humus from eggplant) and little potatoes with spices and a mayonnaise-type sauce to dip them in. We ordered the 19.95 Euro menu which included a starter, a main course and a dessert. But before the starter, first there was another amuse bouche of gazpacho.  

We weren't sure, so asked the server and she said we were supposed to drink it.
It had a kick to it with garlic, pepper and paprika added. 
For my starter, I had a poached egg served over spinach and a basket made of parmesan cheese.
The main dish for me was lamb plus gratin potatoes. I paid a 6 euro supplement for the lamb. 
And for dessert, a sticky toffee pudding with a side of ice cream. I hadn't eaten
sticky toffee pudding before going to Andy's restaurant, so I can't compare it, but
the first few bites taste like delicious brown sugar and butter. 

We left Andy's restaurant very full but delighting in the delicious meal. 

We might not be able to canoe very well, but we can eat a nice French lunch and return home for a nap with the best of them. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Run Aways in the South of France

 Let's just pretend I haven't been gone for a month and a half, like friends who start a conversation after being absent from each other.

This morning on a run, I was headed out the cemetery road because it's flat and easy to run on. It follows the river, goes past an abbatoir, an organic food store and the water treatment plant -- that doesn't sound like a great place to run, but it does go past the cemetery and there are fields where sometimes hay is rolled up and sometimes horses munch on grass, and many glimpses of the surrounding mountains -- but mostly it's flat. 

As I'm running, the postal lady passed me on her bicycle. She rides her bike to work then many times rides around town delivering mail on the post office bicycle. She always says "Bonjour" but this morning she held out her  hand and said, "Faites attention..." But I didn't catch that last part. What was I supposed to be careful of? 

"Merci," I called as I continued on my way and she in the other direction. It could be a snake on the road; a car accident; a wild boar; road work? 

Soon enough, I came across the culprit, two horses running free on the road. 

The runaways

The horses, tossing their heads and neighing, had been spooked by a big truck going to the water treatment plant. They began to run up the road toward me. The pony is black and white with spots like an Appaloosa. The bigger horse, which Earl says looks like a quarter horse, has some white patches like a palomino. I've seen these horses on the road before. These aren't the first runaways we've seen either. Rather than expecting someone else to take care of it, I've seen French strangers clap their hands at horses to send them in the direction of home. But horses are big and I figured I should just stay out of it. 

I stopped running so I wouldn't scare the horses. The smaller one is much more skittish, wanting to race past me. I didn't have much farther to go before I turned around on the 5K run. I saw that the horses had entered a field (Reminder to self that I must learn to say 'field' in French -- reminder to self, you already know that word - champ, as in Champs Elysees) but I couldn't think of the word as I ran this morning. 

The fence had an opening and the two horses had entered the field and were placidly munching grass. A woman was entering the enclosure from the other end. "Are these your horses?" I asked her in French. She let me know they weren't and she had been saving this grass for her horses and she wasn't pleased the horses were taking it. 

At least the horses were safe, I thought, as I continued toward home, my "run time" totally ruined by the horse incident. But I got to practice some French and horses don't go running down the road higgeldy piggeldy very often, so I might as well enjoy it. 

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...