Category Archives: Random Katness

Being Home

Summer–my favorite season–is winding down. We’re approaching Mabon, the Autumn Equinox. With that fleeting balance of day and night, most harvesting’s done. My tomatoes sure are. My garden’s got the late summer shabbies though there are some pretty fabulous spots and corners of color and bloom still. Before much longer, I’ll be thinking about making soups, pulling on sweaters and boots.

A little fall color.
Brilliant pots.
Happy flowers.
Thriving nasturtium

So, I for one, am holding tight to these last wonderfully warm days.

We had a busy summer around here. Lots of work, lots of travel. And we capped it off with our annual summer party.

That meant the weekend after we returned from France, we had party prep to deal with (and that’s after unpacking, putting awaying, nose to the grindstoning on the book).

While Jason and BW spent hours on a rainy Saturday setting up outside–awnings, tables, chairs, food stations–Kat and I spent hours inside (with some assist from our Sarah) cooking, baking, chopping, stirring. I think, in one day, we made up for our couple of weeks on holiday with no cooking involved.

Kat brought France back by making the amazing dessert we call pie-cream-pie. Labor intensive, creative and absolutely delicious.

Pie-cream-pie a la Kat.
Fruit salad in Kat’s carved watermelon.

Fortunately, the rainy Saturday turned into a pretty Sunday for the party. Lots of people, lots of food and drink. And that’s a wrap for another summer.

With that wrap, the kids head back to school. Kayla’s back in cross-country training. Run, Kayla! And Logan grew TWO inches while we were in France. We’re now eye-to-eye.

And at last, one completely at-home weekend follows. Nowhere we need to go. BW and I both spent it doing chores around here. It felt wonderful to put the house and yard back in order. But that short spurt of–for me–domestic bliss–led up to this past weekend’s signing at Turn The Page.

I knew going in this would be a long one. We were lucky to host three writers (and personal friends) who rarely come to our area. Our stellar line-up included–in alpha order: Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Susan Wiggs. A nice bonus for me to be able to catch up with all of them. And since some 360 readers–give or take–came through the doors, I wasn’t wrong about the long one. Five and a half hours rates as long–for the writers and the readers.

Pre-signing pano
Nora has readers of every age.
Bottom row: Alisha Rai, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora.
Middle row: Laura Treacey Bentley, Susan Wiggs, Kimberly Kincaid
Top: John Bede

Thanks to all who came to sign, to buy books, to be there, for their patience and fortitude.

Today, it’s warm and sunny–but I see one of the poplar trees out my window going yellow with September. I’ve tidied my house, done my workout (not easy to drag my butt out to my gym today!), and after I write this, I’m going to do exactly nothing for the rest of the day.

I want to add to anyone who’s had their lives and homes disrupted by Harvey or Irma, you’re all in my thoughts. I’ve been lighting candles for you, and will light one today before my nothing begins.

Nora

Note from Laura:  I came back from the beach to get to the signing. One last sunrise to hold me over until next year:

And in this week’s #randomkatness:

“May I help you?”

Bits/Pieces, Sunday 9/10

I don’t want to lose touch this fall so on those weekends Nora doesn’t share a blog post, I’l share updates.

The adventurers arrived home safely on August 27.  Word is that Nora got home, minimally unpacked, napped for a bit, then watched the Game of Thrones season finale.  She had to do this because I’d have whined at her to catch up. since we share our GoT thoughts every Monday.  (We loved the finale, btw.)

Then I left town for a long-planned working vacation at the beach with my husband.  We’ve had the usual mix of Outer Banks weather and since I get up to watch the sunrise, I work early so I can have cocktails on the beach in the afternoon.

Just before dawn. Photo by Laura Reeth

Nora adjusted to the time, dove back into the current WIP (an In Death, as we all know) for three days before it was time to prepare for the annual summer barbeque.  I’m afraid she was short one sous chef (me) but I hear the party was a success.  And Kat sent me a photo of her amazing watermelon carving for the fruit salad.

Kat + watermelon = greatness. Photo by kat

Once the Labor Day weekend was over, I hit my beach stride.  Nora hit the manuscript.  What can I say?  We each have our priorities.

Sunrise on the water. Photo by Laura Reeth

And, of course, September 6 brought Secrets In Death release day. The conversation continues on this thread.

On Wednesday, September 7, we shared the brand new author photo for Year One on all social media.  Isn’t it amazing?

Photo by Bruce Wilder.

I shared a couple of quotes on Facebook.

As well as a great review of Secrets in Death on Criminal Element (don’t forget to click on the fun GIFnotes tour of Secrets).

Then suddenly, it was Friday and the end of the week and we knew readers were facing adversity in so many places — recovering from Harvey, preparing for Irma, breathing in ash from western fires — and we wished everyone a safe weekend.

Hope you had exactly that.

Laura

PS.  Kat agreed to continuing with the #randomkatness, but only if I curated the photos and wrote the captions.  I agreed.

Cat in the driver’s seat. Photo by kat

Eze, France Day 1

The full view. Photo by ja-b.

What happened to July? I’ll tell you what happened to mine–with regrets for not posting to the blog for the bulk of the month.

A book ate my summer. I pulled what we’ll call an Eve Dallas for about three weeks to get a book finished before the crazy travel started. 12-15 hour days, eating pizza at my desk. But it worked! Any time I had for writing went into finishing next summer’s hardcover.

Then it was a week at the spa with friends and family–always so much fun to spend that week with happy kids. Then a week with girls at the amazing Greenbrier where we shared our gorgeous space with several playful ghosts. We did a Facebook Live from there, you can check it out from my FB page. Fun stuff.

Unpack, pack, write, unpack, pack, write gobbled up a lot of the summer.

And yesterday, after a pretty smooth flight, we arrived in Nice. Gorgeous Weather greeted us. Summer blue skies, puffy clouds, balmy breezes. The drive from there to our hotel for our three-day stay in the area was highway mostly, but oh, those hills and all the red-roofed houses climbing them. The splashes of color from flowers and gardens. Palm trees and cacti.

And we’re greeted by the concierge who whisks us to a balcony to sit while our rooms are readied. He offers champagne. I accept. We catch our breath looking out at the Med, the clumps of land jutting into it, the gliding white boats, the muscular mega yachts.

The view by day. Photo by ja-b.

Up to Kat’s and Jason’s room–so pretty! Such views, and their own little balcony. Then down to ours, and more pretty with a lovely terrace. I don’t look down from the rail as that rolls my stomach. But I can look out, see Nice in the distance, watch the white boats with their white wakes skim over the blue.

We need a nap! I’m down for two hours, know that’s all I should take if I want to adjust to the time change. Drag myself up. Need to walk some, so I prod BW to do the same. Down the brick path,  down the stone steps, into little shops just to browse for now as the brain’s still pretty soft. Feel less logy, and the air’s just delicious.

We go into a pretty little church, and the bells strike four.

Shop directory. Photo by j a-b.
The source of the bells. Photo by kat.

Start our walk back, run into Kat and Jason who’ve finished their nap. Off they go for a walk, and it’s definitely time for more champagne on the terrace. It’s starting to feel like holiday.

We have a lazy late afternoon followed by a fancy dinner, again on a terrace with those views, and as the evening slides into night, all the lights sparkle on those clumps and juts of land. The moon’s full but for a bite.

Dinner with a view. Photo by ja-b.

In bed by elevenish, and I’m stunned when I don’t wake till seven. Late for me, and lovely to wake late with that view greeting me. Kat’s up on her balcony, and comes down to hang. Being Kat, she’s found a market on her phone app. She and Jason will take the three mile walk and see what they see. I gear up and do a workout on my terrace. BW’s just back from getting the rental car we’ll use to drive to Monaco tomorrow. Woo! Monte Carlo. I’ve always wanted to see Monaco, and now it’s a easy drive from where we are.

We’ll walk about today and explore what’s billed as Jardin Exotique. We’ll all about pizza and gelato today, too.

In a few days, we’ll pack up and drive to Provence, settle in for two weeks. But this little interlude has, so far, been perfect. Gotta get myself cleaned up for today’s adventure.

A bientot!

The view by night. Photo by bw.

Nora

A PS from Laura:  I get all the photos and am able to choose what illustrates Nora’s posts the best.  Usually I can intuit my way into the caption, but sometimes I’m stumped.  More often than not, it’s a clever, quirky photo from Kat.  So when I can, I’ll add a photo that falls into Random Katness.  Today, I bring to you the puzzle of the door locks — and I’m absolutely certain Kat’s had  a wonderful time figuring them out.

The puzzle of the locks. Photo by kat.

Eze, France Day 2

A fIrst full day in France packed with climbs, views, flora, scents and gelato.  Vacation indeed.

It’s fascinating to climb and wind through the steep narrow streets here with the old stone of the buildings hugging the brick and cobblestone walkways. Ramps and steps heading steeply up and down, flowers and shop displays adding color.

We head out under sunny skies, poking and climbing our way toward Jardin Exotique. We’re not alone and join the queue for tickets. A big black cat curls up for a nap inside the cashier’s window. The exotic begins with a wide and pretty fabulous array of cacti climbing up the steep hills–and adding an arid touch to the views of sea and red-tile roofs. Shapes I’ve never seen, and some with buds and blossoms that seem other-worldly to this East Coast gardener. You climb the hills, too. Steep, hamstring challenging steps up and up in gorgeous air to the ruins of a fortress Louis XIV ordered demolished. Sprinkled throughout are charming, sleekly styled sculptures of goddesses, each with its own little poem. The ruins are high above our hotel, which I thought was really high to begin with. From here we can see the town proper, the perfumeries, the roads, and out and above, higher hills.

Cacti with a view. Photo by kat.
A variety of cacti and succulents. Photo by j a-b.
Looking down. Photo by BW.

And here, as I scan up, as looking down whacks my system, I see on the crest of those high hills an odd tree formation. I study a moment, but it’s very, very clear to me–and when I point it out to my lovely companions, they must agree. It’s a large humping mouse violating a small tree. BW provides photographic evidence. I honestly wonder if some sly gardener hiked up there and created it.

As requested by Nora. Do you see the mouse? Photo by BW.

We leave this high–and nicely flat perch for more exploration. Up and up, down and down, to see tall, armed cactus, squat, thorny balls, wonderfully weirdly twisted ones, sweet, spectacular waxy blooms, huge, lethal blades. We come upon a small lily pond fed with misters and another perch with lounge chairs and yet another gorgeous vista.

Group selfie from on high. Photo by kat’s phone.
BW and Nora. Phot by j a-b.

And on this slightly more humid side, enormous rosemary shrubs, blooming herbs, a waterfall, and a magnolia!

Flowers on the ascent. Photo by kat.
Rosemary cascade. photo by j a-b.
Fierce succulent. Photo by kat.
Peaceful succulent. Photo by kat.
Waterfall. Photo by BW.

We head down, down, down, find the cat’s still napping, and hasn’t moved in the two hours we wandered.

Cat. Photo by kat.

More climbing as we start back for the pizza and gelato we happily agreed on. A quick stop for me for a new hat. The one I brought wasn’t as smashable as I assumed and now looks like it belongs to a drunken farmer. I find my new chapeau, and a couple of Christmas gifts while we wait for an outdoor table at the busy restaurant. The proprietor, and she’s hustling, tells us: Five minutes, ten, fifteen. In other words, who knows. Hey, there’s more time so Kat and I poke into more shops. I find a sweet summer dress, take a chance on the size as I’m too lazy to try it on.

We find the pizza–or pasta in Kat’s case–more than worth the wait. A nice glass of local red, a well-earned meal, followed by, mmmm, gelato. I can’t think of anything better than pizza and gelato any time, but after hiking the gardens, it’s amazing.

Gelato! Photo by j a-b.

A quick stop at the hotel, then Kat guides me down to the perfumerie. We stop on the way at a wood shop. Spoons! I can never have enough wooden spoons. And there’s a wonderful trio of grinders–salt, pepper, herbs–well, we both need that! This proprietor, a charming older gentlemen, demonstrates how the grinders work, talks to us in a combo of English and French about his wares. An excellent stop.

Down the steep street to the busy roads, and into the heady scents of a perfumerie. We weren’t able to schedule a workshop, but take a tour of the little museum and see someone making a personalized scent among all the little bottles behind the glass. A worker patiently cuts a long, long trail of soap into exact slices, then hand-stamps each one. We see huge copper vats and tools, fascinating droppers filled with essence. Jasmine, rose, citrus, white musk and on and on.

Perfumerie’s copper alembic distiller. Photo by kat.
Scenes from a perfumerie. Photo by kat
Soap stamper. Photo by kat.

Back up and up and up. Whew! Time for some champagne.

In a bit, Kat comes in–she and Jason headed out once again. And they’ve found a rock shop. Do I want to come see? Do I! I love rock shops, and this one is manned by a young guy who not only knows his rocks, but is passionate. My kind of guy.

He’s used his stones well in jewelry, and has plenty of rough stones, tumbled stones, spears, wands, globes. Like in a garden, I always feel happy in a rock shop. The colors, the shapes and textures. Just the feel.

With Kat and Jason’s input, I score pretty much all my girl Christmas gifts. And more, have lots of conversation with the rock guy. I even love the name of the shop. Good Karma. I buy myself a ghost quartz. I say to Eliot (we get to first names) that it has my horse inside. He’s delighted that I see the horse, too. His mother runs a shop just across the way–and since I’m using a credit card, I go to her to be rung up. And he tells us his father runs a jewelry store just down the path.

Quite the enterprising family.

Back up–and more champagne as I note down gifts and recipients in my book–as I might not remember when it’s wrapping time who gets what.

A nap for Jason and Kat–who’ve logged respectively some 70-odd and 90-odd flights of steps in this climbing day. I have a measly 37 in comparison.

We opt for room service and an easy meal after our very adventurous day.

Bed time.

Cooler and breezy this morning. I think I’ll want a light jacket for our trip to Monaco. But first I need to choose my morning workout. And I need some caffeine!

Nora

Today’s Random Katness:

All place mats should converse with diners. Photo by kat.

Eze, France Day 3

Ready for Monaco. Photo by BW

Driving in our little village is . . . interesting. We walk down, down, down to where they keep the car. We have a pretty big SUV as there are four of us, and we’ll have a load of luggage when we travel to Provence, then back again to Nice. These roads are happier with scooters and minis.

There are round-abouts and strange angles and intersections with cars pointed nose-to-nose. BW gets us through it, and we have the Navigation–with her classy Brit accent–set for Monaco.

It’s a windy route, the cliffs on one side, the sea on the other, and cars and scooters zooming. Until they don’t. Traffic jam as two lanes go into one. It’s only about ten kilometers, but it takes awhile with the switchbacking and the traffic. Then there’s Monaco, hilly and charming with its softly colored buildings–creams and ecrus, pale roses and yellows. An odd and somewhat elegant mix of old and new with the lovely lines and curves of older buildings and the high-rise (gotta go up as it’s a tiny country) flats. So many balconies, and most with the lacy iron rails that remind me of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The fabulous marina with its city of white boats.

Monaco and beyond. Photo by BW

We make a wrong turn, end up at the docks where the biggest private yacht I’ve ever seen is prepping to leave. It’s nearly cruise ship size. I’d want to be on it in the event of a zombie apocalypse as I suspect you could live comfortably at sea for a couple years until things sorted out.

We look for parking–all of which is underground, and plentiful. But it’s finding the right lot for our walk to the palace. And traffic is amazing. Our Nav is directing us to a lot, but how could she know that lot was FERME? You can’t blame her. We wind and loop and find another.

Then the adventure truly begins. These multi-level underground lots are designed for toy cars. I’m talking Matchbox. Narrow, skinny, sharp turns, down, down–and the tires makes this hideous noise. Like fingers rubbed hard on an inflated balloon. Cars are jammed into tiny spaces angled so sharply it’s a wonder anything can maneuver into them. And we’re in a big boy. We try for one–soon realize it’s just not possible. Physics and geometry are real.

Down, and down those skinny turns. All the way to minus four. Jason gets out, does a scouting mission on foot. Finds one. But no. While BW–who is steering and slithering through this labyrinth–manages to get into the space–with Jason helping him navigate–our ass-end is poking way out.

Try again. Wind, wind, and finally manage to get our big guy into a space. But it’s so tight I have to get out first, then after easing it in, BW has to climb over the seat to get out the passenger door.

But it’s parked. One hour after heading into the lot. Kudos to BW.

We find our way up–after taking a picture of our parking space number, just in case.

Ah, fresh air. Lovely, lovely, breezy air. Palm trees and flowers and blue, blue water.

Monaco colors against a blue sky. Photo by BW
Monaco spread before you. Photo by j a-b

A pedestrian area, also lovely. Pretty little shops and restaurants, and no cars! We stretch our legs, do a little shopping, stroll. BW finds a liquor store–and the man deserves a vodka tonic tonight after this driving feat. He and Kat go in–to what turns out to be the oldest wine store in Monaco. They bring photos of the gorgeous interior, the friendly shop keeper. Jason and I have wandered down, found a restaurant for lunch. Italian, busy, lots of outdoor tables. There’s a small park directly across, with a sign letting us know Princess Grace cut the ceremonial ribbon to open it.

Kat and the wine shopkeeper. Photo by BW
BW in the wine store. Photo by kat
The wine store treasure trove. Photo by kat.

Pretty flowers and shrubs, a bandstand. A large statue of a mermaid with a long, serpentine tail who appears to be singing to a mannish lion who wears armor.

Maybe a local legend. Or a mashup of Beauty and The Beast and The Little Mermaid.

We’re hungry! Settle at a table by a fountain. Our waiter’s charming and funny and the pasta’s terrific. Refreshed and fed, we’re ready for the climb to the palace high above the city.

Jason volunteers to take our bags back to the car first, and because we didn’t know what we assumed was the walkway across was FERME to pedestrians, we lose him. Texts back and forth working out a new meeting spot. Technology is great when it works. There he is! Here we are, and now we’re all together for the steep, long climb.

Steps, steps and more steps. Gardens and trees, views of the marina. And steps. I should have the legs of a teenager after all this. If only.

The climb’s worth it. The palace and its plaza are beautiful. Soft, creamy colors, elegant lines against sections of gray stone. Not fussy, just lovely. But lines of cannons let you know it can serve as a fortress on its high perch over city and sea. Throngs of tourists. We opt out of the tour of the interior. The views are magnificent enough.

BW lining up the shot over the cannons. Photo by kat
Yachts at the ready. Photo by j a-b

I like watching the palace guard, splendid in white, march back and forth or stand soberly in front of his guard house.

We buy a few souvenirs, wander and stroll, wander more and find narrow streets lined with shops, the buildings high and tight and beautiful. And ah, gelato. I believe we will.

Wander and poke. Lots of people leading dogs. Lots of languages bouncing in the air. I don’t need another scarf, but I spot one that’s irresistible, and now I have a momenta of Monaco.

We find the cathedral–more magnificence–and go inside. I realize I’m walking down the same aisle Grace Kelly walked on her wedding day. She and her prince are buried here, behind the great altar where they exchanged their vows.

The cathedral. Photo by BW
Final resting place. Photo by kat

Now we go down, down, down, steps and ramps–shady benches tucked in corners–and work our way back to the garage.

It’s easier getting out then getting in, but still no easy feat. And since none of us want to face another parking garage, we eliminate visiting the casino. We still have that drive back–and the trick of getting the car dropped off. Again easier then the outward bound, but no snap.

Now it’s more climbing. Up and up to the hotel. We left Eze about eleven. We get back to our room about six. That’s a good day’s adventure.

Time for a well-earned drink.

Sunset near the hotel. Photo by j a-b.
Jason and Kat. Photo by BW.
Final evening in Eze. Photo by j a-b

Dinner at eight, and we go for Italian again–it’s easy, close and we know the food’s good. We have an outdoor table, I have a glass of red. There’s a handsome dog under the table across the brick path, and people passing by on their way up or down.

Then some rain drops. Unexpected. The waitress directs us inside.

It’s like a cave, but in a really good way. Stone walls, curved stone ceiling, little niches with lights or odd art. Glorious scents. Tables crowded in together, and the kitchen in view down at the end of the cave. Fresh salads, fresh pasta, fun companions and conversation, friendly service. That’s a good end to a good day. Especially when you add one more gelato. I get a scoop of strawberry and a scoop of vanilla. Two gelatos in one day! I need to keep climbing steps.

Definitely ready for bed!

Today we leave Eze for Provence. It’s been a wonderful stay, and I’ll miss the view off our terrace and the cheerful staff of the hotel, the equally cheerful shopkeepers and waitstaffs. I’ve loved this slice of France.

Quirky pano #1. Photo by j a-b’s phone.

Gotta workout, and pack it up.

Nora

From Laura: #randomkatness (it’s a thing).  Today we have two.

Heh heh. Photo by kat. #randomkatness
A puzzle. Photo by kat #randomkatness

Eze to Provence, France Day 4

Packing up, even though we didn’t actually unpack for our short stay, still takes time. Where did I put this, what happened to that? Then making room for goodies bought. Jason and Kat head down for a last pain au chocolate before check out.

A last look at the sea, a last walk down, down, down through our little village. We couldn’t have had a lovelier time in Eze. 

One last look at the blue sea. Photo by j a-b

Now it’s time for Kat and the bellmen to pack our many bags into the car. And for BW to maneuver us out. It takes awhile to circumvent the sharp, narrow angles, especially with oncoming vehicles trying to do the same, but we get there. 

Where to go next? Photo by kat

We’re taking the fast route–not really scenic though those hills are impressive as we whizz along the road. The drive’s under two hours, with several tolls–escalating as we go. We have enough coins to make it, but wonder why they don’t post the cost of the tolls before you creep your way through the jammed traffic–jammed we suspect because any who don’t already know the cost are now digging for the correct amount.

And we exit and turn onto a lovely country road lined with forests, drive over little bridges. We come to an enormous and gorgeous lake with water of pale teal. I’ve never seen water that color, and it looks faerie-like to me. There’s a sandy beach, a little water park, paddle boats–some with slides! Sail boats gliding, and venders selling ices.

The road winds and curves, and here is our place! BW and I were here 12 years ago, and when we turn in, I remember the look and feel. Flowers, flowers, flowers!

Inside the big, airy lobby to check in. Friendly, efficient staff, and before we know it, our luggage is unloaded, we’re loaded into a golf cart and rolling our way to our villa.

It’s wonderful! And really big. I pass right through the living area with its plentiful seating to the big outdoor space. I could live there. Padded sofas and chairs, lounging areas in sun or shade, a dining table–and we’re all about eating right there tonight. Our own pretty pool and hot tub, and all of it surrounded by trees before the view opens to the hills with their gently rounded tops, the houses and towns stacked down the slopes. 

Le spa. Photo by NR
La spa. Photo by BW
La vue. Photo by NR

BW and I take a room, little terrace off the bedroom, big dressing area, huge bath. Kat and Jason take one with a pretty sitting room, little terrace. There’s a small library, yet another sitting room, a dining room and a kitchen. Glass doors everywhere opening to that wonderful outdoor living space.

We leave unpacking for later, walk back to the hotel–lavender thick on slopes–and eventually find the restaurant near the pool. I see a belini on the drink menu, and that’s for me. A scan shows a make-your-own-salad option. So that’s what we all do. Fresh, fresh, fresh. Field greens, romaine, Roma, cherry, big bright red, fascinating black tomatoes, peppers, tuna, anchovies, cheeses, herbs, olives, etc, etc. They offer huge bowls for a reason.

We very happily settle down to lunch–with fresh bread as well. And my belini all but brings a tear to my eye.

There’s a separate area–for kids, the waitress explains, for kid type food. No wonder we see several very happy kids while we eat our enormous salads.

A happy walk back, and it’s unpacking time. I’m so ready to put things away because suitcase living brought back the rigors of book tour. Now all our things are hung up or tucked in. Jason and Kat want a walk–and decide they’ll walk to the market. It’s like two miles, maybe three, but they’ve got it mapped out. Off they go–with an ETA back of three hours.

I sit, have a glass of champagne, then decide I want to try the pool. So does BW.

It’s just right. Not chilly–I’m not a fan of cold swimming pools. Just cool enough to be refreshing. A nice swim, a dip in the hot tub. The day’s travel, then unpacking all melt away.

I think I’ll read for a bit on the terrace sofa. I do, then drift off. Sleep right there in the shade, in the quiet, for more than an hour.

I hear Jason’s voice, and BW’s.

The adventures of Kat and Jason took more than three hours. The walk to the market timed well, but they discovered much of it meant walking ON the road as there was no real shoulder. It’s windy, curvy, and they both decided it just wasn’t a good, safe idea. So Kat mapped out an alternate route on her phone for their return. This through the forest, initially on an actual track. But then the track dies off, and with the drought the river is a dry river bed. They’re two Americans with backpacks filled with soda, milk, snacks–and of course Kat’s survivalist tools–in the middle of a forest in Provence. 

The forest path. Photo by kat.

Jason says he hears a bird call out, obvious distress, as they work their way through the woods with Kat’s phone map, then come across a pile of feathers. And Jason wonders just what kind of wildlife may live that wild life in the forest here. It’s still light, but there is some concern. I sleep through their adventure so Mom doesn’t have any worry time when they’re late getting back. BW had woken from his nap before me, so had a bit of concern before they came in.

But they made it through–and as Kat said, they could have spent the night in the forest with chips and sodas and milk–and limes–and her handy supply kit. LOL.

But now they’re back after a very, very long walk, so it’s time for dinner. They have sea bass, and I’m a fan. Pomme frites! Kat takes a well-deserved interlude in the hot tub after we order.

The waiter sets us up on the outdoor table. I bring out a travel candle so we have our first dinner here with the music of the cicadas and candlelight on the terrace. 

Vue de la soiree. Photo by NR

And the sea bass is amazing.

A little lounging time in the living room, and I’m in bed by 10:30.

Another eight-straight night for me, and I write this while the rest sleep in our wonderfully quiet spot. I’m going to work out here on the terrace, ease into the day, and I think maybe I’ll write a little out here where the trees are like home.

BW, driver extraordinaire, is getting a massage today. I expect Kat and Jason will take a more civilized walk on the many lovely paths of the resort. Then we’ll see what else the day brings.

Nora

Today’s #randomkatness:

Knock THIS way. Photo by kat.

Provence, France Day 5

After another eight straight of solid sleep–wowzer!–it’s workout time on a balmy morning. I figure to start with some cardio with my man Shaun T. We’re kicking it when I notice ants on the patio where I’ve set up. Don’t want to stop, so keep going, trying to avoid stomping ants.

Finally pause, move down the patio. Start it up, pumping up that heart rate. See the ants have followed me. Finish the Shaun T, go for more cardio and some upper body work, and move down the patio again.

Into it! And apparently so are the ants. It’s not a swarm by any means but about a dozen who systematically move where I move. I think they must be attracted by the music. BW says it’s my feet hitting the patio so they think: Fresh meat.

Eeuuww.

Conclude with a short yoga session–ahhh–and just ignore my tiny companions.

During my stint, Kat and BW head over to breakfast, and Jason’s up. Housekeeping comes in. I finish just as the tech guy comes to look at the hot tub, which stopped working–and a couple of the AC areas. We want the AC off and the doors and windows open. Temps climb into the mid-80s, but there’s always a breeze.*  My French doesn’t include words like hot tub jets and AC, and our guy has less English than I have French, but the housekeeper translates.

I decide I’ll work at the pretty table surrounded by woods while techs and housekeeping do what they do. It’s lovely, really lovely to have an hour or two in the shade, in the fresh air, in the woodsy quiet to work.

Keeping the distance while someone works in her outdoor space. Photo by j a-b

Jason and Kat go for a walk, BW heads for his massage. It’s quiet, quiet. I work on and finish the scene I’d hoped to finish. And that’s enough.

Jason with an oven? A hive? Alien pod? Need answers! Photo by kat **
A view and reflection. Photo by kat
Sun in a break from the shadows. Photo by kat.
The grounds. Photo by kat
Fleur. Photo by kat.
A little taste of home. Photo by kat

Tech says au revoir, housekeeping’s done. Time for a hot shower and real clothes. It’s then I discover my charger cord isn’t in my case. It’s always in my case. I’m practically OCD about my writing tools. But it’s just not in the case where I carry my Surface for work. Huh. I worked on it at The Greenbrier, but can SEE myself unplugging to pack up. Maybe I got distracted and forgot to put it in the case. Maybe the ghosts slipped it out hoping I’d come back for it.

In any case, oops.

Kat checks on her phone on the walk to lunch, discovers she can order one and it should be here Wednesday. But first Jason will check my model, as I have no clue.

Lunch of gorgeous freshness. Photo by kat

Lunch is perfect, and so is the belini. A trio of little French kids are running around, chanting something at each other that includes the word poopy (spoken with great glee). Obviously poopy is, like math, an international language.

Person of letters. Photo by j a-b
Guardians of the fountain. Photo by BW

I need to add that I’ve challenged my traveling companions to a day-long Fit Bit contest. Jason notes that I’m leading by considerable. And he takes himself off for a walk after lunch. But not before checking my Surface. Kat orders me the new charger. We’ll see if it gets here.

Before the second walk, we stop by the front desk to make some bookings. We’ll eat at the main restaurant tonight, as it was booked until 9:30 last night. Too late for our American stomachs. We get advice on what villages to visit, and have one earmarked for today, as well as a market trip. And we booked a two and a half hour horseback ride through the forest for Wednesday. They actually offer a full day ride that goes to the lake (where you can SWIM the horses) and includes a picnic. But we’ll start slower and see how our butts handle it.

Back for patio sitting, hanging out, reading. It’s a good day to veg with warm air, blue skies, and that quiet.

Patio cocoon. Photo by NR

Jason has now passed me on the challenge! I come back, punt him, but he rallies. We’re neck-in-neck through the evening.

Dinner at our villa, and I have velvety tomato soup along with a salad. Then there’s creme brulee. I can’t finish it, but there’s always breakfast!

Tumble into bed shortly after. I think I might try out the hot tub, but ZZZZZ.

Discover this morning Jason’s nipped me by about a hundred steps! I’ll get him next time.

Writing this on the patio by the pool. A mourning dove swoops in to the edge of the water-she comes several times a day–takes a drink, flies off.

Time to work out, with or without ants. Then we’ll venture out and see what there is to see.

Nora

Notes from Laura:

*These “oh let’s open the windows, it’s 80 and there’s a breeze!” people consistently confound me.

**When there are few cues in the copy to help caption a photo, I kind of let myself go.

An answer from Kat about the necklace she wore in a photo on Day 2: It’s an anniversary gift Jason bought for her in Eze — and here’s an explanation of it (It’s so kat, imo): 

In today’s #randomkatness:

Orb. Probably the home of the guardians of the fountain. Photo by kat

Provence, France Day 7

Ants are fewer during workout time. Maybe they’re getting the message. I run the battery down on BW’s laptop, so consider that a good session.

A quiet morning with sun on the hills, twittering birds, singing cicadas. So I work on the shady terrace until I run the battery down on my Surface. (Kat’s tracking the new one, still scheduled to arrive today! We’ll see.)*  

While I worked, Kat and Jason took themselves off for a walk. BW’s working on his photos. It’s a good time to settle in with a book. This is, obviously, vacate day. Hang close to home, relax. I’ll take it.

Rock dress of many colors. Photo by BW
The view from the main pool. Photo by BW
Diving into infinity (pool). Photo by BW
BW found a good book. (For those who will ask, that’s Dark in Death — coming in January.) Photo by NR

But why not take a swim? And the water is just perfect. Top it off with a dip in our newly fixed hot tub. And yes! L’eau est TRES chaud! Fabulous.

(Merci, Alain!)

Later in the afternoon, I make a fruit and cheese platter. This time I used BW’s unfortunately dull Swiss Army knife. But it worked. Kat–they’re back and working on some Foundation business–comes out to join me. And I hear about their walking adventure. It sounds like down paths, over fields, through a gate–and yet another gate–and to a market she tells me is sort of like a Wal-Mart. Some of everything. Not the cable BW’s looking for to hook his iPod up to the villa’s music system, but an interesting accidental destination.

The path of the trek. Photo by kat
Les poissons! Photo by kat

Back the same way with some team work to get back through the gates.

BW wanders out.

We polish off hunks of bread, cheese, slices of white peaches, little purple grapes.

Quiet day, easy early evening. I try out the terrace cocoon, find it swivels. I swivel it to block the sun, and have a book and a pretty little window in the wall to see the hills. Very nice. 

Tablescape. Photo by j a-b
Suite art. Photo by kat
Evening, down the hall. Photo by kat

We think about ordering dinner, finally get to that. So we have an early-ish meal on our terrace, then an evening under the stars.

I decide to challenge my kids to a work week contest on FitBit–retroactively starting Monday morning. Hah! Jason points out I’m well in the lead with this retroactive business. Hey, rules is rules.

I’m going to add to that lead–after all I’m old enough to be their mama, so must exploit the advantage–with a workout. Kat may venture out to a yarn store she found through her phone skills. We have the day open until five, when we’re booked for the horses and the forest. So we figure a substantial lunch this afternoon as we won’t be back to the villa until about eight.

Two and a half hours on horseback. This may mean a group session in the hot tub tonight.

My doves are cooing, but the visitor hasn’t yet come for her drink. Time to fire up BW’s laptop and expand my lead.

Nora

*Note from Laura: the original one was wrestled from the grasp of the spirits at Greenbrier — or found under a desk in one of the rooms there (your choice) and will be waiting at home for Nora’s return.

Today in #randomkatness.  Name this flower.

Photo by kat (Laura’s guess is a wild plum.)

Provence, France Day 8

A good workout with some ant companions, a few of which insisted on joining me for yoga. We mostly managed to coexist.

We all walked, following one of Jason’s and Kat’s walking routes to the golf club for lunch. Lots and lots of lavender and herbs, flowering trees, unusual art along the way. A very fine lunch with views of the golf course and the hills beyond. And a solid walk back–mostly uphill, with a stop at an herb garden, scented especially with rosemary.

Reflection. Photo by j a-b
BW in buggy. Photo by j a-b
Art is everywhere at this resort. Photo by kat
Wall knife and BW. Photo by kat
Safely out of reach. Photo by j a-b
Today’s flora. Photo by kat

There’s a big, shiny, reflective silver ball. It has some depressions that makes me wonder if it’s representing a moon.* Now a little hang out time before our big adventure.

Still life. Photo by NR
Mirror of interesting luck with orchid. Photo by NR

As I lost my FitBit trail riding at the spa–hooked to the waistband of my jeans–I put this one in my pocket before we head out to drive to the horse farm. Windy, roundabout, then a very skinny road with curves. But it’s a short drive to a private dirt road that leads to an absolutely lovely spot with horses in paddocks, the forest everywhere, and still views of the hills.

Our guide greets us–her English is better than our French, and we’re shown our horses. Dark Spanish beauties. She say they’re cool–and I realize after a bit this is calm. I’m very fine with a calm horse. She sizes us up, assigns horses. We get our helmets, and lead our mounts into the exercise paddock. BW is mounted first–he’ll be behind the guide. Me next, then Jason, then Kat.

Riders up! Photo by j a-b’s phone.

We’re each to circle the ring a few times, at a walk, at a trot. I decide to pass my FitBit to BW, for his little saddlebag. Better safe than sorry. And off we go.

Down the little road, beside another paddock where a buckskin runs to the fence, runs down it as if to say: Take Me, Too!

The land’s beautiful, as are the views. My horse is sweet and responsive–and I like he’s not an ass-sniffer as so many trail horses will insist on tailgating the one in front. Jason’s likes to eat, so he’s dealing with that sneakiness. Kat’s is a very calm slow-poke.

A car comes along occasionally on this first leg, and over to the side we go. We pass other farms, pretty little houses, more horses, wind around–another car, and our guide tells us this is her uncle. A dirt stretch, and how about a trot. My mount–and her name never got through–has a very springy trot. I’m going to feel this tomorrow, I think. (I can now confirm this as true!)

Back to a road, and a steep ride down–no trotting. Around and around, all so pretty, Another dirt road, another trot. My glasses keep sliding down, so I have to rein with one hand and shove them up as I try to post–a good fast trot, too! Through olive groves with the hills spread out glowing in the early evening light.

Water on the trail. Photo by kat

And now we turn into the forest. After the VERY steep, very narrow track down where I put my faith in my horse. This is my favorite part of a really lovely ride. Thick woods, green light, dappled sun, and all quiet and timeless. Wild berry bushes like the ones above my own garden wall–and I believe our guide says something about wild boar and deer. I won’t think about the boar. Ducking under branches, soft dirt track–and here’s a branch you have to hold up as you ride.

I think of people who rode through forests like these hundreds of years ago.

We ride down toward the river–a dry bed in the drought. Jason’s horse not only likes to eat, but she wants to pass mine. Is determined. The first time she does it, mine kind of gets into it. A race! But then obviously decides live and let. I watch Jason’s horse give mine the side eye as it passes. Equine smirk.

Jason’s horse contemplating his moves. Photo by j a-b

But our guide says to be careful here as Jason’s mount likes to nip at BW’s mount’s butt. Mine isn’t a nipper or a sniffer, and just happily walks along.

We see the lake–that teal water soft in the quieter light. We cross what would be the river, a wide area where Jason’s horse stops to eat so my resumes his position. Kat’s is well back. Not only in no hurry she tells us later, but she all but hears her equine sighs. I’m tired! I need a nap! Not a clip clop, this one, but according to Kat, a clip–pause, pause–reluctant clop.

Tired horse with view. Photo by kat

BW’s having a great time up ahead, holding spates of conversation with our guide as she points out villages and hills. My horse is content to walk, falls back a few times, then on his own breaks into a bright little trot to catch up. Jason’s horse eats and passes mine. Eats, passes mine, and Kat’s clips . . . . . . . clops.

We circle back–road, houses, horses, the very beginning of a sunset, just that bright gold haloing the eastern hills.

And we’re back–a full 2 1/2 hours. I accept this is likely my limit on a horse. No way I could comfortably do a full day, even with a picnic lunch to break it up. But what an experience, and what a fine, beautiful horse.

Kat and BW take pictures, and I chat with our guide and her husband. I love Kat’s photo of her horse the best. Exhaustion! LOL.

Tired horse. Done. Photo by kat

There are riders in the ring, doing jumps, and one on a gorgeous mount is our guide’s sister, who competes. She’s a joy to watch.

Beauty in the ring. Photo by BW

A friend or relative sits at a picnic table with her recently adopted American Pit Bull–or I think that’s the breed. He is HAPPY. And instantly, as dogs are, in love with Jason. I explain we have three dogs at home, so his joy and enthusiasm aren’t a problem. The husband brings out their dog–so handsome! And beautifully trained.

Dog pals. Photo by kat

Then we have yet another treat. Our guide has adopted a twenty-year-old former bullfighting horse from Spain. A stallion. He rushes the fence when we approach–apparently he’d like to kill the horse the sister’s riding in the ring! You can see where he’s chewed on the paddock gate.

He breaks everything, our guide tells us. Then she goes in, and there’s such love. This horse loves her completely. He nuzzles, rubs, his whole body changes when she’s beside him. And that love is clearly mutual. She uses a whisk of straw to have him prance. And he stands so proudly.

The Spanish stallion. Photo by BW

I suppose he’s bilingual as she tells us she doesn’t speak Spanish.

We linger quite awhile. This is a happy, lovely and obviously loving place.

Back to the hotel, and we need a little food as we didn’t graze like the horses on the trail. Kat wants soup, and has figured out how to make little grilled cheese sandwiches with our supplies and the hot dish we held back from another meal. Clever, as always.

Kat making dinner. Photo by j a-b

We eat, and well, talk about our adventure, comparing horses and impressions.

Off to bed.

Yes, my butt feels it this morning! But we’ll see what a workout will do.

I had a different visitor today. A big gray cat who wandered it, slithered under the pool gate to drink. Meowed at me, but wouldn’t approach before she wandered off again.

New workout companion. Photo by NR

We’re driving to Fayence today to see what we can see.

I’ve ridden through the forests of Provence on a Spanish horse. That’s one for the memory book.

Nora

* Note from Laura. That’s probably the #randomkatness from Day 5 that I thought was the home of the Guardians of the Fountain.

Today’s #randomkatness

Nails of art. Photo by kat

Provence, France Day 16

I’m getting spoiled being able to work out on the terrace in the air. I love my little gym at home, but this is such a treat. The views, the breeze, the light. BW even joined me for some yoga to polish it off.

Jason and Kat return from their morning ramble. No pain au chocolate today at the bakery! They had to settle for an eclair. It’s a tough old world. And they brought back a beautiful pastry to share when Kat put together a little pre-spa lunch on our terrace. 

Lunch is served! Photo by kat.

Pretty–and delicious.

Jason and I sit on the terrace before our little lunch and–what is that? Is that rain?

It turns out, not exactly. It’s a few drips from the sky. This region desperately needs rain, but this little cloud only wept about fifty tears.

We have a very active black squirrel in our woods–he jumps from branch to branch–and is a loquacious morning talker. Now he’s joined by a red one, and they do their gymnastics. Le Cirque des Ecureuils!

After our pretty little lunch my gang leaves for massages. They’re all booked at three, so off they walk to the spa while I laze around and read until I head up, too, for my four-thirty facial. I walk the path in air scented with rosemary. How I envy them those tumbling bushes. For my garden, rosemary’s an annual, and it simply refuses to be potted inside over the winter. 

Berries? Grapes? Photo by kat (questions by Laura).
Close-up. Photo by kat.
Black swans on approach. Photo by kat.
A closer look. Photo by kat.

After this scented walk, I experience very possibly the best facial on record. My tech has wonderful hands, the music’s soft and relaxing, the creams and lotions feel marvelous on the skin. And my skin feels baby soft when it’s done.

As I go to check out the woman at the desk tells me my husband took care of the bill already. We agree that’s what husbands are for.

My family’s equally relaxed on my return. Excellent massages all around.

Bellini time!

And I think of the cat, put a little pasta on a plate, set it out.

She shows up as evening’s settling in, creeps up, sniffs, accepts some penne. Then sits, waits. Aha, she’d like more. Kat brings out some lunch meat. Le chat backs off, but waits, watches while Kat tears up a little meat onto the dish. Eats, sits, waits.

I tell her, sorry, no more. I think too much people food will make her sick. She’s had enough. Je suis desolee.

We have a staring contest.

FYI: You can’t win a staring contest with a cat. They are undefeated world champions.

I have a bottle of water, go over, pour some into the dish.

The cat sniffs, gives me a look that clearly says: You have to be kidding me.

She departs.

We have our own meal, on the terrace. I go for the smoothest of smooth tomato soup again, and a little salad. Our Kat continues to spoil BW with fancy coffee and warm cookies.

We discuss ideas for our annual family panorama, and timing for today’s adventuring. A trip into Fayence, back for the glider flights, then dinner at the hotel. It’s barely ten, I’ve done next to nothing all day, but zzzzzz.

I’ll need to get my workout on soon. If they have another pair of those woven shoes in my size in Fayence, I’m having them. These are really great shoes! We definitely need to take home some regional wine and herbs. I need to get my shopping on, too.

Nora

Today’s #randomkatness:

All lined up. Photo by kat.