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France is always a good idea

Purple is my new favorite color

Purple is my new favorite color

I’ve been following a blog called My French Heaven for quite a while, it’s written by a Frenchman named Stéphane. Stéphane lives and runs a Chateau (B&B) in a small town outside Bordeaux. All of his posts are written in both French and English. I can’t remember how I came across the blog but what attracted me most, were the photos. Stéphane takes the most beautiful photos of people, scenery and food! Pictures that draw you in, and make you want to get on the next plane to France.

That’s why when recently planning a trip with friends, I suggested we fly to Bordeaux, drive out into the French countryside and stay at Stéphane’s Chateau. After showing my friends his photos, they were in total agreement. All info about the Chateau and surrounding area can be found on his blog.

Tucked between vineyards and not far from Saint Emilion, the Chateau was the perfect place to stay. It was especially nice to finally meet one of my many blogging buddies (I wish I could meet you all). Stéphane was a friendly and very helpful host.

Although I’m not quite the photographer Stéphane is, here are some photos from our trip…

Chateau St. Jaques Calon

Chateau St. Jaques Calon

Stéphane’s Chateau

An early morning shot from the balcony of my room

An early morning shot from the balcony of my room

A trip to the Farmers Market in Libourne

I haven't seen tomatoes this big since I left New Jersey

I haven’t seen tomatoes this big since I left New Jersey

I kept thinking how lucky these people are to have a market like this. There was nothing you couldn't find...

I kept thinking how lucky these people are to have a market like this. There was nothing you couldn’t find…

The charming city of St-Emilion

Steep cobble stoned roads

This quaint little town was built on and out of the limestone hill it’s situated on

St-Emilion

St-Emilion

A tour and wine tasting at Chateau Cardinal-Villemaurine

Touring the winery was both informative and fun!

Touring the winery was both informative and fun!

Tasting the wine at the end of the tour was the best part!

Tasting the St Emilion Grand Cru wine at the end of the tour was the best part!

A bicycle trip

A bicycle ride through the vineyards is a must!

A bicycle ride through the vineyards is a must!

On both sides of the road and around ever bend there were vineyards and old stone houses with shuttered windows

On both sides of the road and around every bend there’s nothing but vineyards, dotted with old stone houses

The vineyards

I've never seen so many grapes!

I’ve never seen so many grapes!

We couldn't help but sample...

We just couldn’t help but sample…

Les Macarons

I can't forget to mention this delicious treat

I certainly can’t forget to mention these delicious treats

The only thing missing from our trip was the sun and we hardly even noticed.

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Come fly with me

Chapter 22, I had some unforgettable and quite scary experiences in Dubai.

Chapter 22, I had some unforgettable and quite scary experiences in Dubai.

It’s Thursday and that means tomorrow is the last day to get your FREE Kindle version of Fly Away Home  (Just by clicking on this link)

For those of you who have already read, or are planning to read… Here are pictures from some of the different places I write about in the book.

Chapter 2, Jersey Girl

The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore is the 130 miles of New Jersey coastline, where summertime tourists come to enjoy the white sandy beaches and boardwalks. By day they pack the beaches, soaking up the sun and cooling off in the rigorous Atlantic surf. By night they flock the boardwalks, emptying their pockets at the arcade, riding the roller coasters, enjoying things like snow cones and cotton candy. In winter the action slows and the locals can stroll along the boards, breathing the salt air and enjoying the peace.

Chapter 3, My Maiden Voyage

Egersund, Norway

Egersund, Norway

In New Jersey everything was spread out and people would drive here and there, for this and that. There was a constant blur of activity everywhere. Norway was the complete opposite, I never saw any traffic or crowds, just small towns with quaint little shops located in quite, pedestrian only areas. Egersund reminded me of a miniature town I’d once seen on a train board.

Chapter 17, Mixed Blessings

Our house in Norway

Our house in Norway, the same house that’s on the cover of the book

We could hardly believe our luck. We built the house of our dreams on one of the most idyllic spots on the island. I now had my own little place in the world and over the next few years, life couldn’t have been any better…

Chapter 19, Life Goes On

Alexander and I in Hawaii

Alexander and I in Hawaii

All I wanted to do is run away as far as I possibly could. In hope of breaking the circle of grief, Harry, Alexander and I took a trip to Hawaii. It was not a vacation, more of a distraction.

Chapter 20, A Window Opens

Harry and I in front of the house in Houston

Harry and I in front of the house in Houston

The house the company rented for us was on a shady cul-de-sac in a quite neighborhood. It had a built in swimming pool in the back yard and palm trees in the front. The house looked like a mini mansion with 4000 square feet of pure grandeur, which included Swarovski chandeliers hanging in both the marble foyer and formal dining room. A spacious living room with a fireplace, a game room, modern kitchen with breakfast nook, three bedrooms, plus a master suite and five bathrooms all for us!  The house was light, airy and adorned in crown molding, it was, in a word, elegant.

Chapter 22, Going Dutch

Brian and I in the Netherlands

Brian and I in the Netherlands

They say God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland. The Netherlands is an architectural masterpiece. It’s designed down to the last detail and only a minute portion of the country has been left in its natural state. Because of their struggle against water more than a quarter of its surface is below sea level. The Dutch leave nothing to chance, instead they create their own nature and this makes the Netherlands a beautiful and fascinating place.

Bicycling through Provence

Bicycling through Provence

We cycled through the most magnificent vineyards where clusters of dark purple grapes hung irresistibly from the vines. We rode through fruit orchards and dried up sunflower fields. We pedaled down tight little streets lined with crooked stucco houses painted in pale colors, with shutters hanging on every window. We stopped along the way to eat cheese on long loaves of French bread and drink wine among the olive trees. We spent our nights tucked away in tiny old provincial towns oozing with charm. After making our way down to the Mediterranean we headed up through the Alpilles Mountains of Provence and back to Avignon. The jagged rock formations protruding upward through the oak and pine forests created panoramic views at every twist and turn of the road. We were escorted everyday through Van Gogh country by a warm September sun, and the experience was unforgettable.

Reaching new heights

Pulpit Rock, Norway. Wikipedia credit

I was a shy girl, who grew into a guarded teenager. I never had the nerve to try out, or join anything at school. I was afraid of failure and being made fun of, that’s why my only goal was to blend in with the crowd. I probably never even raised my hand at school and I’m sure half of the people there didn’t even know my name. Don’t get me wrong – I had friends, but never wandered outside my circle. I played it safe at all times.

I grew up and although I gained some confidence in becoming a mom, I still worried about what other people thought and kept my head down. On the heels of a nasty divorce, I left America and started a new life in Norway (not because I was brave). After visiting numerous times throughout my life, I thought I knew what it would be like to live there. I was wrong.

Learning a new language and adjusting to a foreign culture is hard. I felt more like a refugee in this small local town, than an expat. My children didn’t seem to have any problem; They turned into little Norwegians overnight. Again, I kept pretty much to myself and tried not to be noticed. I knew there were people who thought I was unfriendly, when really I was just scared. Afraid of saying something wrong, afraid of being judged.

Only in a close group of friends was I able to open up and be myself, or as much of myself as I could be – talking another language…

My husband is the complete opposite. Once a local football hero (back in the day) he never cares what anyone thinks and oozes confidence. He’s dragged me kicking and screaming to events, in which I was forced to smile and meet new people. Together we have done things I never imagined myself doing…

Like cycling through France.

Sleeping in an igloo.

Dog Sledding.

Hiking 2.4 miles up to the top of Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).

And publishing a book.

The whole time I was writing Fly Away Home, I never, EVER thought anyone other than family would read it. Why would they? I wasn’t a writer, or anyone famous, just a woman trying to explain her side of things.

There’s no hiding now…