Monday musings: Travel, beauty and writing


The Gothic-era Tyn Church in Prague’s Old Square, fronted by newer buildings that now make up its entrance.

People often say travel broadens you. It opens your mind and your heart to new ideas, exposes you to different cultures and people, and tends to make you more accepting of differences.

For me, travel is also inspiring—literally. When I travel, I often get new ideas for stories and novels. These can be sparked by people I see and meet, buildings, streets, forests, coastlines—just about anything.

I recently returned from a visit to Prague and the Czech Republic. If you have been, you’ll know how beautiful that capital city is. If you haven’t been, you should put it on your list of places to visit.

The Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Square, built in 1410.

Prague itself is an arrangement of architecture that, for at least 700 years, has intended to embrace the current styles, yet fit in with the established buildings. As one of the travel guides points out, you can stand in the Old Square and see architecture of the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Deco periods. And you don’t have to walk far to find later examples — the Cubist house of the Black Madonna is just steps from the square.

At least in the centre of the city, it’s hard to find a building that’s strictly functional—almost all are beautiful in some way.


The Municipal Hall is too prosaic a name for this Art Nouveau building on the National Square, home of two concert halls, including Smetana Hall.

Walking through a city that’s new to me gets my imagination going. It’s easy to think of the beginnings of stories, more like dramatic situations. But in Prague, I came up with more of a feeling or a theme than a plotline. The juxtaposition of buildings from every era of the past 700 years points to a Prague characteristic: its continual embracing of the modern while honouring, and making full use of tradition.

It brought to mind a kind of story of two people in a relationship, who are both trying to solve the same problem: one from a 21st-century approach, based in science and technology; and the other taking an older, more traditional perspective informed by psychology and religion.

This building is the home of the Hotel Paris in central Prague.

Prague has always been known as a music-loving city. Mozart loved Prague, and Prague loved him back. Today, you can find street performers at almost any time, any place—and theyre really good. These guys called themselves the De Facto String Quartet, and played a version of Stairway to Heaven that sounded terrific.

I don’t know what the problem will be, yet, nor what the plot points are. But I have the characters worked out. And it will definitely be set in Prague.

As if the architecture, art and music arent inspiring enough, Prague has immortalized its favourite native-born author, Franz Kafka, with this metallic scupture of his head. The sections rotate independently, according to some program that occasionally lines them up to reveal the writer’s likeness.


Focus Friday: The Promise of Provence, by Patricia Sands


The Promise of Provence coverGrabbing her camera, she let the lens caress the fields, buildings, and sky, knowing this was just the beginning. The pleasure of composing each shot was like eating a divine piece of chocolate. She could almost taste it.

Katherine leaned against the hood of the Citroën letting the reality sink in. Not simply the scenery but the truth of it all: she was in France, of her own doing, by herself. The “by herself” part at this moment felt a bit raw. For a moment she felt as if she were on a precipice, unsure of what was coming next in her life. But it wasn’t danger or fear that she was experiencing. Rather there was a sense of excitement and an urge to quickly proceed to see what lay ahead.

I’ll deal with being alone. I can do it. This adventure is full on, she thought as she settled back into the car. Pulling off the grassy shoulder, she grinned, thinking, I can’t wait to see what happens farther down the road—in more ways than one. Then she laughed out loud.
The traffic soon became more congested. Katherine read road signs indicating the turnoff for the hilltop village of Gordes, a short distance away. Tourist season was already underway.

Then it appeared before her, perched like a sculpture carved out of the rocky outcropping, just like in the travel book photos. The cluster of buildings tumbling down the hillside was dominated by the majestic castle and cathedral, presenting an almost dream-like apparition. The beige stone of the buildings glowed softly in the afternoon sun as the village seemed to blend into a solid unit from where she viewed it.

Katherine had a list of towns she planned to visit and Gordes was near the top of the list. Resisting the urge to stop for another photo, she reminded herself there would be other opportunities, and the traffic wouldn’t allow it anyway.

Five minutes later her GPS was telling her to turn right, but there appeared to be two options. At a fork, one road went left and two roads went right. Taking a chance and feeling only a little unsure, she took the first right.

“Recalculating,” the GPS told her. “Make a U-turn when possible.”

Katherine snorted as the road had narrowed to the width of a single lane with deep ditches on either side. Driving slowly, she noticed some activity ahead. As she drew closer, a herd of goats was crossing the road from one field to the next. Young kids led the way, nimbly frolicking and nipping playfully at each other. The beiges and light cocoas, mixed with black and dark brown, presented a pleasing blend. Small buds of horns appeared on bigger members of the group, with many of the elder males sporting handsome horns that curved gracefully around.

Chuckling, she stopped to wait for them to pass, certain now someone must have scripted all this for her arrival. The lightness of their collective movement was joyful, she thought. The smell, not so much.

The Promise of Provence is Patricia Sands’ second novel.

Surprise, shock, and a shift in her comfortable life tumble into Katherine Price’s world when least expected. The future she has imagined suddenly vanishes, leaving little to focus upon beyond her career and the caregiving her elderly widowed mother might require.

Fate has other plans.

June in Provence is full of promise when Katherine arrives from Canada, eager to feel renewed by her surroundings. Endless rows of lavender prepare to burst into pink and purple blooms. Fields of sunflowers flow in golden waves among vineyards and olive groves. Ancient hilltop villages beckon. It’s the postcard setting she envisioned, but is that all she needs?

After a year of heartbreak, Katherine has impulsively agreed to a home exchange in the south of France. Colorful locals, a yellow lab named Picasso, and the inspiring beauty of the countryside breathe new life into her days.

Seeking to shed the pain of betrayal and loss, she struggles to recapture her joie de vivre and searches for the answer to a haunting question: is it too late to begin again?

As Katherine explores the romantic cobblestone lanes of medieval towns, discovers the intoxicating pleasures of Paris and savors the sun-kissed Côte d’Azur, she begins redefining the possibilities in her life.

An enduring story of hope and change in life’s later years is woven through the author’s love-letter to France. Like a well-travelled friend, Patricia Sands invites readers into a world she loves and entices them to linger.

“Be prepared to fall in love with Provence! This is a story that will draw you in with its vibrancy in setting and characters. A must read for any woman with a desire for romance and travel.” — Steena Holmes, author of Amazon bestseller Finding Emma

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