Well hello 2024! I would say you snuck up on me, but you didn’t really. You came in with a vengeance. We ended 2023 at our favorite restaurant in Florence and started 2024 with a slower pace in Tuscany (but for a lot of work problems). This month has been a doozy already, and we’ve still got just under two weeks to go.
As always, there’s a lot to catch up on, blog about, and share in the upcoming months… and like every year, I vow to spend more time in this little creative space of mine.
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I always say that I’m going to read more, particularly for pleasure. It’s always a goal at the start of the year. When my January update from NetGalley arrived, I requested advanced reader copies (ARCs) of a couple of historical fiction books that sounded interesting. The more we travel, the more interested I am in historical fiction, though I still love a good YA or romcom to escape from the realities of a very difficult day job.
When my copy of The British Booksellers arrived, I devoured it in a single day. It was captivating, and I strongly recommend picking up a copy when it is released in April.
The British Booksellers
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book as an ARC through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
The British Booksellers is a captivating tale of the complexity of humanity told through the stories of so many individuals, I finished this book in a day. Kristy Cambron weaves together the stories of multiple family members over time with incredible fluidity. Set in Coventry, England during World War II, with references back to pre-WW1, these are the stories of strong women on a mission, complemented by men seeking to understand the complexity of the human experience through various parts of their lives. There are elements of mystery, a bit of romance, and quite a bit of vivid and powerful imagery of the what the people of Coventry experienced during the war.
The book begins with an early introduction to the young characters whose stories will be told throughout the book, grounding you with a firm understanding of their long withstanding affections for each other. The powerful imagery of what transpires next helps you see the characters, as they are now, and what experiences have shaped the personalities that help them come off the pages. You can easily imagine the haughty expressions of Lady Eden as she handles Jacob and the perceived silliness of the Land Girls, the tenderness of Charlotte, and the gruff exterior of Amos, and the brash audacity of Will. The characters in this book are as complex as their experience, and the backdrop of both Holt Manor and Coventry highlights the beauty of their characters in contrast to very difficult circumstances.
Make no mistake, this is a story about humans, not merely about war-torn experiences. It highlights the choices we all make and the importance of love, forgiveness, and redemption.
I used to be a die hard New Year’s resolution type of person. I made 10 per year and assessed my progress regularly. At the end of the year, I’d reflect on what I accomplished and what I didn’t. (This was in my paper journaling days.) Now, I’m more likely not to make resolutions, but I do like to think about what I can do to improve things.
Since it’s been so cold in Dallas and my stress level has been so high, I haven’t been able to walk much. I’ve been on the Peleton this week for Wicked and Taylor Swift. At the end of 2022, Tom bought me a Peleton on Amazon’s Black Friday sale because it was on super sale. I averaged 1 ride every 2 months last year, so I can only go up from here, right? If you’re a Peleton person, you can find me at JourneyofDoing. I need all the accountability partners I can get!
I have a work trip to Syracuse next month, as well as a work trip to DC looming on the horizon of everything happening at work. Both of those should be relatively easy to plan. The Syracuse trip will be at the discretion of our partner, and the DC trip will be based on which government representatives will take the meetings.
Summer in France
We have a lot of personal travel that is in preliminary planning phases. The most concrete is a slow trip through France this summer to visit some different regions. I’ve signed the contract on the same vacation rental in Mont St Michel that we rented last year. When I contacted the owner to see what the best way to book it, he was so excited to hear that we wanted to come back. We’ve established a lot of relationships through repeat travel and it’s become a bit of a constant theme to return to the places we love because of the people we meet. Sometimes I think we must be the most curious Americans because we love to return to the same places, but the truth is, I love going back places because of the people we encounter along the way. It’s very different than here.
In addition to spending at least a week in Normandy, we are interested in visiting Bordeaux again. We are still learning a lot about French wine, and we had some truly lovely experiences with people in Bordeaux. I’m not sure if we’ll stay in Bordeaux or split time between the city and some of the smaller villages yet. I love a Saint Emilion wine though, so it might be fun to visit Saint Emilion. Bordeaux wineries are very different than Italian wineries though, so maybe we’ll just stick to the Bordeaux wine bars and work our way through wine lists that are accessible to us. Time will tell.
New places in France that are of interest: Carcassonne, the Rhone Valley, the hill towns of Provence, and of course, further exploring the Alsace Route du Vin. Tom is also interested in the Loire Valley and Burgundy, but I need to do more research. There’s so much more to see in France, and I don’t want to sell us short!
We haven’t decided if we’re going to spend Bastille Day in Paris again, but if we do, I’ve booked an Eiffel Tower room at the Hyatt Etoile, just in case. I suspect we’ll may try to mostly steer clear of Paris because of the crowds (and expense!) leading up to the Olympics though.
I’ve been hopping around a lot lately. I went back to some photos from our first summer in Paris to finish off my post rounding up the best Hyatt hotels in Paris, which has been on my list to do since summer 2022. I enjoyed looking the photos of the fireworks from Bastille Day so much that I started editing other photos from our trips to Versailles for fireworks and fountains. It really is one of the coolest things to do in Paris in the summer. It also reminded me that I need to find a new tripod for future travels.
I finally moved all my Christmas trip photos to my external hard drive so I can start sorting through more of those. Expect to see a few blog posts updated over the next few weeks, and I’m brainstorming on some new ones. Sometimes it’s so hard to choose what to write about next though!