Finding Home in Burgundy

Two years ago my friend Robin and I spent five days at a house in the village of Magny-les-Villers in Burgundy – surrounded by vineyards and rolling countryside. On arrival at such a quiet location, Robin wondered aloud whether we would find things to do for five days. On leaving, we both wished we could stay for weeks longer.

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Peaceful Magny-les-Villers

I found this new book about Magny-les-Villers online. Turns out it was written by Laura Bradbury who (together with her husband Franck) rented us the house where we stayed. Titled My Grape Escape, this book is all about finding and renovating that property. It is about camaraderie with friends, family, and workers who help inject sanity and levity into the daunting task of completing renovations before the first paying guests arrive.

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Colorful entry way from an inner courtyard

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View of the local church steeple

The genre is that of foreigner buys property in France, undertakes renovations, and in doing so learns to slow down and appreciate the quality of day to day life. It also documents the transformation of a person as well as a property. Laura was in her twenties when she and Franck purchased this property. Her years of studying law at Oxford convinced her that time spent in non-productive tasks was almost abhorrent, something to feel guilty about. But her husband Franck helped demonstrate otherwise.

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One of many cellars within walking distance

When they set off to spend a day buying a second hand car, they instead enjoyed long hours with friends eating breakfast and lunch, and drinking wine and coffee, and buying – unexpectedly – all required kitchenware for their home at a bargain price. Their failure to find a car was alleviated within days when they found one to purchase elsewhere. The book is filled with these scenes – which expand Laura’s comfort in letting go of control. As Franck asks her about events in life: “…why don’t you try to believe that they will turn out just fine – no matter what we do or don’t do?”

One day when Laura and Franck part from their friend René, he leans in the open car window to tell her, “…never confuse what is urgent with what is truly important.”

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We found a tiny wine outlet…

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…selling some cracking good burgundy

 

Laura lets go of her plans and realizes that working long hours in a law firm might damage her precious marriage. She also begins to enjoy herself more. Opportunities to learn abound around Magny-les-Villers. “I had never met anyone who was more gifted for capitalizing on a moment of celebration than Burgundians,” she writes.

 

 

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Whether you want the renowned Montrachet….

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….or a famed Clos du Veugeot…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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….or just a simple wine for lunch – Burgundy has it all

On visiting a physician to get a prescription for pills to reduce anxiety, Laura hears her husband Franck ask whether his wife can still drink wine while on medication.

“Only good wine,” Doctor Dupont answered. “I would highly recommend around two glasses at lunch and dinner. Something fortifying. A Pommard or a Vosne-Romanée would be perfect, though I would also consider a solid Savigny. I would, however, advise you to stay away from the whites at the moment, Madame Germain. They tend to have an agitating effect.”

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Voila! What the doctor ordered – Vosne-Romanee

IMG_0460a - PS2The book is riddled with colors, scents, and images of good food and wine. There are blue-footed chickens from Louhands, yellow wine from the Jura region, cherry red ramekins, lime green pie plates, as well as stewed rabbits and prunes in white wine sauce, smoked morteau sausages and potatoes with crème fraiche and freshly chopped parsley, and bottles of bubbly crémant, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, and Savigny-les-Beaune Les Guettes.

The home they are renovating comes with historical intrigue. Built in the year of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille – 1789 – it was also used to house a billeted German soldier during the Second World War.

It was a pleasure to read this story of how the property we stayed in was first renovated. Though I never met Laura and Franck personally because they were in Canada at the time, the attention to detail they put into each communication, and their rapid responsiveness to our queries were both informative and helpful. The brightly painted home was a joy to stay in. On more than one morning while there, we woke, drank coffee, sliced a baguette for breakfast, then simply opened the door to wander by foot around some of the most sublime and precious wine properties of the Cote D’Or.

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Burgundy terrain – producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

This book brings alive the quirky joys of living in the French countryside, and will make you reconsider what you truly consider important in life.

Check out more about Laura and Franck’s properties in France, here, or Laura’s book My Grape Escape, here for the Kindle version, and here for the paperback.

Where to go?

Laura and Franck can recommend some of the best places to visit. Two local wineries recommended by Franck are the following:

Domaine Naudin-Ferrand

In Magny-les-Villers; 03 80 62 91 50; info@naudin-ferrand.com

Domaine Maillard-Lobreau

In nearby Savigny lès Beaune; 03 80 21 53 42; maillard-lobreau.gerard@wanadoo.fr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling to Dun Aengus in Western Ireland

Years ago, my mother was ill in the hospital before she passed away. One day I visited her and read aloud a short story I had written about Ireland – and which had been accepted for publication. The book publisher (Travelers’ Tales, of San Francisco) had sent their formatted galleys in case I wanted to make any last minute revisions. I read the piece aloud. She listened for cadence and substance, then suggested one or two modifications before nodding her head that it was good to go. I still appreciate her input and attention to rhythm.

This true story is about riding a bicycle in western Ireland to an amazing old stone fort named Dun Aengus. It’s also about how landscapes alter our perception of time, and how time can enhance how we appreciate the places we visit.

The book includes stories by Frank McCourt, Nuala O’Faolain, Colm Tóibín, Maeve Binchy, and Rosemary Mahoney. I still feel proud to be included in this anthology.

Still, times have changed. Now there is a visitor center at Dun Aengus, and you have to pay a few Euros to enter the site. Apparently there are lots of visitors, though when we visited we were alone. Mmmm…did this piece written decades ago help encourage even a few more visitors? From now on, think I’ll keep news about exploring these jewels quiet…

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Copyright Travelers’ Tales

 

This bicycle trip in western Ireland helped inspire me to write – years later – a book that weaves historical fact with fiction to produce a tale spanning five millennia of Irish history. Titled River of Ireland, the book tells of Viking raiders, warring chiefs, crafty politicians, romantic musicians, and a brave Spanish Armada captain – all who helped  shape the character of Ireland’s culture.

Read the short piece titled – Cycling to Dun Aengus. 

Read about the book Traveler’s Tales – Ireland.

Read more about the book River of Ireland.

As the Gaelic saying goes, An té a bhíónn siúlach, bíonn scéalach. Or – who travels has stories to tell.

Check out this recent New York Times article about another desolate, windswept sanctuary for worship off the west coast of Ireland, called Skellig Michael.

Or check out this YouTube video of Dun Aengus. There’s not much of a structure left – but you can imagine looking out from a fortress toward a wild ocean view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Wave – A Memoir of Life After the Tsunami

On the 26th of December, 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala’s friend named Orlantha stood in the doorway of a hotel room in the Yala National Park on the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka. She praised Sonali’s two children and her marriage and said, “What you guys have is a dream.”

She then looked out the window and saw a tsunami wave flushing toward the hotel.

Minutes later Sonali’s ‘dream life’ vanished when her husband, children, parents and friend Orlantha were all killed by the tidal wave that ripped thousands of lives apart in Sri Lanka.

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Calm before disaster

Wave is a quick, unsentimental read. Sonali first recalls strange memories of being swept up in water. Her mind recalls unexpected imagery while this nightmare unfolded, while she was temporarily trapped in a car, then swept away. At one point she looked up to the sky. “Painted storks, I thought.  A flight of painted storks across a Yala sky…”

After finding out that her family has been killed, she stays with other family members who live in Sri Lanka. At first, she is resigned to end her own life. She writes, “The next morning my aunt called doctor. A bit pointless, I thought, I will kill myself soon.” And, “I kept Googling ways of killing myself.  I needed to know how to do it successfully, I couldn’t mess it up.” The result of her mindset was that “An army of family and friends guarded me night and day.”

The story describes time in Sri Lanka, and then Sonali’s return to her London home years later. It was there where she had lived with her children, as well as the husband she  had met while studying at Cambridge. For years, Sonali oscillates between depression, denial, and drug abuse.

“This could not have happened to me. This is not me. I teetered endlessly. Look at me, powerless, a plastic bag in a gale.” And, “After my evening of drinking I’d pop two pills, then another two, another four, four more, and two more again, in quick succession. Then a mug of gin.”

She blames herself for the death of their family, though there is no reason to do so.

“How I have fallen. When I had them, they were my pride, and now that I’ve lost them, I am full of shame. I was doomed all along, I am marked, there must be something very wrong with me. These were my constant thoughts in those early months.”

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Tranquil, and powerful

The years pass and her ability to handle the loss increases. There are also glimmers of the inexplicable and the synchronous that she, a professor of economics, does not question. One event regarded the sister of her deceased husband.

“Steve’s sister Beverly sat on my bead wiping her tears. On the morning of the twenty-sixth of December, she had woken up in London, weeping. At the time she hadn’t been able to imagine a reason for this….before someone phoned her with news of a tidal wave in Sri Lanka, she had been crying.”

Another occurs when she visits the site of the demolished hotel in Sri Lanka with her deceased husband’s parents. They wander around the wreckage.

“When I came back to my father-in-law, he was holding a sheet of paper, peering at it. He showed it to me. He told me he’d stood in that wind and spoke a few words into the air, to Steve and the boys. That’s when something fluttered by his foot…..just a scrap of paper…It was the back cover of a research report written by Steve…”

With time, her ability to cope increases – not by blocking out the past years with her family, but by embracing them.

“I can recover myself better when I dare let in their light.”

As she re-establishes her life and works not only in London but also in New York, Sonali faces a recurring problem when people she meets ask if she is married or has children, or where her parents live. Mostly, she shrugs off these questions and ignores them. This book, however, is her answer.  It is Sonali’s way of admitting that the past with her family was not a dream, but a beautiful reality, where she learned – as any of us may – how all we cherish can be lost within minutes.

 

Wave – A Memoir of Life After the Tsunami

by Sonali Deraniyagala

Published by Virago Press, a division of Little, Brown Book Group, London.

The Synchronous Trail

Catharsis, coincidence, and death at a splendid spot in Colorado

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This story begins in Boulder, Colorado, and moves through…

Completed years ago, The Synchronous Trail – Enlightened Travels has been updated and is now available as an e-book. It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Here’s a little history about the book.

I finished a draft fifteen years ago, then edited and updated the text several times. The book explores powerful coincidences, and how they can have a major impact on our lives. It’s about a search throughout the world for why and how ‘synchronous events’ – as psychoanalyst Carl Jung called them – occur.

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…northeast England…

This was a tough book to write. Why? Delays and uncertainty. At the beginning I had no idea why some events can knock life off its trajectory or open our minds to view reality in a different way. This meant that writing the book was like making a movie before the screenplay is finished, or constructing a building before the blueprints are ready. There was also the added complication of not knowing if I would ever conclude why these ‘synchronous’ situations impact us. In other words – why start a book if there might be no ending?

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…the highlands of Guatemala…

 

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…Africa’s Great Rift Valley…

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…the Persian Gulf…

I originally wanted the structure to resemble that of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – to provide an engaging, entertaining, simple story. Originally, this ‘story’ was going to revolve around my experience of building rural water pipelines in Malawi. But after beginning to write in Africa, I realized that synchronous events were still a mystery. In other words, I could start the story, but not finish.  So I scrapped the idea and instead wrote Water and Witchcraft -Three Years in Malawi – a memoir about colorful years spent in that country.

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…Morocco…

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…New Mexico…

Eventually the puzzle unraveled. I learned powerful reasons why synchronous events can impact our lives. When I was finally ready to assemble this book, an excruciating task lay ahead: gathering and dissecting past writings and journal entries and weaving these into something that resembled a coherent whole (not as coherent as I would like). This involved paring down often intricate and complex events into simple scenes to provide a clear and simple narrative. The years rolled by as this came together. Finally, I assembled the story as a travelogue – where colors, scents, sounds, and imagery from multiple geographies help ground the context of each chapter.

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…and the Namib Desert

The resulting book is a journey of discovery about how life is far more pliable than most of us realize. Incidentally – my other book titled Synchronicity as Signpost is just the distillate of lessons learned while writing The Synchronous Trail. The difference between these two books – Trail and Signpost – is that between writing the two, I realized that sometimes you just have to relax, and listen to what life is trying to tell you.

I hope you enjoy.

Click here to read more about The Synchronous Trail.

Click here to learn more about Roundwood Press.

Click here to read about other books from Roundwood Press.

 

 

Leadership Lessons from an Irish Chieftain

Today – Roundwood Press releases a new ebook.

Okay, it’s a pamphlet.

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How powerful are these lessons?

Nine hundred and ninety-nine years, one month, ten days and give or take about an hour ago (as of this posting), Ireland’s greatest ever chieftain – Brian Boru – wielded these lessons to change the destiny of an island, and crack the power of Viking invaders.

On Easter Day in the year 1014, these lessons powered the man who grew up as a shepherd boy to galvanize a thousand tribes, summon enemy longboats from as far away as Iceland to do battle, coalesce the energies of vibrant but disheveled island people, and smash the raging armies of arrogant foreign plunderers. Boru’s greatest battle – at Clontarf along the Irish Sea – raged all day, but the outcome was clear by mid-afternoon.

This pamphlet summarizes challenges faced, and victories won, by Brian Boru, and highlights lessons he mastered to change the fate of Ireland.

Today, these lessons are still potent – whether to gain personal victory, or to reshape the course of life.

This is the first publication from the new Dreaming Leader series. It kicks off a series of concise, inexpensive lessons that are clear, simple, and practical.  Upcoming titles will include lessons from a Carthaginian general who invaded and defeated the Romans, as well as lessons from Eleanor of Aquitaine, a powerful but unconventional female ruler in France.

The main Roundwood Press website page will soon be updated to include this new series.  In the meantime, click on the cover image above for information from Amazon, or click here for details from Barnes and Noble.

You don’t need an ereader – you can download the Kindle app or Nook app to your phone, computer, or Ipad.  We realize and understand how you love printed books.  So do we.  And they are not going away.  But the time has come to also enjoy another format for reading – that of ebooks.

We appreciate your visit to Roundwood Press.

As the Irish say – Go raibh míle maith agat.  

Let a thousand thanks be upon you.

Click here to read more about Leaderships Lessons of an Irish Chieftain.

Roundwood Press is Live!

Welcome to Roundwood Press.  Millennia of battles, raids, subjugation and victory forged the character of Irish people, while years of writing shaped these books.  I hope you find a topic you enjoy.

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These books were written over a span of decades. Whether you like fiction or non-fiction, or history, adventure, romance, philosophy or self-help – something here should suit your tastes. Some reads are quick and easy, while others are longer and more intricate.

Click on the Home tab – there are a dozen books available.  Here are suggestions about what to choose from any series:

IMG_8808Water and Wine Series –

Wine and Work – is an easy read that includes words, stories, and insights told by more than 50 people from around the world.

 

Chitipa easterAfrican Raindrop Series – 

The Deep Sand of Damaraland – is a simple read about quirky people working in a stunning land.

 

DSC_6756Curving Trail Series – 

Synchronicity as Signpost – is a fast, easy read that may open your mind to fresh possibilities.

 

DSC_6536Rivers of Time Series 

River of Tuscany – includes tales of battle, genius, and even cookery based on real events.

 

LivingstoniaVagabond Series –

Trailing Tara – skips around the world with unusual surprises, determined characters, and a hunt that can change the course of civilization.

Thanks for visiting Roundwood Press.