The Things We Did This Summer


I know I’ve been shirking my blog. My last post was back in June. But I had good reason. It was summer! I’m sure many of you found yourself in the same boat–projects stalled, commitments deferred, deadlines missed, routines thrown out the window….  And all for good reason.  It’s summer.

Heat = Brussels Rarity

Heat = Brussels Rarity

Here in Brussels, summer is time for the annual closures of shops, restaurants and other small businesses called ‘Les Vacances’ or ‘Les Conges’.  The terms mean, vacation and holidays. These aren’t your anemic American vacation of one or if you’re very lucky, two weeks.  No, these usually mean a whole month, or more…  It’s common to find notices pasted up in windows announcing closures of four, five and even six weeks.  Think how wonderful it would be if the entire business shut down…no more guilt for those you left behind at the office stuck to do your work…no more stacks of emails or voice mails.  Getting away from the office means true escape, the chance to relax, unwind and recharge. Most Americans do not know the meaning.

Typical Brussels Window Note Announcing Summer Closure

Typical Brussels Window Note Announcing Summer Closure

So what did I do this summer? Did we escape? YES! (You’ll see photographic proof later)  But we didn’t flee our responsibilities entirely. I’m still straddling my two worlds, a wing-tip Oxford in America and a roman sandal in Europe.  I worked this summer…hard. I spent the better part of the past four months editing my newest book, my third novel, None Shall Sleep.  This past Monday, I handed off my latest draft to my editor. I used Julie for my second novel, Jell-O and Jackie O and she did a great job. With any luck, None Shall Sleep will launch in mid-fourth quarter 2015. More, much more on that later, but for now I’ll leave you with a teaser, the piece that will entice readers from the book’s back cover:

None Shall Sleep

Opera is Life!

     And life is opera. None Shall Sleep parts the curtain to reveal lives drawn together by one woman’s dream to sing.

     Isabella Fabrini, a discouraged consultant living in London, has little to show for her forty years but a sputtering career, a string of unsatisfying relationships and layers of cynicism. Her bold plan to reinvent herself as an opera singer has unintended consequences even before the reluctant diva sings her first note.

     “Every Italian town worth its weight in pasta has an opera house,” Isa says as she plans her debut. And San Benedetto is no exception. The faded spa town of Isa’s birth with its nineteenth century theater provides the setting for concert weekend. Those gathered to hear Isa sing are as colorful as characters created by Puccini or Verdi. Their mirth and mayhem rival any opera libretto.

     There’s Telma Rossi. The fiery Argentine stole Isa’s fiancé but wants more—a chance to steal the spotlight and maybe crush Isa again.

     And Luca Caruso, a dashing London restaurateur who fell in love with Isa at the start of her musical journey but a dark secret sabotages their relationship. Can concert weekend liberate him from his tragic past or will he fall victim to Telma and temptation?

     Anything can happen during concert weekend.

     A story of hope, perseverance, friendship and love that will appeal to anyone who’s ever dared to dream big, None Shall Sleep was a shortlist finalist in the prestigious Faulkner-Wisdom literary competition.

 I hope you’re sufficiently teased and will consider buying and reading my new novel when it launches.  

We did host a quintessential American barbecue for our European friends in July complete with hamburgers, pulled pork and potato salad:

American Barbecue, Brussels Style

American Barbecue, Brussels Style

Summer Expat Barbecue

Summer Expat Barbecue

Our Lovely Brussels Garden

Our Lovely Brussels Garden

 

But we didn’t spend all summer in Brussels.  It seems the only people who are in Brussels in summer are tourists filling the Grand Place or standing shoulder-to-shoulder eating waffles as they struggle to get a glimpse of the Manneken Pis, later drowning their disappointment with the unimpressive statue in a sea of chocolate.

We did what we love best about living here.  We traveled, by bus, boat, train and plane.

Nothing as Romantic as a Departure Board, Doha, Qatar

Nothing as Romantic as a Departure Board, Doha, Qatar

I’ll leave you with a photo gallery of our trips, near and far.  Our travels included: Deinze, Belgium and its Ooidonk Castle; Trier, Germany’s oldest city; Bernkastel, in the heart of the charming Mosel River valley and wine-growing region; Stockholm; Tel Aviv & Jerusalem; Melbourne and Hamilton Island, Australia.

Grounds of Ooidonk Castle, East Flanders, Belgium

Grounds of Ooidonk Castle, East Flanders, Belgium

Ooidonk Castle, Belgium

Ooidonk Castle, Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosel River at Bernkastel, Germany

Mosel River at Bernkastel, Germany

Porta Nigra: Roman Gate, Trier, Germany

Porta Nigra: Roman Gate, Trier, Germany

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernkastel, Germany & Mosel River

Bernkastel, Germany & Mosel River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning Stockholm

Stunning Stockholm

Stockholm's Beautiful Old Town

Stockholm’s Beautiful Old Town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Accessorizes Well in Stockholm

Jim Accessorizes Well in Stockholm

 

Stockholm Harbor

Stockholm Harbor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moslem Quarter, Jerusalem

Moslem Quarter, Jerusalem

Western 'Wailing' Wall

Western ‘Wailing’ Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smiling in Jaffa

Smiling in Jaffa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melbourne City Scape

Melbourne City Scape

 

Melbourne Graffiti

Melbourne Graffiti

Melbourne Graffiti

Melbourne Graffiti

 

Dominique Portet Winery, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

Dominique Portet Winery, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

 

Swimming Pool says Summer

Swimming Pool says Summer

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

 

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Whitehaven Beach, Australia

A bonus of the mass exodus of locals is an empty city: streets, parking spots and parks.  So as summer wound down, we  spent some leisure time reading books on the grass, a picnic of sorts in Brussels’ beautiful Cinquantenaire Park with Sadie our Golden Retriever.

Cinquantenaire Park, Brussels

Cinquantenaire Park, Brussels

My Treasures, Jim & Sadie

My Treasures, Jim & Sadie

Looks like we might need a vacation to recover from our summer….

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