Travel with Mona to France-The Loire Valley

A Writer’s Inspiration: France

Of all the countries I visited, France has always been my favorite. Maybe because of its rich culture and history, or maybe because I am fluent in French and have several friends living in Paris who always welcome me.

With its cobbled streets, stunning Basilica, artists, bistros … Montmartre is full of charm! Perched on the top of a small hill in the 18th arrondissement, the most famous Parisian district has lost none of its village atmosphere that appealed so much to the artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Sacré-Cœur basilica is a masterpiece of grace and grandeur. You can see this entirely white landmark from all parts of Paris. Built at the end of the 19th century in the Romano-Byzantine style, it is dedicated to the heart of Christ and is an important place of worship in the capital. It houses the largest mosaic in France, measuring no less than 480 m²!

A narrow street with cafes in Montmartre.
A unique view of the Tour Eiffel from the
balcony of my hotel room
Perched on the Butte (hill) Montmartre, the basilica is accessible by funicular from the Place Saint-Pierre or via the lawns and steps from the little public garden ‘Square Louise Michel’. 

If you go to Paris, you’ll probably climb the Tour Eiffel or use the elevator after staying in line for an hour. You’ll visit the Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides, Les Tuileries, many more monuments and must-see places and of course Versailles.

Although Paris would inspire any visitor with fabulous dreams, there is more to France than its capital. A few years ago, my husband rented a car and we toured the Loire Valley.

The valley is known for its dry white wines,
and sparkling-wine 
Blois, a hillside city on the Loire River, is the capital of the Loir-et-Cher region in central France.

The châteaux of the Loire Valley (French: châteaux de la Loire) are part of the architectural heritage of the historic towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours along the river Loire in France. They illustrate Renaissance ideals of design in France.

The châteaux of the Loire Valley number over three hundred, ranging from practical fortified castles from the 10th century to splendid residences built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux in the Loire Valley, the nobility, drawn to the seat of power, followed suit.

The Chateau de Chambord, the most sumptuous one, was built by King François I and inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci. The chateau remains one of the most famous and visited buildings in France. Chateau de Chambord was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The château d’Amboise was built over an old roman fortress. Throughout France’s troublesome 16th Century, the château d’ Amboise was the home of King Henry II and his wife, Catherine de’ Medici. Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life here, as a guest of King Francis I. Although he lived in the neighboring château of Clos Lucé, Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the Royal Château of Amboise.

The château de Chenonceaux, called the Ladies’ Castle, is famous for its architecture which bridges the Cher River. Founded on the pilings of a mill in 1513, the château was completed in 1522. The château was confiscated by Francis I in 1535. Henry II presented it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. On his death his queen, Catherine de Médicis, forced Diane to give it up. Chenonceaux was extensively restored in the 19th century. The village was occupied by the Germans and slightly damaged in World War II.

The château de Chaumont, built in the 10th century, is one of the oldest castles in the Loire Valley.

Villandry is better known for the magnificent gardens surrounding the castle.

The château de Blois has been the residency of several French kings. It is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English out of Orleans.

The château de Cheverny was built between 1630 and 1640, because a young wife was caught cheating on her husband.

While visiting so many famous castles, I visualized gallant aristocrats entertaining beautiful women in lavishly decorated galleries and plush gardens. Stories played in my mind. I don’t write historical romances but kept thinking about the settings.

A year later, my niece related her summer training in France. As a Harvard University student in Architecture, she was offered the unique opportunity to work on the restoration of a chapel in a French castle. When I asked jokingly, “Was the owner a haughty old man?” My niece answered: “He was a young, handsome count and the five girls in my team had a crush on him. He dated my friend.”

Oh, oh. Château . Handsome count. Training on a historical chapel. Maybe looking for a historical statue. I had an epiphany. Here was my story premise. Below is the château I used in my story. When I pitched it to an agent at the RWA conference, she suggested I change the plot to make it a romantic suspense. I took her suggestion to heart and upped the stakes with a missing statue and the murder of a professor. THE MISSING STATUE was born.

THE MISSING STATUE: Are his statue and chateau worth endangering the life of the impetuous young woman who’s turned his life upside down? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B010FX4OOY/  

“… is a great romance with an excellent mystery.” ~Publishers’ Weekly

This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley. There is an interesting cast of characters. The plot is full of action and the reader is never sure who is on the side of good or evil.” ~ Romance Studio
“Murder, mystery, and intrigue seem to follow Cheryl as she assists Francois on his project. A great contemporary romantic read.” ~Review Your Book
Mona Risk brings old-fashioned romance back into style… full of mystery and intrigue.  I loved Ms. Risk’s injection of humor into the story. A sweet mystery romance you’re guaranteed to enjoy.” ~ Two Lips Review


If you have a chance to go to France, do yourself a favor and visit the châteaux de la Loire. I promise you won’t regret it.

I have three new books on pre-order.

KISSING PLANS: From best friend to lovers. But she’s engaged. What better way to get rid of the undesired fiancé? Finding him a girlfriend.

FAMILY PLANS: The plane crash devastated two families and revealed painful secrets. Can a brighter future arise from those ashes at Christmas time?

HEALING PLANS: He adopted two minority children but lost his wife. Finally things settle for him, until the lovely surgeon he hires turns his life upside down.

Summer Fun by @PatriceWilton

It’s that time of the year again when we can get outdoors, enjoy the summer sunshine and warm weather—hit the beach or pool, national or local parks, and get plenty of family time. I’m thinking of sweet corn-in-the-cob, grilled steak, chicken, sausages, practically anything on the grill.

The mellow, golden days of summer. Life has changed over the years, but we still have those good times to bring a smile on your face.

I know times are hard, but being with family is one thing we need to make time for. I have two families who don’t live near me, my daughter and family in New Jersey, and my second daughter and family in Virginia Beach. We are trying hard to make sure we see each other for 4-5 days every year and make this a new tradition.

Last Year’s Summer Adventure

Last year, we were trying for Maine and ended up in Vermont. Near Stowe, and high on a mountain, but such a great place, the brave of heart could go ziplining from the top of the mountain to the half way point. After a five-minute lesson, off you go! They all loved it and made it safely back! The hotel offered many activities and we might end up going back there again.

This year, the working girls managed to get the same time off and we are going to Ashville, N. Carolina. Everyone is enthused about white water rafting and ziplining once again. We will enjoy the beautiful town, and the grounds of the Biltmore.

Both of these trips, not one of us have been to before, so making new family memories is the best way to enjoy life, keep close and connected, for as long as we can. The children will be off to college soon, but until then, we will capture as many moments as possible.

Wishing you all a great summer full of sunny days, laughter, and love. Hope you enjoy some of the pictures below of my summer fun!

Patrice's Family and Nessie

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

 

 

Travel with Mona to Beijing, China

We left home on Friday, at 4:00 am to reach a 6:00 am flight, the first flight of a very long trip, two hours to Philadelphia with a forty-minute transit and a flight to Chicago, two hours transit and then the thirteen hours, yes THIRTEEN hours, long flight to Beijing. I was blissfully tired and lucky enough to sleep during most of the trip. We arrived in Beijing on Saturday, at 5:00 pm. There is a twelve hours difference in time between Florida and Beijing.

Of course, we lost our luggage. While we ran down the Philadelphia airport to catch our connection to Chicago, our suitcases procrastinated and missed the connection. We met a couple from Seattle who were in the same predicament. Very nice people, so friendly, they couldn’t wait to start their vacation and enjoy it. Unfortunately, their dream cruise ended in a horrible way as the man had a heart attack at the end of the cruise on his way home.

For our first day in Beijing, my husband had booked a private tour with an adorable guide very . Our guide was a lovely young woman, fluent in English, answered my unending questions. She explained, the government was still communist but more open to the West. Years ago, she was living in a small apartment with her father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle and aunt and a cousin in a two-bedroom apartment. Notice one child per family. They all shared one kitchen and one bathroom with the rest of the building and they all had to dress the same way. Now she is engaged. Competition is encouraged. She and her fiancé worked hard and saved money to buy a one-bedroom apartment.

The 2008 Olympic Nest
One of many high rises in Beijing.
Notice the TV screen.

She showed us the Olympic Nest, downtown Beijing and the Summer Palace. We had a delicious lunch in the adjacent restaurant.

The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace
An imperial boat on the lake
In the Summer Palace gardens

I was agreeably surprised to discover that Beijing is a clean, modern metropolitan capital with more high-rises than Manhattan. I am not kidding. Not at all the idea I previously had of China.

For our second day in Beijing we joined the official cruise tour. We visited the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The square is a huge place overcrowded with a million tourists every day. To cross the large avenue and reach Tiananmen Square, we had to go through a tunnel. It was here that one of the tourists in our group panicked and said she couldn’t find her mother. The poor old woman was separated from our group. We spent half an hour looking for her, while taking pictures and then the group had to continue. Two hours later, both women finally joined us.

We spent three hours touring the courtyards, pavilions, and palaces of the forbidden city. Each of the emperor and empress had their own palaces. There were pavilions for the guests, for the officials, for the empress’s family…The yellow color was reserved to the imperial family. No one else could use it in China. The various servants serving in the Forbidden City were carefully chosen. It was an honor to serve the imperial family. But once chosen, the servants could never leave the Forbidden City and the parents could not visit.

On our third day in Beijing, we went to the Great Wall of China built in the 3rd century BC. I was surprised to find out that the Wall is formed by stone stairs framed by two walls interrupted by towers. I walked up to the first tower. It was almost like climbing three stories. The steps were at least one-foot high and irregular. My husband felt challenged and kept going to the second tower as high as eight stories. Apparently, the view is breathtaking from there.

As you can see it was cold on the Great Wall. This picture is taken from the first tower. The third tower visible from far.

People rarely walk beyond the third tower, although the Great Wall completely surrounds China and is the only man-made artifact visible from the surface of the Moon.

The statues of soldiers from the Ming Tombs.
And here, a picture at the Cloisonné factory where they manufacture gorgeous vases and plates.

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Christmas Babies: A sweet and powerful Christmas Story.

Valentine Babies: Can he love a woman expecting another man’s baby?

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Wedding Surprise: Is it the worst or best wedding surprise?

Christmas Papa: Who’s my Papa, Mommy?

On Christmas Eve: We want a mommy for Christmas.

Brighten Up Your Life!

If life seems dull, do something about it! You don’t need a lot of money, either. If you have a fabric stash and a sewing machine and/or serger, there’s zero cost.
Make throw pillow covers! If you have a theme you like, you can use that. I made vibrant Day of the Dead pillow covers for pillows my daughter already had. It looked like she had redecorated the whole living room after she put them on her couch.
Here’s how I put these all together:

Press fabric, measure, cut, make a narrow hem on the two back/reverse pieces, arrange the top and back sections, sew around the whole outside, and take a breath. I always make a diagonal cut across the points of the corners, close to my stitches. That reduces the bulk of fabric when the project is turned right side out. Press, urging the rounded corners of the pillows into sharp angles. Don’t skip ironing! This is what makes homemade look professional.

If you have lots of spare blankets or throws, you can fold them, estimate the size pillow it would make, and make covers/containers for them. The spare room can be decorated with pretty, functional storage units.

What an inexpensive way to decorate for the seasons and holidays! Swap out colors or themes of the covers, bringing Christmas or the seasons with a quick twenty-minute project. If you have too many blankets or throws, bundle them up and make a cover for them, too. Remember to share your pillowcase creations with the gang, too.

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