On the eve of The Forgetting Flower‘s book release, the TFF T-shirt is in Paris with my dear friend Pierre-Marie Dufour! When he isn’t taking photos in front of flower shops and being a part-time model, he manages a magazine and travels the world. We talked about his first impressions of Paris, his translation of Dan Savage’s The Kid, a dreamy vacation home in Spain, and the secrets of the Vatican.
Who are you and what do you do for fun (either in your job or outside of your job)?
My name is Pierre, I’m 55 years old (already!) and I’ve been married to Frédéric for five years now (although we’ve been together for 15 years). My main occupation is being editor-in-chief of a magazine aimed at owners of second homes in south Brittany in France. It’s called Le Journal des Propriétaires de la baie de Quiberon.
As you can imagine, writing is one of my passions, so is culture in general. I translated the book, The Kid by Dan Savage, into French, a few years ago. I especially love to attend concerts featuring my favorite pop or jazz artists, visit art exhibitions … and read good books.
You were born and raised in France, and have lived in Paris for decades. How has the city changed since you first moved there?
I was born in Normandy, but since it was a period of economic boom, my parents moved around the country each time my dad was offered a better-paying job. They eventually settled in the Poitiers area.
In the late 1980s, I spent a year in Paris as a student. I hated it. I had very little money and thought everything was expensive. The people seemed unfriendly. Later, I moved to Paris in 1994 when I became the assistant to Fnac Music‘s general manager. After I settled in, I loved living in the City of Light. I’ve made many friends here, including my partner. Now, I love the fact that the city, as it’s one of the world’s cultural hubs, is much more environmentally friendly.
You also live in Mijas, Spain. Why did you choose Spain? What do you like about it? What’s not so great?
Through our friend Laurent, we got a chance to buy a small house with a pool overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. At first, we had no intention to buy a second home, as we thought it would diminish our opportunities to travel to other parts of the world, but we fell in love with the place. As we are now able to receive Internet through optical fiber there, I am able to work from Spain, and I try to spend at least 15 days every two months there. I even tend to extend my stay when the weather is beautiful — which is very often!
What’s not so great about Spain is Spanish people are very friendly but it is sometimes difficult to navigate through the administrative processes.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
Let’s talk about French authors. Most of their publications are not translated in English, but this one is, and it’s one of the last books I’ve read and enjoyed: In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexulality, Hypocrisy. Its author, Frédéric Martel, is a well-regarded journalist, who spent four years researching for the book. The title tells what it is all about, and I read its 500 plus pages like it was a captivating novel.
Do you have a website or project you’d like people to know about?
The magazine website is not kept up to date as it takes lots of effort to maintain. Most of our readers subscribe to the paper magazine and the rest buy it at newsstands anyway. That brings in half of our revenue. The other half comes from print advertising. Advertisers love the fact that we have a very targeted audience that they have no other way to reach. So our print magazine is still going strong after 15 years! If you’re in Brittany, you can check it out at a local newsstand.
If you’re blessed to watch tennis in person at the French Open, you’re probably spending a lot of time near the Roland Garros stadium. It’s located in the lovely Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. This city formed by the merging of two former cities, Boulogne-sur-Seine on the north side and Billancourt to the south. I’ve spent a bit of time in Boulogne-Billancourt and fell in love with its quieter, more relaxed ways. If you’re a tennis tourist and don’t want to make the train ride to Paris, check out its local sights. It offers its own wonderful museums, gardens, and restaurants. Here are six things to do near Roland Garros in Boulogne-Billancourt.
A Great Crêpe Restaurant
Foodwise, there’s nothing more French than a crêpe and the restaurant Tant Qu’il Y Aura Des Bretons has outstanding ones. The restaurant, with its long name that loosely translates to “As Long As There Are Britons,” is a sophisticated yet warm establishment. It has a mid-size dining room and ample terrace. The wide selection of savory and sweet crêpes influenced by the tastes of Brittany will tempt you to order a variety and share. They also have gallettes, which is a buckwheat pancake with cheese, ham, fish or sweet ingredients. Top it all off with a great wine from their large selection and you have a delicious, authentic French dining experience.
Escudier Farmer’s Market
Whether the weather is sunny or rainy, you can visit the farmer’s market or Marché Escudier on Sundays. It’s on the Boulevard Jean Jaurès. Many locals shop here, picking out just the right strawberries and cheese and bread and breakfast sweets. They also have flowers and meats. But you have to arrive on the early side. The homemade pastries and such sell out early. In addition to the Escudier Market, an organic market along the Boulevard de la Reine takes place on Saturdays until three o’clock in the afternoon.
Botanical Garden of Paris
If you like plants as I do, consider visiting the Botanical Garden of Paris (Jardin Botanique de Paris). It’s in the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil gardens, a huge park with five greenhouses built in the late 18th century. The houses feature tropical plants, unusual palms, a desert garden, and an aviary with colorful parakeets. When I was there, an art installation of a plant vending machine surprised and perplexed me until I realized what it was. Sorry, I can’t remember which specific house it’s in, I think one with tropical plants. And outside, the cultivated grounds are spectacular, full of contrasting trees and shrubs and perennials. The garden is a quick walk from the Roland Garros Stadium so if you’re looking to get away from the busy crowds of the tennis tournament, check out the garden. It’s a hidden gem of Boulogne-Billancourt. I highly recommend it. Oh, and it’s free.
The Boulogne Forest or Bois de Boulogne is a three-mile preserve of natural land, which is also technically in Paris but again a short distance from Roland Garros. It’s like the city’s Central Park, where people go to relax by a lake or jog the winding paths. On the northern edge in the Jardin d’Acclimatation is a small amusement park for kids with rides, a huge playground, and horseback riding. At Lac Inférieur, one can rent a bike or a boat for the afternoon. It’s also a great place for a picnic. If you don’t want to pack food, the Bois de Boulogne has several cafes and food stands.
Louis Vuitton Museum
Though it’s named after Paris’s most famous fashion designer, this museum has little to do with fashion. Instead it’s a modern art museum run by the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Housed in a building designed by Frank Gehry, the museum structure resembles a collection of clear sails cascading over on one another. It’s been called “the iceberg” and is meant to bring in the natural beauty and light of the surrounding forest. The museum’s water feature is particularly interesting. Water flows down a series of flat wide steps into a reflecting pool at the foot of an outdoor courtyard. Inside are exhibitions of both permanent and traveling modern art. An intriguing place to visit.
Museum of the 1930s
The 1930s Museum or Musée des Années Trente houses art and crafts from the Art Deco era. It’s in the Espace Landowski. Landowski was the sculptor who designed the famous giant statue of Christ that sits atop the mountain and overlooks the bay of Rio de Janeiro, an ethnic Pole born in Boulogne. Inside the museum there are hundreds of sculptures, paintings, and thousands of drawings. Plus, there’s a great collection of ceramics and furniture.
Overall, I highly recommend Boulogne-Billancourt. If you’re near Roland Garros and not in the mood to take the train back into Paris, this sleepy suburb offers a wealth of interest and activities. It’s fun and charming and still very very French.
I love tennis. And of course I love Paris. So when the French Open happens every year, I get excited. I’ve been immersed in watching the matches, loving that my favorite player, Roger Federer, has won so far and enjoying the wildness of the crowds every time Frenchman Benoit Paire plays. This weekend a particularly wonderful highlight for me was watching Swiss player and ethnically Polish guy Stan Wawrinka play Stefanos Tsitsipas. It was an epic match that lasted five hours and five sets.
At 34, Wawrinka’s considered a senior player, and yet he’s playing his highest level of tennis ever. Because he’s an athlete who won Grand Slam tournaments later in his career, I find his journey interesting. It reminded me how anyone who works hard enough and is willing to endure long enough can succeed. This includes artists and writers. A writer works to perfect their art or craft and tries to share it with the world, only to often meet with rejection or indifference. The attempt can be a failure. We can feel like losers. But Wawrinka has an interesting perspective on failure. What he had to say is my quote of the week:
As a tennis player, you have to get used to losing every week. Unless you win the tournament, you always go home as a loser. But you have to take the positive out of a defeat and go back to work. Improve to fail better.–Stan Wawrinka, tennis champion
Hey everyone, I’m sharing the fun that my friends, family, and I had by wearing The Forgetting Flower T-shirt in our respective cities and countries. I’ll kick off the book fun with a photo of myself in Seattle before we move on to New York, England, Poland, and Paris!
Who am I? What do I do?
I’m Karen Hugg, a writer who loves to garden or a gardener who loves to write, depending on how you look at it. I’ve written stories since I was a child. Later as an adult, I became an editor and then an ornamental horticulturalist, which is a fancy way of saying garden designer. I did a lot of weed-pulling too! During my years as a professional gardener, I found myself with lots of down time during our rainy Northwest winters so I started writing stories and novels.
Now, as you probably know, my novel, The Forgetting Flower, will be published on June 18th, 2019 by the small publisher, Magnolia Press. I’m excited because yes, publishing a novel is special, but moreso because this story combines all of who I am and what I love. It’s set in Paris and Kraków, two cities steeped in history and culture that I adore and where I lived briefly. It’s about an alluring plant, which embodies my speculative daydreams about what plants might exist in the world but don’t. And lastly, it’s about familial relationships and our need as humans to seek better lives.
From Chicago to Seattle
I created my main character Renia with some of myself and some inspiration from stories and people I knew. For instance, like Renia, I’m a migrant of sorts. I grew up in Chicago but moved to Seattle in my early twenties. It was the best decision I ever made. All kinds of things fell into place that I was seeking: I got a job as an editor, I lived in a cool rental house, I met my husband, I lived near spectacular natural beauty. I created the life I’d always wanted in a place that matched my soul.
Renia grew up on the outskirts of Kraków but moved to Paris to better her situation. What that situation exactly is is complicated. But to learn more about the situation and how it changes, you can check out The Forgetting Flower here.
From Seattle to New York
Any author knows it’s hard enough to write a strong novel. But then to give it its public due is difficult. You need the support of family and friends who believe in you, fellow writers who’ve been in the same trenches, and the general good will of those out in the book world. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those good will souls and I thank you.
Another such good soul is my nephew, Benny Martinson. Benny is a talented composer and singer who makes his living as a tech brain for Google. He took a photo of himself in The Forgetting Flower T-shirt in his beloved New York City. He’s excited about the book’s release too. So watch for next week’s post when I feature Benny!
Hey everyone! We’re about a month away from The Forgetting Flower‘s release so I thought it would be fun to do a 30-day blogging challenge. I’ll blog every day until the book’s release on Tuesday, June 18th, at which time I’ll fall flat on my face on the floor!
The Topics of the Day
Spring is here so I thought I could tackle a few gardening-related topics as well some book inspiration, travel memories, and writing. So in no particular order, here’s what I’ll be tackling:
- My Garden. It’s starting to fill in so I’ll share what I’m doing in it and some advice for newish gardeners. I’m also trialing some new plants from Proven Winners and I’ll let you know how those do.
- Paris Memories. In the year 2000, I worked and lived in Paris with a corporate job. It was an interesting, wonderful, and lonely experience. I’ll share some snippets of my time there and other travel memories.
- Book Ideas & Writing Advice. I glanced at my book shelf today and realized I have a bunch of craft (and other) books I love that I need to share with my fellow readers and writers.
- Weekly Inspiration. I used to post inspiration weekly on Mondays to inspire readers to take on their workweek as best they can. I set it aside as I grew busy with my novel but it’s time to bring it back.
- Fun With Kids & Pets. I have three kids and four animals. Yes, that’s a lot but those little souls mean the world to me. I’d like to post some thoughts on my kids/mothering and pics of my two dogs (Zeke, Olive) and two cats (Maddie, Aleksy). The idea of it already makes me smile!
- The Latest. This will be a post where I talk about what’s happening in the world and how it’s affected me and/or my writing.
- The Forgetting Flower Tour. I have a few friends around the world who have photographed themselves in a TFF T-shirt. I’ll run short interviews with them and the books they love. We’ll start in Seattle and end in Paris!
I hope you’ll join me. This should be a fun challenge. Not sure if I can do it, but I’ll try!