Lost in the Real World

 The view from West Ocean City, across Sinepuxent Bay to Assateague Island

The view from West Ocean City, across Sinepuxent Bay to Assateague Island

My first instinct was to lead with a bunch of apologies. It has been months since I’ve written to you! But then I thought better of it. Sometimes I go months without speaking to my friends back home in Maryland, and yet we are still as close as ever when I visit them again. So it must be here on these pages. As life gets busier (and it has! I got a full-time job!) I choose to stay in the real world and trim away the time I spend at the computer screen. I love connecting with you, dear reader, but when something’s gotta go, it’s going to be this. I’m not going to give up cooking a proper dinner, or exercising, or getting a good night’s sleep. And writing the next Jamie August novel also ranks higher than chatting here on the blog.

So, no apologies! Here, in a few snapshots, is what I’ve been up to for these past several months.

 Unpacking for a book signing at the Ocean Pines Farmers Market

Unpacking for a book signing at the Ocean Pines Farmers Market

I traveled from one side of Maryland to the other to promote the Jamie August series, stopping in Greenbelt, Ocean Pines, and out in western Maryland, near Deep Creek Lake.

 The Jamie August books on display at the front of the Greenbelt Consumer Cooperative. If they're sold out, ask them to order more!

The Jamie August books on display at the front of the Greenbelt Consumer Cooperative. If they're sold out, ask them to order more!

I had several author firsts this summer. My local co-op grocery store featured the books near their front entrance. For the first time, a reader brought me a copy of a Jamie August book that she already owned, and asked me to sign it. Woah!

 Flea market shopping in Lisbon

Flea market shopping in Lisbon

In late September, I traveled to Portugal with my husband and some friends. We were in Lisbon for nearly a week. We went to a great flea market, and ate and drank and walked our way across this elegantly funky city. 

 Lisbon. This Portuguese twist on "I think therefore I am" translates to something like "I think but I do not exist."

Lisbon. This Portuguese twist on "I think therefore I am" translates to something like "I think but I do not exist."

We took the train north about three hours from Lisbon to Porto, Portugal's second city. I liked it even better than Lisbon: its architecture was more fanciful, and it wasn't as overtaken by tourist crowds as Lisbon was.

 A view from Porto's teleferico, which passes directly over some of the city's--and the world's--best-known port wine producers.

A view from Porto's teleferico, which passes directly over some of the city's--and the world's--best-known port wine producers.

 Foggy view out the back window of our Air BnB flat near the train station.

Foggy view out the back window of our Air BnB flat near the train station.

From Porto, we flew to Paris. This was one of those remember-it-for-life trips: we met up with some friends who had retired over a year ago and are now living in Washington State. They were nearing the end of a long European adventure, having burned through the last of the frequent flyer miles they'd earned in their expat days. We met them at our little hotel in the seventh arrondissement, enjoyed a private birthday dinner party for me at a tiny restaurant called Reed, and then walked a few blocks to see the Eiffel Tower lit up for the night. What a birthday!

 The Eiffel Tower, all in purple!

The Eiffel Tower, all in purple!

From Paris, we flew back to Portugal (the whole Paris junket was a last-minute splurge) and drove north into the quiet, green towns bordering Spain's Galicia region.

 Looking across the gardens and down the valley towards Ponte de Lima

Looking across the gardens and down the valley towards Ponte de Lima

We'd booked no lodgings for this leg of our trip. Happily, I stumbled across Paco de Calheiros in an internet search for interesting places to stay in northern Portugal. This 17th century manor house is the oldest and most elegant estate in the region. Its doors are open to the public thanks to a program called Solares de Portugal, where the owners of important historic residences open their homes to tourists looking for beautiful, meaningful travel experiences. When I called to book a room, the Count of Calheiros, whose family has owned the home since it was built, answered my phone call from his mobile phone. He apologized that he would not be there to greet us personally, because he was in Italy for his son's wedding. He assured me the staff would take good care of us, and when I asked what time we should arrive, he suggested we "just go there now." We cancelled our hiking plans for the day and drove straight to Ponte de Lima. Wouldn't you?

 A view of Paco de Calheiros from its vineyard

A view of Paco de Calheiros from its vineyard

After a few slow, quiet days in northern Portugal, we drove back to Lisbon to catch our flight back to the Middle East. Less than a week later, I started my new job. But that's a whole other, happy story!