The Lemon Tree writing retreat (that I never went to) in Italy

A few years ago I entered a writing contest. Weeks later a person contacted me to say that I had ‘won’ a coveted spot in a writing retreat nestled on a Tuscan hillside (I hate the word ‘nestled’ and never use it, but it seems appropriate here.)

Of course I was over the moon, but it turns out there was a misunderstanding. I thought they were going to pay me to go, but it wasn’t so. In the end I didn’t go because it was too expensive. But anyway, here’s the place if anyone’s interested, it’s pretty gorgeous.


Deep in the countryside on the border of southern Tuscany and Umbria, the retreat includes all meals, wine and cocktail hours, yoga, beautiful-looking private rooms, and day trips to Florence and Siena.  In total there are around fifteen writers, all working on their own projects.

The next residency dates are Sept-Oct 2019 and May 2020.

July 14 Bastille Day, President Macron copiously booed on the Champs-Elysées


Photograph: Zakaria Abdelkafi/AFP/Getty Images

Today is Bastille Day in France. July 14 marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a turning point of the French Revolution. Celebrations are held throughout the country. Every year on the morning of July 14th a military parade is held on the Champs-Elysées. And every year French fighter jets pass directly over my apartment building making a really loud noise. In previous years I used to run excitedly outdoors to look towards the sky, hand shading my light-dazzled eyes. But now I just stay indoors; I guess I’ve become blasé to jets and military parades.

Anyway, this year the 41-year old President of the French Republic was whistled at and booed as he rode down the Champs-Elysées in a military vehicle.

Macron – démission!” people shouted. (Macron – resign!)

It is clear that the French revolutionary spirit is alive and well 230 years after the storming of the Bastille.

Avignon summer festival

cropped-festival-avignon-stage.jpgopen air avignon

The Avignon Festival is held every July in the courtyard of the Popes’ Palace, as well as in other locations around the city of Avignon. Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, it is the oldest theatre and performing arts festivals in France…and one of the world’s greatest.

avignon onenudestall men


This was the play from the summer of 2016. Direction was by Ivo Van Hove, artistic director of one of Europe’s most inventive theatre companies, the Toneelgroep in Amsterdam. Actors were from the prestigious Comédie Française troupe.

damn onedamn four
damn twodamn three

Here’s the story – To protect their interests as Nazism triumphs in Germany, the steel tycoons of the fabulously wealthy Essenbeck family see no other solution but to ally themselves with the new regime and murder the patriarch, old Baron Joachim. Intrigue and machinations, betrayals and murders: the appointment of the new head of their steel empire will turn into a ritual of Evil in which the corruption of the relationships between individuals echoes the cruelty and brutality of the political context.

In this struggle for survival and against all odds, it is Martin – the incestuous and paedophiliac progeny of powerful Baroness Sophie – who will manage to eliminate all his opponents and become a zealous servant of the regime, ready to reign on the empire he inherited. He will, however, have to pay a high price, living a cold life irremediably devoid of love, goodness, and beauty.

If you click on this link below, you’ll find a good and comprehensive list of hotels, B&Bs and campsites in the region as well as restaurants, markets, etc.

a fun-filled weekend

Last night we went to the amusement park in the Tuileries Gardens. It was fun.


Earlier, we had spent the afternoon at my local swimming pool. The day before, Saturday, after I had picked the kids up at the train station (S. who is 7 and his big sister, M, who is 15), we went to the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne. An odd name for an amusement park, it literally means the Acclimatization Garden. It was a broiling hot day. The sprinkler section of the children’s playground was packed with screaming kids.


Today, Monday, I’ve taken the day off work; the weather’s a perfect 25°C / 77°F. I think we’ll go to one of my favorite Parisian parks, the Parc de Bercy (see link below).

“Tata?” asked my 7-year old friend at one point, “Have you heard of a group called The Beatles?”

“Errrr … yes, I have,” I replied, “Why do you ask?” And he began singing the lyrics of Hello, Goodbye. “You say yes, I say no, you say stop, and I say go, go, go …”

At school they sing this song for their English lesson.

the disappearance of Jeanne Moreau


Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni 

In the French language, when a person dies they say they have disappeared. Elle a disparu (She disappeared.) La disparition de Jeanne Moreau headlined all the newspapers today. Une flamme s’éteint is another poetic French expression for the passing of someone: a flame is extinguished. And yet another, elle a rendu l’âme: she gave up her soul.

This blog post is an homage to Moreau’s passing two years ago this month.

Jeanne Moreau - La Notte (1961) car

Tributes, accolades and homages have been pouring in all day here in France. The cultural TV channel, ARTE, is showing two Moreau films tonight back-to-back (and all throughout the week.) I’m watching the first one now as I type this. Le journal d’une femme de chambre, 1964, with Moreau and the great Michel Piccoli. I saw both actors, on separate occasions, during my ramblings around Paris years ago. Jeanne Moreau in a restaurant in the 14th arrondissement; and Michel Piccoli who burst into a métro car one afternoon, clearly inebriated, before staggering in my direction to sit lopsidedly on the seat beside me. His leg touched mine. I squealed silently with delight.

jeanne one

After more than 140 films, her curiosity remained unquenched, her look imperturbable: the lustrous hair, the resolute eyes, the sensual, sulky mouth, the slightly rasping voice. “This is what I am,” those features seemed to say. “Take me or leave me.” 

Moreau brought to the screen a singular, inimitable verve, a petulance, and a shameless gaze. Her range was extraordinary and she illuminated such classics as Jules and Jim, The Lovers, Diary of a Chambermaid, and The Bride Wore Black.

Above all, my personal favorite Moreau film is La Notte (The Night), a 1961 Italian drama in which she played alongside the impossibly gorgeous Marcello Mastroianni. There’s something dissolute, complex, sauve and sophisticated about that film.

In closing, watch this clip of Jeanne walking down the Champs-Elysées at night in Louis Malle’s 1958 film Les Amants with the Miles Davis soundtrack playing in the background. Pure French, pure Moreau, pure Davis. She was 30 years old.