Category Archives: Inspiration

Afternoons at the Seaside near Marseille

The coast near Marseille offers an enormous array of seaside spaces catering to every possible taste all along its west-facing southern coastline. Most of the terrain is rocky, but there are some “beaches” with pebbles and a few offer a sandy place to walk in your bare feet.

A number of the beaches have activities as well, these include everything from kayaking, paddle-boarding and snorkeling to beach rugby, and even swimming lessons for kids. And it seems you will always find someone hoping to catch some fish for dinner. One thing to note, there are no bonfires allowed on beach (whether rocky or sandy) due to a high fire danger in the area.

One afternoon Evelyn and I headed over to the seaside but when we arrived the sky was clouded over and it was a bit cool for swimming. We had a nice walk along the rocky cliffs and then found a nice beach to lay our towels down on and relax for a bit. I put my feet in the water, but it was too cold to go all the way in, so I didn’t end up swimming that day.

Small cove

Small cove

Going fishing

Going fishing



Rocky sea scape

Rocky sea scape

Sandy beach

Sandy beach

sandy beach near Marseille

sandy beach near Marseille



I went to the sea near Marseille on a few occasions while in Provence, and below are some of the pictures from those trips.

Crystal clear!

Crystal clear!

Water activities

Water activities

Beach near the Old Port

Beach near the Old Port

Biking along the water.

Biking along the water.


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Filed under Inspiration, My Dream, Simple pleasures, Travel

I’m certainly no Van Gogh

Number #13 on my France Dream List is to paint or draw a picture, so I bought myself some colored pencils and a pad of paper and I sat down to draw something. I may not be a great artist, but I am freeing my inner child!

Girl in Paris with Bike

Girl in Paris with Bike

I didn’t come up with this Girl in Paris on my own, I found a picture I liked on-line and used it as a reference, doing my best to make my drawing look similar to the original.  It was “close” but the original is much better:

Original Painting by Fifi Flowers

Original Painting by Fifi Flowers

This original is a Watercolor Painting by Fifi Flowers – if you’d like to check out her other work, click here.

I tried another one, this one is completely off the top of my head … no reference piece. Can you tell??

Lavender and Sunflowers

Lavender and Sunflowers

Next I bought myself some oil paints and after watching three or four hours of YouTube videos on Oiling Painting for Beginners, I set up my work station and gave it a go!

My new paint set

My new paint set

Mixing colors

Mixing colors for my sky

Here we  go!

Here we go – there’s the sky !

Add some mountains in the background

Added some mountains in the background

And now for the final picture and my first oil painting ever. Drum roll please… I call it “Rolling Hills of Wheat”.

Rolling hills of wheat

“Rolling hills of Wheat” by Deborah Grinnell

I know it’s not great, but hey, I did it! I’ll sign it once I get a small enough brush to write with and it will be officially finished.


Filed under Inspiration, My Dream

Strasbourg: Capital of Alsace

Bicycle in the Garden – photo by D. GRINNELL

As the European capital and France’s seventh-largest city, located at a crossroads between the Latin and Germanic cultures, Strasbourg has a unique architectural heritage. Built alongside the river Rhine, boasting a 2000-year history and a town centre listed as Unesco World Heritage, this attractive town skillfully combines tradition with modernity and can be explored on foot, by riverboat, by tram… and even by bicycle. Strasbourg and its surroundings have a 500 km network of cycle trails: the largest in all of France!

Cyclists can discover the town and its surrounding area in original and highly unusual manner as they travel along the canals, through the parks and gardens, and through the town’s historical pedestrianized center. *

Alsatian specialties

Alsatian Specialties – photo by Y. NOTO-CAMPANELLA

The capital of Alsace is rightly famous for its delicious cuisine, wine and beer.


La Petite France – photo by B. NAEGELEN

This is the part of the town that immediately springs to mind when people think of Strasbourg. Formerly the fishermen’s, millers’ and tanners’ district, La Petite France is today a peaceful tourist district in the heart of Strasbourg. The narrow streets offer a wealth of half-timbered houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, huge interior courtyards, and large sloping roofs opening out onto lofts where animal hides were once dried.

The following photos were taken by me in mid-October, so it was pretty cold; even so, many people were out and about, enjoying all this city has to offer.

1Strasbourg bike

Postcard perfect – photo by D. GRINNELL

This picture perfect café called Au Fond de Jardin was quite inviting.

1Strasbourg dog

Sweet puppy – Photo by D. GRINNELL

This adorable puppy patiently awaited as his owner stepped into the wine shop. Keeping so still, he appeared as a fixture. Anticipating viewers would not believe he was real, I snapped a couple of pictures when he moved his head. I love the fact that this quintessential French man sauntered into the frame with his bike at just the right time.

Paris.Mulhouse.Strasbourg 279

Puppy and Frenchman with Bike – photo by D. GRINNELL

1Strasbourg carousel

Carousel – photo by D. GRINNELL

I love that many French cities have a beautiful Carousel in the town square. Strasbourg was no different. I’m sure in the warmer months it’s full of giggling children with huge smiles on their faces.

1Strasbourg band

Trio – photo by D. GRINNELL

This sweet trio filled the cold air with the lovely sounds of old French songs.

1Strasbourg spout

Gothic storm drain spout – photo by D. GRINNELL

And you’ve just got to love this… in France even the storm drain spouts are artistic.

I am looking forward to visiting this lovely city again, this time in the warmer time of year, and perhaps venturing off on a cycling tour. Stay tuned…

NOTE: Content and some photos (those not by D. Grinnell) were provided by the Strasbourg’s Office of Tourism (complete contact information below) in their Press file. For more information on city or the surrounding areas of Alsace, please check out their website.

17 place de la Cathédrale – B.P. 70020 – 67082 STRASBOURG
Tel. +33 (0)3 88 52 28 28 – Fax: +33 (0)3 88 52 28 29
E-mail: – Internet:

*For more information on cycling:

Esprit Cycles

Tel. + 33   (0)3 88 36 18 41


Tel. + 33 (0)3 88 23 56 75 or + 33   (0)3 88 35 44 65


Filed under Inspiration, My Dream, Travel

Ten Steps to Living My Dream

(blog updated: August 16)

(blog updated: July 17)
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”  Jesse Owens (1913-1980);  Olympic Athlete

Well, I can completely agree with that quote! And I have been putting in a lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort to make my dream come true.

I started this post a week or so ago, but didn’t publish it because I wanted to give notice at work before I announced to the world that I was leaving on an extended leave of absence.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Take the first step in faith.” And reminded us, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”  So I took the first step and gave notice at work.

Once I took that first step, the next few steps came quickly, and I started gaining some momentum!

Step One – Give notice at work. (DONE!)

Step Two – Give notice to my landlord. (DONE!)

Step Three – Purchase my airline tickets. (DONE!)

Step Four – Arrange for housing while in France. (August  and September – DONE; October and November – TBD)

Step Five – Find a home for my cat while I am away (DONE!)

Step Six – Pack my belongings for storage; pack my luggage for France. (Started packing up the house!) (DONE!)

Step Seven – Rent a storage unit and move my belongings into it. (Storage unit is rented.) (DONE!)

Step Eight – Have a going away party! (I’ve had three!)

Step Nine – Board the plane…(DONE!)

Step Ten – Arrive in France and get settled into my home! (DONE!)

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Decisions ~ Decisions

sleep2I’ve lost so much sleep recently mulling over everything I need to do in order to make this life goal of living in France come to fruition.

When to leave? Where to live? How long to stay? What to do about my job: take a leave of absence or just resign? What about my kitty cat, who will take care of her while I’m away? And then there’s my apartment – do I sublet it or just put my stuff in storage and move out completely.

Toss. Turn. 

Sip a cup of Sleepy-time tea.

Write a pro/con list.

Toss. Turn. Watch late night TV.

Discuss it with my family.

Toss. Turn. Practice my French.

Talk to my friends.

Toss. Turn. Repeat.

Fast forward a few weeks. I’m happy to say that I’ve made a few decisions. Take a deep breath, cause here we go!

Decision one: Live abroad for four-six months. 
After a lot of consideration, taking a ten-week sabbatical didn’t seem long enough to really accomplish all I want to do while living in France and traveling abroad. I want to feel like I actually live there, so four to six months seemed more appropriate.

Decision two: Quit my Job.
I was prepared to resign from my job and help my employer find my replacement in order not to cause my co-workers too much additional work due to my absence. However, when speaking with my boss about what I wanted to do (live in France for 4-6 months), he offered me the extended leave of absence, and we came up with a plan to have my duties covered.  What a nice surprise!

Decision three: Move out of my apartment.
Taking a leave of absence means that I will not have an income for the a few months; I’ll be living on my savings and any writing jobs I can pick up along the way. Therefore, it made sense get rid of as many bills as possible. So I’m giving up my apartment – the apartment I love, the apartment I moved into in order to get used to living in a small place (like I’d be living in while in France). I guess it worked, because now I’ll pretty much be living out of a suitcase.  Nevertheless, I know it will be worth it, and I will find another great apartment when I come back home.

Decision four: Leave for France in August, return home in December.
Wow – that’s just over a month away! I have so much to do. I better make a list…


Filed under Inspiration, My Dream, Travel

Explore. Dream. Discover.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe  harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


Those words are so true, and I’ve been thinking about this quote more than ever lately, especially as I put the final details of my trip together – trying to figure out if I will stay for ten weeks, six months or an entire year – and how to make it all happen.

We may not always know exactly how we are going to do something, or what will open up to us once we make the leap, but I believe the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Lao Tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

My journey is leading me to France, therefore, I will take a single step each day towards that journey, and before I know it I’ll be walking down the quay along the River Seine.


to be continued…

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My France Dream List

IMG_2017I’ll be leaving for my sabbatical soon and as I’m putting the final details together I’ve been dreaming about all the things I’d like to do or see while I’m living in France.

Of course the main reason I want to live in France is to completely connect with my inner-artist and finish writing my novel. But while in this amazing country, I don’t just want to sit in cafés, parks and my apartment to write; I want to live and experience the French culture as much as possible.

Since my book is set in 1889 Paris, I want to visit some of the locations where my story takes place – if they still exist that is. I want to see what my protagonist would see, walk along the paths he would walk, and to dine in the café he and his friends frequent while playing a part in my tale.

Furthermore, as I spend time exploring, I hope what I experience will help solidify some of the scenes I’ve been developing, which need a few final touches to bring them to life. And if I come across a historic location that is new to me, perhaps I’ll be inspired with some additional scenes that will enhance what I’ve already penned.

The first part of my Dream list will be focused on my writing, and as it might seem, eating… the latter portion speaks to some things I’ve just always wanted to do.

1. Have breakfast or lunch at Closerie des Lilas, then spend a morning or afternoon writing and people watching.

2. Dine at Le Procope, the oldest CAFE in Paris — est. 1686.

3. Have drinks at La Petite Chaise, the oldest “restaurant” that is still in the same building, founded in 1680.

4. Lunch at La Tour d’Argent, which is in fact older than La Petite Chaise, as it was founded in 1582, however, it is not in the original building.

5. Have a picnic dinner on the Champs de Mars, under the stars and in the glow of the Eifel Tower.

6. Spend a Sunday writing, dining, drinking and dancing in the open air along the river at La Guinguette de L’Île du Martin-Pêcheur.

7. Purchase some farm fresh delights at an open air market, spread out a blanket and have a picnic in a park. Then spend rest of the afternoon writing outdoors.

8. Visit Moret-sur-Loing then take a 3-hour cruise along the Seine beside the Forest of Fountainebleau.

9. Attend a play, opera or other theatrical production in French.

10. Visit an artist studio on the top floor of an eighteenth or nineteenth century building.

11. Attend a cabaret at Le Lapin Agile.

12. Go horseback riding in Provence.

13. Sketch or paint a picture.

14. Write a short story.

15. Play a game of Petanque with some locals.

16. Sing a French song at a Karaoke Bar in France.

17. Have my hair cut and styled at French/Paris Salon — giving the stylists the choice for me new style!

18. Go sailing at sunset along the French Riviera.

19. Visit Mont Saint Michel in Normandy.

20. Drink Champagne in Champagne and tour a Champagne making Estate and vineyard.

21. Swim in the Mediterranean Sea.

22. Take a ride in a hot air balloon.

23. Finish my novel.


Filed under Inspiration, My Dream, Travel