Over three days I accompanied my husband on a short trip that took us through three different east coast states.
While there was a lot to do and see (and I’ll tell you a little about it), the book nerd I am loved the fact that in each of these three states lives or has lived an author who writes books I absolutely love.
Our first stop was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On a Sunday afternoon we were really lucky to get to visit the National Constitution Center, still open while the Liberty Bell and other museums had already closed.
An hour before closing there were no lines, so it was kind of neat to get to see the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence as if they were here just for us. No photos are allowed in most rooms. And I felt good to keep my phone away. Just to observe and reflect was almost chilling.
Photos, however, are allowed in the adjacent interactive and multimedia gallery where the history of our country from its founding to nowadays is displayed. I watched a short movie depicting a crowd of more than three hundred people taking their citizenship oath at Faneuil Hall in Boston, less than a month after 9/11.
I also became an American Citizen in Boston and I never forgot that day, of course. Yet as I watched the incredible diversity of the people who make this country the emotions of my own naturalization rushed back. It’s never easy to take such a decision, and as our country is entering a new presidential campaign election I was reminded that the right to vote triggered my choice to become an American citizen.
Naturally I snapped this.
One of the YA authors I immensely admire lives, not in Philadelphia, but in the state of Pennsylvania. A.S. King writes like no one else. Her latest book I Crawl Through It is released in a few days and I already know that I will devour it. I like everything by A.S. King. But everyone has favorite novels, right? Mine are Please, Ignore Vera Diez and Glory O’Brien History of the Future.
One thing is sure, I want to return to Philadelphia for at least a whole full day.
Chapel Hill, for some, evokes the University of North Carolina also known as UNC. For others it is one of the cities that compose the Research Triangle– Durham and Raleigh being the two others.
For me it is where Sarah Dessen lives and writes. I discovered her books through my oldest daughter who became an instant fan and followed Dessen’s productive writing career with my youngest daughter who became a fan, too. I offered Saint Anything, Dessen’s last book, to my youngest daughter who swallowed it and left it at home when she returned to college, so I could read it, too. Dessen is a terrific storyteller, and teenage girls love her books because her main character is always the girl next door.
Chapel Hill is a handsome, wealthy small college town, with a beautiful campus, tons of places to eat, to get coffee and ice cream. There were also lots of students everywhere and this is why I didn’t take any pictures.
I had never visited South Carolina and was glad to get to spend more than a few hours in Charleston.
I got to live in Concord, Massachusetts, in the late 1990s. This is where ‘the shot heard around the world’ was fired, starting the American Revolution, so it was chilling to stand in Charleston where the shots that started the Civil War were fired.
It is impossible to walk through Charleston and ignore the heavy weight of history. But I am from France and I’ve learned to walk through bloody history. It doesn’t mean to ignore it but live with it and learn from it.
Charleston, on a geographic and architectural standpoint, is an outstanding city. By American standards it is rare to find a gorgeous city where you can walk as much as in Charleston. The cobblestoned streets, the ivy running on the houses’ facades, the iron-wrought gates and balconies, the tall French doors, and the multitude of shops and galleries have a distinct European flair, if not French. In the French Quarter, however, there was an indisputable French touch that made me a little homesick.
Late afternoon I stopped at Blue Bicycle Books, a bookstore with a large selection of used, rare and local Charleston books.
Although Sue Monk Kidd is a native from Georgia who now makes her home in Florida, she has lived in Charleston. So her books were on display in the Charleston section of the store. The Secret Life of Bees is the novel that brought the author greater visibility. The Invention of Wings is her latest one and also my favorite. Set in Charleston during the slavery it is the story of an extraordinary and complex friendship between a white and a black girl. Gorgeously written, with a cast of strong and distinct characters, this novel is also depicting Charleston so vividly that the city is also an unforgettable character.
Now that my three-day trip is over, I am returning to the notes I always take when traveling and working again on my own writing projects. A task that always feels daunting when faced to great writers’ work.
Wherever you are, I hope you are currently enjoying a good book.