French Friday: The Magic of Fall

When I arrived in California from Paris I had no idea that Americans called autumn fall.

I really fell for the season’s magnificent gifts when my family lived in New England. It’s truly magical, I kept telling everyone around me. New Englanders smiled politely, used to the compliment. I pressed leaves so colorful they seemed painted between the pages of my dictionaries and later sent them all the way to France.

Away from the Northeast, I’ve learned to track the more subtle ways nature signals the arrival of fall.

In Southern California for the last week, sadly without my husband who for business reasons could not join me, I traveled from one place to another, often by foot. Quiet witness of the delicate shifts in the air, I missed my husband’s voice in my ear, his arm looped around mine, his jokes and laugh that can lift the thickest fog, but I felt so thankful to our children for taking me to their own cherished places.


7 A.M. fog in Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County

I almost expected to see my husband, waiting for me on this bench seated above the Pacific

A plane cut through a perfect blue sky above the Liberty Public Market, in Point Loma San Diego where my daughter invited me for a Thai lunch, food we both adore

Pepper plants in bloom in Los Angeles County

SoCal Beauties, still in Los Angeles County

And everywhere through this part of the Golden State, the distinct colors of fall 

Fall remains only a name for another month in SoCal. The hottest days are behind, but the Santa Ana winds can still blow warm air and the rain remains a distant dream.


Awaiting for rain, plants are dormant along the trail that leads to Cowles Mountains in San Diego

The 1,593-foot (486 m) summit is the highest point of the city of San Diego

My daughter took me up to the less dusty, more urban, still steep Secret Stairs in La Mesa, San Diego County…

…and then down…

Fall is maybe only a name in SoCal. Yet the change of season is here.


Hot Tea Replaces Iced Tea

Red Is the New Color

Overcast morning on the Pacific means

sun-drenched afternoon

Magically, new books make their way to bookstores, here at Warwick’s in La Jolla, San Diego.

Speaking of which, I read two magical books over this trip.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton is an unusual story that explores the meaning of love through several generations of people. A friend lent it to me, probably because the family has deep roots in France and also because the novel is filled with mouth-watering baked goods 🙂

I was not immediately drawn to the novel, mostly because it targets Young Adults and I found it very different from most novels in this genre. I suspect that older readers (college students, for example) and even adults will appreciate the beauty and meaning of the story more than teenagers. Anyway, it took me a few pages to be fully immersed, but soon the exquisite writing and the original pulled me in. Gorgeously crafted, filled with lots of sensory details and irresistible baking this book was a magical companion to my trip.

I hadn’t anticiped to read another novel filled with magic realism. But I’m a sucker for Middle Grade books and I knew I had to read The Incredible Magic of Being by Kathryn Erskine. She’s one of the biggest names in children’s literature and each and every of her books is a gem. I knew I would not be disappointed but didn’t expect to read one of her funniest and yet deepest novel.

Nine-year-old Julian is 100% obsessed with space. He even has imaginary friends in alternate universes. He’s also very scared of water and doesn’t go anywhere without his life jacket. The story of Julian’s family (fourteen-year-old sister Pookie and two moms) moving from bustling Washington, DC to rural Maine to run a lakeside bed-and-breakfast is told through his amazingly fresh and honest voice. Julian loves his family, but he is really tired of Pookie’s typical teenage mood swings. In reality, he misses Pookie’s younger version much more than she annoys him. I loved Pookie!  And loved the siblings’ realistic relationship. Let’s be frank: Julian’s behavior is quite strange, so his overprotective mother, the one he calls Mom wants to homeschool him in order to save him from bullies. Thankfully, his other mother, Joan, is much more laid back. That was cool to see the two mothers acting so differently and yet equally lovingly toward Julian and Pookie. The bed-and-breakfast project derails when the retired neighbor sends a lawyer over because the latest addition to the bed-in-breakfast illegally blocks his water view. Pookie convinces overfriendly Julian to befriend the neighbor to make him drop the lawsuit. The rest is a smartly crafted story packed with stars, dreams, Smores, lots of love, and even dogs.

I hate spoilers, so I won’t say more. Anyway the first sentence of the novel says everything.

“Magic is all around us, but most people never see it.”


A week later, I came home to find out that my husband had also read and loved two books while I was gone.

Fear by the one and only Bob Woodward and Small Fry, the memoir written by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Steve Jobs’s daughter.

Totally different books from mine. But you know what they say? Opposite attract. It’s magic.


Tomorrow marks the first day of fall. Enjoy its magic and a couple of books, too!


  1. We read different things, but sometimes we read something together. We learn things from each other, too.

  2. It’s fun to read (this post) about magic in a relationship. It sounds like you each enjoyed the week.

    Fall is starting here in New England. I hope it has a good run.

    • When I read “Magic is all around us, but most people never see it,” I realized how true it is and how easily we forget that.
      So jealous of you now, since I know how fall can be dead gorgeous in New England. After a strange hot and rainy summer in some parts of the region it would be lovely for you guys to enjoy a beautiful fall before winter.

  3. I always enjoy visiting San Diego, fall or not, Evelyne. Our son was stationed there during his time in the marines and early Coast Guard. I don’t think we have been back since. Miss it. Of course there was the problem of having to drive on LA freeways to get there… Leaves are starting to change in our town. –Curt

    • I hope you’ll get a chance to return to San Diego, Curt. You deserve a treat after your summer relentless hiking. Traffic remains easy between SD and LA if you travel early mornings on weekends. But yes, lots of people live there now for sure and they aren’t the most gracious drivers 🙂 Away from the highways, though, SoCal people are pretty cool.
      I discovered San Diego in the very early 1990s when it felt sleepy to an ex Parisian and really the end of the state, in comparison to the Bay Area. In fact, my daughter who lives now in SD was a newborn when I stumbled on a lovely creek in La Jolla and took her and her two sisters to the beach. Since then the city has evolved into a more lively destination. The Liberty Public Market, for example, quite close to the airport, opened a couple of years ago on the site of naval buildings. It’s hip but totally family oriented too, with lots of outdoor seating on the grass and Adirondacks chairs. Great food too! What I like most with San Diego is how the neighborhoods are still distinct from each other and not yet gentrificated, even though it’s easy to see that east San Diego will be at some point. The cost of housing remains a huge issue. And the big plus is how nature remains very close, through hiking trails, parks and of course the beach.
      Thank you for stopping by, Curt. Hope you’re enjoying the break.

      • Fun overview of San Diego, Evelyne. I have a niece there who runs several farmer’s markets. Our son, Tony, and his wife, Cammie, loved the unique neighborhoods with their fun restaurants. So, we saw a lot of the city and came to appreciate it.
        I spent a fair amount of time in the LA area when I was working with the entertainment industry to stop glamorizing tobacco and hooking kids. (I also wrote an article published in the tobacco control journal that explored how the tobacco industry worked to influence Hollywood.) –Curt

      • Then you know San Diego 🙂
        I love LA too! Is your article about the tobacco industry still available? Maybe from your blog? I’d love to read it.

      • You can go here for a summary from the British Medical Journal:
        I spent several weeks doing research for the article in the tobacco industry archives at UCSF. When I published the article it was picked up by over 1000 media outlets worldwide. I even did an interview with the New York Times by satellite phone when I was hiking in New Zealand. 🙂
        Yep, I know San Diego fairly well, but I am certainly not an expert. –Curt

      • Thank you so much, Curt. You know our country, especially the west, so well!

  4. Intéressant récit et good pictures!
    André Bouchard

  5. Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures and thoughts about fall Evelyne, some of which are so vibrant and some of which seem poignant and atmospheric. Enjoy many magical more experiences and books this season!

    • Thank you, Andrea. I very much enjoyed reading your recent post about fall and the changes of seasons in general. You are at your best when you write about these topics. Enjoy the magic too!

  6. Behind the Story says:

    I love visiting my daughters in the fall, especially the ones in Indiana and Maryland where the changing colors are so intense. But today my daughter from Eastern Washington State is visiting me here in Seattle. Our leaves are turning now, but we have so many evergreens that the affect is not as intense as it is in the eastern US. Still it’s pretty impressive. This afternoon we went shopping at the Farmers’ Market where the fruit and vegetables presented a riot of colors. I bought red eggplants, striped eggplants, and also purple and green ones.

    • Fall is a truly gorgeous season and even more so in some lucky parts where leaves turn. My daughter who lives in Baltimore was expecting more spectacular changes, but she has lived in New England, so I think she was comparing. Like you, I love the bounty of produce and adore the fall decoration through stores and streets with the variety of pumpkins, of eggplants and other gourds. Enjoy the season! By the way, knowing your reading tastes a little bit I think you’d love the YA novel I briefly reviewed in this post.

  7. Fall in New England is the best I’ve seen. However, here in Indiana, it’s still unbelievably colorful and beautiful. All that time I lived in Georgia, I missed the fall most. I was so homesick, and worst in the fall.

    • I so agree with you, Joey. NE is #1 fall champion.
      I also totally understand missing the beauty of fall. Besides the colors there is also the crisp air and pure sky. I’m not familiar with Indiana, but my husband and I drove through Pennsylvania a few times in the fall and were surprised to find the state so gorgeous in October. Picture-like in fact. Enjoy the magic, then!

  8. Nice pics Evelyne. It’s a big country but you picked out some nice detail.

  9. We have a bit more of an autumn her in Central California than in San Diego but it comes late.We had temperatures in the high 90’s until this past weekend.
    It is cooling down a bit and a time to get cozy with a book in hand. Thanks for the two suggestions.

    • Yes, it seems always too slow in Central California. Rarely before Halloween, I think. Knowing you you’ll love the Middle Grade novel. The YA is excellent too, but you’ll love Kathryn Erskine’s book a lot. There are so many things to love in the story that I keep recommending it 🙂
      Enjoy the fall when it finally settles around your home!

  10. Très belles photos. Bonne journée à vous.

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