TRAVEL AND THE ART OF WRITING........................
Blair McDowell's blog includes in-depth travel articles, details about her writing, backgrounds for her romantic suspense novels, and reviews of novels she has read. The places she visits often provide inspiration and motivation for her novels, so as you read through her travel blogs you may recognize the locales for some of her past novels, or understand where she gets ideas for her future stories.
2016 Trip to Europe - Days 1 & 2 - Haarlem, The Netherlands
Days 1 and 2 in Haarlem, The Netherlands
The last time I
was in Holland, I was knocked down and out by a bicycle in Amsterdam. The
resultant concussion put an end to our holiday on our first day. I swore never
But I’ve wanted
for many years to visit St. Petersburg, to see what is purported to be one of
the finest collections of Impressionist paintings in the world, to see a
performance in the Mariinsky Theater, and to see the famous fountainsand the Crystal Palace. While
browsing the internet, J.P. saw a cruise that would give us two days in St.
Petersburg. Enough, if we really crammed things in.
Of course we
booked it. Unfortunately, it left from Amsterdam. And to get a good airfare we
had to book five days before the cruise. Fate seemed to be conspiring against us.
But Amsterdam isn’t the only place in
Holland.I thought I just might be able
to avoid it if I really tried.
So I booked us
into a country inn for the first night and into a hotel in the middle of
Haarlem for the next four.
Landgoed Duin & Kruidberg
First to the
country inn. If someone had plunked me down into it with no information I’d
have sworn it was a Scottish castle. Its name is Landgoed Duin & Kruidberg. We were the only non-Dutch there. I
suspect that was because the name alone stopped everybody else. It was huge,
with turrets and spires and chimneys with wrought iron crowns. Inside, it was
all carved oak walls and decorated ceilings and massive fireplaces. It looked
like a leftover set from Outlander.
There was a terrace for tea or drinks or light meals, two restaurants, and a
large pond or small lake depending on your viewpoint, complete with trees
hanging into the water and geese and goslings and an encircling path for
strolling. It’s set in a national forest just a few miles from the sea. The
original castle dated from the sixteen hundreds, but in the late nineteenth
century a new owner decided he wanted something more impressive. The home that
became the present inn was the result.
During WW2 the
Germans took it over and, when the war was over, the owner chose not to live in
it again. It lay dormant until the present owners bought it and turned it into
the delightful inn it presently is.
We had only twenty-four
hours there. It was our “recover from twelve hours in transit, nine hours on a
plane” place. Next time we’ll know better.I could happily spend a week there. Although a word of warning. If you
are driving you’ll need a trusty GPS to find it, and if you’re taxi-ing as we
were, it is a ninety Euro trip from the airport.
In any case we
had a gorgeous dinner, breakfast and lunch there and departed rather
unwillingly at two p.m. for our hotel in Haarlem.
The Hotel Franz
Hals, in Haarlem, is a four star hotel. Quite comfortable. But not a palace. What
it has going for it is where it is. Right in the middle of the oldest part of
this very old, very Dutch town. The massive Kirk, St. Bavo, (a saint I’ve
never heard of) is a half block away, as is the wonderful medieval town square.
The old center is off limits to cars. (Not, unfortunately to bikes.)
Kirk St. Bavo
In the kirk, we
lucked into an incredible evening of choir, soloists, early instrument
orchestra, and a magnificent 1628 Mueller organ.We are, more often than not, disappointed
with concerts in Europe. This one made up for all the disappointments we’ve
experienced along the way. It was in a word, superb. It was done as an evensong
service. Readings and sung mass text interspersed with music.
So these five
days that we had feared might be rather tiresome, are turning into an
altogether delightful experience. They have made us want to return to Holland.
Blair McDowell's latest tale of Suspense takes the reader to Italy's beautiful Amalfi Coast.
Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They
are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love
finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their
When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has
no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She
accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left
to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in
prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves
be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment
firm he once owned?
Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud
family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is
terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and
he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden
trail of a six-year-old crime.