Some places get under your skin

With all the buzz going on about Diana Gabaldon’s fantastic, incredible OUTLANDER, this seems like the perfect time to rave about one of my favorite characters in the novels.

Glencoe, Scottish Highlands

Glencoe, Scottish Highlands

Scotland…. *Sigh*

It’s way more than just a setting. The Scottish Highlands live and breathe as surely as Jamie and Claire. (Though maybe with a bit less panting). *smirk*

Travelling is one of the most important things in my life, behind only family, friends, and writing. And I’ll tell you guys, that of all the places I’ve visited, the Scottish Highlands touched my heart the most. No other place has even come close.

I don’t know if it’s the brutal beauty. The sheer emptiness. The mystery of the rolling moors that spread out like a rumpled quilt. The mist that rolls silently off the mountains. Or the feeling that if you squinted just a bit, you’d see Braveheart loping across the peaks on his way to avenge his wife’s death. Maybe that’s it. The romance. The Highlands simply exude romance and history. pain and hope. It breaks your heart.

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Nothing like Actually Touching it

Hmm, that didn’t sound nearly so dirty in my head.

What I meant to say is that as a writer, whose work includes a great deal of historical persons, places and events, it’s incredible to actually visit many of the places I write about.

 

me at fontevrault abbey, French Countryside, near Chinon

Me at Fontevrault Abbey, French Countryside, near Chinon

Last year I got to visit Fontevrault Abbey, the resting place of the most famous person in my current time-travel novel.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was only fourteen when her father died and she was married off to the dauphin of France, Louis VII, in 1137.  When the current king died only a month later, she became queen of France. Eleanor and Louis were married for several years, but they were never happy. Then she met the fiery Henry Plantagenet, (who would soon become King of England). After that, it didn’t take long for her to quickly dump Louis and snatch up Henry.  Then, yep…she became Queen of England.

Eleanor is the ONLY woman ever, to rule over both France AND England. And she kicked ass at it, ya’ll!

Stone face at Fontevrault Abbey- said to be Eleanor's.

Stone face at Fontevrault Abbey- said to be Eleanor’s.

Eleanor gave birth to TEN living children, (including Richard the Lionheart and that infamous douchebag, King John). After Henry went fooling around with “Fair Rosamond” Clifford, Eleanor got pissed, and sent her sons to war against their own father. Henry won that little skirmish and locked Eleanor up in a castle for eighteen years. But!!! She outlived Henry, and lived very comfortably (and richly), well into her eighties! This, during a time when the average life-span was somewhere in the mid-thirties. 

Put simply….Eleanor ROCKS.

I’ve always been interested in this amazing woman, and being able to write about her has been a total pleasure. Even cooler, is that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the palaces and abbeys where she once lived. I’ve laid eyes on some of the few items that once belonged to Eleanor, treasures that have survived over a thousand years.

We spent the night at Fontevrault Abbey, and after all the other visitors left, basically had the place to ourselves. So of COURSE I roamed around in the evening, communing w/my home-girl.

Shhhh. I sneaked over the barrier to chat w/Ellie

Shhhh. I sneaked over the barrier to chat w/Ellie

There is just nothing like placing your hand upon a piece of living stone and knowing that a character you write about likely touched the same spot over a thousand years before. Even better was getting to be RIGHT there, beside her actual tomb. I tell you, as I stood there telling Eleanor all about my book–and how she was one of my main characters–I swear I heard a quiet whisper, giving me her approval. :)

 

 

 

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