Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sunlight Serendipity ~ Frances Mayes did it again. . .

“Life offers you a thousand chances. . .
all you have to do is take one.”
--Frances Mayes

Our village, Agios Nikolaos at sunset
Well she did it again. That ne’r-met friend of mine, Frances Mayes, showed up last week in the village and in a subsequent rather wild and crazy turn of events and emails we are off to the place she made famous, Cortona, Italy next week. . .

A Bit of Backstory:

Under the Grecian Sun

Long time readers of TravelnWrite  know I am enamored with Frances Mayes’ books. I credit her “Under the Tuscan Sun” (that tale written more than two decades ago about having the courage to buy a home, Bramasole, in Italy and making it her own) for planting one of the seeds that has led us to our full-time Greek residency.

Her later, “A Year in the World” has become a rag-tag travel bible of sorts, that has a permanent spot within easy reach on my nightstand (first in the States now next to the Greek bed)  In this one she’s set loose the travel bug through her tales of long-term stays in far-away destinations. She’s sung the praises of spending enough time somewhere to really get a feel for a ‘sense of place’.

Mediterrenean doorways fascinate - Kythira, Greece
Six years ago her “Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of Italian Life”, a retrospective look at her Italian experiences, offered some poignant observations about the passing of time and life itself. It came along at a time I had just lost a couple of dear colleagues to illness and I too was pondering the fleeting passage of years and relationships.

You long-timers here know I refer to her as a ‘friend’ and do feel that she is a friend  – despite the fact we’ve never met and likely never will. Her ‘friendship’ is much like that I have with many of you whose written words have provided both encouragement and understanding; like that of any friend, near or far.

Sometimes among the most encouraging and understanding friends, I am learning, are those I’ve never met face-to-face.


Staying in touch with long-time friends
So my comment that Frances 'appeared in the village' really means her latest novel that I had ordered arrived at our mail table in the local taverna.

Women in Sunlight” is a novel that caught me up in the storyline just as has her non-fiction.  Perhaps it is because it involves three women in their 60’s who decided to chuck the safe and sane approach to aging and set off for Italy for a year-long adventure (I can relate.)

The narrative, with its thread of friendships made along life’s way, has an Italian village for its backdrop and is punctuated with her signature references to food, wine, and la buona vita, the good life.

Women in Sunlight comes from one of the major joys of my life – my friends. On every page, my love goes out to them,” she writes at the book’s end.

Sunlight Serendipity

Exploring the world - a 'sense of place' 
The Scout and I have been contemplating a week-long getaway (remember, we moved here so we could explore more of this side of the Atlantic). We could fly to Budapest, or Vienna, or Rome, we said. Or we could go somewhere within Greece. All are rather easy getaways with flights only two or three hours long.

We simply couldn’t decide where to go and were about to give up the idea.

In between pondering travel and reading, I’ve been catching up on long over-due correspondence. One long chatty email was to a friend in Seattle. I’ve been missing my friends ‘back there’ – the lunches and coffees, giggles and conversations.  Frances had reminded me again in her book of the importance of those relationships.

Among the topics I told my friend, Sharon, about was the book I was reading.

A secret spring on a spring day
Sharon wrote back saying that she and a friend were traveling next Tuesday as part of a group tour to  Tuscany and would, in fact, be based for a week in Cortona (the town made famous in “Under the Tuscan Sun”).

And yes, she said, they are both fans of Frances Mayes fans; their decision to join this group was sparked in part by their love of her books.

Setting off for serendipity

“Wouldn’t it be fun to write Sharon and suggest if she had a free evening that we go to dinner with her and her friend in Cortona,” I off-handedly suggested two days ago to The Scout. I wrote her and asked for her schedule – luckily there was some free evenings built in to their activities.

“Hmmm. . .said The Scout, “We could catch the train to Florence, spend a few nights there and then head to Cortona for a few nights, a final night in Rome. . .” And hour or so later we were booked!

So that Frances did it again.  She appeared at just the time I needed a reminder about friendships and she was again a spark for getting us out to explore a place we've never been before. Just like any good friend, she gave me the nudge when I needed it!

That’s it for this week at The Stone House on the Hill. I’ll be back next week with a report from Cortona and maybe I’ll be a few days late checking in with you all.  I might just be busy next week raising a glass with Sharon in toast to Frances and to friendships far and wide ~

Linking up this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend


  1. Oh Jackie, please tell me how to READ this book. Her writing is so ponderous to me I want to put it down each time I pick it back up. I have the book and somehow just cannot get into it. Is it worth trudging through after all? You know I love Italy most of all places, so I thought this would be such a great book to read right this minute, but good grief, it just doesn't take flight for me. Help !!!!!

  2. I love your blog and traveling the world with you. Thanks! Looking forward to Cortona.
    Farm Gal in VA

    1. Oh and it is so nice to have a Farm Gal in VA traveling along with us. Keep your comments coming so I know we haven't lost you along the way somewhere!!

  3. I too love Frances' books and have read all of her non-fiction. How wonderful that she inspired you to visit your friend in Cortona. We tried to visit Cortona but the street signs were confusing and we couldn't find it! Can't wait to hear your impressions.

    1. We've been to Tuscany but never made it as far as Cortona before. We'd rented a car and did an agriturismo stay a bit north. So it will be new territory for us - and yes, a plan to see her Bramasole . . .at least from the road . . .too bad she doesn't know we are 'friends', I might get to have coffee with her in the piazza as well. :-)

  4. Under the Tuscan Sun did it for me too! Made me SO restless but unlike you - we never bought abroad; lost our nerve and bought again in the UK which we knew immediately was the wrong decision for us. SO now, we await a house sale and will take off - this time for good. France, Italy, Greece, Crete - somewhere like that! I really enjoy your writing.

    1. Oh my Anna! You go for it! And please do keep in touch and let us know where your adventure takes you. This is most exciting news!! Best of luck in selling your home. Jackie

  5. Nice to read such an ode to friendship. Remember we almost met? Maybe we were meant to meet at your new side of the Atlantic. We will be in Ljubljana, Innsbruck, Oberstaufen, Paris, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Devon, and Canary Islands from October to November in that order. I wonder if we will be ever more than just friends who have never met. Or if Frances is asking us to take one of those thousand chances to meet?

    1. We came ever so close Carol! Who knows where and how we will eventually meet up? But there is no doubt in my mind that it is going to happen - serendipity will make it so.

  6. Serendipity is amazing, but you have to be open to it. That openness seems to characterize your lives. Enjoy your time in Cortona, but mostly enjoy your time with your friend. I love hearing about your life.

    1. There is something about 'going where the wind blows you' and not having set rules, expectations or plans that has worked some pretty incredible experiences into our lives. Thanks for the visit, Cindy!

  7. What a delightful way to wind up in Cortona with friends thanks to another friend you've never met! I love the Frances Mayes quote at the beginning of the article.

    1. Who'd have thought? I keep saying to myself as last week at this time I had a list of chores to tackle this week and instead I am exploring Tuscany! "Where the wind blows us" is an apt phrase for us. Thanks for stopping by Donna!

  8. Hello Jackie and Joel. Have a wonderful time in Cortona. What fun to see your friend in Italy. Looking forward to hearing of your adventures.


    1. Helen, so very nice to hear from you. Tuscany is as beautiful as we remember it to be!

  9. I so enjoyed reading about your "friend" Frances Mayes and how it evolved into your own trip to Italy to meet your Seattle friend. Oh, to be able to just up and visit Tuscany. I loved my time there!! Thank you for reminding me of the value of friendships!

    1. Well today I walked by 'my friend's' house - what a magnificent place, her Bramasole! Friendships are special that is for sure. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. fun meeting up with your friend will be.
    I love this post.
    One of my favorite movies is Under The Tuscan Sun.

  11. Frances Mayes is a dear never met friend to me too. :-) I have Everyday in my reading pile at the moment. Again. I keep reading snippets from it at various times of my life, and it is always good. :-)


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