The Traveling Writer

Seine River in Paris

Crossing the Seine on a winter day

I wrapped my scarf around my neck an extra time against the cold wind as we crossed the Pont d’Arcole toward the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The weather in Paris had been mild compared to our previous January visits, but along the Seine I could feel that the temperature had dropped according to the predictions. In the distance, I spotted the dark spire of Notre-Dame shooting up between two buildings along the Quai aux Fleurs on the Ile de la Cité. A great Gothic cathedral on an island. This is the magic of Paris – that magic is real.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Viollet-le-Duc's spire on Notre-Dame

Walking along the cobblestone streets that have inspired so many writers is a quietly moving experience. As I stood in front of the towering facade of Notre-Dame, I felt humbled and small thinking of great writers, such as Victor Hugo, who have captured something of the beauty of this building in the art of their written words. It’s not a question of comparison that intrigues me, but a current that runs deeper – that fascinating way travel and writing overlap and interact, swirling together like the water of the Seine at the tip of the Ile de la Cité. Traveling to Paris over the past week brought up this question every time I pulled out my camera or notebook to try to fix an emotion or memory.

Detail from the Facade of Notre-Dame

Stone detail on the facade of Notre-Dame

Today I happened across Matador’s 50 Most Inspiring Travel Quotes of All Time, and not one to ever pass up a qood quotation, I read through the list from beginning to end. One by British travel writer Freya Stark caught my attention and begged to be read over and over again.

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.”

It made me realize that there is no point in trying to straighten out the currents of a river as they blend together. Travel and writing both bring the art of life into sharper focus, by making us look at the new or the familiar with different eyes. The point is simply to travel, to question and to write.

Laura Thayer in Paris

In front of Notre-Dame in Paris

The Magic of Sunrise

Early this morning, we made our way around the familiar curves on the way home from the Naples airport. The only hard part of having family visit is that eventually the time comes when we have to haul the suitcases back up the stairs—invariably at an unreasonable hour of the morning—and make the trip over the Chiunzi pass to the airport. Rounding a gentle curve not far from Tramonti on the way home we were greeted with a golden glow across the mountains. I stopped short in the middle of a sentence, completely forgetting what I was saying. The car was silent for a few minutes as we took in the warm light of the sunrise above Ravello.

Sunrise above Minori on the Amalfi Coast

After a few more curves, I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Stop the car, please. I have to take some photos.” In the distance the Cilento coastline stretched all the way to the Punta Licosa, and the sunshine shone brightly like a flashlight beam across the Bay of Salerno.

Sunrise on the Amalfi Coast

Down below Ravello, the first rays of light were arriving in Minori. Around town people were waking up and heading to work or school, and I wondered how many were aware of the beautiful sunrise starting the day.

Magical Sunrise on the Amalfi Coast

There must have been a bit of magic in the sunrise this morning. It soothed that heaviness in me that comes from saying goodbye, and helped bring a smile to my face. Like sunrises and sunsets, life is about hellos and goodbyes. They color our lives and fill them with warmth and happiness. I was filled with gratitude for the early morning drive that made us happen across this beautiful sunrise, just as I’m grateful for every moment I have with my family and friends.

January in Amalfi

Blue January sky and sea in Amalfi

January blue skies and the turquoise sea in Amalfi

Welcome 2012! It’s been a momentous beginning to the new year for me, and soon I’ll have photos and stories to share of my wedding in Amalfi on January 4th. The beauty of the day, and all the changes that came with it (not to mention the paper work …), is still sinking in. But the right words are slowly coming, and I look forward to reliving and capturing that very special day through writing. In the meantime, the beauty of Amalfi in January was beckoning this morning, and I stopped to take some photos while out running errands. Wishing you a 2012 filled with sunshine, beauty, warmth … and travels that bring you to the Amalfi Coast!

Duomo of Amalfi in January sunshine

The peeking campanile of the Duomo

Quiet Amalfi Beach in January

Clear skies all the way to the Cilento coast

Amalfi Architecture and Watchtower

Torre dello Ziro watchtower above Amalfi

Lamp with pigeons in Amalfi

The pigeon hangout

Marina Grande Beach in Amalfi

Winter view of the Marina Grande beach