Friday, June 10, 2011, Bayeux, France
Working from the journal I kept while traveling alone In Europe has reminded me how the journey shaped my writing and my views of my novel protagonist. I went to Europe to gather insight into what it might be like for my protagonist, Aihne Fontaine, to go to a foreign country and to travel 800 years into the past. Although I couldn't literally travel back in time, I would be walking through some very old parts of Europe, which I hoped would transform me back, even just in my head. And I was right: I found I shared not only Aihne's perspective as a traveler in a foreign land, but I felt I knew what it might be like to be a time traveler like her--sometimes while sitting in front of a 5000-year-old dolmen or standing inside a centuries-old church. Aihne is a Harvard student, time traveler, and lover of everything 12th-century France, Aihne is independent, intelligent and a serious academic. Like Aihne, I viewed my travel experience as academic at root (although, as you may know from previous blog entries, I strayed off my research path to see the wonders around me).
What surprised me during my own travel experience was the wide gap between the person I identified as me in the mirror and the person the culture I was visiting reflected back at me as I meandered into their train stations, hotels, or cafes. I knew at once Aihne must feel the same after landing in the indifferent city of Poitiers, France in 1136. But I must take my communication muddles and multiply them by ten to get close to how hard it must be to go back in time almost a millennium. Aihne and I both sought to be understood and to understand. I took the opportunity when I could to connect with Aihne and her experience, even in the middle of my own social discomfort. I tried to catch her perspective by walking cobbled streets or sitting on a bench in a cathedral. Then back in my tiny hotel room, I would write furiously in my notebook to reach further into her head and get it all down. At times the connection wasn't strong. Sometimes it was interrupted by my own angst, but eventually I got through.
Journal Excerpt, Friday morning, June 10, 2011, Breakfast Room, Hotel Churchill, Bayeux, France:
Not awake. Australian show off! He could answer our matron de in French and she was pleased. Oh, wait. He is not the Australian. He is the Brit from the first night who encouraged me to find the WiFi connection, and I eventually did. This coffee is old. Perhaps la matron de can bring me a fresh pot.... Yes. I asked. I hate to be a problem, but the coffee was so good yesterday. Ellen, this is not a 4-star restaurant, you know. But the coffee was bad and I know they make good coffee... Dave wouldn't have done it, but Dave isn't here! :) Okay. Got coffee. Thanked the woman for it. Now I have some time to write, so...
Aihne walking through the medieval hall—