Friday, August 19, 2011

A Vancouver Vacation: Guest post by Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem

Today's post is by author Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem, who recently took a vacation in Vancouver, B.C.

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I flew with my wife and children from Belgium to Vancouver in July. We cycled around the city center and Stanley Park. We rented a car and took the ferry to Victoria, where we stayed with my friend Brian. He treated us to fish and chips on a houseboat in the harbor and introduced me to Munro's Books, which is perhaps the most wonderful bookshop I ever saw. If there's a heaven for books, this is the place where they'd go. The sheer elegance of the place makes you want to linger there and devour letters forever. Of course, I immediately raced to the young adult section to see if they had A Sword in Her Hand in stock (they did) and I signed their copy and the shop assistant put a sticker on it. I browsed though their selection of young adult favorites and came out with (too) many titles.

Author Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem signs a copy of his book at Munro's Books in Victoria, B.C.
Jean-Claude and his friend Brian outside Munro's Books: book heaven!
We drove up Vancouver Island and spotted bears, eagles, deer and whales--animals you don't get to see in Flanders. The wildest animals that we have in our part of the world are runaway housecats. We took a ferry to Bella Coola, drove through Tweedsmuir park and stayed at the Eagle's Nest Resort near Anahim lake. The resort owner, an elegant Austrian woman who makes a seriously tasty schnitzel, had a cozy library with a story attached to it. The library used to be the log cabin of a certain Richmond Hobson Jr. And this Mr. Hobson, so I was told, drove his cattle over the mountains to more or less uncharted territory in the ol' days and he wrote books about it, of which the first is called The Grass Beyond the Mountains. And this cabin is the place where the book's adventure took off. So I read parts of the book (a good story well told!) and tried to imagine the cowboys sitting in that cabin chewing whatever they chewed in those days and dreaming of the unknown beyond the mountains.

Next, we flew to Ottawa where we stayed with my wife's cousin. When in the center of town, I raided the huge Chapters bookshop on Rideau Street where they had a handful of copies of A Sword in Her Hand in stock. A friendly shop assistant helped me to sign them and he gave them a special place in their very large young adult section. (I also popped into another Chapters in Ottawa at Carling Avenue, where I also signed a copy.)
Jean-Claude with a signed copy of his book, in an Ottawa Chapters store
Signed copies of A SWORD IN HER HAND, available at select Chapters stores in Ottawa!

As a writer of historical novels, I was greatly impressed by the National History museums in both Ottawa and Victoria which give wonderful recreations of time passed. Story ideas were available there (and for free!) in almost every room, but a writer should, I think, always write about the history of the small part of the world that he knows best. For me that's Flanders, so I write (with my brother-in-pens Pat van Beirs) about a stubborn countess of Flanders (as in A Sword in Her Hand) or about 16th century cut-purse who risks her life spying for the Dutch in Spanish Seville (as in Gallows' Girl).

My favorite spot in Canada was the small jetty of Hidden Cove Lodge at dusk. To see the sun go down in the seas from that jetty was, indeed, beautiful.

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