viking ship

Le Mans celebrates its Viking invasions

So I’m back from my research trip, as my Facebook fam already knows. In 12 days, I visited Fontevraud, Saumur, Le Mans, and Paris (all in France, for my US-bound readers) as well as Oslo and Trondheim (in Norway, for the globally impaired).

If you remember, some naysayers scoffed at the trip. So, were they right? Should I have invested the time in Wikipedia instead?

No way. The trip was one of my all-time best decisions.

So what exactly did I learn? The main thing is that you’ll find all kinds of unexpected things – things you won’t find on Wikipedia, in books, or surfing endless Google images. Embrace these unexpected findings – and use them to build richer characters and a more sophisticated story.


  • Fontevraud Abbey (Adele’s home) – had windowless cells where disobedient nuns were locked for days or months – until some of the nuns went mad. Thanks to Zoe Wozniak at Fontevraud Abbey for the private tour of these – normally closed to the public! Think our disobedient Adele might have spent some time in one?
  • The Loire Valley (near Fontevraud) – people lived in caves during the middle ages! Some of these caves were dug out by monks quarrying stone for nearby abbeys. Adele would have passed these on her way to Le Mans. Marie-Laure Cormier of Bouvet-Ladubay wines guided me through caves that are now part of their winery!
  • St. Julian’s Cathedral (in Le Mans) – would have been an imposing sight even in Adele’s day. Since she is nearly burned by a mob in Le Mans… why not have this happen at the cathedral? And as you can see from the Viking ship Christmas lights, today Le Mans celebrates its Viking invasions! Thanks to the folks at the Le Mans tourist office in Plantagenet City.

As for Norway – where to begin? I fell in love with that country in a way previously reserved only for my Corvette convertible. And it wasn’t just because of the Norwegian hunk at the Avis counter in Oslo, either (although folks – Barbarian Hotness lives!). The land was exotic, numbingly cold with a savage beauty that I contrasted with France – I saw it just as Adele would have. And I met fantastic people there (in addition to the Avis car rental hunk) who showed me the wildness – and sophistication – of Rorik’s home. And this deserves a posting all its own.

So over the next several days, I’ll be posting pics and info from the travels. I hope I said it often enough while I was there – but to all of you who braved cold and snow to answer my questions and share with me your expertise, I’m so grateful!

And to all of you writing about some far away land? Go. Go see it.

And embrace what you find.

Trondheim Norway

Trondheim, Beautiful Norway