I love to travel, but coming home has its pleasures, too. During this trip to the Netherlands and Spain, I came up with a bunch of story ideas—sketched out a few and started drafting two of them. I’m sure that there’s more fiction fodder hidden in the photos, notebooks, and memories of my adventures.
What will I make of an entire day spent in the buildings and gardens of the Real Alcazar of Seville? It’s a spectacular place with room-after-room of tiled walls, outrageous ceilings, walkways, fountains, meditative spots, tropical plants, and grand archways. Some of the scenes in the kingdom of Dorne—in ‘Game of Thrones’—were shot there! Yes, DORNE!
The tiles depicting animals, mythological beasts, and imaginary creatures, left me mesmerized. The combination of architectural influences, from different periods and the three major religions of the region (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) are written on the walls. Yes, right there in the architecture, tiles, carvings, and garden designs.
And the Real Alcazar wasn’t the only place feeding my imagination.
The Alphonse XIII hotel, in Seville, and the Westin Palace, in Madrid, both invited fantasies of finding Hercule Poirot in the lobby bars, dining rooms, or in reception. I kept imagining the Belgian detective sipping an exotic liquor or passing through the lobby with a uniformed bellman carrying his monogrammed luggage. I didn’t see him by the pool at the Alphonse, but Miss Marple appeared in a shady upright chair under a tree, observing the hotel guests, just as she did in so many Agatha Christie novels.
The Van Loon family home/canal house museum in Amsterdam is another great place to set a story. The Van Loons were wealthy art lovers with an opulent lifestyle and great taste. Generations ago, a financial set back forced them to sell off their collection, but the house and garden are still fabulous. If the Van Loon name is familiar, it’s probably because France & the Netherlands joined forces in January to purchase a pair of Rembrandt portraits that were part of the Van Loon collection and had been in a private hands for almost 400 years—since the Van Loon’s financial problem. It cost a fortune, but Marten and Oopjen are now hanging next to The Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum and they will rotate between the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre.
So many stories, ideas, settings, starting points… And now that I’m home, I can do some serious writing.