So enjoyable sitting on the balcony in the sun or relaxing on the beach and reading a novel by Zola. No doubt actually being in France greatly enhanced the drama and anyone who has read this famous author will agree the topics Zola chose to write about were always very dramatic indeed. Love and passion, deception, cruelty and even gory murders abounded. Not for the fainthearted.
Similarly to be in Paris reading the memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and then to go along and have a drink at the Deux Magots, which she had often frequented in those early years, gave one an idea of what it must have been like living in the elegant surrounding district that she wrote about with such style. And don't forget the cafe in the vicinity of Sacre Coeur which drew the greatest writers and artists of the 19th Century whose custom it was to meet in that atmospheric spot at the top of the city of an evening to discuss love, life and their art.
Or the thrill of reading The Day of the Jackal and walking the Parisian streets and seeing the street names. Or Hemingway's The Sun also Rises when in Spain with bull fighting its theme.
A salutary tale making you glad to be experiencing it all from the comfort and safety of home.
Another Christmas story which is a relief not to be participating in is The Little Match Girl her pitiful existence when compared to the wealthy in their fine houses and tables overladen with delicious food - who will ever forget the mouth-watering description of the goose stuffed with plums - all of which the little girl sees as though the house walls no longer exist as shivering with cold, she strikes one match after another to keep warm and with the final flickering flame sees her beloved grandmother coming towards her to end her earthly sufferings and take her back with her to heaven.
Happy ending? Well, I suppose so but how much better if her life had not been over before it had really begun. Not very cheerful festive stories you'll agree. But ones you won't forget in a hurry, that's for sure.