Chapter One: Going There: Tales from the Riviera and Beyond by Donna Fletcher Crow


Title: Going There: Tales from the Riviera and Beyond
Author: Donna Fletcher Crow
Publisher: Verity Press
Publication Date: December 3, 2023
Pages: 152
Genre: Travel Memoir / Short Story Collection

In the summer of 2021 my daughter-in-law and I slipped through a brief window of sanity in a world driven mad by the Covid pandemic. Our purpose was to see my granddaughter Jane to a summer program in Monaco, then back to her ballet school in Switzerland. In spite of restrictions, protests, and nail-biting worries, the result was a marvelous experience.

I invited characters from my mystery series to join me in my imagination and have their own adventures in each setting. Their encounters are: Nice: “The Crime of Passion”; St Tropez: “The Mother Decrees”; Villefrance-sur-de-mer: “The Ghost Boy”; Monaco: “Fracas in Monaco”; The Loire Valley: “The Old Winemaker”;  Saint Gallen: “Whispers of Legend”.

The final coda is “Home Another Way” As 2 years later I return from quite a different trip aboard the Queen Mary 2 and my characters join in the celebrations as worlds coincide.

More information on the book GOING THERE: TALES FROM THE RIVIERA AND BEYOND can be found at

First Chapter

The Beginning

Summer 2021

Okay, I booked this trip knowing the world—and especially travel—was still in the grip of a pandemic. Covid-19 was causing cancellations, cutbacks, and inconvenient constraints. It was, however, hardly the first international trip I had undertaken at a time of world-wide crisis.

But first. Let me explain. Granddaughter Jane had an interval between her summer program at the Princess Grace Ballet School in Monaco and her return to her regular studies in Basel. Daughter-in-law Kelly and I were convinced she needed our chaperonage. Never mind that Jane had recently turned a very mature 19, was securely locked in during her time in Monaco, and that she knows Central Europe far better than either one of us…

The fact is, though, Kelly and I are both writers, so we’re forever keen for new experiences to add to our tool kits.  Kelly is a food writer with a Cordon Bleu Grand Diplome, and I am always eager for all things literary—especially intriguing settings for murder to ensue. Kelly crafted an itinerary perfectly suited to both our interests. 

My husband took some convincing. People were still dying of the dreaded virus. We read daily of travelers detained for weeks in hotel rooms at their own expense when they tested positive. Even if one passed the crucial medical test required to board a plane, there would be numerous inconveniences (and there were many reports of tests giving “false positives”)… I smiled and nodded and said, “Yes, dear.” And continued packing.

After all, travel restrictions had eased to the point of international travel not being entirely forbidden as it had been for the previous 18 months. Besides, as I said earlier, I had done this before. 

In 2001 I took one of the first planes to fly out of Boise after 9/11. The international crisis certainly added a frisson to my “Holy Longing for Sacred Places” pilgrimage through England and Scotland. Some of my most vivid memories include smiling at the lapel pins of crossed Union Jacks and Stars and Strips one saw everywhere in London. And sitting on a remote beach at the back of Holy Island—on the spot where Vikings first invaded England—and seeing Royal Air Force fighter jets roar overhead. Still, I knew my shivers and awareness of distant war could hold nothing to the terror the Lindisfarne monks had experienced. Twenty years later I asked, What terrors could the inconveniences of a world-wide pandemic hold for me?

And even that was hardly my first experience traveling in troubled times. In 1996 I had set out for Northern Ireland shortly after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement with my teenage daughter and her best friend in tow. Thankfully, the IRA bombs that exploded two blocks from the library where I was researching and the bomb that demolished a London bus while we were there didn’t phase us. But the bombing of Central Manchester profoundly influence the book I was working on.

Again, there had been the time in March of 2003, when I was in retreat at a monastery in Yorkshire and the American president issued an ultimatum giving Saddam Hussein 48 hours to disarm. My husband called and said, “Come home. Now. There will be war.” 

My dash the length of England down to London remains a blur in my mind, but I will never forget crossing London in the tube, knowing that if the expected gas attack were to happen then, the noxious cloud would spread down the tunnels unhindered.

No, I wasn’t terrified, or even frightened. As is my normal fallback position, I took the historical perspective. My uppermost thought was: Is this what it was like during the Blitz?

So, in more modern times, as I sat out my postponed flight in the Brussels airport, awaiting a rescheduled plane with a worse connection and less comfortable seat, and much-delayed arrival, (who wants to be sitting in an airport when they could be on a beach in Nice?)

my mind turned to those pivotal moments that fill the history books I love to read. What was it like for the little, everyday people caught up in the momentum of the times? My experiences are small potatoes, indeed, compared to the great annals, but realizing that my inconveniences are part of experiencing history helps relieve the frustration and adds a wider meaning to the moment.

What’s having to wear a face mask compared to wearing a gas mask? What sort of depravation is a pre-packaged sanitized meal (no matter how weird hummus and bruschetta tasted for breakfast) compared to years of rationing? Or even starvation? Some day will we be talking about having a “good lockdown” like our parents or grandparents talked about a “good war”?

Just a year ago our nightly walk in the park near our home was a great adventure. Our only outing. Today, since the airplanes and airports are less full, we intrepid ones who have ventured out—perhaps beyond our comfort zone, and willing to put up with the added inconveniences for family or business needs—find an element of camaraderie in the shared adventure; if not actual danger.

As my waiting dragged on, my mind turned to the writing I hoped this foray into the unknown would inspire. A series of blog articles, no doubt, but what else? A novel for one of the three mystery series I write? Hmm—perhaps Felicity and Antony from my Monastery Murders could be visiting a monastery in France or Switzerland and find a gripping puzzle that led them to look into ages past? Or Lord and Lady Danvers from my Victorian true-crime series could travel to the continent—after all, the Victorians were inveterate travelers—and be drawn into a crime only they could solve? Or Elizabeth and Richard, my retired English lit professors, now living in England, what literary figures might they be studying on the Riviera when they inconveniently trip over a body?

Well, it did make the waiting go more quickly. And the questions returned many times during the ensuing days of gorgeous touring, but in the end they all presented me with ideas for short stories—which, Gentle Reader, I offer to you here.

About the Author

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, is an award-winning author who has published some 50 books in a career spanning more than 40 years. Her best-known work is Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England, a grail search epic depicting 1500 years of British history. The Celtic Cross is a 10-book series covering the history of Scotland and England from the 6th to the 20th century. 

Crow writes 3 mystery series: The Monastery Murders, contemporary clerical mysteries with clues hidden deep in the past; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime stories within a fictional setting; and The Elizabeth and Richard literary suspense series, featuring various literary figures. Where There is Love is a 6-book biographical novel series of leaders of the early Evangelical Anglican movement. The Daughters of Courage is a semi-autobiographical trilogy family saga of Idaho pioneers.

Reviewers routinely praise the quality of her writing and the depth of her research. Crow says she tries never to write about a place she hasn’t visited and one of her goals in writing is to give her readers a you-are-there experience.

Donna and her husband of 60 years live in Boise, Idaho. They have 4 children and 15 grandchildren, and she is an avid gardener.

Author Links  

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing my first chapter with your readers on your colorful website! I love having a chance to get acquainted with new readers.