Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A traveler's tale or Cathy Ace

Where is the best place you’ve ever vacationed? Has that setting made its way into any of your books?

Anyone who’s read a Cait Morgan Mystery knows how difficult it is for me to answer this question: all those books are set in places where I’ve lived or have visited frequently. The south of France, BC wine country, Pacific coastal Mexico, Vegas, Hawai’i, Amsterdam…I have spent years or months in all of them, and have often sneaked there for a short vacation too! And they are all in my books (Budapest is up next, by the way, folks!). My WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries are set in Wales where I grew up, so there's that, too.

Yes, that's me floating in the Dead Sea
I’ve been fortunate to travel a great deal during my life. At least, I see it as fortunate – I know that, for many, travel isn’t something high on their personal agenda. So I’m going to talk about places I have visited and loved, which have not made their way into my work (yet!!).

Jordan: I adored Agatha Christie’s beloved Nabatean and Roman city of Petra where she lived for more than a year with her archaeologist husband, Max Mallowan; floating in the Dead Sea made me giggle (yes, the water tastes absolutely disgusting but being told that just isn’t the same as tasting it for oneself!); Amman’s amphitheatre is stunning; Jerash is about as perfect a Roman city as I have seen anywhere; Mount Nebo makes one feel utterly spiritual and the Crusader citadel of Kerak Castle took my breath away.  It was great fun to ride a camel through Wadi Rum, where the Seven Pillars of Wisdom frame the landscape.
Yep - it's me! At Petra, New Year's Eve

Tunisia: I decided I wanted to be at Carthage for my birthday one year. Having grown up studying Latin, it was a place that had filled my teen years with wonder. I managed it, and was bitterly disappointed! Yes, I know a city famous for being sacked will probably look a bit sorry for itself, but I’d hoped for more than remained, which boiled down to a few columns and the subterranean parts of the Roman baths. Fortunately the joy of visiting Tunis itself, with its wonderful Bardo Museum, made up for this underwhelming experience, as did a totally joyous trip to the village of Sid Bou Said, which is known for its blue and white architectural themes. I made the stupid mistake of buying a star-shaped lamp made of brass and glass there – given that it was about two-feet in diameter it made for a very interesting flight home!

Outside the museum in Cairo
Egypt: if I have to pick a favourite, this is it. I’ve spent a lot of time in Egypt (months), and there hasn’t been a moment I didn’t enjoy. No, hang on, I take that back….about fifteen minutes after sunset each night, a wall of hot air would roll across the Nile and hit you like a giant hairdryer, followed about ten minutes later by swarms of the most nibbly mosquitoes I’ve ever experienced – those moments…running to find the respite of the hotel’s air-conditioning…weren’t much fun at all! I’ve cruised the Nile, visited Agatha Christie’s suite at the Old Cataract Hotel at Aswan, clambered up inside the pyramid of Cheops in Cairo and have stood in the Temple of Karnak at dawn on Midsummer’s Day. I had the magnificently-painted tomb of Queen Nefertari all to myself for half an hour on the morning of my 35th birthday and I’ve ridden through the
Tip: don't wear black when you're on a motorbike in Egypt in August
Valleys of the Kings and Queens on a motorbike in August (not recommended unless you fill a back-pack with water to pour over yourself!). Sailing in a felucca on the Nile to its tiny islands is a delight, as is taking a horse-drawn kalesh (a small, open carriage) to dine at the Winter Palace in Luxor where they have some of the the most magnificently unnecessary fireplaces I’ve ever seen. To balance that luxurious experience I also drank tea made from Nile-water and ate goat stew in a traditional mud house, sharing a hookah pipe with my hosts afterwards…an interesting breakfast!
Apple shisha - my favourite!
I’m not sure if any of these places will find their way into my future books, but I’ve loved them all, and hope to return one day. Where have you been that you'd like to revisit? 

Cathy Ace writes the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (book #2 THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER was published in hardback in February, and will be available in trade paperback on August 31st, and the Cait Morgan Mysteries (book #7 THE CORPSE WITH THE GARNET FACE was published in paperback in April). Find out more about Cathy and her work, and sign up for her newsletter at    


RJ Harlick said...

You are indeed a well travelled author. Petra is a place that has always intrigued me, so perhaps I can visit it vicariously in a future book.

Allan J. Emerson said...

I'm green with envy over your Egypt experiences. I've always wanted to go there, but just when I thought I might manage it, the political situation became chancy. Still hoping to get there one day.

Cheryl said...

"stood in the Temple of Karnak at dawn on Midsummer’s Day"... Just reading that gave me chills. Chills of envy, perhaps? I do hope you'll take Cait to Egypt for an adventure, soon. Wonderful post, Cathy!

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Robin - I have to admit that walking through the narrow opening at the end of a long, winding channel in the sandstone cliffs to see the building known as "The Treasury" at Petra gave me chills. A wonderful building, it's true, but Petra is so much more than entire Roman city within a Nabtean one. Just stunning, and well worth the long-haul if you're ever able to make it. It was also wonderful to see pieces excavated by Max Mallowan in the little museum there and to see Christie's house. Tiny!

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Allan - yes, I adore Egypt and am glad i went as often as I did, for as long as I did, when I did! I hope you're able to get there one day - it truly takes one's breath away.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Cheryl - yes, I must admit that particular trip was an absolute indulgence! It had been a dream of mine to see the first rays of sunlight touch the tip of Queen Hatshepsut's Needle at the temple there, as it does at that time on that day, and to be alone when it did be honest, it was the being alone there that was the greatest challenge! I was up long before dawn and at the gate as they opened it, when it was still dark. I;d love to take Cait to Egypt for an adventure, but, with the way things have been there in recent years, she'd have a very different experience than I had. that said - who knows ;-)

Unknown said...

Thanks for this, Cathy. Good to hear about your travels. Brings back memories of my visit to Luxor, visits to the tombs and the Temple by night.

Susan C Shea said...

Oh, Cathy, you've made me desire intensely to visit some of these places and to wish I had done so when I was more sure-footed and hardy! What glorious images. Surely, you will write a book?

Anonymous said...

I've been on many cruises, mostly in Europe. My favorite was the Greek Islands one. I keep saying I'm going to have my fictional book group take a cruise. Naturally, they will get to solve an onboard murder.