The Book a Break Experience

'Green Tights' was the award-winning story by Sherry Morris in the 2017 Book a Break short story competition. Below is her account of the stay in Provence which she won.

It was a wonderful surprise to learn I was the 2017 winner of the Book a Break competition. I had just moved to a farm in the Scottish Highlands after nearly 17 years in central London and my initial thoughts were that it might take a bit more planning to get to Provence than I had originally intended. Happily, I was proved wrong and my partner, Phil, and I took full advantage of our get-away by spending time in Lyon, as well as Aix-in-Provence.

We decided to go at the end of September and were pleasantly pleased by the good weather that greeted us – it was certainly much warmer and sunnier here than in Scotland. This was my first trip to Provence and Curtis was an excellent host, picking us up at the airport, providing us with maps and guides and making sure we had everything we needed, including breakfasts à la française each morning – though we both agreed it would be better if I made my own tea. We soon settled into a routine of leisurely morning breakfasts and writing, then exploring in the afternoons. We found Aix-en-Provence a delightful city of sidewalk cafes and squares where we could sit and absorb the relaxed atmosphere – I would have happily spent all four days this way. However, Phil was on a quest. He’d heard there was a Black Madonna in Aix and wanted to find it. With vague directions from the tourism board, we set off and spent the afternoon exploring Aix and its many churches, lanes and fine architecture, eventually rewarded by finding the elusive Black Madonna high up on a building on a small side street. We celebrated our find with cocktails.

 We also visited Avignon, where we were deeply impressed by the Palais du Papes and its wonderful 14th century tapestries and painted walls.  Of course, we visited Pont Saint-Benezet, better known as the Pont d’Avignon or simply The Bridge. I am seemingly the only person on the planet unaware of this medieval bridge and its famous song, but as it was a glorious day it was the perfect time to visit the bridge with its remaining four arches that still stretch into the Rhone and become better acquainted with it and its history.  I was also ‘treated’ to the song associated with this bridge in a variety of genres courtesy of an interactive display board. At the press of a button I could hear ‘Sur le Pont d'Avignon’ in the style of country, rap, traditional, garage, and ska. But by far the best version was when Phil serenaded me in his own reggae-jazz style as we strolled along the bridge.

We also greatly enjoyed a day trip to Marseille and exploring the newly developed Fort Saint-Jean area of the city and discovered our second Black Madonna in Saint-Victor church.  Our evenings were spent eating fine meals cooked by Curtis and chatting with him, his lovely wife and an old school friend of Curtis’s who was also visiting from Scotland. Of course, our talked turned to writing -- Curtis with his new novel, my short story and flash writing and Phil with his plays -- keeping us all up far later than we realised.

It was a thoroughly delightful and diverting trip and we both came away with many great impressions and ideas for new writing projects. I would encourage everyone reading this to enter the competition, and be in with a chance to experience the wonderful hospitality and atmosphere for themselves.

Thank you, Sherry, for this post. You and Phil were great guests to have!

The 2018 Book a Break Short Story competition is now open. Details here.

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Any thoughts? Happy to read 'em!