The Last Time I Saw Paris


The author, Renee Johnson, from her balcony at the Hotel Bedford in Paris.

This is a difficult post to contemplate in the aftermath of the attacks on Paris.  Yet, it is all I can think about since I was there only two weeks ago.

Clearly the attackers were already in place and armed with whatever weapons they were assigned to use on the innocent.  I may have shared some space or other with one of them–elbow to elbow in a café, passing on the street, sitting together on a train.

Preposterous to consider.

Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  It is laid out with wide tree-lined boulevards, many offering biking and walking trails right alongside.

Its ease of moving about, public transportation, and the aforementioned paths, make it an ideal city for tourism.

I was in Paris at the end of October with Lena Lonigro, friend and fellow writer.  This post is from my photographic journal, and I share it with you as a love letter to this most beloved city.

It was overcast, misty, when we headed out for breakfast near the Church of St. Augustine.


Eglise Saint-Augustin de Paris boulevard Malesherbes


Eglise de la Madeleine de Paris Place de la Madeleine

Afterwards, we walked back to the Church of St. Madeleine, taking time to catch a glimpse of the Place de la Concorde before entering to light candles and center our minds.       IMG_3496

IMG_3495       IMG_3497

Paris was still shrouded in mist when we left, the top of the Eiffel Tower often completely lost as if in clouds.IMG_3544    There was immense beauty in the softening of edges, which encouraged wistfulness.  It even dulled the normally-golden sheen of Les Invalides.

IMG_3529       IMG_3550

The golden tip of the obelisk from the Temple of Ramses II–sometimes called Cleopatra’s Needle–could be seen even in the fog.  We were in Place de la Madeleine looking back toward Place de la Concorde.


View of street leading to Place de la Concorde from Place de la Madeleine

From Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe was visible, and we took turns with other tourists waiting for traffic breaks to step into the median to snap pictures.


View of Arc de Triomphe


IMG_3547Slowly, the sun began to burn away the fog, and we continued our stroll along the Seine.

IMG_3633     Notre Dame stood out in the distance from our position on Pont d’Alexandre, which we decided was our favorite bridge due to its lovely lamp lights, architecture, and sculpture.


Couples ‘lock’ their affections onto the bridge, then throw the key into the river below.

However, there was a certain charm to Pont des Arts, the bridge covered in locks engraved with names and dates of lovers locking their sentiments into posterity even if the weight of the heavy love locks threatens the bridge itself.

And in the park beside the river, a trio of brides posed for photographers, whether real or models, we had no idea.

IMG_3548       IMG_3575

The leaves were so amazing as a backdrop though.

IMG_3592      IMG_3614Onward, into the Tuileries Garden, we drank in the beauty of the Louvre as a focal point beyond the many leaf-littered paths and glistening ponds, as well as some hot mulled wine–known as vin chaud.

IMG_3577     IMG_3578  And yes, that is a chandelier dangling from the bubble floating in the water.  Amazing, and the Arc du Carrousel is visible just behind it with the chariot atop.  (The four gilded bronze horses are replicas of the originals taken by Napoleon from St. Mark’s in Venice.  The originals were returned to Venice after Napoleon’s defeat.)

IMG_3624    IMG_3620

While I was posing beneath the arch, facing the pyramid in front of the Louvre, a young man handed his cell phone to a passerby and asked if she’d video something for him.  Then, quietly, he obviously proposed to the woman who started crying and nodding, kissing him as she grabbed him to her in an embrace.

Another lovely young woman approached Lena and me.  She, too, had just gotten engaged but was now alone in Paris as her fiancé was a footballer in Australia.  I snapped her picture beneath the arch as well so she could send it to him to show what she was experiencing in his absence.

IMG_3603      IMG_3604  This is another of the glories of Paris.  Personal space isn’t a broad swath, but a narrow sliver.  And people connect, talk, play in the park whether seven or seventy.  I was so intrigued by the game of Petanque being played by the gentlemen above.  And they were not bothered by my obvious attempts at capturing them in action.

IMG_3608       IMG_3612

Aren’t they terrific?

Moving on, we found a street vendor selling roasted chestnuts, another of the city’s treats.  Served to us in a rolled paper cone, we nibbled their sweetness as we strolled toward the Eiffel Tower.

IMG_3627      IMG_3634

The sun was now brilliant on the golden dome of Les Invalides, the place of Napoleon’s entombment, vastly different from the shot of it in the fog.  Gleaming, it reflected the rays beginning to color the sky as sunset approached.  IMG_3632  We found a bench and watched the mighty symbol of France as she peeked at us from behind colored leaves.IMG_3641    As dusk neared, we ventured into the fray beneath, passing the kiosks offering souvenirs and refreshments.  IMG_3643

It was a bit crowded there, so we retreated to the bench around the corner and watched her slowly shine for us.

IMG_3656   Marvelous!  The first five minutes of every hour is spectacular with the lights flickering and pulsating.  It was joyous.

But Paris wasn’t finished with her show.  Lit by a full moon, the Seine sparkled and gleamed.  It looked as if the moon had breathed a ripple of golden honey into the river.

IMG_3658    IMG_3660  The Eiffel Tower popped a searchlight from her apex, appearing to be looking for Lena and me.  Where had we gone?  Could we come back?

I snapped another picture, the lights from the Pont d’Alexandre now popping with orbs of light like that of the moon.  But we were hungry and growing tired.

IMG_3447   IMG_3448

Kir, wine, olives, duck, roasted potatoes, tarts, desserts….oh my!

IMG_3450    IMG_3451

I am not ashamed to be the person photographing the food, especially when it is presented with such flair, pride, and colorfulness, as only the French can.  And let me tell you, it was a feast for the taste buds and olfactory system.

IMG_3452    IMG_3669

Walking off dinner, we strolled by storefronts of Laduree and later, Fauchon, where we did more than window shop, buying treats for ourselves.IMG_3662   IMG_3666      IMG_3667

Then it was back to Hotel Bedford to pack and rest before our early morning flight the next day.

This was just one day, my last day in Paris, the last time I saw Paris.

Emblazoned on my memory, it feeds me as I ache from the terror attacks.  Please join me in keeping good thoughts and prayers for the people of Paris, of France, and all the world as we reel from this heinous act of violence.

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

It’s here! It’s here!


Celebrate the launch day of The Haunting of William Gray with me. Yes, Writingfeemail is otherwise known as Renee Canter Johnson, and the blogger at!

Originally posted on Renee Johnson Writes:

Today is the big day!

The Haunting of William Gray The Haunting of William Gray

It’s the official release day for my second novel with The Wild Rose Press, The Haunting of William Gray.

If you’d like a copy, it’s available at the Wild Rose Press, or at Amazon, or other places selling books.  You can click the links or copy and paste from below.

Full Wild Rose Press link:

Full Amazon link:

If you are a reviewer and would like a review copy, put that in comments or send me an email and I’ll be happy to hook you up with one.

Wow, thank you all for sharing in this wonderful celebration with me! 

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to…

View original 27 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Bench Series: November

Napoleon Bonaparte said:  “A throne is only a bench covered in velvet.”

I’m glad to know I share something in common with him.  Benches intrigue me, too.





falling apart,






at the feet of great architecture,


those carved from bent wood,


or slabs of stone,


covered in seasonal fruits and vegetables


–all communicate with me.

Come.  Sit.  Breathe in nature.

Be inspired.

Travel Words issued a challenge this month.  And it called out to me as clearly as one of my travel benches.


So I’m accepting the challenge and offering up my collection of benches in the autumn atmosphere, be it Martha’s Vineyard, Paris, Avignon, Essoyes, Orvieto, or some other interesting spot during the fall.


Find a bench this November and settle in for some quiet reflection and communing with nature.

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

I finally made it to Versailles!

There were reasons; always reasons.

I ran out of time.

There was a transportation strike.

I planned to visit on a Monday and they were closed.

Trip after trip to Paris, France and still I hadn’t seen Versailles.

Until this one!


Gare St. Lazare to Versailles, and then a short walk to the Palace of Versailles.


…and a long line through security.  And then past the gates…


From floor…

IMG_3423      IMG_3424  ….to ceilingIMG_3381      IMG_3352


To the Hall of Mirrors…


…and hamming it up in front of the mirrors…


Royal bed chambers…IMG_3370 IMG_3393


Art and sculptures…

IMG_3351 IMG_3390 IMG_3365 IMG_3358


…Sunset across the gardens…IMG_3403


Still too much to see in one afternoon.  I did not get to the hunting cabin in the woods, but I don’t mind.  It’s an assurance I’ll want to revisit and have something new and interesting there to pull me back.


Until next visit…Au revoir Versailles.

Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.   

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

On the Vineyard

Writing has brought me back to Martha’s Vineyard.  Yes, I arrived during a storm once more.  This isn’t a bad thing, though.  Possibly the warmth of food and friendship is more intensely cherished when the wind is howling and the rain flooding the walkways.

    IMG_0655                         IMG_0546

There are ten writers here, one house manager, and the Residency’s director.  It’s a bit larger group than last time, and possibly more diverse.  I like that!

IMG_0571          IMG_0573

On my sister blog, the one where I take you along with me as I seek writing inspiration, I’ll discuss the challenges of gathering my thoughts in a group environment, but here, I want to just share a bit of the travel highlights.

IMG_0733                            IMG_0608

The residency is at Noepe Center for Literary Arts, previously Point Way Inn.  Beautifully decorated and conveniently located to allow access to most things in Edgartown by foot or bicycle, it is on the corner of Main Street and Pease’s Point Way.

IMG_0674Charming, quaint, full of local color, I adore the atmosphere.  Signs appear to be hand-painted and particular to the New England area.


Clouds only enhance the moodiness of the island, setting the stage for dark or stormy scenes.



Stay tuned for further adventures on the vineyard!IMG_0708

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Los Angeles Emmy Awards

Writingfeemail a.k.a reneejohnsonwrites has been busy collecting the best of Los Angeles for her version of the Emmy Awards.  It’s a real treat and pleasure to bring you an eclectic mix of artistic greatness.

Los Angeles Emmy Awards


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Carolina Beach Days

Summer called…

Carolina Beach chairs and umbrella

“Go east,” it said, and I obeyed…

Carolina Beach Courtyard Marriott

“My favorite place to vacation is any place by the ocean.”  — Nina Arianda

Carolina Beach umbrellas

Sunshine, seashells, surf, boardwalks…

Carolina Beach shell wash station   Carolina Beach boardwalk sign

“Summer means happy times and good sunshine.  It means going to the beach…” — Brian Wilson

           Carolina Beach boardwalk       Carolina Beach gull


Carolina Beach musician at Hurricane Alley's    Carolina Beach band


Carolina Beach oysters    Carolina Beach boiled shrimp

Carolina Beach broiled seafood   Carolina Beach fried seafood

Sunrises and sunsets to break your heart and then mend it once again…

Carolina Beach sunrise fantastic 5       

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.”  — Jeanne Moreau

Carolina Beach ride   Carolina Beach pavilion

Old-Fashioned rides at the pavilion…

        Carolina Beach merry go round    Carolina Beach Hurricane Alley's

Even storms lend themselves to beauty…

Carolina Beach storm clouds 2    Carolina Beach storm clouds 3

So, if you come looking for me, glance along the sand…

Carolina Beach sunrise 1

I’ll be reading books and working on my tan!!

How about you?  Who or what is calling out to you this summer?


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 41 Comments



Dire Straits guitarist, Jack Sonni, returns to his first love–novel writing! Follow his amazing journey in this interview as he takes us through his many transformations, trials, and back to the beginning, where words not only mattered, but inspired him every step of the way.

Originally posted on Renee Johnson Writes:

Trudging through standing water in the midst of a rainstorm, I felt a bit like the mariner who had once lived in the residence at Edgartown on Marthas Vineyard, Massachusetts. Beneath an arch, I pushed through a garden gate, past a long wooden table and chairs, pots of flowers taking a beating from the downpour, up a ramp, and into the French door as I had been instructed.

He must have noticed my arrival before my fingers ever touched the door handle. I had no sooner stepped inside of the houseinn reallythan a smiling face approached, welcoming me to Noepe. Introductions commenced, the delicious aroma of something from the kitchen wafting through the warm interior calling him back to tend to dinner.

Jack Sonni Picture taken by Craig Clement Jack Sonni
Picture taken by Craig Clement

That was how I met Jack Sonni.

That is generally how all of the residents…

View original 4,125 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where in the World?

Originally posted on charactersfromthekitchen:

There’s not much I can add to what has already been documented and enthused over about the place we visited last weekend on a celebratory city break. And anyway, as I’m feeling inordinately lazy and undisciplined at the moment, I thought a few snaps might suffice.

Well, snaps and  some quotations I’ve come across from various people that I reckon sum it up pretty well.

It’s definitely somewhere to visit at least once in a lifetime: it’s magical, surprising, expensive and indulgent. If you go, enjoy to the full.

Fino ad allora…

“In the winter, imageVenice is like an abandoned theatre. The play is finished, but the echoes remain.”

(Arbit Blatas, sculptor and painter) 


“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is — Venice is better.”

(Fran Lebowitz, author)

 “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”

(Truman Capote…

View original 59 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Wilkes Cruisers Car Show

Downtown North Wilkesboro, North Carolina hosted the Wilkes Cruisers and their immaculately restored cars on the most beautiful day of the season.  Sunny, warm, Carolina blue skies…a slice of heaven.  So I took Gretel for her first car show!

car show gretel upclose      car show gretel looking at car

For the record, I have been around people with a love of antique cars and their restoration–my nephew Johnathan Call for one–my entire life.

car show 8  car show 10

But make no mistake.  I didn’t inherit the gene for identifying a Dodge from a Ford.  My apologies right off the bat.

car show 2      car show 17Car show 1

So if I mention a make or model, it is precisely because the owner told me what it was and I wrote it down.  Such as this 1955 Ford Roadster.  The owner said only 3 were made, so I guess this one is truly special. car show 55 ford roadster

What is terrific about a car show though, is the lack of necessity for knowing this information.  car show 5

Car show 3    car show 4

Their owners are happy to talk about them.  They have been a labor of love, a source of enjoyment.

car show 7   car show 11car show 6

And while Gretel and I were out and about, I took the opportunity to really look at my town and its gorgeous mountainous surroundings.

car show historic sign    car show street view

The Art Gallery, Car show Art Gallery

the Public Library car show public librarywhere I had my reading for Acquisition, perf5.000x8.000.inddthe Post Office car show post officewhere I work–up on the hill with the flag waving proudly, my favorite

car show taliacoffee shop–Talia–the car show theater and BrancifortesLiberty Theater still operating as it did when I was a child, Branciforte’s Italian Restaurant, car show town hallTown Hall,

Brame Drugs–proudly announcing that it is a Dispensary, Restaurant & Pub, (I can’t begin to count the number of meals I’ve eaten there in my lifetime.) car show Brame Drugs      car show art on building

The sudden spark of heat is starting to wilt early spring flowers, but the flowering trees and shrubs are just getting started.

car show tree     car show flowers

And Gretel is getting all of the attention.  Such a beauty, this one.  And letting everyone pet her from the youngest attendee, to the lovely skater girl.

car show Gretel and skater girl   car show youngest attendeecar show 21

I even ran into an old school friend, Mark Wood.  He probably single-handedly saved my entire last gathering of a reunion from a flaming death as he put out the fire I accidentally started from dipping streamers into a candle flame.  Oops.  Officially his title is Reverend Mark Wood/Fireman Wood.  Apparently I am going to end up needing his services one way or the other.  *laughing*

car show mark and 68 camaro   car show 20

Perhaps that close call helped him decide to purchase this gem–a 1968 Camaro.  (He told me what it was!)  Looking good!

car show 19car show 18

While we milled about, music cranked up.  The streets, barricaded from traffic, filled with people out and about enjoying the day.  Tents were set up for food sellers.

car show 15car show 13

I actually was treated to my favorite local specialty–barbecued chicken!  Oh yes, thank you Broadway Fire Department.  Barbecued Chickencar show 9

It was their first of the season and boy was it good.  And special thanks to Jason Hart for making sure we got ours.  Yay!car show street view 2

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments