Welcome to Nice.

To be a writer, it’s fairly important to write daily. But trapped as I am in a whirlwind romance with the unforgivably sexy South of France, my writing disciplines have slipped off like bikini tops on the beach.

So, why not just run the highlight reel. Thank God a picture is worth a thousand words. Welcome to Nice everybody.

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I know I can’t believe it either and I took the picture.

What’s that? You’d like to putter about on that lovely turquoise water? Pas de probleme… you can rent this little sloop – The Excellence V for 360,000 euro per week. At the current exchange, that’s about a half million dollars, but it sleeps twelve, so you know, you can split it with your friends.

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It is excellent!

Ninety minutes by train up the steep and piney Var Valley, is the fort city of Entrevaux. Nobody wants a history lesson right now, but this town was designed to keep Europe (Rome) from invading Provence. Hence the drawbridges, stone walls and the 17th century citadel perched at about 5,000 feet above sea level.

The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

The Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

And here’s the Entrevaux cathedral inside. Check Mary out having a little party in the lower left corner. Maybe that’s a sacrilegious thing to say, but Mary is the one who told Jesus to hurry up and make some more wine at Cana, which we all know he did. Although my French is loose and unreliable, I’m told Mary was actually ascending here, not whooping it up like me.

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I just read a New York Times article about the value of taking a short walk after you’ve stuffed yourself with steak tartare, frites, creme brulee, vin rouge and cafe creme. We did just that after dinner tonight at Castel Plage. We ate yet another off-the-hook French meal, while the waves shoved millions of pebbles up the shore and then hustled them back out to sea. That’s why the beach pebbles are smooth here, incessant tumbling.

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See pebbles, not sand.

On the walk home, we admired the city, all lit up and shimmering. At nine or so, everybody finally showed up dressed for dinner – the men in tailored jackets, women in summer dresses and Chanel No. 5. Seriously people, the French get this so right. Let’s get dressed for dinner again, shall we America?

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And once again, this is Villefranche Sur Mer. We’re headed back there in the morning because I literally cannot get enough of it. Bill Gates, Sean Connery and Mick Jaggar have homes here. Can you blame them?

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Sometimes, I feel a little guilty about what a ripping good time I get to have in France, but then I remember something Jesus said and I get over it.

I came so that you might have and enjoy your life, have it in abundance, to the full until it overflows. John 10:10

So I’m doing that because I’d be crazy not to. I spend a lot of time at home, praying and studying and mowing my lawn, but here I’m laughing and drinking wine and letting my life overflow. One is not holier than another, Jesus loves me both ways.

But Jesus also said:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48.

And do you know what? I’m fine with that bargain. Exactly one month after standing on the dock next to the Excellence V, I’m going to Africa to work in a bush orphanage where kids don’t have shoes. Who lives their life like this? Me, because I’ve decided that living a big, exuberant life and helping other people isn’t an either or proposition. I think it can be both and… It’s crazy but it’s interesting and ultimately that’s what I want.

If Jesus is the foundation and the master architect of our lives, I don’t think it matters what we build, just that we do it with gusto and create something beautiful, not just for ourselves but other people too.

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Barefoot, Traveling, Hippie Freak.

Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote a slew of emails from South America, Central America and Asia. For some reason, my mom printed and saved them. I just found them yesterday and they remind me what a fearless, wild-ass, hippie freak I used to be.

IMG_2201It was nearly 2000. Bill Clinton was still president and September 11th was just another fall day. Y2K was scheduled to end the world but if it had, I wouldn’t have known because I was deep in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin, sleeping in a sweaty tent with bug bites covering my body like chickenpox. My then-boyfriend and I had hiked a Pre-Incan trade route, paved with large, now-slippery stones all the way from the mountains to the Rio Beni. Here’s what I had to say about that:

And because we just hadn’t had enough, we decided to hit the jungle for another four days in Rurrenabaque. We had a delightful guide and saw a few crazy jungle creatures as we were floating down the river on a handmade balsa wood raft, ala Huck Finn…Our guide, Victor Hugo, who was born and raised deep in the jungle, told us he has seen the jaguars hypnotize monkeys in the trees, causing them to fall out and become prey. He and his brothers have trapped jaguars because when you live in the jungle they are higher on the food chain than humans. They routinely drag children off.

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Belize

Later, we dropped into Central America and earned dive certificates in Honduras. On a tiny caye off the coast of Belize we snorkeled for hours with Blue Tang, Barracuda and Anchovy in warm, turquoise water with pink coral forests. Here’s what I said about that:

Morris Caye is so small it doesn’t even appear named on maps. It’s maybe 300 yards by 150 yards. We slept in a cabana that had seven windows, all of which had views of the Caribbean Sea. We spent our days drinking rum, snorkeling in the coral reefs and fishing from a tiny, leaky, dugout boat.

And one of my personal favorites came from the Himalayas in the Fall of 2000.

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Nepal.

“Nepalis are thrilled to see America joining the ranks of the third world in terms of election shenanigans. “Election…America….like Nepal…ha ha ha.” You think you are confused trying to work it out? Try at 16,000 feet in a third world country. Just finished a three-week, 150km trek through the very beautiful Annapurna region of Nepal. We crossed a 17,700 foot pass and are now safely down again. Happily we arrived in Pokhara for the beginning of a nine-day paragliding course (the kind where you jump off hills and mountains with a parachute). We took the first class today and will fly tomorrow. Needless to say, that has us pretty excited.”

I included pictures here because even I feel like I’m making this up. But that little adventurer with the tan feet, strong calves and sand in her hair, is still bouncing around in me. She’s why I believe in micro-finance, education for girls and counter-trafficking efforts. She’s why I’m a feminist and a pacifist and why I just can’t see things in black and white.

But the difference between then and now is I’m no longer the center, the engine of what I do.

Right now, I feel like a rusty 57 Chevy that is slowly being dismantled and restored. It’s painful to feel the really damaged bits torn away and replaced, but it’s worth it because at the heart of the car is a brand new, after-market engine. It’s got a lot more horses and technology I don’t even understand. It’s the same car with the same character, it’s just being cleaned up from the inside out.

So all this makes me wonder, if my steps are ordered by the Lord, as I have chosen to believe they are, surely he ordered them through places like New Delhi and Jakarta and Patagonia.

Why? What was all that for?

It’s an exciting question.