“Life in the Seven Kingdoms is never dull . . .” 

–Jen McConnel, School Library Journal

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When You Can’t Keep Up with all the New Experiences

This is an epic train journey that is slowly coming down the tracks to you . . .

When you can’t keep up with all the new experiences in your life, it’s overwhelming, even when the experiences are good.

For many, 2023 was a year of acceleration–after the pandemic, everyone seemed to be making up for lost time. For me, as a writer who has to process everything for meaning, slowing down is usually the fastest way forward. 

One way to slow down is to travel by train instead of plane, so that is what my husband and I did.

Originally, I planned to write on the journey, but there were so many new experiences, I couldn’t keep up. So, you’re getting the “slow” travel diary instead.

We traveled on German, Belgian, and French trains of all kinds. You can read about the night trains, making friends without a common language, training kids to take the train, how to travel on the train if you are from Cologne, and going the wrong way.

Bumpity Boulevard Press takes to the rails.

Come along and enjoy the ride!

Why take the train?

We could have flown to Nice, France and traveled on from there to our final destination, but we decided to try the more environmental way to travel. It seemed appropriate, because we were going to a week-long conference about the environment in France.

This is the beautiful setting of the A Rocha France center called Les Courmettes. It’s located in the Alpes Maritimes of Southern France.

If you haven’t heard of A Rocha, here’s a quick introduction from their website:

“A Rocha is an international Christian nature conservation organisation. The first centre was set up in Portugal in 1983, hence the name which means ‘the rock’ in Portuguese. A Rocha now has a presence in 20 countries on five continents where it undertakes scientific studies, practical environmental conservation work and education activities.”

view from Les Courmettes of chestnut trees and the sea in the distance

Who knew that chestnut trees were the Grand Central Station of the wilderness?

The last few nights, the red deer (males) have been calling right outside our window. (These aren’t white-tailed deer. According to my resident zoologist, they are most closely related to elks or wapiti in North America.)

During the day, people walk and sit and play under the chestnut trees. Cars and small trucks drive up and down on the gravel road nearby. On weekends, weddings are celebrated in a big tent next to this house and generally play loud music for hours.

But the red deer come anyway. The siren thunk of horse chestnuts hitting the grass must be stronger than all the noise and scent of civilization. Maybe it’s the sound of survival.

Red deer in Les Courmettes during the day

Red deer doe. Les Courmettes, France. Photo credit: © Jan Decher, 2023.

young red deer in the Alpes Maritimes in France

Red deer young. Les Courmettes, France. Photo credit: © Jan Decher, 2023.

red deer facing right

Red deer doe. Les Courmettes, France. Photo credit: © Jan Decher, 2023.

The videos are black, because it was dark. And because I don’t know how to take a sound only recording. And it was 4 AM. 😉 But if you want to hear, it’s a tiny sample. Open a jar of thyme from the kitchen. Or close your eyes and imagine the scent of thyme and lavender–the scent was strong even though it was late fall and nothing was blooming.

Can you feel the magic of these night-time visitors?

Red deer in the dark 1

Single bark of red deer in the dark 2

Red deer calling 3

Red deer calling in the dark 4

I’m Laurel Decher and I write books for kids ages 9 to 12 about trying new things and exploring new places.

Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales are about things that gave me trouble–

  • Speaking in front of the class
  • Finding my way around without getting lost
  • Starting at a new school (but not in the Fairy Kingdom!)

And about things that give me hope–

  • Friends going the extra mile for each other
  • Parents, grandparents . . . and sometimes fairy godparents. . . who are understanding
  • Facing up to a new challenge and being surprised at what is possible!
  • Zany action from determined heroes and heroines to bring about a better Seven Kingdoms for everyone.


The books are inspired by the beautiful and varied castles in the World Heritage Site of the Middle Rhine Valley in Germany.

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