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Talking Location With author Valérie Perrin – MARSEILLE

17th July 2021

#TalkingLocationWith ...  Valérie Perrin, author of Fresh Water For Flowers

This piece has kindly been translated by Alex Niemi

I chose to talk about Marseille and the surrounding region because that’s where Violette Toussaint, the main character in Fresh Water for Flowers, seeks refuge. So, here, I offer you a stroll through the Mediterranean area of Provence, a place that is dear to me and appears in all my novels.

View of the Mediterranean from the Château de Cassis. Without a doubt the place I love most in the world. The castle’s caretaker is a friend of mine. Sometimes, I go up onto the outer wall to have a coffee with her and, as soon as I enter the grounds, I feel lucky. You can sleep in the castle, there are about a dozen rooms that are beautiful in their simplicity, zero bling, just stone and blue.

Valérie Perrin

My favorite moment: arriving at Marseille’s Saint-Charles train station. Notre Dame de la Garde, or, as locals say, “The Holy Mother,” in the background. This is the place where I imagined Celia coming to pick up Violette every August to take her to Sormiou and her cabin on the rocks.

A Marseille cabin on the marina of La Madrague de Montredon. I imagine Violette’s vacation in Marseille every summer in this sublime and Spartan setting. I know this cabin well, because I’ve rented it several times. It’s in a neighborhood I love that is the home of my second adopted family.

In Marseille, there is the sea, but most of all Marcel Pagnol’s world-famous hill, and also the hills facing Cassis and the Frioul Archipelago. Walking there is just wonderful in summer or winter, and it’s very inspiring for writing and dreaming.

The Mediterranean is hypnotic and inspiring—compromised by overfishing and human carelessness toward the environment, it is still the cradle of humanity. I love the Mediterranean and always will—it needs to be preserved and protected more than ever.

I took the picture below right last year. I went for a swim that day, just like Violette did every August in my novel.

Valérie Perrin

It was June. It was cold, but I still went there to meet her.

It’s a wonderful place. In summer, you can hear the cicadas singing while you swim.

It’s a wonderful place, but, unfortunately, because of the lockdown last summer, people weren’t able to travel, so they came in droves. And instead of respecting nature, instead of looking and wondering at it, they trashed it, ruined it, vandalized it. This is a side of humanity that I don’t understand: the planet is our home, respecting it means saving yourself.

To conclude this tour, I’ve chosen the blue of the Mediterranean. An eternal source of inspiration that I hope to return to in each of my novels.

My favorite restaurant in Marseille is called Chez Etienne. It’s in the Panier, the old Corsican neighborhood, behind the Vieux-Port. It’s an old family institution that I don’t have any photos of, but if you are in the area, go have a pizza there. And since you won’t be far from the Museum or Notre Dame de la Garde, give yourself a treat and enjoy the sights.

Valérie Perrin

Catch Valérie on Twitter and Insta

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021