So, I just got back from France! I spent about five days in Nantes, at Utopiales. Which I hadn’t heard of before I was invited. But hey, I’d never been to France before, and the festival sounded fun, so off I went.

It was a fabulous time. Utopiales is very well-run. Everything went so smoothly, and the fact that I speak about a dozen words of useful French (and while I can read more, it’s mostly words connected to food and cooking) didn’t cause me much difficulty at all. I got to meet my French editor–or probably more accurately, the editor of my French translator. And I got to meet my translator, the wonderful Patrick Marcel. I’m afraid translating Ancillary Justice is kind of a challenge for most of the translators who’ve worked on it, but on the plus side it’s really fun to talk about the various things that don’t work the same in other languages, and the ways that a translator might achieve some effect that’s at least similar to what I did in English.

I also got to meet a lot of readers, which I always love. I got wonderful tea! I met many French writers, and had lots of really interesting conversations that make me regret that I can’t read their work, because of the whole not-knowing-French thing. And I got to meet Paolo Bacigalupi, who it turns out is delightful company and great fun to talk and hang out with.

Nantes is a very nice city, with a castle (which formerly belonged to Anne of Brittany) and a lovely cathedral.

Once the festival was over (and, seriously, if you have a chance, if you’re anywhere near Nantes next year about this time, check it out) both Paolo and I went on to Paris, where we talked to more readers and signed books at La Dimension Fantastique.

I did some very touristy things–the day I had to myself in Paris, the weather was clear and just chilly enough for a good walk, and the map told me the Louvre was only a few kilometers from my hotel, so I figured I’d go on foot. It was a nice walk! And the Louvre is just as full of looted antiquities as ever. Every now and then I’d see a familiar object–oh, hello Etruscan couple I’ve seen photos of you all over the place! Oh, that round hat looks familiar, could it be Gudea, King of Lagash? Why, yes, it is! The Dendera Zodiac I didn’t stumble across, though, I was actually looking for it. (And found it.)

I didn’t bother with the Mona Lisa. No doubt she was surrounded the way the Venus de Milo was. I found that kind of fascinating–there were dozens of other wonderful statues in the room, but everyone was just looking at her, taking pictures, and selfies.

I walked over to Notre Dame, then, and around a bit, and then realized that I had been walking for literally hours and it was a good three kilometers back to my hotel. But, hey, the weather was still perfect and you get to see a lot more when you’re walking. Once I was back in the room and sitting down, I checked my phone, which told me I’d walked a good eight miles or so. Which it turns out is an awful lot and I’m still a bit achy from it.

Oh, and while I was in France I tried a pastry called kouign-amann, which I gather the one I tried wasn’t even the best example of and it was delicious and I am now on a mission to find some here in the US if I can.

Eventually, though, it was time to go home. I got back to St Louis just in time to be jetlagged during the time change, so I can cross that off my list of achievements. On the one hand it’s nice to be home, but I’m hoping I can visit France again some time soonish.

My thanks to everyone involved–the folks at J’ai Lu, the marvelous staff and volunteers at Utopiales, and most especially to the readers who I met and spoke with. It was wonderful to see all of you and talk with you.

8 thoughts on “Utopiales

  1. F
    Franny says:

    Kouign-amann!!! The only reason I know about them is because they were a really hard challenge on GBBO once and I could barely figure out how to spell the name of the thing to google it.

    1. Ann says:

      They are so delicious! And yeah, when I googled (I put in “breton pastry” and it came right up, because yeah, I had no idea how to spell it) I saw that it had been on the bakeoff. Google also suggested to me how to make them and, um, no, that’s several levels above my baking competence.

  2. K
    Klara says:

    I ran into that same thing at the British Museum, where people would cluster around the Rosetta Stone or the mummies, generally for photos, and then ignore everything around them.

    I just do not understand interacting with a museum this way, and I guess I’m not used to it, either, because the museums I grew up near didn’t have anything world-famous in them.

  3. Lindsey says:

    I love kouign-amann! Trader Joe’s rotates a bake-at-home version in their freezer section. Really easy to make. Directions were basically, “let sit on a counter to rise, stick in oven.” Probably not as good as one from France, but it hits the spot.

    1. Ann says:

      I found mention of TJ’s kouign amann–and the folks at TJs told me it had been discontinued! I live in hope of it coming back.

      1. Lindsey says:

        Oh, no! Here’s hoping they get back on the shelves. I really liked them.

  4. n
    nm says:

    There is a bakery just around the corner from my office that makes utterly delicious kouign amanns. I bet they would send you some (not ideal, I realize, but better than having them delivered from France).


    1. Ann says:

      ooo thank you! I’ll have to look into that!

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