Research is one of my favorite parts of writing, and I took to traveling, if at all possible, to the locations of my novels in the past few years.

Actually standing in the place where my story happens has made my writing richer and deeper, as I can weave in the sights, smells, and sounds of a place along with the emotions it stirs up.

For my most recent release, What I Promise You, I traveled to Barcelona and Southwest France, and along the way, I picked up quite a few interesting tidbits.

Newest release by Liz Tolsma

First of all was the geography. When I was looking to book my flights and figuring out where to start, it was a surprise to learn that Barcelona was the closest major airport. That sent me to a map, and sure enough, Barcelona is almost on the border with France. Who would have thought? A short train ride from the city brought me to France, near the Mediterranean Sea. What a beautiful trip that was, with the soaring mountains on the left and the sparkling blue water on the right.

I had taken two years of French many, many years ago when I was in high school, so I was excited to practice what little I remembered. I figured the conversation would soon revert to English when the people I was trying to communicate with figured out my French was bad.

Boy, was I wrong.

Though I had practiced quite a bit before I traveled, they spoke so fast, I caught very little of what they said. Not only that, but they spoke almost no English in that part of the country. French, Spanish, and Catalan, and that was it.

So Google Translate got a workout, and I learned as much as I could as fast as possible.

In the end, I made out okay. I figured out that the people were polite and accommodating when I at least gave French my best shot. And when I said, “Bonjour,” I had to say it in a bright and bubbly manner. If I did that, I would get good service, even if the rest of what I said was rocky at best.

When I traveled to Greece the prior year to research What I Would Tell You, my daughter, who had done an internship there, warned me that the Greek people didn’t eat dinner until eight or so in the evening. Since we had breakfast around ten, we were
ready to eat much earlier. The restaurants and cafes were open at four or five, but not many people were there. We managed to enjoy leisurely meals and still leave before the dinner rush. I planned to do the same in France. What a surprise I was in for when I tried to eat at a restaurant in the late afternoon or early evening. They were closed.

Yeah, I learned the French word for ‘closed’ fast. Enough to figure out that the shops closed between noon and two for lunch, then the restaurants closed and the shops reopened, and then the shops closed at seven when the restaurants started dinner service. Needless to say, I had to adjust my schedule, and it took a while to become accustomed to this way of life.

I figured out that I could have a baguette and cheese on my balcony any time of the day!

I could fill several more pages with some of the interesting things I’ve learned in my European adventures. It’s been a treat getting to see these places and learn more about the cultures and ways of life in places other than the United States.

Liz Tolsma

Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels, romantic suspense novels, prairie romance novellas, and an Amish romance. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their youngest daughter. Her son, daughter-in-law, and oldest daughter are U.S. Marines, and her youngest daughter, who has special needs, lives at home. Liz enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping.

She is also the host of the Christian Historical Fiction Talk podcast.

For more information on Liz, please visit her website at 

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