Monday, February 28, 2011

Royal Romance + European Vacations = Meet Author Melissa McClone

Yep, you got it right today it's all about royalty, romance and European vacations.  Author, Melissa McClone has a little bit of each to talk about as she stops by on the last day of her virtual tour marking the release of her latest book, "Expecting Royal Twins".    Here's a chance to meet the author of that rather intriguing title and get a fun look at a few moments in her life.   Leave a comment and I'm sure Melissa will respond.  And, there's a double benefit to commenting,  Melissa will be making a random draw for a $20 gift certificate to one lucky commenter.  

Today, instead of an interview, I asked Melissa to write a post about a trip that changed her.  On the last day of an exhausting tour, I thought she'd more than likely had enough interviews and in my world, after books, there's nothing better than travel, virtual or otherwise. So here's Melissa's take on the statement, life hasn't been quite the same since...

Welcome Melissa!

Life Hasn't Been Quite the Same Since... I Backpacked Through Europe 

 I was twenty-one.  It was nine days after my college graduation.  I was off to spend six weeks backpacking through Europe with my passport, a Eurail Pass, a camera, a Let's Go travel guide and an American Express card to be used only in case of emergency.

My parents wouldn't allow me to go alone so I teamed up with a friend I knew from marching band.  We decided on what countries to visit.  Our goal was to see as much as we could in the time we had.  We had a checklist to make sure we didn't miss a thing.

England amazed me, both London and side trips to Bath, Oxford, Stonehenge and Leeds Castle.  More than once, I felt as if I'd stepped back in time.  I'll never forget the Beefeater who guided us through the Tower of London.  History came alive.

I had so many things to check off my list, but when I page through my travel journal, it's not those incredible places I've written the most about.  It's the people.  A former roommate who was competing at Wimbledon.  The family we stayed with in Kensington Garden.  And Gerry.  A friend of a friend who took us under his wings and showed us around London.

Gerry had been a tour guide.  He gave us the names of places to go on our journey.  He was a few years older, light years wiser (not to mention really handsome) and knew what two twenty-one year olds didn't.  This wasn't just a checklist kind of trip.  Meeting people on our travels was so much fun.

He suggested we modify our ambitious itinerary, spend more time at each place and not wear ourselves out with a non-stop rush of blink-and-you-miss-it-experiences.  We were young, but not stupid.  We crossed out Capri before we left England.

We headed across the English Channel to Paris.  We traveled to Cannes.  Wherever we went, we met people.  In Nice, we hung out with a guy who not only gave me money when I didn't have enough francs to buy lunch, but also handed us little Canadian flags to pin on our backpacks.

Rome came next--the Vatican, the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain.  When I set off on my own to attend Mass, a group of gypsies accosted me.  Talk about frightening.  Until a  man ran across the street and rescued me.  I have lasting images of the grandeur and significance of the historic places we saw in Rome, yet the actions  of a kind stranger really made an impression on me.

In Italy, we bumped into more people we knew from school or recognized from our travels.  I never expected that to happen so far away from home.  I was there to see stuff--old, grand buildings, museums, things I'd read about in my history books--not meet people and build friendships.

A train ride took us to Florence with its spectacular art and architecture.  Side trips included Sienna, the perfect setting for a historical movie, and Pisa, where the leaning tower was smaller than I expected.  I also fell in love...with Festiva Gelato.

In Switzerland, we followed Gerry's advice and slowed down even more.  We made Interlaken our home base as we explored Switzerland and waited for the weather to clear so we could go up the Jungfrau.  That was a checklist item, but an important one.

Since we were no longer on an if-this-is-Tuesday-it-must-be-Rome itinerary, we had time to hang out.  Friendships blossomed.  Plans to travel together or meet up in another country were made.  Tips on where to stay and eat, what to do and where we should avoid were exchanged.

When the weather cleared, we realized our wait had provided us with more than a perfect bluebird day for the Jungfrau.  Gerry had been right.  Seeing the major attractions each place had to offer was great, but slowing down in our travels allowed us to get to know a town and make connections...friends.

In my journal, I wrote about the many places we visited, the numerous stairs we climbed and the delicious food we ate.  But in London, I wrote about the people, too.  I'm amazed by the detail I gathered about those people, and my joy at unexpectedly bumping into them again.  Nothing beats the burst of warmth seeing a familiar smiling face brings when you're far away from home, even if you've only seen that face once while ordering the chocolate mousse gelato in Florence.

It took me traveling halfway across the globe to realize how small the world truly was.  And how important a casual exchange with a stranger could turn out to be.


Suddenly a Princess...

It's not every day that a tall, dark, handsome prince strides into your workshop and announces he's your husband!  Mechanic Izzy nearly drops her wrench.  Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she'd become a princess!

Independent Izzy struggles with exchanging her oil-stained overalls for silken gowns, let alone becoming responsible for an entire country!  Yet her attraction to Prince Niko tempts her further into the fairy tale.  And then two small surprises change all the rules of the game...

Read an excerpt from Melissa's new book "Expecting Royal Twins" by clicking here.

You can read more about Melissa by checking out her website at:

Don't forget, Melissa is giving away a prize to one lucky commenter who will win a $20 gift certificate from 

Thanks Melissa for taking us along on your European trek and for a peek at what looks like a great read! 



orelukjp0 said...

How wonderful to have traveled across Europe and to have made friends in different counties.
Have you remaind friends with anyone? Maybe Gerry?
Thank you for the great contest.

annalisa said...

It sounds like you had a fabulous life experience when you traveled across Europe. It's wonderful that you kept a journal about all the things you saw and did and the people you met. :)

marybelle said...

One of my sisters back-packed through Europe - years ago - she loved it. She teamed up with some fellow Australians along the way to travel through countries like Turkey - safer. I never took the leap. Not too late still. The travel part, I think I will give a miss on the back-packing part.

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks for having me on your blog for my final stop, Ryshia!

orelukjp0 - I did stay friends with several. We exchanged postcards and letters for years. Then fell out of touch with various moves, etc. A couple of them came to visit me. Once when I lived in AZ and another time in CA. I never did see Gerry again.

Thanks annalisa. I'm so glad I kept the journal. So many things have gotten tossed or lost over the years, but not that. It was fun pulling it out when I was writing this blog post. Though I realize I should have proofed it one more time. I'm on deadline right now so a little tired. Lots of typos in it!

Marybelle - LOL! only once in Munich at this huge tent did we ever sleep on the floor. We didn't even bring sleeping bags with us. So though we were backpacking (easier to carry your stuff that way) we were on a cheaper travel plane, but still not roughing it that much. I had to have a shower every day! But any kind of trip that exposes you to different countries and people is all good!

Dru said...

Thanks for sharing your European travels with us. Do you take out your journal and re-read your notes? Doesn't it make you feel like you are there again?

I kept a journal of my trips and I always smile when I take them out to read because I remember the little things that didn't show up in my journal.

Rebekah E. said...

I sounds like you had an amazing time. I like the idea of a joournal. Something you can alway go back through and remember.

Ryshia Kennie said...

Melissa - Welcome! Just a heads up that you have some commenters that posted on yesterday's announcement post of today's stop. The post was called Virtual Tour. A legitimate error considering the title - so although I tried to reroute them - I don't know if I was successful.

Anonymous said...

Awesome trip Melissa! I am day I too will experience a world with history more than 100 years old - I can't wait for my trip to Europe some day!!

All things royal peak my interest, and your book sounds very interesting. Are you as excited about William and Kate getting married as I am? What castles, if any, did you visit on your trip? I read in a trip book that you could actually stay in some castles. Did you take advantage of any? What a great research project that would be! The closest to a castle I have seen is the Banff Springs hotel and it's not really a castle! But it is a beautiful place none the less! What a great setting for a book - thanks for delving into the romantic world of princes and princesses!

Anonymous said...

Hey Ryshia -

I didn't get on last night as I thought I would - so I just sent a comment from work - it's anonymous because I can't figure out any other way to send it! AH!
I'm glad to see the commentors already on here!

Melissa McClone said...

Dru - I've reread that journal a few times over the years. It does bring back so many things, but like you said I remember so much more I didn't write down.

Rebekah E. - this was my first big trip so I thought a journal would be a good idea. I guess even back then the writer in me wanted an outlet! I highly recommend keeping one on trips whether short or long. Also can help you when going through photos and figuring out what was what!

Ryshia - I'll head over there next. Thanks for the heads-up!

Anon - I'm very excited for the upcoming royal wedding. I still remember getting up to watch Diana and Charles wed. On my trip to Europe, we didn't stay in any castles (we were on the budget tour so pensions, hostels, cheaper hotels), but we did tour Neuschwanstein in Germany which was incredible. I bought a poster of it and still have it today! I actually collect castles so I loved every minute of it. Someday I want to stay in a castle. It's on my To Do list! Are you talking about Lake Louise in Banff? I think that's the name of it, but it's gorgeous!

Maria Zannini said...

Your trip brought back lots of fond memories of my own. And I absolutely agree. When you look back, it's the people you remember.

Ingeborg said...

Your trip sounds wonderful. Such lovely memories.

Melissa McClone said...

Maria - Appreciate you stopping by. Glad the post brought back memories of your own.

Ingeborg - Thanks. I do have very nice memories from the trip. It was fun to revisit them.

Sarita said...

I feel like I've been taken away, thank you! Your adventure sounds wonderful. I love it that you made friends everywhere. Would you want to do the trip again? Maybe with the family?

Ryshia Kennie said...

Melissa - Yes, me with another update on commenters. Can you continue to check comments on yesterday's post - Virtual Book Tour? I've spotted another commenter that got lost between today's and yesterday's post. I imagine there may be one or two more before the day is out.

Melissa McClone said...

Sarita - thanks so much! I would love to go back. I'd definitely upgrade our accommodations though! And I'd wait until my kids were older. They are 12, 10, 8. Maybe when the youngest was 16. I think they'd get more out of the trip then.

Ryshia - No problem! I have to run out in a couple minutes, but as soon as I get home I'll pop over to the other entry!

L. K. Below said...

Melissa, I am so envious! I would love to see Europe, but, well, I'm somewhat afraid of traveling. Petrified, truth be told. I don't think I'd be able to do it, but I admire the courage you had to be able to see everything!


Maria said...

Sounds like a fantastic trip! So many good memories and it also sounds like people didn't view you as the "Ugly American" when you travelled which is great. Sounds like Gerry make a lasting impression on you. Has he ever visited you in the U.S. or have you ever been back to London to visit with him again?

Terra Pennington said...

Hi Melissa,

It is great to be able to enjoy other worlds without leaving home and your interview on your travels was wonderful to read about for someone like me who has never been outside the US.


melanie said...

Wow that sounded like so much fun. I hope to see Ireland one day. And thanks for the contest. I cannot wait to start reading your books.

Melissa McClone said...

L.K. - this was the biggest trip I'd ever been on to date when I departed. It was exciting yet a little unnerving. I'd been to B.C. Canada and Mexico, but Spanish is my father's first language so it was easy to get around with him to do all the talking! That's one reason we started in London. No language differences! Eased us into foreign travel quite nicely. And now with the Internet you can go a lot of places without even leaving your house. I do that when I'm researching a setting for a book.

Maria - Sadly, I never saw Gerry again. I didn't get his contact info either. So that time in London was it. And at that point I was still thinking it was all about where and what, not who. But yes, he did make an impression. Huge crush on him! It's funny to read what I wrote. He could easily be turned into one of my romance heroes quite easily!

Terra - thanks so much. Glad you stop by!

Melanie - Thanks! Ireland is awesome. So green and pretty. All three of my kids took Irish dancing. Before they were born, we sailed on the QE2 and landed in Cork on my birthday. I'm a huge Titanic buff (history since way before Cameron film) so hubby gave me a short cruise out of Southhampton that went to France, Ireland then back to England. The closest to the Titanic sailing we could find. I hope you get there someday!

Shawn said...

What a wonderfully adventurous life you seem to have led traveling across Europe. I am not sure I could possibly ever be so daring,I have not really ever ventured too far from home, except in books.


Elie said...

I really wish I would have done something like that before I had other commitments. My goal is to take my kids there when they are older. What an incredible experience. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your book!

Melissa McClone said...

Shawn - it was an adventure, but there were times like when the gypsies that I wondered what I was doing there! I ended up working for an airlines so was able to really travel for cheap. I was a few years older and by the time I left that job felt very comfortable in different places and cultures.

Elie - Thanks! The idea for the trip was put into my head by a boss I had during a summer job. She shared her stories and her scrapbook with me. That was before my junior year so I had to years to convince my parents it was a good idea! It took about a year and a half! I bet you'll have a great time with your kids! Good luck reaching that goal.

MaryC said...

Thanks for sharing your European backpacking adventure, Melissa!

I haven't made it to Europe yet - I do hope to visit England soon.

Joann said...

What an incredible journey! Boy you are so lucky! I bet you had a great time. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Melissa McClone said...

Thanks, MaryC. I hope you make it to England soon! There's so much to see given its size. A lovely country with so much history!

Joann - I have been incredibly lucky. I feel fortunate to have traveled so much prior to having a family because now Disneyland is about as exotic and far a destination as we go! But I just keep telling myself someday we'll travel...

Altrotiroaltroregalo said...

Good morning from Italy :)
Melissa, you talked about an amazing travel.
I never did a travel like these, only a 7/10 days travel; however, I perfectly agree with you: the real essence of the travel, more than the places you visit, is people you meet and people which share this nice experience with you.

Thanks for the chance in this giveaway.

PS: Siena is written with only one "s" ;)




Ryshia Kennie said...

Melissa - thanks for stopping by and sharing a delightful travel story. It was great having you! And I'm sure there will be more than one of us heading out to get a copy of "Expecting Royal Twins."

Melissa McClone said...

Altrotiroaltroregalo - thanks for stopping by all the way from Italy. You live in a beautiful country! Realizing that fact about meeting people was very eye opening to me!

Ryshia - thanks so much for having me here. It's been great! A wonderful way to end my very first virtual book tour!

AubreyLaine said...

Thanks for sharing. What wonderful experiences.

B.J. said...

Wow i hope one day i can take a trip like that.(chucosbabygirl(at)yahoo(dot)com)

Carol M said...

That wounds like a wonderful trip! I would love to visit Rome someday! Keeping a jurnal was a great idea!
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