Bonnie Raitt will star in our movie! OK, it’s not true. But we were this close to having blues legend Bonnie star in North of Normal!

It all began with Straffe Hendrick at the Minnewater (Lake of Love), oft cited as the most gorgeous spot in Bruges. We had arrived at this UNESCO world heritage city determined to sip a few Belgian beers on the lake while pondering Belgian culture. So, Straffe Hendrick in hand we trotted behind the horses along the cobblestoned streets towards the idyllic locale. That’s when we just happened upon a summer concert where Bonnie was headlining. We perched ourselves in the park just outside the gate of the concert where we heard Bonnie belt out her set. So happy were we that we smiled inanely into the camera and chanted, “Bonnie Raitt and Belgian beers. Bonnie Raitt and Belgian beers.”  As the set drew to a close we hustled to a side street where we had seen the tour buses parked. Five minutes later a flash of streaked red hair barreled towards us. I whispered to Monica to “Get the camera ready. Get the camera ready!” She did and fired off 100 frames as Bonnie strode past us, not 5 feet away, and then into the sanctity of her trailer. We were thrilled. What amazing B-roll footage! What amazing photographs for the book! What amazing synchronicity that we just happened to be here on this tiny side street and cross paths with Bonnie even for a moment!…But alas, it was not meant to be. Those darn little buttons on the Canon 7D are so pesky after Belgian beers. Just so many knobs and dials and they all twist in different directions. Urgh. So here is our masterpiece – the day that Bonnie nearly starred in our movie.

Fortunately we did interview August (“The Americans call me Augie”), a native of Bruges nearing his 79th birthday. He is originally from France, he explained…in the 1600s! His family has been here for centuries and he is as spritely as they come. Augie meanders the streets of Bruges daily, entertaining friends and visitors with his stories of the old city. At 4 ‘o clock he heads to the pool to do some laps. It keeps him young. He his passionate about being married to his wife (“a Dutch woman”, we were reminded a couple of times), but his deepest affinity belongs to lady Bruges. The following afternoon we saw Augie sitting on the same bench in the same square deep in conversation with more young people. Augie, you are a true ambassador and we are privileged to have you in our movie.

Monica says, “I like Budapest. I like the women who carry fresh food in woven baskets and the markets that sell the most delicious ham (2nd only to Spain). I want to return and visit Rudas, the Turkish bath where on female only days you can rejuvenate in natural hot springs, saunas and steam baths from the 1500s, without any clothes. I like the food. Fresh markets line the streets and even the big Tescos has a local feel to it with freshly baked bacon rolls, pretzel breads and more. I like the bargain of Budapest. I always felt I was getting a fair deal here and they respected my money as they would a local’s. The city was spectacular because of ancient architecture, gritty realism and authentic flavor. The view along the Danube at night is one of the best I've ever seen.” 

I did not expect Monica to like Budapest so much. After a day of a culture shock she just came alive – and what did it? Some delicious meats, cheeses and nougat from the tiny little market close to Shantee House (our hippie hostel), as well as a visit to the Central Market where we shopped with real Hungarians for sausage, pálinka, and goulash. The old city in Buda was my favorite with its quiet cathedrals and gothic statues. We had a glass of Mihaly wine in Buda and toasted Mike (Csikszentmihalyi).

Our hostel was a trip (sic). Shantee House was a rainbow coloured hippie enclave which, as Monica put it, “straddled the line between a clean, efficient home away from home for travelers and a halfway house for lost twenty-somethings.” We interviewed Bori, the Hungarian manager of Shantee who shared with us her thoughts and philosophies on love, energy and harmony. Bori is a kind, beautiful woman and we are better for knowing her. At the Central Market we met 71-year old Louis, who looks like a fit, bearded George Clooney. We don’t know what he has done to remain so incredibly youthful but he kept talking about the pálinka so perhaps we should take note. An engineer by training, Louis left Hungary for Austria as a young man. At the time he didn’t feel the country had anything for him. He has seen much of the world and today shuttles between Budapest and Canada, which he calls home. Both Bori and Louis represented Budapest beautifully. There is a warmness and openness among the Hungarian people. It was important for us to visit Hungary, given the ancestral roots of our great mentor. But as Mihaly reminded us, he spent most of his formative years in Italy. As luck would have it, Rome and Tuscany were calling and it was here that we began to understand the environment that allowed for the flourishing of this great Psychology mind.