I am writing this from Hollywood where the day is just breaking and the sun is rising above the verdant hills dotted with shots of startling red and purple bougainvillea. From the window here in my hotel room, I am looking across to the HOLLYWOOD sign. Tonight is my LA event at the Barnsdall Theatre. So, if you are reading this and you are near Hollywood or somewhere close to Los Angeles, please do come along. The event begins at 6.30pm.
I arrived into Austin, Texas a week ago and I have been enjoying a big US welcome ever since. My first event was last Saturday at the Dripping Springs Olive Oil Festival, As far as I am aware, it was the first olive oil festival ever to be held in Texas and over 1,000 people turned up to celebrate at the farm of John Gambini. It is situated in a region known as the Hill Country. In fact, the hills are low and the land is vast, scrubby and planted with stately oak trees. The olive trees are babies compared to what we have in Europe and they sit silvery and squat on this expansive, dusty terrain. The first day after I flew in, it rained. Everyone was very happy because central Texas is experiencing a very serious drought. For the rest of the time, it was hot and windy. After all my journeying around the Mediterranean where I have encountered trees and an olive history that reaches back almost 7,000 years, it was very exciting to be sharing with Texan farmers their passion for what is a brand new industry, a brand new business for them. Back at our farm in France, we have 300 olive trees. In Texas, they dream of planting ‘olive orchards’ of ten or twenty thousand trees.
During my talk, I read an extract from The Olive Route. It was an episode that recounts my first meeting with the six-thousand-year-old trees in Lebanon. When I read the passage, several people in the audience gasped. By any standards or time frame, those extraordinary trees are remarkable but to Texans whose olive farming industry is a mere decade old, it was certainly a surprise for them.
In Austin I had dinner with friends at a lovely restaurant called Trattoria Sagra at 1050 East 11th Street. if you are looking for good food in the Texan capital, I highly recommend this place.
So, to LA, where, of course, I have many friends and where I have been busy catching up. Yesterday, I was at the Barnsdall Theatre for a technical check. Barnsdall, rather magically for me, sits atop a hill called Olive Hill which is now a public park area, Barnsdall Art Park, entirely planted up with olive trees. What are the chances of such a coincidence? There are several buildings of the Arts and Crafts style. The principal building is Hollyhock House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, his first LA project. It is splendid and very evocative of a lost Hollywood era. The theatre lobby is decorated with old movie posters of Danny Kaye, Shirley Temple among others. So, tonight will be a special experience for me seeing so many people I have not seen in a while and meeting many new. Chevalier’s Books from Larchmont Boulevard will be there, selling my books, and we will have a few copies of the DVDS of the The Olive Route available. I hope to see you there. If not, I’ll write about it over the next few days and post the news here.
Tomorrow, I will be on my way to San Francisco.
More soon. Bye for now y’all. (I am already beginning to think with an American accent!)