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Stage deux

It’s a heavenly warm day in Paris, and I’m alone chez moi. Just came back from the Gare de Lyon, the most spectacularly baroque train station imaginable, a giant decorated wedding cake, to accompany Lynn to her TGV. The high speed train will take her to the other side of the country; in 2 1/2 hours she will be in Avignon, near her weekend home in Provence. 

Even our little jaunt around the station reminded me of the stress of travel – they only announce the platforms 15 minutes before the train leaves, so then you have to rush to find it. We, of course, got completely lost, ended up at the other end of the very crowded station, then speeded back to find the right one. You have to stamp your ticket at a machine before you get on, something I would not have known. The train itself is very long and has both an upstairs and a downstairs, something else I would not have known. 
Before she left, we went to the TGV internet ticket office to ask about something I have booked on-line (you’re supposed to print your ticket and I have no printer here) – the hours were listed on the door, in the afternoon 1.30 to 4.30 p.m.; it was 4.10 but they were closed. When I gestured to the time, the woman inside shrugged. Aaaah. I’m not in Kansas any more.  In Kansas, when it’s says 4.30, it means, pretty reliably, half past four.
This morning we strolled around the quartier, discussing among many other things the transitions and changes of language and which self-tanning creams are the most effective. Lynn gave me last minute advice – where to buy laundry detergent and which kind, important things like that. We had lunch outside on the Rue Mouffetard in the hot spring sun, with a little carafe of wine. When I think that for years I would not drink wine during the day for fear of getting woozy – what a waste. What’s a little woozy among friends?
I am sad that my beloved friend has gone, but it was time. I have to begin this part now – me alone. I am here to write and to think, not just to talk and to eat. I stopped at two stores on the way home, to buy wine and fresh bread. Now that my very French friend isn’t here, I can revert to my slovenly Canadian ways – it’s only 5.50 and I’m going to have a glass of wine and a bit of cheese. Vive la Canadienne libre.
PS. A few minutes later: I will confess that I am feeling the great void here now, and wondering how I’ll cope with what’s next. It has been a great gift to have someone to steer me around and explain everything; even if Lynn’s sense of direction is worse than mine, she has lived in this country for 40 years and understands its ways. I got lost twice on the way home, once actually in the train station, and then when I got off the bus. But I did find my way. Then in the wine store I wanted Lynn to tell me what to buy – but then I thought, there isn’t a single bad wine in this store, and chose two at random for about $7 each. I will figure things out. And I do know a few people here – two families from my distant past, and two or three other people. This is not Kuala Lumpur.  And luckily, despite lots that whizzes by me, I do mostly speak the language.
Listening to my friend, I realise how different it is to have lived in Europe, just from the point of view of travel. It has helped, mind you, that her husband and five children are all travellers, so that even when the kids were young, they camped all over the place. I remember her telling me how they lost one of their daughters, at the age of 4, in Dubrovnik, and found her a few hours later protected by a kindly stranger and eating an ice cream cone. But also, the adult children of Lynn and Denis have situated themselves, at various times, in England, Japan and all over Africa; that same daughter now lives in Mauritius. Lynn’s conversation is peppered with mentions of Zimbabwe, Egypt, Denmark, Japan, Zanzibar, Scotland etc. I felt like a stick in the mud; there are only two places I have been that she hasn’t – Istanbul and India. In fact, those happen to be practically the only two places I’ve travelled to in the last 20 years. While my kids were at home, when I could find time and money to travel, I have tended to come here to France, to visit her. 
I wonder why.  
 

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One response to “Stage deux”

  1. MFRD says:

    But what about Italy?

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

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Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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