6.15 a.m. and your faithful correspondent is in bed in a small hotel room in Montpellier, after a delicious 8-hour sleep. To deal with jet lag, I try to stay up as long as possible the day of arrival, take a sleeping pill, and wake up on local time, if a bit early. And that’s it, it’s done.
And now the travel blog begins. What a strange person a blogger is – the first thing I want to do, on waking in an exotic new place, is write to you.
A bit of surreal bliss at Pearson – the noise-cancelling headphones the kids gave me for Christmas were playing Bach, so I wandered and sat for hours in the surreal purgatory of the departure area enveloped in a cloud of sublime music.
The miracle of modern technology – I was reading the New Yorker as we boarded, and was able to take a picture of this cartoon and send it to the kids.
Whoever designs the seats for Air Canada overseas flights should be forced to sit in one forever. I’d paid extra for an exit row, had the huge luxury of room in front and even a protruding door bit that I could put my feet up on, so I had far more comfort than the sufferers squashed in around me. But the seat was hard, extremely narrow, and rigid, didn’t extend even slightly back, so, even with my headphones and eyeshade, a night of writhing. And the food was execrable.
However, the flight left and landed on time and expelled its huge crowd of bleary Canadians into a gorgeous Parisian day. During the hundred mile hike to the other end of this vast airport to find my Air France flight to Montpellier, I slipped outside for a few minutes to turn my face to the sun like a starving plant. Everything is now automated in France, it seems; there was an issue with my suitcase, but luckily an actual French human being appeared to help me work things out. I found the next departure gate and had breakfast – a spinach and brie quiche which, though just in an airport dive, was absolutely delicious. And a yogurt “bio” in a glass jar. Bamboo cutlery.
French people all around. One thing about the French – even when they’re just chatting, they sound like they’re arguing or complaining. It’s just the tone of voice. Though probably they ARE arguing or complaining. Another seamless flight, and there were my dear friends waiting at the airport.
But as I got off the plane, I turned on my phone. Mistake. It’s hard to believe, but disaster had already struck at the house; there was a long series of panicked notes from Nicole. Something happened to the sump pump in the basement, it exploded, there was water shooting everywhere like Niagara Falls, the frantic tenant woke her at 1 a.m., she called the fire department …
I laughed. It was like the house saying, You think you can get away, bitch? I’ll show you.
Remembered my former handyman Len, who – as I’ve recounted here before – said to me once that I must have offended the water gods in a previous life, because the house has had so many problems with flooding and leaking. Once more, the water gods are on my tail.
A long series of emails later, the scene came clear – something had come loose, somehow, in the sump pump, and it did indeed explode. All the carpets in the basement are soaked and the walls and floor in the area are damaged. The tenant and Nicole dealt with it, the firemen gave advice, Kevin came and fixed it. There will be a lot more fixing when I get home.
The plane hadn’t even landed before something major went wrong. And here, at this distance, I am thinking, once more – do I really want to cope with this enormous old house for the rest of my life? Is a nice kitchen and a lovely garden and now a renovated upstairs worth the constant, constant stress of all the things that go wrong?
If you hear of a nice bright friendly quiet condo or apartment or townhouse in or near Cabbagetown, please let me know.
Had dinner and much much talk with my friends in their apartment; Lynn, who pointed out that some restaurants in Paris don’t even open till 8 p.m., kindly agreed to eat early for a Canadian visitor who hadn’t slept the night before. She made her delicious hachis parmentier, an exotic kind of shepherd’s pie, with Roquefort afterwards, accompanied by a nice light Brouilly.
It’s 7 and I can go down to breakfast. On the way here, Lynn showed me all the destruction caused by the gilets jaunes, who erupt in violence every Saturday and smash windows; banks, hotels, stores here in the town centre – all with boarded or broken windows. Montpellier is one of the hardest hit, so I’ll be able to witness it tomorrow.
On the other hand, she was happy to tell me that there is a big sale at Galeries Lafayette, one of our favourite places – their sales are rare and legendary. Today my vacation begins.