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As much as traveling is one of the greatest pleasures I know, when the plane lands at CDG in Paris, my heart feels lighter. It didn’t matter that the flight was nearly two hours late and passengers are required to buy alcoholic drinks. Flight attendants tell me since the no-free liquor rule has been enforced; their lives are so much easier because they don’t have to deal with a bunch of drunk passengers. A Delta steward reported she no longer has to "86" people from drinking too much and the nastiness quotient has diminished dramatically.
But, this homecoming was going to be problematic. I turned on the French cell phone (permitted after arrival contrasted with the US where you hear a million ring tones as soon as the plane’s wheels hit the runway) and immediately received a message that the elevator in our apartment building was en panne (meaning not working).
The suitcases rolled off the conveyor belt and my suitcase was small – with wheels and all. Then appeared the oversized luggage from the bowels of the baggage area and it included the humongous box, filled with bargains from Overstock.com and SmartBargains.com. With the Euro being so strong – or the dollar so weak – I’ve become a dedicated on-line shopper when I’m in the US.
I dreaded dragging the monster carton up the stairs to the apartment. Fourth floor French means fifth floor in the US and the box weighed precisely 50 pounds. Not an ounce more or less as dictated by United Air Lines. But, in transit, the ungainly container came undone and items were perilously close falling out — until a baggage handler was nice enough to hand me some tape.
At the taxi line, it was as if I were playing craps. In my jet-lagged haze, I refused to take the first cab in the queue. The driver was especially unsmiling and clearly didn’t recognize a lady in distress. The second driver looked as if he might be a likely victim; Jean Paul was proactive in loading the contents of the luggage cart into the trunk of his cab and returning the chariot (cart) to the proper place and not leaving it floating in the middle of the taxi lane. We had a pleasant conversation in spite of my being too tired to speak fluent French.
However, he did understand when I asked him if he wanted to make a 20 Euro tip. Before he knew what I was going to ask, he committed to dragging the luggage upstairs. He probably wasn’t so thrilled after he found what was expected but, he was on the phone making a date to meet someone for lunch. From the tone of his voice, I suspected it was a woman he planned to meet at noon. We (kinda) laughed when I told him he wouldn’t need to go to the gym that day.
Installed in the apartment, piles of mail were waiting. The refrigerator was stocked with juice, yogurt and enough cheese to get me through and after a long bath, I was a goner. No elevator was the ideal excuse not to have to leave the apartment. I called friends, caught up on Email, shuffled the mounds of mail and slept as if I’d been overtaken by the dream fairy.
Essential errands were postponed. Just as well. I was in better condition to deal with a dead car battery and things which would have fried me had I tackled them the previous day.
The package containing the “goodies” was distributed and I hardly needed to unpack because I was driving to Provence the following day. I far prefer taking the TGV but it was time for the Citroen to make its annual pilgrimage to the land of sun and lavender.
Happily, friends accompanied me with the pooch Lyla who definitely needed a break from city life. We made numerous stops for caffeine fixes and little walks – for all of us.
Traffic was much heavier than expected on the Auto Route du Sud.
Police were doing random checks for seat belts and administering breathalyzer tests. As for speeding, those days appear to be over; Born to Shop, Suzy Gershman, was making the same drive the prior week. She was barreling down the A6 at 102 kilometers per hour in a 90 kilometer speed zone. She received a ticket for 68 Euros. But, if she paid up within 15 days without contesting it, the fee was reduced to 45 Euros. Suzy (naturally) opted for the bargain price.
Being back in Provence is entirely different story. It’s so tranquil. Looking out on the vineyards is a return to nature. Seeing the hill top towns of Seguret, Rasteau and Sablet makes you realize why the area attracted so many artists.
When we arrived, it was hot (happily, it cools off at night) and farmers and gardeners were begging for rain. Now that I’m here, we’re in the midst of a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightening.
The phone immediately rang and it was a neighbor welcoming me. How did she know I was here? The Tuesday market in Vaison-la-Romaine wasn’t for a couple of days and that’s where everyone goes to see and be seen, make social engagements, not to mention doing some shopping and bringing home the traditional market day lunch of a roasted chicken. Elizabeth responded quite brightly in her chipper British accent. “We’ve been desperate for rain. So I knew you were here since you always bring it.” I guess it’s good to be known for something.
© Karen Fawcett