Wednesday, March 20, 2019

France Hiatus

A bird's screech woke me from a sound sleep and I looked at my watch -- 3:54 a.m.
I'd never heard a bird cry like that before. I wondered if it was an exotic species. The sound came again, a frantic squeal, followed by the guttural grunt of an alligator.
I put a pillow over my head. I knew alligators ate birds, fish and other small animals that ventured near them in the lake, but I couldn't stand to hear the last moments of an innocent bird.
Two months ago, I slept in this same bed in Florida, preparing for our return trip to France -- year two of our grand adventure.
And for a few weeks, we adjusted to French life, braving the sometimes cold weather, remembering favorite restaurants, running paths, and friends.
The mountains with a sprinkling of snow

Me and Jules enjoying an outdoor cafe

My running path with the river on one side and a cemetery on the other side. 


Out with friends -- and Bella on Earl's lap. 
Then a call came from home.
We had agreed when we moved 4000 miles from our family that we would need to be able to return if an emergency arose, and this was an emergency.
But we couldn't both go because we had agreed to a 3-week housesit in Italy. I decided to go home to take care of the emergency while Earl went to the housesit. (In retrospect, I would have asked the homeowner in Italy to advertise for a last minute replacement, so we could both return home.)
I set off early on a Sunday morning with Earl driving me to the train station in Carcassonne. In Narbonne where I switched trains, I settled in the cafe, sipping a coffee and finishing a book that I didn't want to lug along with me. I felt slightly cosmopolitan, traveling on my own with just a carry on suitcase along with my computer in my over-sized purse.
I had emailed friends in Paris to ask if I could spend the night at their apartment before my flight on Monday, February 11. We hadn't seen them since our move to France, but we had hosted their daughter one summer and had helped find a home for a second daughter the summer before. They enthusiastically agreed to have me overnight, but cautioned it was the fete for their son's 25th birthday. I offered to find other accommodations, but they insisted I would be welcome at the celebration which began at 6:30 that evening.
My train was scheduled to arrive in Gare de Lyon at 3:30, so I should be at their apartment by 4 or so. But I hadn't counted on the delay. After the train stopped in Montpelier, somewhere along the line between Montpelier and Paris, was an accident.
The train was delayed for more than two hours. As I watched the minutes tick by, I realized that I could never reach our friends' apartment before they left for the celebration.
The WiFi (which the French call wee-fee) wasn't working in the train and even when I switched out of airplane mode, I couldn't get a carrier on my American phone to notify my hosts. I ended up borrowing someone's phone to call Earl, asking him to email our friends that I wouldn't make it on time. They should continue to the celebration, and I would see them another time. Then he contacted our friends Linda and Maurice asking if they would let me crash there over night. Poor Linda and Maurice always get called upon when I'm in a tough spot, but they always come through.
It wasn't until I got to Gare de Lyon well after 6 p.m. that I was able to connect and learn that my hobbled together plan had worked.
During the more than two hours the train sat stalled in Montpelier, the train workers passed out an emergency rations box -- kind of like an airline meal. Truthfully, it was the middle of the afternoon so most French people were not going to be eating anyway, but it's interesting that they have back-up food boxes for when there is an emergency.
The food rations from the train

A bounty of food choices within
The next morning, I made my way by train to the Paris airport. I flew Wow Air, landing in Reykjavik. A headwind caused our flight to be late getting to the capital of Iceland, and a medical emergency required us all to stay seated after we landed, waiting for paramedics to tend to the person who was ill. When we finally escaped the plane, shipped on buses to the terminal, I raced through the airport to get to the connecting flight to Detroit.

Iceland looked like the moon. I know there are beautiful places there, but the airport doesn't show off the best view.
Iceland from the air
The flight to Detroit landed a bit late, and once again, we were told to wait on the plane. One young woman was called forward. As we anxiously anticipated disembarking, the flight attendant thanked us for allowing the authorities to handle the situation. We all speculated on what the young woman might have done.
Finally, I found the bus that would transport me to the rental car. Nearly an hour and a half after I landed, I got on the road. I hate driving at night and as the snow began to fly, mixing with freezing rain, I debated whether I should get a hotel for the night. February in Detroit might not be the best weather. But I had seen on my weather app that the temperature was warmer in Columbus, so I kept driving and eventually the snow changed to rain.
I had planned to stay only a few weeks, and the weather in Quillan had fooled me into thinking that spring was not far away. In my minimalism, I brought back two pairs of pants and two cardigans, along with my trench coat. I was totally unprepared for the 13-degree weather (-10 Celsius). Luckily, I had left a winter coat with Grace, and after she moved, I found it lying on the floor near the coat tree. I shook it off and wore it the rest of my five-week stay in the States. On mornings when I went running, I found myself wearing both pairs of running tights I had packed, along with three running shorts and a cotton sweater thrown on top. It was cold!
I got to celebrate Tucker's birthday with him. 

I got to walk with Grace on her lunch hour 

The waiter got a little artsy on this picture of me and Spencer with my brother and sister-in-law

Met Najah and Noreen for some runs and for coffee

Walks with Sheila on a rare warm day.
Meanwhile, alone in Italy, Earl walked a dog and explored some villages in Umbria. It sounds like an enviable position, but he was isolated with only animals to talk to, plus we'd never been apart for so long.

These are Earl's photos, so I'll probably identify them wrong, but this is the church in Assisi where Francis died in 1229. 

This is the mountaintop town Orvieto

And this is a judgmental cat that kept Earl company
As I saw our emergency under control, I added a trip to Florida to visit my parents. 
Mom made me a birthday cake. 

Dad took off golf while I was there. Always a joy to spend time with my parents. 
We had originally talked about visiting the States in April or May, but after this five-week trip, I'll be staying in France for awhile, so that's why I headed to Florida before back to France.
I'm so thankful for all the support from friends and family while I was in the States (see my previous post).
And thanks to my readers for your patience, perhaps curiosity, about my silence over the past few weeks. I hope to be posting about life in France again soon. I'm at the airport now, preparing to fly to London then Toulouse, France.
à tout à l'heure

4 comments:

Just Me said...

Splendid travels !

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

wow, quite an adventure!!

Jeanie said...

I'm so sorry it was an emergency that brought you home and I hope in the end all was well. Glad you are back in France!

NIKE said...

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