December 13, 2015 ~ Phoenix, Arizona
I begin this piece from a hotel near the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Early the following morning, my new husband and I will rise in the dark to begin an only slightly belated honeymoon, thanks to the generous donation of miles and financial hugs from many friends and family. This will be my second honeymoon for my second marriage, and I head into it with heart open and vulnerable.
December 19, 2015 ~ Bordeaux, France
This evening, I write from a loft in Bordeaux, where my husband and I will stay until Tuesday morning. Already, we have spent several days in France. We have covered many miles and seen some things of great beauty and others I would un-see if I could.
At the airport Charles de Gaulle, we waited with baited breath for my checked luggage to appear on the baggage carousel. Bags and ukulele in hand, we headed for the train.
Maybe, we should find a bathroom before we get on the train? I suggested.
You just went ten minutes ago, came the reply, accompanied by a look of exasperation.
It was twenty minutes ago! I pleaded. The look I received was enough for me not to insist. Instead, I harrumphed inside and furrowed my brows for a long time. I swear, people with large bladders will never understand how us tiny-bladdered people live. Sometimes, it is minute to minute. There just isn’t enough room in my body for all of these organs plus a bladder. The second I empty it, there is plenty of liquid just waiting to rush in to take the place of what was once there.
December 15, 2015 ~ Gare de Lyon
Can you tell us where to find the Hertz location de voitures? I ask a third person.
Oui. Vous tournez a droite, et continue.
We had already attempted the right turn and straight ahead option a couple of times. Apparently, turning right gives one many options in this particularly spacious station. Finally, we find the tiny car rental office. To get our car takes what feels like ages. Many French people come and go while we wait. We are offered insanely high insurance rates, which we refuse, and I hope we have made the right choice.
Traveling in France already feels so different from previous visits and longer stays. We have intelligent mobile phones that bring the United States with us and tell us where we are at all times.
Except when underground.
Settled into our burgundy Renault rental car with soft black interior, we quickly realize with increasing angst that there is no cell service underground. How will we figure out which way to go once we leave the garage?
Desperately, I try to plug in the address for the friend we will be visiting in Bretagne, the rainy northwest corner of the country.
I open our Michelin guide to France, take one look at it, and fold it back up. There is no way in hell I have slept enough to try to figure out how to get around this crazy city, known for its predictably unpredictable drivers.
My husband turns right, turns once more to the right, and then thankfully pulls over and parks in a no parking zone.
We sit and fidget with the phone. Technology is wonderful when it works, but when you have been traveling for more than 24 hours and it doesn’t, it can be painful. Not that we were really complaining. A GPS not working is clearly a ridiculously decadent problem to encounter, especially with the current state of the world.
Finally, GPS up and raring to go, address plugged in, we pulled into the realm of Parisian vehicles. And we survived, arriving in Quimper well into the evening, 42 hours of travel after leaving our Phoenix hotel at 3am the previous morning.
December 15, 2015 continued ~ Loin de l’Arizone/Far from Phoenix
We spent two fairly wet but lovely days visiting with French friends who are like family. We wandered the streets of the Centre Ville, walked along the river Odet, drank a lot of wine, ate a lot of bread, cheese, and the most delicious olives in all the world, and talked for hours with dear friends.
Visiting Quimper and La Bretagne is like returning home, and I felt full of joy and sad to leave. Being there was also bittersweet. I was reminded of friends with whom have lost contact, an ex-husband in Wisconsin, and the many years that had passed since I lived there, ten and a bit to be nearly exact.
I have sometimes envied people I know who have settled in one place and who have a community of friends. I have moved so many times that I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable people, people who are full of life and love; but I often feel as though I have no friends at all when I am sitting at home on my couch. They all seem far away, both in body and spirit.
But then, when I imagine living in one place for years and years, I feel a sense of being imprisoned. I wonder if this desire to keep moving stems from the belief that I can somehow grow older more slowly if I just keep moving.
Lately, I am beginning to realize that this may be the case, and I am growing ever aware that it is as far from the truth as anything may be.
It was more than ten years ago that I wandered the streets of Quimper. A lifetime has passed since that time, one that has encompassed a Master’s degree, a marriage, a doctorate, a divorce, and a second marriage.
December 18, 2015 ~ Loin de la Bretagne/Far from Quimper
Five hours after leaving the familiarity of Quimper, we joined a line of cars attempting to slowly enter the center of the city of Bordeaux.
We knew that Bordeaux would present us with the challenge of parking, but we didn’t think about being tired, hungry, and super cranky while attempting to find parking.
Had we spent only one night in this strange city, I would not have fond memories to recall. Nightmarish parking, super expensive shops downtown, and fatigue combined to flood my body with a feeling of being completely out of place and out of my element.
What was I doing here? What was I doing with my life? Why would I want to travel when I could be comfortable, snuggling with my cats and dog in my home in the desert.
After a good night’s sleep, I felt restored. We woke up early to rescue our car from possible ticketing or towing and walked in the dark, following the signals of our GPS to find our way.
As we approached the car, I saw a woman and a man in the distance. I couldn’t tell if they were arguing or if she was laughing. The man wore a green jacket with a hood pulled over his head.
When I heard him call out, Donne moi le monnaie, I knew something was not right.
Give me the money, he had said, as if this were a movie.
It seemed that she gave him her wallet, but he was not satisfied and tugged at her purse.
Mais, non! I heard her respond. But he did not stop.
Arrete! I called out. Stop!
But he didn’t stop.
We walked toward them, but it was too late.
I was in a daze as I attempted to provide directions from the GPS while we drove away from the center of the city of Bordeaux.
Don’t let me out of your sight, I told my husband as we left the scene behind.