France Day 2 and 3: The 44-Hour Travel "Day" Continued...
Day 2We landed in Reykjavik, Iceland around 6 am their time, which was 2 am our time. I’d had about 45 minutes of sleep, and suddenly, it’s bright daylight. From the moment we walked out of the rear of the plane, everything felt surreal. The blue curtains in the back, once a separator between me and the stainless-steel kitchen of profitable packaged foods, now billowed in white sun, beckoning us outside. This place is a beautiful, green, desolate, treeless tundra, about 40 degrees with stiff winds. You can see to the edge of the Earth, and there’s a distinct feeling you’re somewhere you could never survive alone. The flight attendants, their pillbox hats somehow not blowing off, wrapped us in grey blankets and tucked them around our chins. The airport looked as if it had been designed and furnished entirely by IKEA. The restrooms had white glossy panels for walls that went from floor to ceiling. They were perfectly quiet inside, and every toilet room had its own sink. I didn’t venture very far into this maze for fear I’d be lost. The sinks had built-in dryers in them. Such a bizarre world. And so full of great ideas!
I was to wait with All The Things and Both Children while Geoff went to find food. We were hungry, but had no idea what meal we were supposed to want. He returned with a bag of tubes of licorice with a bland peanut butter paste inside, and a sandwich featuring hot pink salami with egg salad on it. I can’t decide with was stranger – the food, or the feeling of Doing Morning at 2 am.
Bittykins loves to watch the planes, and while we waited, a Chinese man was using an app on his phone to find English phrases to ask her. The iPhone would speak, and he would repeat it to her. Bittykins was the perfect learning companion for him, as she answered all his questions and was amazed the iPhone was talking to her. Her experience is pretty much limited to failed attempts at getting Siri to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep. I was glad Butterscotch saw this, because I want him to understand everyone struggles to learn a new language, and we all start somewhere.
I chose to sit with Butterscotch on the second flight, but because he’d slept through much of the first 5-hour flight, he was a blazing ball of energy for me. I decided to set him up with a coloring book and drift off to The Wizard of Oz. But Butterscotch wouldn’t stop asking me questions about it, so I let him watch, too. He. Loved it. (Hence the thrilled face with the headphones.)
I was amazed how much of France is farmland, even so close to Paris. There don’t appear to be suburbs like we have in the U.S. Because old cities developed deeply long before cars, there’s a sense that things should be walkable. People live smaller, live closer, walk more. Food is consumed and purchased more frequently. So much about European life is different.
We waited 2 ½ hours at Charles de Galle airport, and nearly boarded the wrong train on the TGV. We moved quickly through the beautiful countryside, for 2 hours. I noticed immediately how the plants are different. I knew within a minute or two from looking at the adaptations and features of the plants that the soil here must have small rocks, rich mineral deposits and is very rich. What a wide variety of wild plants grow here, too! And they changed as we moved farther south.
We missed our train stop for Avignon, and because it was Sunday night, by the time we caught the reverse train, the car rental location would have been closed. I guarded the children at the station while Geoff tried to get our internet and phone to work to help us solve the problem. After about an hour, we realized we’d have to stay the night there in Aix-en-Provence. We were starving when were went to bed, but breakfast the next morning involved fresh croissants with Nutella and The Avengers in French, so hopefully Butterscotch will forgive us.
Day 3 At last, we took a taxi to Le Gare (the train station), where we waited for two hours. Fortunately, there was a café at the station with several chefs in white hats preparing all manner of amazingness, and we also acquired a Dora sticker book in French and a Babar coloring book (of course in French). Butterscotch is obsessed with the Babar coloring book and he has meticulously colored in every jimmy on every cupcake in the book. Bittykins continues to rip stickers and stick the fragments in inappropriate places unless closely supervised. But I’ll forgive her when she lets me sit my jelagged self down for a minute while she decorates my arm.
We made it to Avignon, and by the time we reached the rental cars, Butterscotch had finally begun to melt down. It had been 42 hours of adventure. I really can’t blame him. But we had a one hour drive to Saignon, and then, just outside, was our house. There was. A Lot. Of whining.
Long story short, Butterscotch almost got left in a strawberry field.
We were so close. We’d reached the end of where GPS could help us. I pulled out the hand-drawn map from Jurgen, the owner of the house, and attempted to navigate around things like “Post Office” and “Rubbish Bins” and one our 3rd wrong turn, Geoff pulled into a driveway to turn around. By the time he put the rental car in reverse, someone had decided to park at the end of the driveway, and we gunned straight into his real wheel well.
We were hot, tired, cranky, and less than 2 miles from our final destination. But while Bittykins screamed “I WANNA GET OUT!” from the back seat and Butterscotch whined for cool air, Geoff and Fender Bender Man were cordial and kind and helped each other fill out the paperwork, which was in the opposite person’s native language. I put on the air conditioning, and finally, 5 minutes before we left, Bittykins fell asleep in the car.
At long last, we found all the right pathways and hairpin curves and stunning views and overhanging rock and lavender fields. And we arrived at the Blue Cart Wheel – the final landmark. La Borie, at Les Claparedes. Home at last.
Today I learned: Some English words translate the same in French, like Abracadabra. But if you want to use an expression like “He has an idea on his mind,” you would say words that literally translate, “He has an idea on his head!”