In France #1

I have been practically drowning in details trying to get out of town and on the way to France for the last three weeks. We left late Thursday night on what has to be one of the weirder trips we?ve had getting here.

We traveled Air Canada business class on points, so were expecting a bang up meal a little wine and some rest. What we got was a brand new sleeping cabin. As someone pointed out, it looked like a collection of horse stalls. All I could think of was flying caskets.

Each stall was complete: pull-out screen, pull-up table, baffling signs on how to put the seat in every direction and then flat into a bed. I was assigned the only one that didn?t work. Jack was somewhere else but not close enough to me to do anything except wave occasionally.

What could have been a terrible trip was made extremely pleasant by Alexandra and Michael who were the patient cabin crew looking after us. Since my chair didn?t work, every time I wanted to shift or move to try and get comfortable, Michael had to come by, take it apart and pump it up or down.

They were both charming and helpful but nothing could disguise or help the awfulness of the food. If it was that bad in business what was it like in the back? And it was one of the most turbulent trips I?ve had in a lifetime of flying. Any notion of sleep was banged out of the body. I should have drugged myself into senselessness but forgot.

I got distracted by reading The Wind in the Willows. On CBC?s Sunday Morning they?d done a doc on Kenneth Grahame and WITW. I picked up an ancient copy left behind by my kids and started on it and could not put it down. There are passages of such lyricism, such connection with nature that it was impossible not to be enchanted. It?s one I?ll read every year from now on. Great book when you are in need of spring.

We got into Frankfort early, were treated extremely kindly by the Lufthansa people and arrived at our gate to find that the flight was delayed. Not good because we had people meeting us. Then a huge flurry: LH commandeered another plane turned them around, got us out on time, and we landed on time and with our luggage intact.

Going over the Alps is always a glorious experience but coming up along the Italian Riviera and then the capes that form the Cote d?Azur always bring tears to my eyes. It is so glorious, so unexpectedly rugged and it could be nowhere else in the world. Then Nice rushes up right after Cap Ferrat unchanged, sparkling in the sunlight, and we seem almost to be home again.

We came out into the lobby and there were our friend Marie and Claude with smiles and flowers and all our stuff which they?ve been storing for the last year. We were dead tired after 15 or so?hours of traveling and up for 36 hours but we made it to Beaulieu in relatively fine fettle.

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