Tuesday, September 19, 2006. Valbonne, Nice, London, Dallas.
We arrived for petit dejeuner (breakfast) at 7:30. Our host and hostess were both there, slicing fresh bread and warming cream for the coffee. They paused long enough for me to take their picture. I also took pictures of the food. Our bread basket was fuller than usual this morning. As he placed it on the table he noted he’d given us extra for our long journey. 🙂
I rode the tiny elevator to the lobby with my luggage while George carried his down. We had about ten minutes to spare, so we chatted one last time with our host–now back at the desk after assisting his wife with the initial breakfast prep. George asked him how to say “earthworm” in French. He couldn’t figure out what George was asking till he made the fishing bait connection. “Verre du terre” he said. How poetic! Even earthworms are romantic in France.
Our taxi arrived right on time–a silver Mercedes with a magnetic sign on top but no other markings. The driver wore cool shades, khakis, and an untucked button-down shirt. Bus drivers in France wore t-shirts and jeans. Things are chill sur la Cote d’Azur. (No one drove us anywhere wearing a Speedo, though.) Our taxi got caught in rush-hour traffic, but we weren’t too concerned, because our flight didn’t leave until 10:35.
As we drove along I took note of the songs playing on the radio. First we heard Simon and Garfunkel sing Mrs. Robinson, followed immediately by an 80s-sounding French number with a melody similar to YMCA. Next we returned to a song in English, but with a heavy French accent. The lyrics were “My body, your body, everybody work your body.” A musical interlude substituted accordian, trumpets, and synth where one might expect an electric guitar solo. After the interlude the singers came back in repeating the same lyrics, but adding a chorus of “That’s on track” repeated several times. Tres amusing. The next song was a French translation of “The City of New Orleans.” At least it had the same tune. I can’t verify whether or not it maintained the same theme. After that, Whitney Houston belted, “I Will Always Love You.” Then a French pop song. And finally, as we pulled up to the terminal, Stevie Wonder justed wanted to say he loved us and really cared. (We love you, too, Stevie.)
We bid our friendly driver au revoir and merci, then hauled our bags inside. By the time we reached the British Airways ticket counter we had exactly one hour till ETD. We had our bags checked through to our American Airlines flight to Dallas, wondering (not out loud) if the UK would go three for three on losing them.
Security. Passport check. A thirty minute delay that turned into an hour, and we were off. Before boarding George used five of our remaining euros to buy some dark chocolate, in hopes of sweetening a long day. It would be seven hours longer than usual, with the time change.
We arrived at Gatwick and worked our way through more passport and security checks. First we checked in with the AA counter where they replaced our BA-issued boarding passes with their own. As we stood in line for security I drank my bottled water, because a no-liquids-or-gels policy was still in effect on flights to America from the UK. As we neared the x-ray machine I noticed they’d confiscated a number of water bottles and also someone’s chapstick. Even so, my lipstick and Burt’s Bees made it through unmolested.
We proceeded to the lounge area and headed upstairs to Starbucks, where I bought a latte and George got a strawberries-and-cream frappucino. (So not like Mr. Black Coffee man! Perhaps a little French froofiness rubbed off on him?) We still had an hour-plus till departure, so we moseyed around the shops. Last time we had a layover in Gatwick they called our flight over the intercom when it was time to head toward the gate. Our gate had already been posted on the digital board when we arrived, but I assured George we were supposed to stay in the lounge until they called our flight number. We hung out, shopping, reading, going to the restroom. At 25 minutes before departure the digital display changed to “Gate Closing.” Oops!
They say to allow 10 minutes to reach the gate from the lounge, so we walked briskly. I still wasn’t too concerned given the time, but as we were walking we heard an announcement that our flight had boarded and would soon depart and that all passengers needed to report immediately. We walked a little faster. When we reached the gate we had to show our passports and boarding passes yet again. Some carry-on bags were being searched as well, but they waved us through. There were still a couple dozen people at the gate and a bit of a line backed up in the gangway due to yet another search station inside it. But we boarded with minutes to spare, found our seats, and actually had time to buckle our seatbelts before taking off. No worries. 😉
The pilot announced our flight path and duration. Nine hours and 45 minutes. Yeesh. With the time change, though, we took off at 2:25 PM and would land at 6:45 PM. More than eleven hours packed into just over four. It’s almost like living a day twice, if being packed into torture-chamber seats for ten hours counts as living.
I bought a Sudoku book at the London airport to help pass the time. I worked four puzzles, then journaled a while. An hour and a half into the flight they served a meal. It was 4:00 PM London time and 10:00 AM Dallas time. We ate chicken and pasta with pesto, carrot slaw, a roll, and strawberry cheesecake. Brinner, maybe?
Every time the beverage cart rolled by I requested more water. This no-waterbottles policy is rough, especially since all airplanes come equipped with moisture-suck-o-matic machines. I dozed a bit off and on, but mostly the day inched by with a Sudoku marathon. I had a window seat, and at one point I opened the shade and looked down on an unidentified mass of land–very stark and brown. Dots of icebergs floated in the ocean around it. Not too much later we flew over the far northern wastelands of Canada, making our way toward Duluth, MN. (Our pilot pointed this out, though why he chose to mention Duluth is a mystery to me. Maybe his grandma lives there.) We continued over the midwestern states. Around 5:15 they served us another meal: individual cheese pizzas, grapes, and cookies. Shortly after that we began our descent into DFW.
We’d arrived at the Nice airport at 9:30ish AM France time. We landed in Dallas at 6:30 PM Texas time. A total of 16 hours had passed. My folks picked us up with ALL our luggage (Yay!) and drove us to their house where they’d prepared a dinner of grilled salmon, salad, potatoes, and green beans–our fifth full meal of the day. I ate only a small piece of salmon and some salad. George and I were both fading but forced ourselves to say up till almost 10:00 PM in hopes of reseting our biological clocks sooner than later. Then we collapsed into bed, thankful for safe travel and many amazing memories.
Thus ends the European adventures of George and Jeanne, 2006 edition. Thanks for reading, and until next time, Adieu.