We have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers [sisters]Martin Luther King Jr.
Saying goodbye to my children is never easy, even the ones who live across the street, but especially the appendages who live beyond their mother’s maternal reach, which is anyone who lives more than 500 feet from my front door.
Don’t you wish I was your mother?
Before the theatrical goodbye, where I’m wailing as if I’ll never see them again, and reminding them of our financial trust, I had to pack and repack like 30 times to get my luggage under 30 pounds.
“Just the essentials,” Larry kept repeating as if a parrot.
“I believe deodorant and underwear are essential,” I defend the lightest items in my suitcase.
“Four pairs of shoes, four t-shirts, and four leggings are excessive.”
“Move away from my valuables or risk my displeasure,” I warn.
He drops my adorable black vest back in the suitcase without a word and I return to rearranging my treasures for the umpteenth time.
The final weight is 37 pounds. Close enough.
Can I just add, we’ll be traveling for three weeks? THREE WEEKS. And my book is coming out in four months of which I’ve yet to approve the final copy. In fact, they’ve been suspiciously quiet?
Kelley has agreed to drop us at the airport early so she can make it back in time for the family dinner at Nic and Julies. Larry loads our overweight gear in the back of the car, a final wave to the kiddos (yes, I’m ridiculously bummed to miss a final meal with my kids), and we head North towards the San Francisco International Airport.
We’re flying an extremely low-budget airline but at least our seats come with extra leg room. Being tall has its own detriments, but pant lengths and international travel have to be the worst of them. After offloading our suitcases with the airline, and stripping down to our undies to pass through security, we head to Gotts for some wine and an appetizer. We have two hours to kill before we board our plane, so let the vacation commence.
The flight is sleepless but uneventful and they did serve us both dinner and breakfast. We land safely in Paris, France in the early evening, and taxi to our hotel on the outskirts of town.
Now Larry had this brainchild about how we would keep all our devices charged keeping in mind the constraints of European outlets. He brought one Euro plug and one American power strip so we could charge everything at once with our own cords.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
He went to plug in the powerstrip and BOOM! The entire room is plunged into darkness. I look up from the book I can no longer read and give him the look but he can’t see me.
Between you and me, Larry is starting to resemble Einstein with his long kinky grey hair, but after the jolt from the power outage, he’s the spitting image of Albert.
I get up and try the bathroom light which still works.
He says, “This can’t be right, why would it blow the fuse?”
I hate stating the obvious, “because you overloaded the circuit.”
As he inches his way towards the bathroom, currently the only light in the room, with the same plug in hand, claiming, “this can’t be right.”
And before I’m able to derail his progress, he plunges the rest of the room into darkness.
I grouse, “Wasn’t it Einstein who said, ‘Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe?’”
I’m sure I got the look but who can see?
With his tail between his legs, he went down to the front desk and confessed his sins. She restored both Larry and the lights, before confiscating the burnt-out powerstrip, “This does no work,” and she leaves, shaking her head, holding the blackened appliance away from her dress.
It ends up we didn’t need that 4:45 am wake-up call after all. The both of us had been laying there for hours twiddling our thumbs as it was the middle of the day for us.
Finding a ride to the airport at 5:15 am was tricky but we managed. Our flight to Biarritz, France took less than two hours. We planned a few buffer days in Biarritz just in case there was a cancelation with the airlines and we had to make the eight-hour drive.
Can I just say the French I have encountered are not all that warm and fuzzy, which doesn’t bother Larry in the least, but leaves me feeling snubbed? I’m sort of befuddled by their casual arrogance.
So we check into our hotel, but they will not allow us into our room until 4:00 pm, although they agree to store our luggage. Afterwhich they point us towards the adjoining restaurant where they are currently serving breakfast. As you can imagine I’m exhausted because now it’s edging on my real bedtime and I can’t even remember the last time I slept thru the night.
On a side note, no one speaks English, or they act like they don’t. We have no idea what we ordered for breakfast but suddenly a deluge of food appears at our table. A huge basket of assorted bread, a plate of eggs for each of us, a fruit dish, orange juice, and cappuccino, along with a plate of ham and cheese. We ate everything.
The problem is now I’m warm, fed, and ready for bed.
With no other options, we head out on foot to explore Biarritz. Twenty thousand steps later, we walked to the lighthouse and back, traveled through several shopping districts, and residential areas. Stopping once for a long cappuccino, I stared numbly at the ocean praying for a warm bed, and finally, we made our way back to the hotel to see if we could check in an hour early.
“No,” without an ounce of pity. My iPhone claims it is 3:00 pm and for the life of me I can not keep my eyes open. I’m serious.
Planting ourselves in the cafe adjacent to the lobby so we are in the direct line of sight of the receptionist, I sit there looking as pathetic as possible, which isn’t difficult to pull off given my current condition. It’s probably my sullied disposition but it appears as if the Parisians are getting their rooms before us.
When I literally fell asleep sitting at the table, the lady at the front desk says, “come with me,” as if I’m being sent to the principal’s office for sleeping in class.
She hands us a key and points us toward the elevator. I crawl into bed fully dressed and just when I’m about to enter into my first deep rem sleep in days Larry says, “get up, it’s time to head out to dinner.”
“No, I’m sleeping.” I may or may not have added a few swear words.
“You’ve already slept too long.”
“Not long enough in my opinion.”
“You have to get up or you won’t sleep tonight and we’ll be in the same boat tomorrow.”
“I like this boat.”
So of course he starts rocking it. I’m forced to crawl out of bed, moving as if a zombie, and there are no words for my hair.
Once the fresh air hits me I start to wake up. We land at this charming seaside restaurant just as a huge storm rolls in. The wind is howling, it’s raining and we’re stuffing ourselves with muscles, french fries, and a filet of sole. I’m in heaven. The wine compliments the food to perfection and then we soak up the juice from the muscles with warm french bread. I mean, really? If there are moments you’ll remember all your life, this is one.
Out of the blue Larry says, “I love our life.”
I’m feeling esoteric as we linger over our french wine, I add, “especially this stage.”
“I could get used to this lifestyle, traveling around, seeing the world.”
“I also like home.”
“Well thank God opposites attract.”
“It’s all about the pheromones.”
He leans over for a kiss, “I call it good chemistry.”
After a nightcap at our charming hotel can I just say it was an interesting night?
Leaving the window open so we can listen to the howling ocean, we both slip into a deep sleep, but around 2:30 am I notice Larry is reading an article on his iPad and I’m drawn to the window so I can sit and watch the surging ocean from our balcony.
This goes on for several hours, both of us restless, trying to recapture that sense of somnolence.
Around 6:00 am we both fall into a deep sleep for like five hours but we wake up refreshed and I think we have finally adjusted to the time difference. I’m like a whole new creation and I’m hungry!
There is a Halle Market in the center of town that we want to check out and after making coffee with the expresso machine in our room we head out in a mild storm and make our way to the market. It’s so European. There are throngs of people crowded around the breakfast bars, sipping expresso, and shopping for their daily needs. Larry and I walk up and down each aisle deciding on a small kiosk that serves breakfast creps and fresh squeezed orange juice.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the other half of the town on foot, building up a mighty appetite, so by late afternoon, we stop at a small restaurant on the edge of the coast to savor some calamari, more muscles, sourdough bread, and sangria. I’m scolded by the waiter for sharing our delicious bread with a friendly Seagal who joined us for lunch. The waiter grabs the piece of bread right out of my hand and throws it into the ocean.
He says to me, “no,” and as you can imagine, Larry is highly amused. Such a toddler.
Back at the hotel, we settle in for a long afternoon nap, well Larry naps and I write.
After which we head to a renowned steakhouse just three blocks up the street and it delivers.
Are you getting the impression that all we do is eat and sleep? Because it’s true. Thank God we’re walking 200 miles for the next few weeks or I’d need a whole new wardrobe.
Early the next morning we’re excited to wake up and begin the next part of our journey, the hike. The shuttle picks us up at 11:00 am and we’re transported to the charming town of St. Jean where we secure our first Camino stamp and spend the night before the pilgrimage begins.
As Albert says, “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”
You will not believe what happens next, it’s all relative, “Buen Camino.”
I’m Living in the Gap, savoring the flavors of Europe, looking forward to the next part of our journey. I hope you’ll join me in the comments.