Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Time to Return!

“Well, here we go, again!” said Paula, as she raised her glass of champagne. We toasted, and settled back into our seats to wait for takeoff. The glasses were plastic, but we knew once we were in the air, they would be replaced by real glasses, with excellent food served on porcelain plates. The best part, though, were the beds. Er, seats. Seats that turned into beds.

Yes, we are on our way back to France, once more in Business class (thank you frequent flyer miles), with service – and seating! – at a level well above what is to be found in Coach. Getting here, though had taken some effort.

It’s been almost five months since we returned from Paris. Now we are heading back to France, this time for longer, perhaps a year or more. We’ve spent the last few months preparing for this lengthy stay. That meant renting out our house, since we won’t be needing it and don’t want it sitting empty.

And THAT means clearing the place out, deciding what to keep and what to ditch, what to give, and what to throw, away. We got an early start, emptying cupboards that held stuff that had not seen the light of day since we moved in eight years ago. It’s a painful process. After all, the reason those things are in the back of the cupboard in the first place is because we didn’t know what to do with it when we got here.

It’s also been a satisfying process, with every box of stuff dropped off at Goodwill, or Restore (Habitat for Humanity’s construction thrift store) bringing a sense of satisfaction. It has also been painful, to watch our things – however long ignored – go away. And slowly, slowly, our life shifted until finally we were ready to move downstairs.

Renters upstairs, and us down. Moving from the “luxury” of three bedrooms to the “tiny” two bedroom. Turns out it was a simplification, not a downgrade! Tight, cozy, comfortable. And, we could get into the garden. Upstairs has a nice view; downstairs has access. So our final weeks in Los Osos were comfortable.

Finally, the big day comes, the day we actually get on the airplane, and fly off to France. Oh, but wait. There’s this email from United. We fly to Frankfurt, Germany, before the final leg to Toulouse. And on the day we will be there the airport workers will be out on strike. OH NO! So the night before we leave is spent frantically calling airlines trying to rearrange our flights, or at least get some assurance that things will be ok. But nobody knows anything, and besides, that flight is handled by another airline -- Lufthansa; you’ll have to call them.

Eventually, after a long but not unpleasant wait in San Francisco, in the Business Class lounge (free snacks, coffee, and soda, a perk of our Business Class tickets), we settle into our somewhat luxurious seats on the Big Bird (a 747, the granddaddy of big commercial airliners).  At least, for the next 11 or 12 hours we will have no worries. We will have to wait for Frankfurt to know what will happen next.

After that, things just moved right along. Turns out the Frankfurt airport was closed in the morning, but by the time we arrived it had all been sorted out. The place was nearly empty. Our flight left on time, and an hour and a half later we’d arrived in Toulouse and gotten our rental car. Pas de souci! (Nothing to worry about).

We’re now settled into our apartment in Montpellier, where we will stay for a couple of months. It’s a pleasant place, Ikea modern, in an old building in an older neighborhood. Aside from the gallery opening across the street the first night we arrived, it’s been pretty quiet. We are slowly discovering “our” neighborhood, the best boulanger, routes to the old city, how to use public transportation.

Our jet lag is finally over, and we are ready to start exploring!

Next up: Our trip to Albi, and the lost cell phone

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