I bruise easily and I’m not talking about feelings although some folks would argue I could do a pretty intense commentary on emotional bruises…. No, the fact is that I’ve always bruised easily and added to that I’m clumsy. Also my bruises are dark and hang around for a long time.
Most people don’t return from traveling with physical and visible reminders of the trip on their bodies, but I can look at my legs and see the vestiges of early assaults on them at the train station in Edinburgh. I’m fairly certain that the large bruise behind my left knee and several on my shins came about in Bath when I inexpertly dragged my duffle onto the train, banging it against my hapless legs while Colin Firth lookalikes politely averted their eyes. There’s a bruise of unknown origin on my left hand but that could’ve happened anywhere. Really.
My focus today, hopefully the last day of this odyssey, is on the bruise that will soon appear above my right eyebrow. This one hails from slipping while attempting to get into the shower at a Holiday Inn Express in Morgan Hill, CA. Why were we in Morgan Hill, which is about 50 miles south of SF and our car? Well, when the plane from Seoul crashed on the runway at SFO, our flight from DC was diverted to LA. (I think I just exceeded the maximum allowable abbreviations in one sentence. Sorry, but I’m tired.) The good news, obviously, is that, unlike the poor folks on the Asiana flight, we are fine if a bit travel weary.
To explain how we ended up in the Silicon Valley means thinking back to the beginning of our journey and requires you, dear reader, to remember that the trip began with major panic about my tickets being issued without my last name and high intensity angst about whether I would be able to board flights. If you recall, one of the airlines suggested I buy new tickets. No and non. Anyway, our friends in Nice called the airlines for us on July 4th to determine my status. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Joe, one of our hosts, will probably go down in Orbitz history as a “memorable” caller. Nevertheless, I left for the airport the next morning fairly confident I would be allowed to leave France. Thank you, Joe.
Checking in at Brussels Airlines at the Nice airport went well. It took awhile to check us in as the nice lady at the desk read and reread the messages from TSA about name additions. I imagine there were instructions to “please let this woman leave France so Joe doesn’t call back.” Once again, thanks, Joe. Prior to boarding Noni and I shopped one last time in France and managed to stuff a few more things into our carry ons. The flight to Brussels was brief and smooth. We landed in plenty of time to enjoy the layover, time to perhaps buy some Belgian chocolates. I assured Noni that there would be chocolate available at our gate; this turned out to be both untrue and irrelevant. We had to go through security and have our passports checked and we noticed that there was just one other passenger in front of us. A man who was moving a lot faster than we were…. About that time, a good 90 minutes before the scheduled take off, we heard an announcement that Brussels Airlines was “closing the gate” on our flight. That didn’t sound good.
The four of us increased to our maximum pace, already regretting the extra weight of the ceramics, bottled waters, and emergency pastries in our bags. Mike was in the lead, no doubt planning to hold the plane for me as I was bringing up the rear, limping from what I couldn’t tell. I was literally the last person on the plane and the longest at the gate as the attendant scrutinized my passport and boarding pass (which did not match), looked at my blameless middle-aged face several times, muttered “strange” and finally let me board. We took off 45 minutes ahead of schedule which I still don’t understand.
Once I was settled in my seat I had a conversation with Mike about what would’ve happened if I had not been allowed to board…. I think I painted a vivid picture of how I would feel to be left in Brussels while he flew off to DC…. My irritation quickly dissipated as I started to experience the unparalleled service of the Brussels Air flight attendants. On the first pass of the beverage cart, I inquired about purchasing wine and was told to put my credit card away–there was no charge. Soon I was sipping a tasty red and feeling much more forgiving. I think this company has the right idea about how to keep people happy on an 8 hour and 20 minute flight across the Atlantic. There were dozens of movies and television shows to watch on our individual screens. I don’t think the flight attendants sat down once during the flight; they served beverages, a snack (sort of like chex mix), beverages, dinner (one of the best chicken curries I’ve ever had), beverages, ice cream, and tea or coffee.
When we landed, I noticed that my difficulty with walking was increasing but I forgot about it once we got into the interminable immigration line followed by finding our bags and going through customs. We said goodbye to Noni and Dale there and they left with their daughter Karen, her husband Greg and the two boys, all of whom had come to take them home. Of course we waited for the shuttle to our hotel for 31 minutes (they come every half hour), but we were happy to reach our room and collapse. Lying on the bed I noticed that my feet appeared a bit swollen. Perhaps I should’ve used the rest room more than once on the long flight. It wasn’t until the next day at LAX, while waiting to be told that there were no more flights so good luck getting home, that I really looked at my feet. I had plenty of opportunity to gaze at my swollen, red, and ham-like feet as we drove our rental car north.
Mike, who is a really good driver and drove us all around France, took the wheel of an uncomfortable, underpowered Mitsubishi sedan and started the trek on I-5. Turns out all the little towns that would presumably have food and lodging are on Hwy 99 and Hwy 101, alternate routes north. Near Lemoore we found a Jack in the Box and ate good old American fast food. Then we drove on, figuring a motel would soon appear on the horizon. Actually we didn’t find anything until we crossed over to 101 and stayed at the aforementioned Holiday Inn Express. Unfortunately, Mike hit the wall about 20 minutes before we found the motel. The first sign of this was when he attempted to downshift an automatic engine (our car in France had been a manual). That got my attention. Previously I had been alternately dozing, moaning about my fatigue, and calling on God to find us a place to sleep. After that I sat up and began talking animatedly about our trip, media bias, partisanship in congress (both US and CA), the tea party, and how nobody appreciates public education.
This morning my feet were still swollen and no doubt contributed to the slip and fall that culminated with me banging my head on the safety bar (irony abounds).
NOTE: Since I’m literally 35 miles from home, this is the last semi-chronological post. I will add posts and pictures about our last few days in France, my favorite parts of this country. So…coming soon: Avignon, Gordes, Roussillon, Valbonne, St. Paul de Vence, Nice, and Cannes.