April 2012: Planning ahead

Written April 2012

My regular readers (Hi, guys! Greetings to both of you.) will be wondering why I haven't posted this spage earlier. I usually put it up during the planning-and-reservations process in March or April, but this year a complication arose. We don't like to advertise too widely in advance when we'll be traveling (and therefore when our house will be empty), so I'm usually quite vague about dates on the "Planning Ahead" page, but this year's travel is anchored to actual historical events, which anyone can look up, so I couldn't write anything very interesting without revealing more than seemed wise!

As everyone knows, this year, London hosts both the Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics, and our travel involves spending time in London and southern England, but those aren't the historical events that primarily, or even secondarily, determined our schedule. No, the pivot point around which all else had to be planned was the international seminar and gala celebration marking the retirement, in the first week of June, of our friend and colleague Paul Tyler, of the Southampton (UK) Oceanography Center. David's been invited to speak at the symposium, and if you've read my 15 July 2006 account of Paul's turning 60, you'll know there's bound to be a terrific party.

The second historic event that served to determine the dates of our travel was David's retirement, after 35 years, from Florida State University on 31 May 2012. It won't make all that much difference in David's life, as he'll keep an office and a lab and continue pretty much as before, at least for a while, but it made June seem like a good time for the trip.

So we mapped it out:

Only after signing up for the festivities in Southampton, having our travel agent find us a hotel room in London, and booking tickets for three shows, did it occur to us that we should check the dates of those other historical events. Whew, the Olympics don't start until late July. Okay, we can deal with that. London will still be a zoo, but it could have been worse. Now, about the Diamond Jubilee . . . . Aaargh! It's on 5 June! I'm glad we didn't know that when we started making arrangements, 'cause it might have scared us off, but as it is, this should be fun! We have our hotel, our shows, and our dinner reservations all booked, as well as tickets (with reserved admission time) to the Scott exhibit, so let the chaos begin! It can swirl all around us, and we'll just soak up the festive atmosphere. Maybe we'll even get to see the queen drive by or some such (actually we've done that once already, in Seattle of all places). I did sort of wonder why the summer assortment of West End shows was so extensive this year—we usually get to choose among about six, but this year I found more than 40!

And then France. We had thought to visit the lower valley of the Rhône, but on learning that our young friend CJ would be able to join us again this year, we reconsidered. My regular readers will know CJ from last year's rendez-vous in Paris and from my 2007 account of her journey with us through Picardy. (Note to my young male readers: CJ is still, as previously described, straight and single, but she is no longer entirely unattached. Sorry, guys, you had your chance. Kick yourselves, yes; you deserve it.)

We were in Normandy in 2000 (and loved it), but CJ has never seen it Her grandfather was there on D-Day in 1946, ferrying troops ashore (and lived to tell the tale and to know both CJ and us; he only died last year). In addition, Normandy is the ultimate source and wellspring of CJ's favorite family of cheeses—the "pâte molle, croûte fleurie" group, specifically Camembert, Livarot, and Pont l'Éveque. So Normandy it will be—on 9 June, CJ will fly from the U.S., arriving at the crack of dawn at Charles DeGaulle Airport, about the time we leave Southampton at the crack of dawn to arrive a couple of hours later at Orly. We'll rendez-vous at the hotel, and after a couple of days in Paris, head west. Once again, all the hotels and dinners are booked, I've scoped out a few couscous establishments we'll be near at lunchtime, and a rental car awaits us in Rouen, so let the adventure begin!

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