When January 7 arrived at last, I started the day by backing into Jason's car getting out of the garage--actually, I just grazed his front bumper, but it put a slight crimp in our driver's-side rear door. I had to wake Jason up to get his car keys. Once he had rolled his car backwards a couple of feet, I was able to back out and get to work, and aside from that one glitch everything went just as planned.
I worked about two and a half hours, sending out BioNotes, leaving my plants with the Abele lab and my keys with the chairman's office, and winding up other loose ends. Then I took a deep breath and headed for home. David took the batteries out of the cars (as our mechanic recommended for relatively short-term storage), we piled our luggage into Jason's car, and off we went to the airport, thinking how much easier it is to get out of town when you're leaving someone in charge of the house. I'm sure I didn't leave the iron on, but if I did, Jason will have taken care of it!
Once at the airport, we checked in (always quick and easy, now that David's a silver-medallion flyer) and enjoyed a leisurely lunch--we're always early for these things. We were just settling down to read our books until boarding time, when we were paged! "Thistle, party of two, please return to the security checkpoint to meet your party." We set off for security, both mentally running the checklist and doing the patdown--passports in pockets, all pieces of luggage accounted for , yes I'm sure we gave the house keys to Jason. Imagine our delight to find that our friends the Huettels had come to see us off and to supply the promised "kid art" for our otherwise impersonal French apartment!
The security guards kept us 20 yards apart, but we shouted and mimed "Bon Voyage" and "Thanks very much" and "Look what we brought" and "See you in a few months." Drawings made for the occasion by Katie and Tia were duly handed to the TSA personnel, passed through the x-ray machine, and carried along the conveyor belt to us and now grace our kitchen cabinet doors in Villefranche.
The rest of the trip went just as smoothly. We made our connection in Atlanta with time to spare for book shopping, and the trans-Atlantic flight was scheduled for less than eight hours and tailwinds made us early even for that. Our first surprise was to land in Paris in the dark, at 8 a.m.! We've never made the trip in winter before, and Paris is pretty far north. As usual, the airline's explanations, airport maps and signs, and prior experience had absolutely nothing to do with reality on the ground in Charles de Gaulle airport, but we followed the crowds, asked questions, and managed to locate our connecting flight to Nice. We expected the usual questions at passport control (why are you here? how long are you staying? etc.), but those hard-won long-stay visas barely merited a glance. By the time our flight left, it was light out, so we enjoyed a spectacular view of the massif central and the snow-covered alps along the way. Only 24 hours after leaving Tallahassee, we were in the south of France!
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