So I made it relatively on time to Marseille, and I was all prepared to find someone with a card with my name on it. I walked into baggage claim and there was Liz! She had said her friend Jean-Paul was going to pick me up, but she surprised me by coming, too. It was a really fantastic surprise, and I think my heart rate slowed down for the first time since Dublin. We talked all the way to her concert, which wasn’t actually a whole performance of The Magic Flute, but selections. The music was good, though the soloists were iffy, and as bad as it sounds, I had to fight not to laugh during the Queen of the Night solo. Yikes. That night I got some much needed sleep.
So, Liz’s city is adorable. I’m sure it would be much different if I were to actually life there, but I really enjoyed being there. The first day, we walked around the market that happened literally right outside her door. There were fresh fruits and vegetables, clothes, other food goods, and probably a lot more stuff that we didn’t see. Then we walked down to the end of the street and there was a beautiful view of the city. We walked around some more, just looking at the buildings on her street, which were all made of stone with heavy wooden shutters because the wind blows so hard. I really loved all the painted shutters and doors. They were all in blues and greens. Most houses had window boxes with geraniums or the like, and I just loved it. I have a soft spot for window boxes anyway, and I know that when I have my brownstone in Boston Common, I’ll have window boxes with flowers. I loved the shutters, too. I’ve never seen shutters that weren’t just glued to the house for decorative purposes only. I really enjoyed that you opened them in the morning and closed them at night and that you could open the windows wide and let the fresh air in.
That second night I went with Liz to one of her band rehearsals. She played horn and I played her bassoon, and I really had a blast. Even though I didn’t speak the same language as they did, I still immediately felt comfortable with them and enjoyed the rehearsal. At one point, while I was studiously counting rests (this is my weak point as a musician), I brought her bassoon back up to play, and the trombone player behind me had folded a piece of paper over my reed, just to be silly. Jean-Paul, sitting next to me, kept leaning over and saying, “I hate zis piece.” It was great. After the rehearsal, they usually stay and drink wine and talk and laugh for a few hours, and it was so much fun. We had champagne to celebrate Liz’s test scores and ate fresh cherries straight form someone’s trees. We also had some “spice bread” which Liz and I decided that we didn’t really like, but we were hungry and slightly drunk, so it didn’t matter. I took a picture with all of them before I left that night. (Left to right (and I might butcher the names): Dominique, Eve, Jean-Paul, me, Michel, Christian)
That night we went home and pretty much crashed, and Liz, being the good bassoonist that she is, got up and practiced at the music school in the morning. I did not. I was still sleeping off jet-lag. Saturday was a good day, but I have to say that Sunday takes the awesome award. It was stormy outside, thundering and lighting, with the wind whistling in the windows. And I love a good storm. We both stayed in our pajamas all day. We watched movies, listened to music, took pictures, read, napped, and were just guiltlessly lazy. It was wonderful. I do have to say, though, that drinking wine and eating fresh French cheese on a baguette right from the bakery, all while watching Friends, was about the highlight of my life thus far.
On Monday, Liz had her bassoon lesson at the conservatory in Aix-en-Provance. We rode the bus to Aix and while she was playing, I walked around the city, stopping in shops and such things. I realized that my love of books is not just for books in my own language. I spent a good hour looking around in a bookstore in which the only English books were Harry Potter and some Stephen King. I loved looking at all of the cafes and food vendors mixed in around the streets. I was waiting for Liz for lunch, so I had a snack of a baguette, which I ordered myself. We rode the bus back and had a delicious dinner that Liz made.
Tuesday was the day I was scheduled to leave, and I woke up sad. When you miss someone so much, it’s almost cruel to get to spend so much time with them just to have to say goodbye again. I’m not very good at saying goodbye. I hate is almost more than spinach. But we got up early and I went with Liz to one of her schools to see her teach. I thought the little kids were adorable, probably because I don’t teach them once a week and because I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It amazed me that all these little kids could speak French when I struggled so much with it, and how it’s just normal for them, and that got my brain all tied in knots. Bottom line? Little French kids are cute. Her first class was about second grade aged and according to her, kind of dumb and ill behaved. Again, the cuteness outweighed that for me. She started by asking “How are you today?” and every little kid raised a hand wanting to answer with either a strong “hI’m appy!” or “hI’m sick!” or a couple other things, but I loved that most of the kids were appy, and that it never had an H at the beginning. I’m never happy that early in the morning. After recess, her kids were awesome. She liked the class, and you could tell they liked her. They were very curious about what it’s like to grow up in the United States, so they had lots of questions, some odd, including the following:
- What is your favorite kind of science? (When I said I didn’t have one, Liz said, “Then make one up!”)
- What are your parents names?
- Do you know the Eagles?
- Do you like merry-go-rounds?
- Do you practice religiously? (Which lead to the discussion of the difference of Protestantism and Catholicism, which is of course a very appropriate school discussion for second and third graders.)
- What’s your favorite food? Favorite flower? Favorite color?
- What color are your eyes?
- Did you ever have to repeat a grade?
Well, kids, I’m not brilliant, but no, I never repeated a grade, except in Algebra II where I repeatedly got C’s on tests. So that took all of her class plus twenty minutes, because they were so excited about asking me questions. After that, we headed home for lunch and I got all my stuff ready to go.
Liz’s friend Jean-Paul picked me up to take me to the train station. Saying goodbye to Liz was awful, and how I managed not to cry, I don’t get. He speaks English well, so we had nice conversation while driving. He made sure I had my ticket and that I knew were to go and then bought me a cup of coffee in the little cafe. He even waited until the train left before he left, just to make sure I got on ok. He was so sweet and made that transition so easy. The only rough part was figuring out what to do with my luggage. My only experience with long-distance train rides is Harry Potter, so I was looking for the luggage car, only to find there was none and that I’d need to take my luggage with me. There were several tiny luggage racks three tall inside the bottom floor of the train, and when I got on, they were all full, save for a space on the top rack. So, after standing and staring at it for a good two minutes or so, I grounded myself and attempted to shove my ginormous bag into the space, up above my head. I knew full well I wasn’t going to succeed, and I figured my struggling would clue someone in that I needed help, since I didn’t know how to actually ask them with words in their language. Eventually someone did help me, but it took longer than I’d imagined. The rest of the train ride was good, save for the games of musical chairs that we played throughout the trip.
I got into Paris just on time, thinking, wow, that really was pretty easy. Haha, Kristen, very funny. Nothing is ever easy, remember? Oh yeah, I forgot, silly me.
Then came the saga of getting to the hotel, which proved the only thing frustrating enough to bring me to tears during the entire trip.
Next up, Paris!