I have a system, and for a decade it’s been running like clockwork. It’s an excellent plan, and one I am rather attached to. I look forward to it, like a ritual. Although some people think I am a bit of a gypsy and rather flexible, I am also surprisingly attached to certain rituals.
My standard annual trek to Provence typically begins with a rather uncomfortable, but uneventful flight to Paris. Then a full day in the city of lights where I stay up as late as a can after being up all night on a plane. I hit my usual spots, eat my favourite things then go off to sleep-land for a good 12 hours, waking up on French time right as rain. The next morning I take the train to Provence, pick up my bicycle from my kind friends who store it for me, buy groceries, unpack and settle in for my first evening under the bright blue sky.
This year was something else altogether. And unfortunately, I am not remotely surprised. First of all, 2018 has been a less than stellar year so far. In fact, it’s been quite shitty, no need to mince words. The world seems to be spinning even further off-kilter than previous years, which was hard to imagine, but here we are. Work life has been financially—and otherwise—not very positive. While there were some highlights this year (an awesome NYC trip and an amazing week on Maui), the winter was even more brutal than the usual brutal, cycling has been reduced, fitness isn’t top notch, mental well-being challenged on a daily basis, etcetera, etcetera.
So, in the end, it's not surprising my Provence ritual this year would fall prey to the fate of 2018. I suppose after 10 years of everything going seemingly perfectly, my time was up. It started with my first flight being delayed to the point I would not make my connection to Paris in Montreal. Alas, my luggage stayed on my original flight, but I was put on a direct flight to London with a connection to Paris late in the day. I dread Heathrow more than most airports, so I wasn’t delighted about this plan. I’d arrive so late in Paris I’d have no time to do anything really, and who knows where my luggage would be. The saving grace was having the pleasure of being business class to London, and that was truly an amazing experience. I have never been in a pod before; it comes complete with privacy, quiet, excellent service AND you can lie flat! Thank goodness for that, as I was again delayed two and a half hours on the next plane, on the tarmac in London. All the comfort of business class quickly vanished, turning into an aching neck and sore back after being stuck in a seat without moving for so long.
After spending 24 straight hours either in an airport or on a plane, I finally arrived in Paris and luckily my luggage was actually there, the highlight of my day. I swiftly picked it up and was off to my hotel. Things were starting to look up as my lovely hotel gave me a wee upgrade to a much larger and nicer room than I booked. Perhaps because I am a regular customer, or just because it’s August in Paris and they weren’t fully booked, whatever the reason, I was thrilled. I even managed to catch a few places still open, had a bit of a walkabout, then headed to bed for my blissful 12-hour nap. But blissful it was not. I only slept four hours, waking up completely out of sorts and just couldn’t get back to sleep. Throw in a bout of vertigo and I felt like I’d been through a meat grinder come morning. Sweet.
Thankfully everything went smoothly the next day. The weather was very agreeable upon my arrival, all errands were completed with little fuss and I finally settled in for a long, quiet sleep. Sunday arrived with perfect blue skies, +34 degrees and just a gentle breeze. I busted out the old trusty steed and went for a lovely cycle, so delighted I didn’t even notice how quickly the kilometres were adding up. I then followed it up with a long soak in the pool, gazing out to the beautiful view of the Luberon hills in the distance while the cicadas were singing.
I am well aware others have suffered even worse travel horror stories, so I count my lucky stars. All is right with the world for the moment once again. And for that, I am forever, entirely grateful.