Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Put it in perspective" department

(I don't have any photos to illustrate my main topic in this blog. On the other hand, I don't have any topic to go with my dinner this evening. So I'll illustrate this blog with pictures from dinner. It was splendid, by the way.)

I think I searched every street in Saint-Rémy this evening looking
for Restaurant La Fontaine, where I'd eaten several years ago.
It turned out it wasn't really as hidden as I thought.

I don't know whether anyone has noticed, but I love France and, especially, Provence. I guess it's remniscent of the landscape, the flora, the fauna of my Southern California childhood, of the vistas captured in the paintings of my artist forebears that hang in our family homes.

In three trips to France, I hadn't been back to Provence. I asked my sister, who'd be retiring this year, whether she'd like to go on the lavender tour, Experience Provence. I'd been before, and love it because of its immersion, though hectic, into French life. She said yes and we both signed up in July of last year for June/July this year.

I chose my seat for one at a table set for two.

We began to monitor trends in airfares, which trended in pretty much a straight line. So in January, we went for it, on our own computers in separate towns, on the phone buying simultaneously so we could get seats together: San Francisco to Paris to Marseille, with a more complicated return Another Step Forward.

All set, flightwise!

They brought me the menu, but I already knew
 what I wanted when I walked in the door:
The Salade Soleil

Then one day, I happened to look at my Air France account and our SFO to Paris and return legs were listed as CANCELLED. Flights bearing the same flight numbers but a slightly different schedule were also listed but with our status as N/A. Our seat reservations had disppeared.

Our immediate reaction was panic. We eventually took a wait-and-see attitude.

Just days before the flight, I discovered that seat selection was allowed once again, on the alternative flights, so back on the phone we went, where we got aisle seats across from each other. (On the one hand, aisle seats are good because you can get out easily to use the toilets. On the other hand, every single person who walks down the aisle whacks into some portion of your anatomy.)

I perused the decor while I awaited my meal.

Unfortunately, days before her retirement, Sister fell at work, sustaining a knee injury, so as flight day approached, we decided to take the "more seat room" upgrade option if it was offered during online check-in.

It was, and we got emergency exit row seats together and provided our credit card numbers and our boarding passes printed out with the seats we'd selected.  However, at the airport at baggage drop off they always print new separate "card" boarding passes for both legs of a journey. Except . . .

. . . except except except . . . Sister's new boarding pass left her in the old seat and not the upgrade she'd paid for, whereas mine was for the upgrade, and . . .

. . . and and and since our flight was running two hours late, even though we'd received emails rebooking us on a later connecting flight, they couldn't print those boarding passes in San Francisco. That would have to be done in Paris.

Lucky I got the shots early, as the restaurant filled quickly.

We begged and whined to the ticket agent that we'd planned and wanted to travel together, this, our first ever vacation together as adults, and had chosen our seats together way back in January, then paid for our upgrade together today. ("We don't see her payment here," they said.) Then we went to a supervisor and whined in the politist of ways (I don't think getting in the face of someone who fields complaints all day really gets you anywhere), but she could only tell us that someone else had already been assigned to that seat.

So that was that. Sister eventually wangled a swap on board to the aisle seat in the row behind me. We don't know yet whether she was charged for the upgrade she didn't get. I checked my account and I have been charged.

I think these are the real thing.

We were disappointed that we didn't have each other's company. I don't like a chatty seatmate whom I don't know, so never said a word to the guy that "won" Sister's seat, but I would have loved chatting with her. She chatted a little with her seatmate who never in 11 hours let her put her elbow on the arm rest between them, even though he had the window seat, that arm rest, and more.

Boo hoo. As we fitfully snoozed in irritation, I began to reflect on happenings in the world around me.

What was it first, the big earthquake in Haiti? How many killed and injured and made homeless?

The devasting earthquake and tsunami in Japan? How many killed and injured and made homeless?

Swaths of tornados in our own mid-section. How many killed and injured and made homeless?

Rivers, too, flooding in our own country, with loss of life and homes inundated.

Wildfires raging in the Southwest even as we left, taking homes and natural resources and wild and domestic animals . . . and so on.

A lot of people will never see their sisters again. And my sister and I don't get to sit together on a trip to Paris? This put a little -- no, let's say large -- perspective on it.

By the time our boarding pass acquisition in Paris went not without hitches either, we felt more like we were in one of those vacation movies with Ricky and Lucy or Chevy or Steve, taking on a slapstick quality. But we ended up with both of us side by side on the same plane to Marseille, the flight immediately following our arrival at Charles de Gaulle, and our luggage was intercepted and came along with us, too.

The Salad Soleil, with melon, jambon cru, tomatoes,
lettuce, and I even kinda liked the olives.

Beth greeted us at the Marseille airport with her smiling face and three bises (cheek kisses) à la Provençal, and took us to our bed and breakfast. We were not jet-lagged and stayed awake for dinner with the seven of the group that arrived that day. Life is good.

Yes, I'll have dessert. The Café Liégois. 
It's even bigger that it looks, and I think it might have been
my first true one, because I was brought
 a small pitcher of strong hot coffee to pour over it. 
I ate, then drank, every drop.
Those are slices of fresh oranges
and pears sticking up at the sides.

Be seeing you soon.



  1. I loved this post -- for your attitude, your return to a place you have such affection for, and the restaurant photos. Wonderful stuff.

  2. Well...You know how much I love a nice picture of the food! And I have to say - you did a good job. I especially love the basket of fresh fruits and vegetables. And the dessert....Oh my!