After five trips, we now know that the trip to Chateau Miaou…and then on to the airport in Toulouse…always takes longer than we anticipate so, to allow enough time for the journey, the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m……a most reasonable time when I was working but an ungodly hour now that I’m retired.
We dressed quickly, tidied up the cottage, turned off the electronics, loaded the luggage into the car, got the kitty carry case out and then looked around for Felix. A most intelligent cat….he had gone into hiding as soon as he saw the carry case. Unfortunately for him, there aren’t too many places a 15 pound cat can hide…..Craig found him under the bed, scooped him up and tucked him in the case. Felix now seems resigned to having two “homes”…..he prefers the cottage but tolerates Chateau Miaou.
The anticipated traffic jam (and the main reason for our early wake-up call) never materialized! There were very few cars on the road and, oddly, no trucks…..so the drive to Chateau Miaou, although fast, was somewhat unsettling…..had something happened? A terrorist attack? A nuclear meltdown? A French strike? Then I remembered…..it’s Ascension Day, yet another holiday in France.
We arrived at Chateau Miaou, got Felix settled in and headed off to Toulouse…..arriving in record time. We checked our bags, went through security and border patrol, had a last croissant and boarded the plane to London. Two hours later, we were racing through Heathrow…..and, after another passport check, another security screening and another terminal, we were finally aboard the 747 that would return us to the “city by the bay.”
These trans-Atlantic, cross-country flights never get any shorter. We watched movies, ate, slept, watched more movies, snacked, napped and ate again before we finally saw the California landmarks that we know so well….the Sierra’s, the central Valley, Clear Lake and then…finally…..San Francisco Bay.
We cleared passport control, picked up our luggage, cleared customs and agriculture, found our transportation (a limo this time!), got to the hotel, walked to a nearby store for a little liquid refreshment (after all, thirst is a terrible thing), returned to the hotel and fell asleep before we could enjoy our purchase.
Tuesday brought a very pleasant surprise when our son, Chris, and grandson, River, came to visit us at the hotel. With a curled lock of blond hair, big blue eyes and a ready smile, our grandson is absolutely adorable. After years of ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over other children, it was finally my turn! Before heading off to lunch, we stopped in for a quick visit with my former co-workers who (as I knew they would) ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over this precious little boy. It turns out that my grandson is quite a flirt….with a glint in his eyes, a quick smile and outstretched arms, he charmed all the ladies. If I didn’t know better, I could have sworn I saw him wink at a few of them.
Spending the day getting to know this little charmer was an absolute joy. Despite the miles that have separated us for so much of his young life, this little guy tugs at my heartstrings like no one else. When he looks up and smiles at his “Nana,” I wonder why I want to return to France. And watching my son with his son fills me with awe and pride…..seeing the love in his eyes, feeling the tenderness in his heart, hearing his gentle encouragements…..my heart was ready to burst at the seams. All too soon, it was time for them to leave.
Wednesday came too early….no longer on French time but not yet on California time, I woke at 3 a.m. but waited for the sun to rise before starting to compile the reams of paperwork we’d need for our visa appointment on Friday.
After playtime and lunchtime, it was back to work…..application forms (and copies), financial statements (and copies), health insurance (and copies), residence forms (and copies), marriage certificate (and copies), proof of accomodation (and copies), letter of intent (and copies), passport (and copies). After days of compiling….and hours of copying and stapling, we were finally ready for our appointment at the French consulate.
“With a little luck, we can clear it up, we can bring it in for a landing. With a little luck, we can turn it on, there can be no misunderstanding”………Paul McCartney