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2003-10-29 - 2:07 p.m.

whirlwind 1: the south of France

I have returned!

After visits from friends, a deathly illness (ok, a cold), a workshop in the south of France, meeting "the family" in Cologne, and spending the last three days embroiled in battles with credit card companies, banks, and administrations, I have returned for a few days of breathing before I get a visit from my longest and dearest friend B, and then go off to New York.

People tell me that October to December is a stressful time. This year I've decided to pack in oogabs of activities just to make it even more exciting. But I guess it is boring to write about "how busy I am" so I will move on.

After my friends Ellen and Barbara left, I once again came down with an awful cold - apparently I am such a lovely host that the last cold just invited its friends to stay for a while. So I was flat out for a few days just before I had to leave for France, sitting at home in red fuzzy socks and white pajamas with cats in my lap, my head ablurrrr, trying to make a cohesive presentation for our workshop in Villefranche. I finally succeeded in finishing said presentation in the hotel room - now THERE's a way to spend a day on la Cote d'Azur!

This trip confirms that the ol' catch phrase, "In Germany the trains run on time" is a faint memory of the old glory days of German efficiency. These days we are lucky if they run at all. On both parts of my journey we were 45 minutes late. On the trip to the airport, half of the train - which also contained the restaurant car and all of the staff running it - was distinctly missing. Alternatively, on our return trip, we could ONLY get seats in the restaurant car. I sat across from Manfredi, who, apart from being a complete sweetheart, is the tallest Italian I have ever met. Fortunately he is also a good-looking and friendly Italian - so it was only a partial discomfort to have his knees under my seat for the entire trip.

We also had some eventful flights. Our flight to Nice was late and contained the most pleasant of Lufthansa flight attendants - she was a hit-and-run insulter. I hate hit-and-run insulters. They come up to you and say something rude and nasty and then dash off quickly while your mouth is still hanging open and you haven't had time to process how rude they have been, let alone come up with a witty retort. This lady even ran the beverage cart over the foot of the old sleeping guy in front of me. I was planning to step on her foot and say "HAVE A NICE DAY" as I left the plane - but alas she cleverly stayed in the back of the plane.

Getting in and out of Nice airport is always somewhat tricky because during take-off and landing the plane has to do a 360 turn over the ocean, with cross winds coming down off the Alps - sometimes it is rather bumpy. But on our return trip we were pummeled by huge gusts of winds all the way across the Alps - the kind of turbulence that causes the entire plane to shake up and down. This always makes me think of the Far Side cartoon where the pilots do this on purpose, "oops! more turbulence! hee hee hee!" Manfredi finally asked me if I was nervous - perhaps my white knuckles clutching the side of the arm rest as I chanted the Lord's Prayer gave me away.

But back to la Cote d'Azur! Recommendation: don't go at the end of October. Cold, rain, clouds. We did have half a day of sun during the week that I was there. But you know, you could get that in London. Although perhaps not the same food and wine.

Also discovered that women on the French Riviera have 30-minute-lips. The kind that take 30 minutes to put on in the morning. Leticia observed that they also have 1-hour hair. I think that I have 5-minute hair and 5-second lips.

Anyway, enough for now.

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