With 7 extra hours, we still almost miss the plane

Trip Start Sep 25, 2012
Trip End Oct 16, 2012

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

To be sure we'd get to the airport in plenty of time, I suggested that we leave Angie’s apartment at 11:00 for the 1:01 pm flight. Since the airport was only 45 minutes away this allowed plenty of time for starting out a little late, as well as for unexpected traffic on the Autoroute.  So we spent the morning cleaning up, making beds, and de-crumbing the dining room table after the assault of all the Stonehenge Bakery breads.  At 11:05 we were ready to go.  Just to be sure of the departure time, I mechanically checked our itinerary:  Yikes!  1:01 was actually when our plane had left London for Nice a week ago.  The flight from Nice back to London didn’t leave until 5:50 pm!  This allowed me yet another opportunity to meditate on both the passage of time and the unfavorable effects of aging on memory.

Fortunately my mistake was in the right direction: we’d been given a gift of almost seven extra hours in France with Carole and Manfred.  And we were virtually all packed up and ready to go--what a treat!

So, in high spirits we ventured forth to cash in on our seven hour bonus.  First stop was the Matisse chapel, just a few km from Angie’s.  We had visited it many times when we lived in Vence.  It’s genesis is an interesting story.  In 1941 Matisse had surgery for what was called "duodenal cancer."  The recovery was long and difficult, so he ran an ad for “a young and pretty nurse” to minister to him.  A suitable candidate, Monique Bourgeois, applied and was chosen.  She gave him tender care and, inevitably, ended up as his model.  Then she decided to enter a Dominican convent in Vence, acquiring the name Sister Jacque-Marie.  The newly minted Sister asked him if he would consider designing a chapel for the convent which, at the age of 77, he agreed to undertake.  He designed not only the building itself, but all the glass windows, the interiors, the candle holders and light fixtures, the furniture, the wall murals, and even the priestly vestments (some of which, by the way, were a brilliant chartreuse) .  Confined to a wheel chair and with crippled hands, he designed the murals by having a long stick with a brush at the end strapped to his arm.  The stained glass windows are brilliant yellow (for the sun), green (for vegetation), and blue for the sea and the Madonna.  The white interior glows with these colors.  No photos were allowed on the inside; below are a few photos of the exterior and the building next door, which used to be the high school the Sisters ran.

After the chapel we drove to the old part of Vence.  Annie and I led the cousins down the memory lane:  Here was the little alley crammed with artistically arranged, gorgeous vegetables, the poissonniers with their fresh fish nestled in ice, the home made pasta shop, the hole in the wall that produced bread second in quality only to the Stonehenge.  Then we conducted them to the Vence church to visit another of our favorite Chagall mosaics, this one of baby Moses being discovered in the bulrushes by a delighted pharaoh’s daughter (see photo below).

The additional hours we were granted afforded us the special opportunity to have another meal in France.  After the usual pfaffing about we finally settled on an Italian restaurant on the edge of town—the smells compelled.  We ate out on the terrasse, under a bright white awning.  Our server was a real sweetie who asked if he could practice his English on us—bien sūr, we said!  This memorable meal is well-documented in the accompanying photographs.

Though the seven-hour extension seemed a virtually unlimited amount of time, it occurred to me that it might be prudent to figure out when we needed to leave for the airport, again.  Especially because we were heading into rush hour I thought we should budget plenty of time.  I suggested that we go back to Angie’s to pick up our suitcases and leave for Nice at 4:30 sharp. 

Well there were some delays at Angie’s, I don’t know exactly why and don’t want to know, but of course they were blamed on the distaff set.  As 4:40 rolled around I realized I was getting slightly twitchy and asked Manfred to check his GPS (which he’d already programmed for the airport) for the ETA.  Assuming no traffic, the GPS announced 5:11.  Yikes!!!  The plane, I suddenly re-realized, left at 5:50, little more than an hour from now, and we were still pfaffing at Angie’s.  WHAT WAS I THINKING WHEN I SAID WE SHOULD LEAVE AT 4:30???, I asked myself, but neither I, nor the distaff pfaffers, nor Manfred’s GPS could tell me.  In full panic mode, it didn’t occur to me to further meditate, no matter how apt it would have been, on the passage of time and the toll that aging takes on memory.  And, mercifully, the others had the grace to neither ask me to so meditate nor to inquire as to how I could have so profoundly blown the airport calculations not once, but twice in a single day.  I guess there was a certain symmetry in first estimating way long, then way short, but I certainly didn’t claim any credit for doing so.

The ride to the airport was made in stone silence, except for the monotonous drone of Manfred’s GPS: “in 200 Metern links abbiegen... in 1 Kilometer rechts abbiegen.“  I hoped that the calm mechanical voice was trying to convey imperturbability and  reassurance.  But more likely, it was mocking our ridiculous attempt to race to the airport, check in, get boarding passes, go through security, be cleared at passport control, find our gate, and jump on the plane.   

I think we pulled up at the airport at about 5:20.  We may have given token hugs and kisses, I don’t remember.  But we actually made it; we were the last ones on the plane!

When we arrived at Gatwick I turned on my cell phone.  There was a message from Manfred and Carole:  They said they had parked near the airport and were sitting on the beach, in case we missed the flight.  They were waiting for us to call and ask them to pick us up.
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