France

(Click on a picture at the bottom to pull the full sized gallery up!)

As I briefly mentioned in my Norway travelogue, being a flight attendant has given me the opportunity to meet (hundreds of?) thousands of people. Whenever it’s time to board I wonder if a new friend is about to enter my life. This is not the experience of most flight attendants, but I think they are missing out by not paying enough attention to this opportunity. Besides the obvious example of Fabian, who I met on a flight in August of 2002, there are other people with whom I have become close friends. Under the rubric of “Perhaps the Most Generous Person I’ve Ever Met” is Jean Baptiste Leray (JB). I met him on a flight from Paris to Chicago in October, 2005. Below you will find pictures of my “Summer of France” which was due entirely to him. He owns an apartment in Paris, with a great location by the Louvre!, and in this particular summer he was traveling to Switzerland during the week for work. He casually offered, “Hey, Craig, since I’m gone during the week, why don’t you invite a friend of your’s over to Paris for a week and you can stay here for free?” Heck, ya! So I met up with my friend Greg in Paris in June and, if you haven’t traveled with your friends before, let me tell you it can be a disaster. The small things that annoy you a little at home can turn monumental while making vacation decisions. But not with Greg! Greg is a cool, socially observant, intellectual and we got along famously. I wish I had a friend like him in my own hometown.

Then in August, JB’s parents, who live in a small town in southern France called Montpelier, wanted to go up to Paris for a week. They let JB have their house, said he could invite any friends he wished, and so he invited a small posse. I think generosity is an inheritable quality. So, in August I went back to France and took the high speed train down to the South. Those trains are amazing! In my jetlagged delirium I felt like I was traveling through a cross between a three dimensional impressionistic Van Gogh painting and a psychedelic trip at warp speed. What a fun week! I had the best bed in the house which was poolside in my sleeping bag on luxurious patio furniture under the Starry Starry Night. Each day in the morning after bagettes and coffee we had an excursion to some fun place. One day we went swimming in a river in a gorge under a fantastic bridge. You could jump off the walls of the gorge into the water. I will include place names for travel references [this was Le Pont de Diable]. Other days were: a cave…I end up caving on so many trips I think I’m what you could call an accidental spelunker [La Grotte des Demosoiselles]…and anyone who has studied art knows that French caves were the center of the Neanderthal art world; a day hike sized mountain climb [Le Pic Saint-Loup]; the medieval walled city of Carsassonne, a picture of which I have stolen from wikipedia below

The Medieval Walled Town of Carcassonne Lit Up at Night

because it is just so much more gorgeous than any of my pictures; and finally, a trip to the Mediterrean on a scorching hot day where we set up our blankets on scorching hot sand only to be allured by the Sirens of Fever into the FREEEEZING cold water (and I’m a boy from Michigan).

Wow, that was one long sentence.

After our excursions we spent our late afternoons relaxing around the pool with wine and cheese; it was France, after all. JB is so generous that he even shares his friends. Two of them, Dirk and Laura (Mr. and Mrs. Universe below) have become good friends of mine and I will visit them next week.  So, thanks JB!! Moral of the story: If you are a flight attendant, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your passengers. If you are not, introduce yourself to the person next to you at the check out line in the grocery store.

Posted on September 2, 2012, in Travel Pictures and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You sure do know how to live in style! Zach and I always love your travel pics, though they usually make us terribly jealous ;b Carcassone looks amazing! Z and I read this book aloud called Labyrinth by Kate Moss and it goes into the history of that area. Fun book, you might likey, sort of Da Vinci Code – esque.
    Anyway, we’re glad you generously offered to switch our seats in route to Paris and you made yourself available as a fellow gypsy, fish, and friend!

  2. Amazing, as always. The Wikipedia connection failed for me but I cannot imagine any pictures being better than yours. How fantastic it is you are living your life full throttle open. I agree, you had to have had the best sleeping quarters available, next to the pool and under the stars.
    I admit I felt a little queasy looking at you in your King of France pose, but only because I have the dreaded vertigo issue.
    You are blessed with great friends because they see in you a kindred spirit. What a great flow of love, joy, and adventure amongst all of you.
    You are absolutely right about being open to new people. I practiced that this weekend and it was delightful, in a much smaller context but delightful all the same.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Peace

  3. Great friends and fantastic photos! You know how to enjoy every moment of life.

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