Dad's Memories

- 27 August 98 - 27 August 98

"Bidets to Bullfights"

c - Arthur J. Langdon -1970

013a -- Home to New York & the flight to Paris -- 013a

There's no place like home or so they say,

But how do you know if you don't go away?

And parting too is such sweet sorrow

So it's gone today and here tomorrow.

A first time trip to Paris and then on to Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal, and Spain is a new and exciting experience in all its phases. Even the talks with a travel agent on currency and customs, different than accustomed, brings a flavor of expectancy like "How now - brown cow".

We left home in ninety degree weather with our son driving us to Meriden, Connnecticut to pick up an airport limousine which would bring us to Kennedy Airport for our Paris flight. The bus was late and the only shade in the waiting area was under the canopy of a pizza palace. When it finally arrived the limousine turned out to be a big bus with a capacity of about fifty or more. In it was the driver and one young boy. It was immediately apparent that the air conditioning on the bus was not working and a quick check showed that all the windows had been fixed so they could not be opened. The driver was a happy fellow and advised us to ask for our money back but we were trapped in a pizza oven on wheels whether we liked it or not.

For a while the rolling pizza oven seemed to think it was perhaps an old milk wagon, for it would stop at all the various hamlets like New Haven, Bridgeport, etc. The driver would run into the motel or a gas station which seemed to serve as a pick up base, only to come back alone and drive on to the next one. Oh yes, at New Haven, the young fellow who was our companion rolled out of the bus either to visit Grandma or perhaps he figured he was getting overdone.

Finally, at Milford, the law of averages caught up with us and a bus with the air conditioning working was available to continue the trip. We transferred and soon thru the door came other shapes - most of them in sport shirts in all degrees of violent color and each supporting a camera sling - so we knew that we were among fellow travelers.

Kennedy Airport is like most other major ports with confused construction always in progress and too busy personnel trying to be reasonably polite to confused people. But, we did locate the proper place to have passports checked and then, with more than an hour to departure, we walked through a half a mile of debris to gather in a quick sandwich. On the way we passed an area of unusual entertainment - which was obviously known to many of the throngs gathered around - an acre large area, behind a glass enclosure - to watch those returning from abroad go thru customs.

A Rock and Roll group coming from Teheran was the center of attention.

The apparent leader was a young fellow in his early twenties dressed in a flowing robe which reached his Jesus type sandles below and up, to his angelic face with Jesus type beard - through which came a peaceful smile to all indignities. Like going completely through his knapsack, opening all small packets therein, a microscopic search of everything contained in his luggage. All this while the rest of the rock group stood watching the diligent customs men with amused espressions while giving their leader smiles of encouragement. His final check was to be taken to a small room for a search of his person. As he was entering, the adjacent room door opened and his girl friend emerged withe a couple of female agents. She had come into the airport with a cast on one leg and in a wheel chair. One of the female agents had the remains of the leg cast and others carried mysterious packets of whatever one brings from Teheran and would like to get past customs.

Other miscrients - obvious to the assembled balcony throng, who were experienced in the procedure - were several average looking couples who had jewelry and other items beyond the accepted allowable value and protested the violation of their rights to placid faced inspectors who identified each object and then impounded it.

It's a big wide wonderful world

And more of it's wonders are being unfurled

To more of it's people who hurry to get

A seat to anywhere on a new fangled jet.

The Air France plane was completely filled with about half senior citizens and half young people. Our companion in the row of three seats was a young girl in her teens, very well educated, polite, and affable, who was going to Paris - only as a jump off point to many destinations on the way to Turkey. She said she was foot loose and fancy free and gave the impression that she could take care of herself. My wife was assigned a window seat and our young feminine friend had the aisle seat. As usual, I was in the middle. My good one, on looking out the window, had a subconsious fear of falling that far and in an aisle seat can only look at the floor - which really isn't to far away. On the request of my loved one, they gladly exchanged seats. I was still in the middle.

After boarding a French flight, you become essentially a French possession. Monsieur or Madame as the case may be, with a gentle application of "oui-oui". The evening flight serves a light dinner preceded by cocktails. The dinner was just slightly European but the cocktails were a first introduction that some things were going to be different.

In the good old USA, a dry martini is a glass of gin with the dry vermouth bottle gently waved over the rim. It is, to those accustomed to it's after effects, an appetite stimulator that can only be improved upon by a second dry martini. The French dry martini, I learnd to my sudden horror, is pure dry vermouth with no gin at all ! It's effect on our American dry martini man is like memories of mother holding your nose with one hand and administering a large dose of castor oil with the other. "Now wasn't that good?"

An hour before arriving in Paris (an hour which is completely irrelevant because six hours become "lost" on the way - a fact which is easily corrected on your wristwatch - but more difficult to correct on the internal watch what controls eating and sleeping habits) a continental breakfast is served consisting of the usual orange juice, pastery and coffee. The juice was fine, the pastery devine, the coffee - another sign that things were certainly going to be different. It is as black as a midnight storm, tastes as though brewed from ground up gall stones, and is served with a beautifully engendered package of dried cream - which I have to believe is ground up chalk. Because you get the feeling that you are a guest of France - and do not want to offend, you drink it. And then, at least in my case, suffer your first case of air sickness in hundreds of thousands of miles of air travel.

Index - Uncle Art & Aunt Clara's trip to Europe - 1970, "Bidets to Bullfights"

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