Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Waking up in Paisley, just short of Glasgow, I know instantly I am off island. My room at the Ashtree, while pleasantly looking out on the green space to the back (and if you peer intently, to the church grave stones beyond!), is a room that reveals city skies and Scottish stone, made dark by too many years of history -- much of it not for the faint at heart. (Here's a photo of the front of the hotel. The colors are telling.)

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Still, it was a good sleep, as all sleep in Scotland has been for me and I go down to a bustling breakfast room refreshed.

This being the UK, there is a cooked breakfast (their term for anything that has protein and is served hot in the morning), but I say a polite no thank you. It would be unfair to compare it to the fabulous eggs and salmon (with a dram!) on the island. Porridge: I settle for that, slowly winding myself down and easing into the habits of my daily life back home.

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From here, I am less troubled about my connections. This is what I had dreamed of for my home state: rapid and frequent train connections to all key points north east west south of the city. Scotland has them. The trains from Paisley to Galsgow run every ten minutes. From Glasgow to Edinburgh (a distance comparable to that of Madison to Milwaukee) -- every fifteen. I ride with commuters who sit back and read -- what a luxury for your morning trip to work! -- or, just stare into nothing at all and imagine the day ahead.

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In Glasgow, the switch to the Edinburgh train is so easy that it's almost laughable that I should have worried when I studied connections during the planning stages of this trip.

And in Edingurgh, I get off at Haymarket -- a stop that puts me right on the route to the airport. As of last month, in addition to the airport bus (in Madison, we don't even have that connection to the center of town which I think is shameful), there is now a tram that zips you right to it in style.

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And at the airport, though I'm taking the cheap Easy Jet flight, I know I am within their weight limit and I know my suitcase is likely to survive the brutal handling at the airport. (A bit of a hopeful attitude there.)

The flight to Paris is on time, the weather in Paris is superb.

Of course I've paid my dues in the past. And tomorrow my connections on the return home, which I made with the use of frequent flyer miles (meaning you take what you can get and are thankful for it) are brutal and long, requiring patience and a bit of an adventurous mindset. I hope Islay has reinforced both in me.

Paris. What can I say -- may there always be a place in my life, in your life that allows me, that allows you to transition so magnificently from one stage to the next. Where you're comfortable and most everything is familiar, beautiful, sensually pleasing.

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(my very first minutes are in the Luxembourg Gardens)

If I have one sigh of disappointment it's that my reliable and perfectly positioned hotel underwent a total facelift. And lift itself it did! Right into a category of comfort that exceeds my budget. I suppose someone understood that a place so close to the gardens and the river, on a street of magnificent calm and quiet will always fill its rooms, even if it charges twice what I'm used to. I have one last stay booked at special promo rates for one night sometime in October and I shall taste that fourth star that they so wanted to earn then. But only then.  (French hotels have somewhere between two and five stars; I nearly always stay in three and in the country, I'll consider two star places).

But today, I'm at the rather academic (three star) Sorbonne (it is across the street from that university and, too, their prices attract the shabbier pocket of a faculty person or a student) -- which is fine, depending if your next door neighbor is studiously quiet, or is in Paris, in Paris, damn it! -- to experience freedom from parents, institutions and the oppressive drinking laws back home. Tonight, it appears I have the former, thank God.

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(the room is tiny, but good enough for me)

I really have no time in the city. None at all. I check into the hotel at around 6 in the evening and I need to leave at 7 in the morning so it's just a brief walk and a dinner, but I shall make much of it, that's for sure, because I need that brisk paced gallop up and down these streets, in the same way that I needed that marathon dancing spell at my daughter's wedding. Movement is so good for any number of things, transitions being one of them.


Walk accomplished. Scenes from it, coming up. It's summer so I never know if I'm photographing tourists or locals and honestly, does it matter? This is Paris:

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(you'll see more children now, in July, than in any other month here. they're not in school and not yet away for the family vacation)

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("where the hell am I??")

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(this is the one time that I longed for Sorede: when I saw these market apricots, which probably came from there)

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(...is everywhere)

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(as are raspberries)

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(...and scooters)

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(a selfie)

As for dinner? I don't want to do anything but eat a meal at a place that makes me happy and so I go to my reserved spot at  Pouic-Pouic. Lovely and lively, delicious. I am never disappointed.

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As I eat my girolle mushrooms and crab, and my gambas (shrimp) and veggies, and my way too large portion of berries and cream and ice cream, I think about how they know me here, at Pouic Pouic and they know me possibly because I am the one who always come here to eat alone. They treat me royally and in fact, I think they over compensate. Today they comped me a desert wine and they always call me by name. Madame Camic, how did you like such and such, Madame Camic, would you like a coffee?

Do I mind eating -- or, let's broaden it -- traveling alone? Those of you who know me also know the answer to it: it's yes. Of course I would prefer to do all that I do with my beloved at my side! Of course I would!

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(a small birthday celebration at the table across from mine)

It just cannot be. And so I toggle on and I devise trips that will satisfy my need to pack up and go, at the same time that they wont remind me too much of how it could be, were I living with someone who also loved to travel.

And now I am back at the Hotel Sorbonne, in for a too brief night of sleep ahead. I can't tell if it will be as solid as Scotland sleep. That would have to be tomorrow's post -- which, of course, will be slightly off schedule, due to travel.