A pug named Cara shares an afternoon beer with her owner at a café.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Deep Sun Café, Boulevard Carnot, Cannes

Across from our table at a café a block from the apartment, a serene woman in a pale peach dress sat in one chair, and her pug sat on the chair beside her, as if this were their usual Saturday habit. The woman leaned close to the dog to speak once in a while. The pug accepted a few offered nacho chips. And then how natural it was here in Cannes, where small dogs seem more like friends than pets, that the woman offered her own gold-rimmed pilsner glass, and her companion lapped up a taste of the beer without spilling a drop.

Earlier at the cafe, reading Le Monde, I had marveled at what a challenge Arnold Schwartzeneger's "girlie men" taunt at the Republican Convention must have posed for the reporter in today's issue. The story quotes the Governator as taking a swipe at "poules mouillees," which, according to my digital Larousse, literally means "wet hens" or--Arnold would have approved--"wimps."

Francoise left this morning for her flights to Denver, offering us instructions and tips on where to shop right up until she stepped into the taxi. Darlene and I rested much of the day, venturing out finally to buy vegetables at an open-air market, where in our befuddlement with Euros, language, and lack of sleep, we left the tomatoes and onions behind on a table.

Darlene's energy is comprehensible in any language, as Francoise's smile shows during our tour of the kitchen Friday evening.

14 Boulevard Carnot, Cannes, France

At this point, things are a blur (including Darlene’s image in the photo with Francoise in the kitchen), and I’m too excited to sleep. My six years of French in high school were just enough to make me dangerous as I nodded my head and frantically wrote notes about the cryptic buttons on the toaster, washing machine, on-demand hot water, and dishwasher. Darlene speaks not a word of French, which means Francoise switches to her very good English from time to time, and my mind can regroup before stumbling ahead again in all the wrong tenses. Darlene is also better than I am at asking the important questions, such as exactly why are there TWO different flush buttons on the toilet, and which is which? Water is precious here, so the toilets smartly offer two volumes of water, depending on what exactly is being flushed.

Francoise’s apartment on the fourth floor of a venerable building on a busy street has no elevator, high ceilings, eclectic original paintings, scary narrow balconies overlooking the sidewalk, and an Epson Stylus Photo 915 printer, which I hope will speak the same language as my Vaio X505. And now, mon dieu, some sleep….?

1 Thursday, September 2, 2004 6 p.m.
SkyRide bus to Denver International Airport

Swapping homes means figuring out what’s essential to know about your home. In a 30-story high rise, it means leaving an elaborate set of directions, complete with photos of ramps, so Francoise will be able to drive our Volvo in and out of the parking garage. It means leaving 20 pages of notes covering everything from the location of the trash chute on the 11th floor to how to buzz a visitor in from the outer lobby (dial 9 on the house phone).

Alexandre, Francoise’s son who lives in Denver, stopped by for a walk-through just before Darlene and I rolled our luggage to the Market Street Bus Station. He brought news from Francoise that we will need to be very careful to conserve water while we are at her home in Cannes, because water bills can get very high very quickly. Also, he alerted us that the woman who lives upstairs from Francoise is soon to be evicted. Alexandre suggested that if the woman tries to draw us into the controversy, it might be a good time to not be able to understand French.

Coming up: an eight-hour British Airways flight to Heathrow/London, a two-hour layover, and then a two-hour hop to Nice, where Francoise’s favorite taxi driver will be holding a sign that reads “Len and Darlene.” Our long-planned Denver-Cannes house-swap is officially under way.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Len and Darlene at Market Street Station, with home in the background.

Day Five of final preparation for five weeks in France. Tomorrow evening I will enter my 55th year. Five reasons to look forward to Cannes: 1) writing with croissants and coffee outdoors at a sidewalk cafe 2) swimming laps off the Cote d'Azur 3) le Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) to Paris 4) Reading Le Monde 5) AA in French.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

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