I started in Venice with my phone alarm going off at 3:45 and made it to Cambrai, France by the end of the day without any epic fail related to being stupid tired. Score one for the forces of Less Evil Than Some!

Notable features:

Walking out into Venice at 4 AM in the dark and the rain was very... Atmospheric. In which the atmosphere is "gothic thriller" - if I'd heard footsteps behind me I probably would have barfed, I was so wound up from the... Atmosphere. Of black narrow streets oily with rain and no streetlights to speak of, and the sound of the water sibilant and dark and everywhere: it's coming from all around us, man. IT'S ALL AROUND US.

Things I learned about myself at 4:00 this morning: 1) Dark water gives me the heebie jeebies. I was standing there on the pier wating for the 4:50 Alilaguna and my skin was crawling from the wiggins. Like in a genuinely spooked and adrenalized way. The water roiled under the bridges, undulating in weirdly luminescent curves of preternaturally smooth darkness and the boats thumped and the docks creaked and darkness, darkness, the dark and the rain and the river, and in the dark boats running without lights would roar out of nowhere and send up  hard currents that would make the water gnash its teeth against the stone and seriously, within about half an hour I was ready to jump out of my skin. Then some other people showed up and I was fine, because OBVIOUSLY I am not going to be filleted by Jacobi di Rippero and/or eaten by the creaturi di laguna negra if anyone else is around. And then the boat came and we all lay down on the seats and slept til we got to the airport, and then walked nearly a kilometer to get to the airport from the port port, and then there were planes and trains and no automobiles. Everything went fine though I was OOB tired by the end of the day.

Dinner in the hotel was amazing. It was the very definition of French comfort food:

Starter: a piping hot bowl of fragrant shellfish bisque (SO MUCH CREAM) with bay scallops, fortified with slivers of carrot and onion
Main: pot au feu - beef, carrots, turnip, and onion, in a sauce made with the demiglace, yet more cream, and paprika.
Dessert: Turkish delight ice cream and fresh fruit - I am near sure that the ice cream was made by melting Turkish delight, folding it into whipped cream, adding yet more pralines and candied orange peel, and then freezing it til near-hard and slicing it into wedges. Which were then served with slices of fresh orange, apple, and kiwi, on a plate that had been dusted with powdered sugar and dressed with a spoonful of strawberry coulis. It was incredible.
After: Tisane instead of coffee - I had tilleul with mint.


The bed is large and soft, the shower hot, the wireless free and unlimited, the television in a language I can understand. Yay! And even more satisfyingly, I find myself feeling really and truly "at home" in France, where I can speak the language in the fashion which sorts me into a certain social type and provides certain privileges and protections - no being treated like some freak leper from stupidity city. I can say things equivalent to "I would take a laurel and mint tisane, if you have it to hand" instead of "ME PLANT TEA LIKEY." I know the expected social customs and patterns, know the warp and weft of daily life - when things open and close, what everything is called, the right turn of the phrase, how to enter and exit shops without a ripple - I can travel here without any difficulty or friction borne of cultural confusion or language barriers. And after 6 weeks in Austria, Germany, and Italy -being back in France feels like coming home. That's a nice way to feel about France. Accepted. Belonging. Not alien. Home.




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