YYC-CDG | 2016

Home improvements, Sleepless nights and sleepless flights

There's nothing quite like the feeling of starting out a new trip. I can never sleep properly for a day or two before hand as my imagination kicks into overdrive and my impatience to get going makes it tough to sit still.

Waiting for this trip was worse than usual for several reasons: 

School (meaning work) had just let out, so I hadn't quite wound down from all the year end activities, meetings and work of packing up my classroom.

It was also unusually hot and humid late into the night, making it tough to get comfortable.

Finally, we'd decided to dismantle our house, ripping out the floor and a pointless wall to get a little more out of our limited square footage.

Less than half the house was liveable and the little guest room upstairs had become our living room. The incredible amount of drywall dust and mustiness from the splintered thirty-year-old plywood of the exposed subfloor made it tough going for someone with more than his fair share of allergies. My allergies weren't helped by the fact that we have a Siberian husky who insists on exploding like a dandelion whenever the whether gets hot.

I occupied myself with packing, sitting on the deck and taking the dog for walks. I may also have played more than a little of one my favourite Xbox 360 games, "The Saboteur," which takes place in Second World War Paris during the French Resistance, to get myself in the mood for the inevitable parkour, rally racing, and burlesque viewing I'd be doing in France.

I'd been to Paris before, but that was before I had a big person job and could afford to do... well, really anything.

Flashback to 2008

On our previous trip - and I must stress that this story is absolutely true - Aleks and I had stayed in a lovely boutique hotel just up the street from where an angry drunk man sat all day shouting things and throwing empty wine bottles at passersby.

After one train ride that required us to duck out of the way of a fist fight between two gentlemen over a baggie of what I can only assume was icing sugar and a second train ride during which a slumped-over man in the seat across from us roasted some sort of syrup over a bent spoon, it was clear that we were in the wrong part of town. 

We were glad to get to the relative 'safety' of our hotel room at night, although I do mean the word 'safety' in the relative sense.

On the way up to our room, my foot (and I am not a heavy man by any means) went right through the rotten stair where water had collected (and likely had pooled for centuries) outside the door to the only working shower in the building. 

Upon arriving at our room we discovered that neither the door handle lock nor the deadbolt actually functioned, largely because the door was no longer (and probably never had been) square with the doorframe and could not be completely closed.

And so we piled our luggage against the door and settled in under the hard light of the single, bare, and gently swinging lightbulb that hung from a length of fraying wire wrapped loosely over a beam in the centre of the room.

Exhausted, somewhat nervous about the possibility of theft, and more than a little disappointed about the lack of charm and romance of the accommodations on our first significant trip away together as a couple, I flopped myself down on the bed which turned out to be a boxspring with no mattress. The box spring had been slapped down unceremoniously on the cracked tile floor and covered in musty threadbare sheets and a sixty-year-old quilt.

I shouldn't complain too much, I suppose. The trip had its moments and we got some good laughs and great stories out of it.

I feel that trips like that one, when you're on a nail-biter of a budget and things that can go wrong are going very wrong, are a rite of passage. You need to have one of those every now and then. We'd had one then. We didn't want one now.

Back to 2016

But this trip was not going to be like that trip. We had jobs now - real jobs - and we'd managed to scrape together a little money. This trip would have the right sort of adventure! Equal parts excitement and comfort along with the financial security to actually order a drink at a cafe; perhaps even two.

And so at last, after a couple of sleepless nights, we stashed our suitcases in the trunk and headed off to the airport.

The airport, as airports so often are, was entirely uninteresting. I have nothing more to say about it except that lunch proved to me that it is not without good reason that the Kelsey's Restaurant chain has, as far as I'm aware, gone out of business everywhere in the world except the Calgary International Airport, and they seem to be clinging tenuously and inexplicably to that last thread of life as well.

A few highlights from the yelp reviews: "This place is kinda awful." "Just terrible." "Dreary." "I have nobody but myself to blame [for eating here]."

The flight was largely uneventful except for an exceptional view of multiple sunrises over Greenland. It was just after the longest day of the year and so the sun never fully set as we flew over the fjords and glaciers, but instead rose and fell in a constant fiery blaze that shone across the sheets of cloud and ice and snow.

I also watched Batman vs. Superman. It was only marginally less disappointing than our lunch at Kelsey's Restaurant.

At first, I was thrilled to have lucked out, receiving a free upgrade to a seat in an emergency exit row with extra leg room and nothing but a bulkhead in front of me.

This rare luxury became old after some young gentlemen of the intimate-hygiene-product-disposal sort, who might have boarded the wrong flight to Las Vegas or New Jersey, decided that they had to get the perfect #selfie for #eurotrip2016 with the view in the background, despite not actually having window seats. 

At first when they asked, I was perfectly happy to allow them a quick shot out the window by the emergency exit, I just hadn't counted on the fact that there were six or seven of them in all, each equally enthusiastic about the photo-op and each equally meticulous in their execution of amateur self-portrait photography.

I'd never before appreciated just how difficult it is to get the flat brim of your Raptors hat to sit at just the right angle to compliment your duck-face whilst still allowing at least a sliver of the view from the 30 x 20 centimetre window to remain visible in your picture. It is truly an art form.

Call it Stockholm syndrome, but after many gigabytes of photos, I was actually begrudgingly impressed by their limb contortions and even a little amused by their even more remarkable facial contortions. They'd grown on me. Besides, none of it could dampen my spirits.

We were going on an adventure!