Well, I think we may just have nailed the “slow travel” thing. Our next stop after Montreal was supposed to be Barcelona. It’s a month later and we’re still on our way there…
After the QM2 dropped us back onto terra firma in Southampton, we made our way up to London somewhat shakily, nursing hangovers and more than a little “land sickness”. After a week of bouncing around behind Hurricane Katia our brains had become used to the extra motion and I guess someone forgot to send the memo telling them that the party was over. Sitting in a toilet cubicle and having the impression that the seat is floating while the walls around you are spinning up and down is more than a little weird when you’re totally sober!
Anyway we arrived in London to the house I grew up in, where both my mum and brother (the WoodFashioner) are currently living. Over the summer, since I last saw it in April and seemingly out of nowhere, the garden has positively exploded with a bountiful harvest. Plants have always grown readily there but, until my mum took the reigns from my brothers and me, those plants were mainly weeds. So it was quite a pleasant surprise to be greeted with the organised chaos of a real kitchen garden: spindly tomato plants, the full repertoire of herbs, a glut of zucchini blurting themselves out all over the place, the orange crescent of a pumpkin emerging and a crabapple tree which had somehow bombarded the entire garden floor with it’s fruit.
The most impressive, in my opinion, is the vine which last year looked like a stick in the ground but is now rapidly growing up the side of WoodFashioner’s workshop and is hung with small bunches of tiny grapes which my mum hastily described as “eating grapes”, as if she was worried I was about to harvest the lot and make wine on the spot. Instead I went straight out and plucked a zucchini-flower which I attempted to fry but quickly burned. Perhaps the nomadic life is killing my ability to cook…
After the excesses of the QM2 and a week catching up friends in London over too many drinks, it was little wonder that I came down with a cold just before we were due to leave for Saint Brevin, near Brittany, to see Stacker’s parents. “Don’t worry,” said Stack’s dad when he heard. “We have what’s needed… Rum, etc.” So that was that settled: from experience I know the mere prospect of one of his famous “grogs” is enough to have most viruses trembling in their phlegmy boots.
The Stack-rents have also not been idle and in the few months since we were last there they’ve stripped off a ceiling, bashed out a wall and constructed a verandah. As they talk about all the other ideas they have for the house, I think briefly about what it’d be like to have a house of our own.
One of the weirdest parts of being nomadic is knowing we don’t have space in our bags, let alone a wall, for that really cool painting we saw at a New York street fair, or a shelf for cheesy dust-gathering souvenirs, or a pantry for all the maple syrup in Canada. Perhaps nomadism is saving us money after all!
The next, and final, stop before Barcelona is Paris, thanks to an invitation to participate in our friends’ shotgun wedding.
Despite having grown up in London, if quite far out west in Ealing, I feel as if it’s a city unknown to me. While a friend from the US knows her way around and Boris-bikes everywhere, we’re walking through central London with eyes glued to a map like tourists. Back in Paris though, even if it doesn’t feel like home anymore it definitely feels like an old friend.
Arriving to the beautiful blue skies of an Indian summer, we strolled out of Montparnasse train station hoping to take the bus to Stacker’s cousin’s apartment in Bastille where we’re staying. After idling at the bus stop for a while we happened to look over at the schedule, where a hastily scrawled note informed us “Bus 91 not running due to demonstrations.” The unwritten meaning was plain as day: “Bus on strike due to blue skies.” Ahh Paris, we love you anyway!
Anyway, it’s fun to be back and most of all it’s fun to be exploring a neighbourhood altogether different from where we used to live in the latin quarter amongst the bizarre hodgepodge of students, bourgeoisie and tourists. Bastille is a little edgier and alive with a bohemian crowd.
Our first dinner back in Paris was a demonstration of what should be done with a bountiful harvest – we ate a fresh and flavourful meal at Le Passage with Stacker’s aunt and uncle. Charming without being overly rustic, you sit beneath the daily menu on the chalkboard, a rough linen serviette on your lap with a ginourmous decorative pumpkin looking over your shoulder. We started with a fresh basil and cucumber mojito and I swiftly followed it with a roasted octopus rissoto topped with celery emulsion while Stacker devoured the lamb and parsnips on a bed of squash puree. Good, fresh, ingredients-first food, the way the French do best.