Below are my final notes from the trip. Most were written soon after the event, but I wasn’t able to post until now, so the time frame may seem a little weird. I could go through and re-edit, but I want to keep this instant/initial impressions without overanalyzing too much. So, live with it… 😉
I have come to the conclusion that I really like the French/European custom of cheek kissing—between men and women anyway. At first I was sort of holding back, a little uncomfortable with it and I could tell a couple of the French women found it a little awkward that I wasn’t doing it. So, I told myself when in France…by the time I left, it was totally natural. Definitely a custom I could get used to.
Last night was the closing ceremony of the Bordeaux film festival. They recognized each of the participants, including me, with flowers, a certificate and a bottle of wine to recognize the event. All in all, the event was a great success and a lot of fun. The owners of L’oenolimit (where my exhibit was displayed) told me that often when they have a opening for a new exhibit, there is a good crowd on opening day, but then no one comes in after that. Except with my exhibit. They said they had good traffic each day by people coming by to see my photos. I was very pleased with that.
Following the presentations, they showed a film, followed by a buffet and party. You can see some of the pictures from the party, including lots of Russian and French faces of the volunteers and helpers who took very good care of all the participants. It was their night to let their hair down and they did just that.
Two final notes on my apprehension about traveling in France. For various reasons, I ended up taking the tram to the closing ceremony by myself. I knew the way because I had taken the tram with a friend earlier in the week. But, I still thought it was an interesting progression for me to have gone from being spooked about traveling their at all to getting on the tram by myself and moving around the town. And, at rush hour no less, so the trains were crowded. Sort of proud of myself for that one.
After the party, as we were chatting before heading back home or to the hotel, one of the French girls asked me my impressions of France. I told her of my initial concerns and she said she had heard that before, but hoped I would tell all my friends that all French people are not like that. I have to agree. While it is possible to meet someone on the street who is arrogant or impatient, the French certainly don’t have a monopoly on that feeling. You can just as easily find that in America. Every person I met was open, warm and friendly. I look forward to going back someday. Truly.
In the airport in Amsterdam. Delayed for who knows what reason, but no way to shift flights because my baggage is already in the process. It would have been nice if someone had mentioned that during check in. So, I sit and I wait, knowing full well I am missing my connection to home. I hope there is a late connection of I will be stuck in New York overnight. At this point, I am at the mercy of the airlines. Nothing to do but wait.
Made it to NY 6 hours later than expected. But, for once, everything worked out and Delta rebooked me on an American flight to home. I’ll get in around midnight (6 am France time) which is nearly 26 hours after I began this odyssey.
New experience for me, coming through Passport Control here in New York. I got pulled aside and had notes scribbled on my declaration form. Not a comfortable feeling. Ultimately, it was all nothing. They had flagged my name looking for another Eric Douglas, but it did make me start wondering…and I might just have an extra bottle of French wine in my checked luggage. So….