This sojourn is no longer theoretical! As of 10:35 this evening we are in Europe, landing an hour late into Nice Cote d'Azure Aerogare. British Airlines is the way to go. Civilization itself can be found in a British accent and the rest of the flight followed suit. Pleasant staff, passable boeuf bourguignonne and surprisingly tasty syrah for dinner, and in-seat video screens make the chore of trans-Atlantic flight more bearable. We arrived in London to a grey drizzle, as if it was attempting to uphold its reputation. After the 14 some-odd hours of recycled air I was delighted to have an environment with some character. People we've met so far include Cyril, a British expat, lifelong thespian, and semi-retiree who described his double life in San Francisco and London as loving two womnen, only he couldn't decide which was his wife and which was his mistress. In the Gatwick airport we encountered the Brigitte, Alix, and Eloise. Patrick charged ahead, limited French be damned, and soon we were chattering away in an unsteady pidgin of French, English, and gesticulation. The photos from home came in quite handy, and being twins is something of a conversation point. A point of pride, I must say, is that despite the mistakes and hesitations I made in conversing, the conversation was primarily in French. By God, I'm actually accomplishing something with this long-fallow skill! Both Cyril and Alix received our Gentleman Adventurers calling card and responded in kind! I believe those cards are going to get quite a bit of use, though more for the incidental aquaintences than for the hostel friends. It seems to me that it would be redundant or perhaps self-serving since many of them are doing very much the same thing we are.
Briefly, about Nice and the Villa Saint Exupery. Stepping of the plane one immediately gets the humid, by-the-sea sense of the Carribean or perhaps Hawaii. It's a nice reminder of the change in latitude even if sweat rolls down your back while you're merely sitting enjoying the view. The villa itself has that charming sort of winding, odds-and-ends architecture that you get from old buildings which have been much added onto with regard to function rather than form. I swear I took 4 left turns to get to my room. The lingua franca here is emphatically English and the group is raccously good-natured; most everyone are students of some stripe and the camraderie is easy and quick, owning to the transitory nature of the connections. That said, however, I was laughed at when I said we were staying only 2 days. Apparently it's pretty common to "tack on" and hang around a few more days. I can see why already. Happy, healthy, a bit tipsy, and glad that the great endeavor is now in the flesh.