Thursday, December 31, 2009

Paris Snow 30-31 Decembre

30 Decembre (Mercredi) - When we arise in the morning, we always make coffee.  But, unlike at home, where we have a Cuisinart Coffee Maker, here we have to use a French Press Coffee Maker. The larger Press makes about three or four cups, while the smaller one makes bout a cup and a half.  If you're not familiar with the French Press, it's really quite simple.  First you pull out the cap and press. Into the glass pot, you place enough coursely ground cofee for however many cups you want to make. Then, you pour in the appropriate amount of boiling water and stir.  You replace the cap and press, and let it sit for about five minutes.  After five minutes, you press down until the press is as far down as it can go, then pour yourself a very good cup of coffee.  The press pushes the grounds to the bottom of the pot so all you get is a cup of groundless coffee.  We use the French Press here because that's all there is, there is no other kind of coffee maker in the apartment.  Lucky for us, we already knew how to use it.  Here's a video for making French Press coffee.

Robb has lost a scarf and is sure he left it at O'Jules, so we walked up to the bus stop near the Saint-Paul métro.  We were going to take a taxi, but decided at the last minute to take the bus.  Of course, taking the bus isn't quite that simple.  We had to take the 69 to Place Léon Blum, where we caught the 61 to Gare de Lyon (a train station), where we finally boarded the 57 to Place d'Italie.  When we got to O'Jules, they said the only scarf they had found was green.  Robb was sure his was blue. We decided to have a sandwich.  Robb had a Croque Monsieur, I had a Croque Madame.  We walked over to the taxi stand and rode home.


The other day, I took this picture of a lamp.  When we went out to get the pictures of Hôtel de Ville and the skaters, I wanted to photograph it while it was lit.  But I couldn't find it.  I was sure it was close to the kiosque, where Parisians go to buy newspapers, magazines and etc, but it wasn't there.  Luckily, I had the picture to prove I wasn't any crazier than usual.  Today, when we walked up to get the bus, I saw it again.  It wasn't near the kiosque at all.


31 Decembre (Jeudi) - New Year's Eve.  The weather has turned bitterly cold again.  We had hoped to go to the Champ de Mars to watch the fireworks, but it's just too damned cold and they're predicting rain. The closest métro to the Tour Eiffel is a rather long walk, which I'd rather not do if it's cold and raining.  So we will have dinner at Fontaine Sully, return to the apartment, and watch it on television or online.  We did go out to Monoprix to pick up some stuff, because we think it might be closed tomorrow.  Just another exciting New Year's Eve in Paris.


Well, it actually did become exciting.  When we got to the restaurant, there were a lot of people already there.  We've never seen it so crowded.  We lucked out and got a seat by the window.  We were no sooner seated than the waitress brought a glass of champagne and a small plate of appetizers.  We noticed that she did not do that for everyone, so I guess the regulars get special treatment.  Dinner was good, I had the faux filet, Robb had the Boudin Blanc (a white sausage). Both came with a side of potatoes. I think the chef must have gone to some kind of special Potato School, because no matter what kind they bring to the table, they're always the best we've ever had.  After dinner, we ordered a glass of champagne.  Robb had a dessert of Petits Fours, of which I had a couple.  Then, just before midnight, the waitresses came around handing out more champagne, party hats, streamers and a package of toys.  Okay, you say, nothing strange there. But included in the toys was that red and silver thing that I thought was a noise maker.  I tried and tried to get it to make noise, but had no luck.  Then I noticed that the French people were using the "noise maker" to blow the red, yellow and white balls at each other.  A blow gun.  No wonder I couldn't get it to make noise. After the official hour arrived, craziness ensued as little red, white and yellow balls were flying all over the place.  A funny juxtaposition was the two little old ladies seated at a table behind us, who were trying to behave as ladylike as possible while this craziness swirled all around them.  By 02h00, the place had pretty much emptied out and we walked all the way back to the apartment in the freezing cold. Happy to have been a part of a really fun evening.  It was probably more fun that we would have had at la Tour Eiffel.


Bonne Année!


À la prochaine, mes amis

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paris Snow 28-29 Decembre

28 Decembre (Lundi) - Remembrance of things past: To get through these doors, you need to punch a series of digits into this DigiCode machine. M. Perez, the apartment owner, had sent us the digicode in an email before we left, so we thought we were set. Ah ha! When we arrived at the apartment, we punched in the code and pulled the door. Nothing. We tried it again, and again, nothing. We were about to try a third time when a little old lady came out and we discovered that you don't pull the doors, in spite of the handle, you push the door closest to the digicode machine. We started to enter but the litle old lady wasn't having it. She wanted a full explanation of who we were and why we were trying to enter HER building. I finally had to tell her the digicode before she would let us enter, and even then, rather reluctantly.

There is a nice washer/dryer in the apartment, so we decided to do some laundry today. The only problem was that I couldn't fully remember M. Perez's instructions on how to use it. I'm pretty sure I left out a step, becuse there was very little water in the machine. Robb insisted that it was working correctly and we didn't really have a choice, because evidently, once it starts its cycle, you can't stop it and must let it run to completion. When it finally finished, we looked at the clothes and they seemed to be clean so we put it into dryer mode. Again, we weren't certain of the proper way to set it up, but took a shot. After two hours and forty-five minutes, it stopped. The clothes were not entirely dry, but passable. We hung them over the back of the kitchen chairs to finish the job.

We bundled ourselves as warmly as possible and started walking to the taxi stand a couple blocks up the street, where we got one who drove us to Italie2, our favorite shopping mall in Paris. I wanted to go to Tati to see if they had any thermal socks and Robb was still wanting to go to FNAC. Tati had no thermal socks that I saw, so we were off to FNAC, until Robb spotted a shoe store having a sale. He bought a very nice pair of Guess trainers, and even got an extra €30 off the sale price. The FNAC was just a couple doors down. Robb bought four CDs. Grégory Lamarchal, Joe Dassins, Marc Lavoine and a compilation of famous French singers. After FNAC, we wandered about for awhile through Printemps. Then Robb decided he wanted to go to Aimee's tearoom, so we walked down rue Bobillot to rue de la Butte Aux Cailles and L'Oisive Thé, quite a trek. It was closed. We walked back up to Italie2 and decided to stop at O'Jules to refresh and warm up a little. It was an interesting event because the table we chose at the very back of the restaurant, was next to the table where the waiters ate their dinners. Robb had a Parisian sandwich (ham and cheese on a baguette), while I just had a café. Then it was off to find the taxi stand which turned out to be just on the other side of Italie2. Back to the apartment where we crashed until dinner time.

29 Decembre (Mardi) - The weather is absolutely balmy today. We walked up the Supermarché G20 which is almost adjacent to the Saint Paul métro entrance. Apparently, we weren't the only ones who were enjoying the beautiful weather, the area around the métro was bustling. It was almost as if the métro was pushing people to the sidewalk like candy from a Pez dispenser. Then, I looked about and was amazed. Sunshine! A sight one doesn't often see in Paris in the winter. On the way back to the apartment with our booty, which hopefully will get us through a couple of days, I snapped this picture of a patisserie window.

Around 20h00, we walked up to l'Hôtel de Ville to see the lights and the ice skaters, about whom I had totally forgotten. They hadn't. There were beaucoup des gens skating about. The other day, on the way to la Tour Eiffel, we passed a building that was brightly lit. The only name I saw was 'Baudoyer'. Tonight, I saw the sign pointing the way to Biblio Baudoyer, so I now know what it is. Kind of. I shot a couple videos, but my batteries were too weak and I'm going to have to do them over. Maybe tonight if the weather holds up.

After, getting the videos and just 'chilling' in every sense of the word, we walked up to Quai de la Mégisserie and Pont au Change and caught the 96 bus to Fontaine Sully for dinner. The waitress surprised us with another little treat tonight. She presented us with a little plate of petits fours when she brought our coffee.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Monday, December 28, 2009

Paris Snow 26-27 Decembre

26 Decembre (Samedi) - Today was very special. We got to meet, live and in person, the beautiful Marie Isabelle Reed who puts out a blog called, The French Factrice. She is very pretty in the picture that used to be on the blog and is now on her Facebook entries. But she is really beautiful in person. She could easily be one of the top models in the world of fashion. She has one of those sparkling personalities that make you glad you know her. And she laughs...a lot. We learned that she and Robb seem to have a lot in common, as well. At first, it seemed our plan to meet was not going to happen. She called to say that she was going to lunch with her in-laws and would then get here around 14h30, calling first to let us know she was on her way. Robb and I decided to run out to the Monoprix for a few things. We came back to the apartment and putzed around for a while and then, suddenly realized it was already after 15h00. I was sure we had missed her call and the meeting would not happen, but a few minutes later, she called to say she was at the Bastille and on her way to the apartment. After the obligatory nickel tour, we spent several delightful hours chatting, drinking wine and laughing.

27 Decembre (Dimanche) - Robb has been chomping-at-the-bit to get to FNAC to buy some CDs, so we walked up to la Place de la Bastille where there is a branch of FNAC next door to l'Opéra Bastille. It wasn't as far as I had thought, but it was really cold and FNAC was closed. We stood around shivering for a while and decided to walk back to Monoprix and get the stuff we needed. We bought a lot of cheese and found a very nice hors d'oeuvre. By the time I got back to the apartment, I was exhausted. Apparently, that is going to be the ongoing theme from now on. Not just because it's cold (which by now you know I hate), but because the emphysema has advanced that far. We had the cheese hors d'oeuvres with some toasts and wine. As Robb is wont to say, so civilized.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Paris Snow 24-25 Decembre

24 Decembre (Jeudi) - So far, the most adventurous we'd gotten was to walk up to BHV (a huge department store) and, though it doesn't seem like much, that's a pretty good walk. And we still have to walk back. It took us quite a while, because Robb wanted to check out every shoe store we passed, and there were quite a few along the way. After walking through the regular store to get warm, we crossed the street to BHV Homme (the men's store). We each bought a stocking cap (is that what they're called?) and Robb bought a couple of shirts. Then we walked up rue des Archives to Les Marrioners. I thought we were just going to have a glass of wine, but Robb, as usual, was hungry. He ordered something called a "Croquita", which turned out to be a kind of Croque Monsieur with herbs. I had a couple bites. It was delicious.

We had dinner again at Fontaine Sully and discovered that they're open 24/7, somewhat surprising for a French restaurant.

We're still having trouble with our French SIM cards. Mine sort of works, but Robb's is for "Urgences Seulement" (Emergencies Only). The Canadian company from which I purchased them is trying to get Orange to bring them online, but is not having much luck. Quel surprise.

25 Decembre (Vendredi) - The day got off to a great start; blue skies and sunshine and tempertures a little better than freezing. Today, we accomplished a couple of things. Well, tonight, really. We walked up to the taxi station because you can't just flag one down, even if you could figure out their lights. I was going to ask him to drive by way of la Place de la Concorde, but then I thought, well, it's the most logical way to go. Yeah, I know, expecting logic from a Frenchman, what nerve! But sure enough, that's the way he went, so we finally got to see the Champs-Elysées with its beautiful lights, as well as the Grand Roue de Paris. Les Champs-Elysées is even more beautiful in person than in all the pictures and videos. Here's a video featuring the Marché de Noël. There were a lot more lights and decorations on rue de Rivoli than I was expecting, also. L'Hôtel de Ville is spectacular and if I can force myself to go out into the cold to do it, I will take some video and a picture or two. Paris seems to be getting more and more commercial.

The main reason we had taken the taxi was to get to la Tour Eiffel for Christmas dinner. We could not believe the number of people who were there milling about with apparently no idea where they were going or why. Also, they've setup barriers all over the place making it the most frustrating experience I've ever had there. We asked a guy who seemed to be in charge of one of the barrier stations how to get up to Restaurant 58. The last time we were here, it was named Altitude 95 That alone was very confusing. I knew it had been renovated but I didn't know they had also changed the name. I'm not even sure it's owned by the same company. He sent us to the information booth, which he described as "a little hut". There we discovered that we would have to pay to take the elevator up to the restaurant. Talk about a scam! Not only that, but the elevator doesn't stop on the first floor, on which the restaurant is located. Noooo, they make you go to the second floor where you have the option of catching the elevator down to the first floor, or walking down the stairs. The reason for that, as explained by our waiter (from Texas no less), is because the company that operates la Tour Eiffel wants you to wander around the second floor in the hope that you'll happen into one of their souvenir shops and buy stuff. We decided to use the stairs (can you hear the buzzer?). It seemed like an interminable climb down, but we did eventualy get there and found the Restaurant 58.

We asked about sitting by the window and were told that people had called three months ago for that privilege and there was no way it was going to happen for us. We were seated at a table that was rather isolated from the rest, and the only view we had was of the waiters running (literally running) up and down the stairs with their orders. We were no sooner seated than we were presented with a glass of champagne (Alain DuCasse if you're interested) which was okay, but not great. There was already on the table a bottle of Evian water and a bottle of Bordeaux vin rouge.

The first course, choice of three, was foie gras. The presentation was fantastic, the foie gras, not so much. Our choice for the entrée was Noix de Coquilles Saint-Jacques. It came with some kind of vegetable, but we're still not certain what it was. There was also a small serving of polenta with chestnuts. We ordered a bottle of chardonnay to replace the red. It was a nice wine, but not memorable. The entrée was very good. The third course, was desert. I had a pear with chestnut icing. It was more like pear ice cream than a fruit. It was delicious. Robb had a rum cake. Although none of the courses could have been considered large, they were very filling, and neither of us could finish our desert. We finished with café.

After our meal, we walked out to the taxi stand. We barely had gotten there when a taxi pulled up beside us. Some jerk tried to push in front of us and take it, but the driver shooed him away and motioned for us to get in. Then we had a very scenic drive along the Seine back to the apartment. I'm glad we had dinner on la Tour Eiffel because it was a special event, but, for a number of reasons, I don't think I would ever do it again.

You may have noticed I haven't taken as many pictures as usual. Freezing weather is the reson for that. Have I mentioned how much I hate the cold?

À la prochaine, mes amis

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Paris Snow - 16-24 Decembre 2009

16-24/12/09 (Mercredi-Jeudi) - Our Air France 747 was more than an hour late leaving Miami International, but never-the-less got to Aêroport Charles de Gaulle a few minutes earlier than scheduled. Robb and I were seated next to an Italian guy on his way to Florence for a visit with his mother and sister. He claimed to be bi and married to a Cuban-American girl.

Cloud cover was thicker than usual, but as soon as I could see the ground it appeared to be white. Taxiing to the terminal left no doubt that it was snowing in France. Everything was covered with a light dusting of the white stuff. The walk to the passport control area seemed interminable and it was quite cool until we got there. Robb had the sense to bring his leather jacket, but I was wearing only a sweater over a very light shirt. We got through passport control with no problem and began the long, long walk to the baggage claim. We were the last two people off the plane and Robb had to make a pit-stop, so we would have been the last two to pick up our bags. But when we finally arrived, we learned that the bags hadn't even begun to come out. We looked around for one of the FREE baggage carts, the same kind for which we had paid four dollars in Miami. When our bags arrived, I pulled out my leather jacket and put it on. We went out to get a taxi. It was quite cold and still snowing. The further we drove, the heavier the snowfall. Traffic was very dense and very slow. I took these pictures as we drove into the city. The first is through the windshield of the taxi. Then one along the road into the city. The next three are various scenes we passed in the city; motorcycles with cold seats, Picard (a frozen food chain - I just thought that was funny), and
the Jacques Bonsergent

métro station. And finally, the courtyard just outside the apartment. One of my readers will find it interesting that just across the courtyard is the office of an architect, who seems to be quite busy.

The owner of the apartment had arranged for a friend to meet us and give us a brief tour. He had told us she would come around 10h30, but we had barely left the airport. When we arrived at the apartment, she was there waiting and we encountered our first problem. Our French phones weren't being authorized, so we had to use our American phones to make the few calls that were necessary. Once inside the apartment, we were happy to find that it is a little bigger than it appeared in the pictures.

The area of the apartment is very convenient and just about everything we need is practically next door, including a huge Monoprix with a large grocery section. On the corner is a produce market selling all kinds of wonderful things. Just across the street from that and next to the Monoprix is the Fontaine Sully, a very nice brasserie at which we have now eaten four times. Last night, after desert, the waitress surprised us with a glass of cognac. On the other side of Monoprix is a pharmacie, and next to that is Julien de Savignac, a wine store. Another block down the street, rue Saint-Antoine, is the local branch of BNP Paribas, Robb's bank. When I click the link, I get a Google street view. If you get the same view, the light-colored double doors left of the Naturalia, is the entrance to the courtyard.

We went to Monoprix to get some staples; coffee, sugar, milk and couple of other items. We were both feeling really in need of sleep since neither of us slept on the plane, but I was near total exhaustion, so as soon as we got the things we really needed, we returned to the apartment.

Then we discovered problem number 2. The only real heat in the place is in the kitchen and the bathroom. There is a heater that barely works in the living room, and no heat at all in the bedroom. Now, during a normal winter, that might not be a problem. But it is very cold in Paris; below freezing. When we left Miami it was 27C (80F), when we got to Paris, it was -5C (23F). That's a hell of a difference in less than ten hours.

So far, this trip has been almost as bad as the last one, when I ended up in the hospital in Canada. I really thought I could adjust to the cold, and as it warms up a bit, I have. But it takes so much out of me and on those few times we went anywhere, I returned exhausted.

À la prochaine, mes amis

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Best case scenario - Our Air France 747 Flt 95 takes off from Miami International Airport at 6:00PM on 16 Septembre, headed to CDG Airport in Paris, where after a four hour layover, we would board our flight to Barcelona, Spain. Two weeks in Barcelona and then, by train, to Montpellier, France for a couple days of sightseeing. Another train to Toulouse, where we would spend two weeks, and finally a flight to Paris for one month before returning home.

Actual case scenario - Three hours out of Miami, I passed out and became quite ill. Doctors were called and I was carried to the back of the plane where I was cared for until it was determined that I was too ill to continue to Europe. The plane made an emergency landing in St. John's, Newfoundland and I was rushed by ambulance to the Health Care Sciences General Hospital, where I was admitted to the Emergency Room. I remember everything from being carried to the back, up to the point where I was sitting at the front of the plane in a wheelchair. Other than that, it's just a blank until I was in the ER. After getting the initial ministrations, a doctor came in and really made my day. He proceeded to explain all my options for dying. DYING!! The conversation went something like this: You're in poor condition and we expect you may deteriorate. If that's the case, do you want us to let you go? There are things we are required to do to keep you alive if you so choose. He even went so far as to ask if I wanted Robb to make the final decision. It's interesting to note here, that they just assumed that Robb and I are partners. There were no questions asked about how we were related, or if we were related. They simply accepted it as fact. I replied that I was in no way ready to go anywhere and they should use whatever methods were available to keep me alive until it was determined there was just no reason to continue.

As it happened, there were two separate incidents during the first night when I was rather certain that I had spent my last day on earth. After surviving the second, I was petty much sure that I was going to make it through. Now, the really strange thing about those two incidents is that for my entire life, I have always thought that if I knew I was going to die, I would probably shit myself in terror. The fact turned out to be a totally different feeling. For whatever the reason, I was quite willing and ready to go. I felt at peace and my only concern, really, was for Robb and how it would all affect him.

There was a lot of concern about the H1N1, Swine Flu Virus because until they checked my statistics and blood samples, no one could enter my room without a gown, a mask and rubber gloves. Including Robb.

I was kept in the ER for a couple of days because the hospital was jammed and there were no other available rooms. Then, although I didn't need it, I was wheeled into the ICU department because they had an open bed and they needed my space in the ER. I spent a couple of days in ICU and was moved to CCU because I was the healthiest person and they again needed my bed space. I only spent a few hours in CCU before being moved for the final time to bed 5191B on the fourth floor.

During my time in ER, ICU and CCU, my throat was so parched from breathing nearly pure oxygen through my mouth, that I couldn't talk. I could barely utter a single word and most of the time I had to repeat it. It was extremely painful and, as you might imagine, I tried not to talk at all. I was also poked full of IV needles, which along with water and juice, were my only sources of nutrients for the first four or five days. I had my first "meal" in 5191B. Although, they brought a whole tray of food, the only thing I could even think about eating was the soup. That was a good choice because it really was quite good. Slowly but surely, I started to eat a bit of regular food, but it wasn't very good and I only ate it because I realized I needed something solid if I was ever going to gain any strength. Until I got to the fourth floor, I could not even get out of bed on my own, so I had to use one of those damned urine things (you know the kind I mean). Lordy, I hate those because I always get more pee on me and the bed than anything else.

Okay. Now all you Americans should have noticed something that DID NOT occur at all. At no time was Robb or I ever asked about medical insurance or how we intended to pay for all this. Money was not approached in any way, shape or form. I was never contacted about paying the bill (quite hefty) until I had already been released. And, even then, it was not so much a demand to pay, as much as if I could pay, and what kind of arrangements could be made to do so. I defy all you anti-social insurance dimwits to show me a single example of that in the wonderful United States! In fact, I can show proof of people who could not pay, being put into taxiis and dropped on the street because the hospitals here would not accept them and actually paid to have them taken away. Nice moral values we possess in the US. Sorry people from foreign lands but that's real life in the United States of America!

Meanwhile, there is attached to the hospital, a very nice hostel (the Agnes Cowan Hostel) and Robb managed to get himself a room there, which meant that he didn't have to go somewhere downtown and rent a hotel room and then try to find his way back to the place every day. It was a real time saver. Actually, I was quite proud of Robb. He somehow managed to handle all this with relative ease, though he did say he was panicked a little. He even went out a couple of times to check out the local area, without getting lost, and found himself a little mall where he bought some clothes. He came up to the room one day and told me about a restaurant he had found downtown. It sounded nice and turned out to be great.

Alrighty....let's talk about The Room. There were four beds in The Room, two by the doorway and two by the windows. Somehow, I was lucky enough to get a bed next to the window which gave me my very first view of St. John's. And what a view it was. St. John's is a beautiful place. Lots of unused real estate, rolling hills and the town itself (which I discovered later) is like a very extreme San Francisco; meaning that almost all the streets are either straight up or straight down, very few were level. Back to.....The Room, three of the beds were occupied. As you walk into The Room, the first bed on the left was empty, having just been vacated that morning (I arrived in The Room around 7:00 or 8:00 PM). The first bed on the right was occupied by Mr. Peter Healey. I was next to Peter, in the window bed. The bed across from me (second on the left) was occupied by Gordon Christopher Roebothan.

Mr. Roebothan had had a stroke several years ago and, though he could hear perfectly, could not understand a word. Imagine hearing someone speak a language you don't know; you hear it perfectly but you don't understand what you're hearing. On the other hand, he could read and understand everything he saw written. He had a large pad on which people would write whatever it was they wanted to impart to him, and he would reply in the same manner. He had been a teacher before the stroke. Why he was currently in the hospital, and had been there for three months, I never did find out. But except one day when he got no visitor, he was always upbeat and pleasant. As far as I could make out, his family was in the process of moving him to an Assisted Living Facility, which I gathered was very nice and, I think, paid for by the Canadian Social Insurance program. He didn't seem to object so I guess they were just trying decide which one it would be.

Peter Healey. Peter Healey. Oh yes, Peter Healey. He was a piece of work. He was maybe sixty-ish with thick gray hair. From what I was able to garner from him and his visitors, he had been a rather successful contractor. He had been diagnosed with cancer in most of his major organs, especially the liver, and had been sent home six months ago with three weeks to live (has anyone else noticed how often that seems to happen?). In addition to the cancer, he had an extremely painful case of arthritis in his left shoulder for which he received morphine shots, every four hours, that seemed to give only a few minutes of relief. Sometimes, after receiving his shot, he would fall asleep for an hour or so, not always. During the daylight hours it wasn't so bad. But after 11:00PM, was when the fun began. He would "call" the nurse(s) every few minutes asking for either more morphine or pain pills or something to eat or drink. He would wake from a very short sleep, screaming in pain. All night long, he would jump up and turn the lights on and off, on and off. He would sing out loud. He would make phone calls in the middle of the night. He would try to re-arrange everyone's privacy curtains. He would move the furniture around. He would putz around in his bedside table doing god-only-knows what and making a hell of a racket. In spite of his lack of comprehending how to live in a shared environment, and his very annoying night time habits, he was a likable guy. He was rather child-like really, which according to his daughter Charlene, was caused by all the cancer drugs and treatments. Several times when he tried to open my privacy curtain, I would tell him to stop and put it back. He always looked like a kid whose hand had been slapped, and ask, "Put it back?" Then he would do it and go back to his bed for a short while.

The fourth and final bed was occupied by at least six different people during my week-long stay in The Room. With the exception of one guy, everyone who took that bed eventually went to a private room. The most interesting guy was John Smith, Yorkshire. Yep, that's how he told you his name. He had moved to Canada in 1957, but sounded like he had just that minute gotten off a plane from Yorkshire, England. He often told the nurses to speak slower because he wasn't used to the language. And he was very demanding. In the morning, he would bellow, "Kitchen", and expect someone to come running in to take his order, which was; dry cereal, preferably bran flakes with milk made specially from dried milk. He was loud but he was funny. I was kind of sorry to see him go to his private room.

Needless to say, I didn't get a whole lot of sleep while I was in The Room. If Peter wasn't keeping me awake, it would be the nurses coming in for blood pressure, temperature readings, or giving us medicine. My nightly habit was very much like this: sleep for about an hour between 11:00PM and midnight, sit up and stare out the window, get up and sit in my chair, lay back down and stare out the window or at the ceiling. Sometime around 6:00AM, I would fall asleep just in time to be awakened by the night nurse wanting her final pressure readings before she went off duty at 7:30AM. All the hospital staff were working 12-hour days, 7:30 to 7:30, four days per week. Everyone with whom I dealt on the staff was really nice. Newfoundlanders have to be the nicest people I've ever met. Although, having stated that, they are a study in contrasts, because as nice as they are and as helpful and friendly as they can be (they would frequently go out of their way to take you where you were going instead of just telling you how to get there), they were like Parisians. If they were walking to a place, the straight line to that place was their space. If you crossed that space, they felt no remorse at all in kicking you out of their way. Many times, when Robb was pushing me in a wheelchair, we would have to detour around them because it would have been their space and they were not about to move aside.

I was supposed to have been released on Tuesday, 22 Septembre, but for some reason when they checked my oxygen level it had fallen quite sharply. I suspect it was their equipment because I felt no differently at all and was not having any problem breathing. In fact, the previous reading just a hour or two earlier, had been near perfect, as well as the one taken a couple hours after the disaster. Well, they simply would not have me leaving and demanded I go back on oxygen and remain in the hospital. That little decision, alone, cost me over twenty thousand dollars. I did mention this adventure was somewhat costly, didn't I? I was starting to feel like I was in Hotel can check out anytime you want but you can never leave.

On Monday, 28 Septembre, a new resident physician was assigned to my medical team. When he first came in to check me out, he asked how I was feeling. It was about 2:30PM. I told him that I had expected to be released at 2:00PM. The man is a God! He said he would talk to the main doctor and the rest of the team and find out what was going on. Evidently, he is the first man who actually did what he said he would do. Things started moving pretty rapidly after that, and I finally walked out of The Room shortly after 6:00PM. Okay, I suppose I should mention that one of the requirements for me to get out of the hospital, was to arrange for oxygen on the plane back to Fort Lauderdale. That was no easy task because Air Canada would not book the flight without authorization from the hospital and the hospital wouldn't give the authorization until the flight was booked. Catch 22 anyone? After finally getting that sorted out with the help of the Resident God, Robb found a wheelchair and we were off to the hostel.

Now, during all the time previous to my getting out, Robb had complained that the hostel was considerably less than great, and I was expecting to walk into a dark, dinky place. That was not the case at all. Our room was a nice size with blue-ish green walls. There were two single beds separated by a night stand. There was a nice little chest on which there was a small fridge. And there was a nice window, which unfortunately looked out on the parking area in front of the building, cars were parked only a few feet from the window. All in all, it was a nice, comfortable room.

My very first "meal" out of The Room, was breakfast at the Tim Horton Cafeteria in the hospital. I really liked the place. It wasn't just the average restaurant space. It was divided into small, cabin-like rooms. From the cafeteria, there was a wide vista across which we could see a few of the Memorial University buildings on the other side of a small lake. Library, class rooms, Auditorium. Right next to the University was a Canadian Radio building. Breakfast was a cheese croissant (not very good) and a cup of coffee; the first coffee I had consumed since before leaving home two weeks ago. I didn't really miss it. Then it was back to the hostel room and rest for the remainder of the day.

The next day, after breakfast (the regular croissant was much better) and a short rest, Robb and I took a taxi to the local mall. I had been given a prescription for steroids and could only get them at the drugstore in the mall (or any other private drugstore, but that was the closest). The reason for the prescription was that one can't just stop taking that particular steroid, one has to ease off it. I still have eight days to go before I'm finished with it. While waiting for my prescription to be filled, we wandered over to a store just across the way that sold T-shirts, where I bought this one: Front and Back. Did you notice that part that states; I don't have a funny accent? Oops, they do. It's really cool actually. Kind of like a mix of Scottish and Irish brogue.

Back at the hostel, we rested before going to dinner at the restaurant Robb had found a couple of days before. The Cellar was great. The windows were stained glass (not real, but realistic and a nice touch). The interior was large and very classic in design. In the middle of the main room, there was a double-wide stairway and over the stairway was hung the largest crystal chandelier I've ever seen outside of Versailles. There were maybe twenty to twenty-five tables around the room. One other couple (male-female) was seated in the far corner from the entrance to the dining room. Our table was one away from the entrance. I started with a fantastic Cauliflower & Leek Soup, while Robb in an unusual meal switch, had the Hot & Spicy Crab Chowder. We both followed that with the most delicious meal I've eaten in my life; Baked Seafood in Puff Pastry. It was served with a side of vegetables the likes of which I've also never had in my life. I don't know how the chefs prepared them, but the flavor of each vegetable simply burst onto my palate with an intensity I could barely believe. The main dish, seafood of various kinds, was too fantastic to put into words. During dinner, in fact when we walked in the door, they were playing a very mellow soft jazz. After about fifteen minutes of that, they began playing what must have been every song that Ella Fitzgerald ever recorded. We loved it. If for any reason you should find yourself in St. John's, Newfoundland, you must, you MUST, get yourself to the Cellar.

Air Canada only has two flight times out of St. John's; 5:30 AM or 6:00 AM. We had to be at the airport on Thursday morning, 1 Octobre by 4:30 AM which meant we had to be up by 3;30 AM. Very nice for someone who just spent two weeks in hospital. At any rate, we made it and even had time for a quick snack (at Tim Horton's, of course, they were every where) before getting to the security area, where I was met by an attendant with a wheelchair. I kind of liked that because it's always so far and, even under normal circumstances, I always get worn out before I get there. Because they had to set-up the oxygen, I was the first passenger to board the plane. A two hour flight later and we were in Montréal, waiting for the final leg of the trip home.

We were in Fort Lauderdale by 1:00 PM, where Geoff generously picked us up and brought us back to the apartment. Of course, we had nothing in the apartment to eat and had to go shopping, but it was surprisingly easy for me. I thought it would have been harder. I even drove.

Since it's now Saturday, 3 October, I've been home and recovering nicely for a few days. Apparently, the whole episode was caused because I got a flu shot (regular) while I had pneumonia and didn't know it. That combined with the lower oxygen level at higher altitudes, was my undoing. However, in spite of everything, this incident was an eye-opener for us and we're seriously looking into a move to Montréal or Québec City, so our next trip will be to Canada next year. You know, of course about the FREE health care, but there is the money situation, also. Our money is worth a lot more in Canada, so that's a great motivator. Temperature-wise, it's similar to Paris. Plus, we still get the great French ambiance we love.

Yeah, I know the title is a bit melodramatic (in my other blog, I titled this Brush With Death), but hey, you don't die that often. Okay, actually, I have had several close calls with death in my time. When I was a child, I fell out of a moving car. I have no idea how that happened, but I wasn't even banged up much. Walking along a river with some friends when a teenager, one of the guys behind me managed to rip a shot between my legs, that just a little higher would have been the end. Walking in a wooded area when I lived on a farm, I was standing next to a tree, when a bullet plowed into it just inches from my head. Skating in the streets of Philadelphia as a kid, I fell in front of a car which barely made it over me without so much as a touch. I was on the side of the car that was hit dead on in Miami one early morning hour and was rushed to the hospital throwing up blood. So, yeah, I've had my fair share of near-death experiences. But this particular incident is the only one that really seems like it could have been the end of my life.

If you're interested, there are a few more pictures of St. John's in my flickr albums under Newfoundland.

À la prochaine, mes amis