R had gone to find a free parking spot in a city not known for free parking. I thought I might have a nap. The hotel room was tiny and on the top floor--once an attic?--of a limestone building. It had a gabled ceiling and a skylight.
Last Friday we drove from Montreal to Cornwall, then cut down to the "old country road"--Hwy 2--along the shore of the St. Lawrence to where it meets Lake Ontario. Century-old barns, swamp, rock-knoll islands, bridges to the US, and flooding. Trees stood in water, houses had water at the doorstep. Or worse.
A man once told me his dream was to build a small house on an island just large enough for himself, his dog, his guitar. I'm wondering if he did. If he still has enough room.
Our tiny room in Paris was five flights up, with each stairway becoming narrower and plainer as they ascended. Structurally, how does one do that--shrink the width of staircases? The stairs at the bottom were marble. The last two flights were wood and had no bannister. We also had the smallest WC on our floor. It was in the hallway as was common at that time in inexpensive hotels in Europe. The size of a closet, a toilet, no sink. The window was usually open and the pigeons, who were cold too, would fly in. I learned to bang on the door and wait for the whack and flutter of wings before opening it. Tough luck about the bird shit on the toilet seat.
There was a shower available in the hotel, but it cost almost half the price of the room for a night and the hot water was iffy. Not always hot, not much of it. Still, every few days I would go downstairs with the necessary francs to get the key for the shower.
The man at the desk wore a leather jacket and gloves. When I complained that our room was cold, he mocked me. He said we were Canadians and should be used to cold. He was Algerian. He also told me that cold was good because it killed germs. Ça tue les microbes. Those silly words have become snagged in the verbal loop that will play through my brain till I'm demented. Maybe even then. Ça tue les microbes.
Another contribution to the verbal loop from that trip to France comes from another hotel--in Dijon. I was trying to tell the concierge that the floor in the WC was flooded but I confused the word for floor with ceiling. When I told her there was water on the ceiling, she singsonged at me that no, there was no water on the ceiling. No, no, I said. Il y a l'eau dans la toilette. There is water in the toilet. She thought that very cute. Maybe I only knew outhouses back home in the wilds of Canada. Oui, Madame, she informed me brightly. Il y a l'eau dans la toilette! There is water in the toilet. It took a few more tries but finally she understood and shrieked for her husband.
The fellow at the Farmers' Market this past Saturday probably won't stay with me for 34 years, but I recall one line of dialogue for its courteous honesty. In the morning, when I walked through the market, I stopped to look at the jewellery he had on display. He said he cut and polished the stones himself. I do not need more earrings but I liked the ones he had. Later that afternoon, when we walked by the market again and he was still there, I told him that I didn't buy anything that morning but I said I would if he was still there in the afternoon. He said, "I'm sorry, I don't recall that conversation." No, I said, I was talking to myself.
This past weekend we had blue skies and it's spring. Tulips and magnolia in bloom. We took the ferry to Wolfe Island. We walked. Had good food and drink. Breakfast and supper outside. A full moon on the lake. Another tiny attic room with a skylight--and a bathroom.
Pics were taken en route, in and around Kingston. Pink kid leather gloves with tassels courtesy of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.
We did not travel with a camera in 1985.