As an author and humorist, Reid Champagne is known for his absurd & sophomoric observations of everyday life. While the story of how Reid met wife Carol (after being widowed late in life) is so sweet it belongs on Hallmark, his family would argue his inept & smart-ass tendencies belong on a 2020 reboot of Grumpier Old Men.
As the Paris portion of our first trip together ended, it was already clear Carol and I were well-matched as traveling companions. And by this I mean, Carol is the polar opposite of the flake that I am. She’d made peace with my OCD approach to train schedules, and had gently nudged me toward finding accommodations that appear less like sets out of Les Miserables. What I saw in myself as a sort of clam-like approach to the world around me, Carol tended to see a person who was easy to be with. I guess that means if she wanted to see something like a cathedral, and I shrugged an okay, that meant that I was easy to agree, instead of being completely indifferent to seeing the stupid, extortionist-built edifice in the first place. I suppose a key to compatibility is one’s perceived weaknesses being received as strengths. More or less.
It never happened again, which I credit completely to Carol adjusting to traveling with me as if I were her purse.
We arrived at Bordeaux’s St. Jean train station in the early afternoon, and I pointed out the café just across the street where I’d spent the entirety of my previous solo trip to the city. Carol smiled affectionately, and confirmed we would not be repeating that approach this time around. But our sightseeing remained unstructured, and Bordeaux became the first city in France other than Paris where I could look at a tourist photo and say, “Hey, we’ve been there. That’s in Bordeaux.”
Bordeaux was also the first place Carol and I became separated (due to an urgent need for a public restroom on my part), and for a period of time longer than one would assign to a call of nature, Carol and I had lost track of each other. I did point out to her where I thought I was heading, but when I got there, it was locked. Crucially, at this point, there was no time to update Carol, and I just took off in “quiet desperation” as the philosophers say. By the time I found a restroom, I was nowhere near where I had told Carol I’d be. We both experienced a brief panic attack over each other’s possible welfare. It was a worry unimportant to the solo traveler, but something of much greater significance when traveling as a companion, as I suddenly realized. It never happened again, which I credit completely to Carol adjusting to traveling with me as if I were her purse.
Carol also seemed fine with my underlying approach to travel in Europe that the train was the destination. So after a full day of trams and traipses where we happily stalked precious few of the more than three hundred monuments the city is famous for, we were off to Arles on the 10:34 the next morning. Perhaps my fondest memory is that Carol had noted how small the wine glasses were during dinner, and she suggested we stop off for a nightcap before retiring for the night. She was happy with a café crème, and I was happy she was making sure I had my full day’s compliment of the grape. You betcha the next time I have to find a bathroom, she’s gonna know exactly where it is. This one’s definitely a keeper.