On my recent European journey I was teaching painting workshops in the South of France~ Ceres near the Catalonian border of Spain, Limoux in the Languedoc region and Arles, in the gorgeous Provencal region of France. I was with one of my French students at the Van Gogh Foundation viewing the wonderful exhibition and at the end we decided to check out the rooftop view over the city, as was suggested by locals. So, true to form, I was taking some photographs with my iPhone across the incredible skyline and points of interest from this elevated perspective over the ancient walled city of Arles built by the Romans. AND THEN….. (not so unusual for someone clumsy like me), I dropped my iPhone and believe it or not, my iPhone actually slipped straight through the slatted timber floorboard cracks vertically!!! I could not believe this was possible, I mean, isn’t it expected when you drop your toast that it falls jam side down???
Let’s just say I don’t stress too much over most things but !*^%+*! PANIC ! is not too strong of a description for what I felt in this moment! I have everything on my phone~ all my important travel details, addresses and names of accommodation, flights/trains/buses/rental car info, workshop details, not to mention the precious few thousand photographs I have been taking over the past few weeks on my trip.
I saw my life flash before my eyes, as they say, and waited to hear the sound of it smashing to smithereens when it hit the ground 5 stories in the courtyard below…..BUT, strangely, I didn’t hear anything!
I got down on my hands and knees and tried to see between the cracks where it had landed but to my amazement I could see that it must have lodged on something not too far from the surface because I could see a bit of a reflection in the dark space underneath. I had hope that it might not have been destroyed. The problem was now, how to get to it!?!
My friend stood watch to make sure we didn’t lose it’s location whilst I ran down the flights of stairs to find someone inside that could help me, which was tricky since I don’t speak French and was fairly wound up from the heart attack I nearly had a few minutes earlier!
The museum called in the head of security and a maintenance person was dispatched to help. This wonderful man unbolted the timber slats to reach in and retrieve my phone~ no damage done to the phone or flooring and choirs began singing HALLELUJAH! (maybe that was in my mind, I am not sure because it was 45C up there and the sun was cooking my brain standing in that heat waiting for my fate to be determined). Anyway, I felt so relieved when he handed me my iPhone and although I made a mess of my French attempt to express my gratitude, he seemed to know what I was on about and acted happy also that we were able to rescue it!! I was thinking I should go buy a lottery ticket….
We have success!! This guy is my hero~ thank you so much for your help!!!
The next situation happened also in Arles, maybe only 10 minutes later, as we were walking back to the car parked outside the city walls we went down many side alleys and narrow streets in an effort to stay in the shade for as much of the journey as possible in the incredible heat wave and scorching sun.
Our path took us past the Roman built stone Arena, where gladiators have fought and bull fights still take place today. As we turned a corner I heard someone shouting ‘Georgia, Georgia!’ and a person running after me waving their arm, which I thought was a little bizarre until I saw that it was a person I actually knew from Australia, my old friend Ruth Fagin from Cowra! The funny thing is that we used to see them a lot when our son and their daughter dated for 3 years but had not been in touch lately to know our paths would cross…..!
What are the chances of that happening I wonder, since neither of us knew the other were going to be in this part of the world on this day and even stranger that she saw me walk past the window of a pub she and David were refreshing in early before the bull fights.
And it gets even stranger…..the last cruise I did as the Cunard Artist in Residence on board Queen Victoria through the Polynesian Islands, I was surprised to have one of my children’s high school teachers join my painting classes! She didn’t know I was teaching and was accompanying a friend that had been going through cancer treatments so we both got a surprise when she saw my name in the program teaching the watercolour classes and turned up to join in! We had a grand time and she is continuing her creative journey by tripping around Europe with her sketchbook as we speak!
I also nearly missed my train in Paris due to the crazy taxi strike~ for some reason I could not get through to the taxi company when I was trying to book one to take me to the station. Luckily, I like to get there early so I had been ringing from very early that morning for my 1pm departure but still no joy. I rang my friend Melody who lives in Germany but we had met up the day before for lunch as she was also in Paris at the same time and she tried also for me. She found out that 1. Apparently you can’t book a taxi from a mobile phone in Paris. 2. There was a massive taxi strike on that day and no taxis were running. Melody advised me to book a car with UBER, which I had not thought of~ I had the app on my phone and had used it in Sydney several times but forgot that was an option. Anyway~ I finally got a car and driver and by this time I was cutting it very close to the departure time so he raced from Montmartre to the Station in record time. When we got there the taxi drivers had barricaded the entrance to the train station and when my driver drove up on the footpath to get around them they pelted our car with dozens of eggs!!! I grabbed my luggage out of the boot and ran towards the platforms with one minute to spare~ (who knew the cabbies were striking against UBER??!!) I didn’t get on the right car and I had to stand in the passageway for 2 of the 4 hour train ride but I made it! It’s a good thing because I was teaching a workshop first thing the next morning in Ceres!
So, the moral of the story is, travel can be weird and wonderful at the same time~ as many times as I have been shattered by flight delays, lost luggage, planes catching on fire midflight (that’s another story altogether!) and harrowing taxi rides, I have had so many serendipitous moments of joy to balance it out. The taxi driver I had in Istanbul spoke no English and I spoke no Turkish but somehow we were able to communicate that I taught painting and lived in Australia and he had an 8 yr old daughter that wanted to be an artist when she grew up. I gave him my Georgia Mansur Palette dot card sample of paint for her to practice with and about 3 days later I got an email from him with no words but a fabulous photo of his daughter beaming from ear to ear with the painting she had created with my palette! Life is funny and I am really grateful to do what I do and the little funny things that happen along the way give me something to smile about.