In France for the fourth consecutive September.

Today is day 1 of 23 of what is the year’s big vacation.

I’ll do three nights in Paris, six nights in Nantes and the rest of it in Toulouse and parts nearby.

As this trip grew closer on the calendar, I naturally got excited about returning to see friends made here thanks largely to introductions facilitated by Jacques in Toulouse. I look forward to seeing and experiencing Nantes, a city I’ve never visited. And as the last couple weeks went by, I have really looked forward to the notion of a good stretch of time away from the job.

The mad scrum to get on the packed Q70 bus to LaGuardia every day was starting to get on my nerves. I stand back and watch people push their way on – and then hope there’s room left at the end. If not, I wait for the next one.

Needless drama in my work orbit is also nice to leave behind for the solid chunk of time I’ll be gone.

My French language skills have advanced a little, not much. I took another seven-week session at Idlewild with a group of classmates I really enjoyed early in the calendar year. I did a five-month run of daily Duolingo sessions and I listen to about a half-hour of France Info each night after work on the bus ride home.

I also got hooked on Aline Pailler’s weekly half-hour radio show on France Culture. Pailler is a sixty-something left winger who does a Sunday morning interview program emphasizing literature, music and theatre with a special interest in arts geared toward children.

Pailler has a soothing, raspy voice. She speaks just slow enough that I can kinda understand her. And even when I can’t, I like listening to her – hoping her words are somehow being absorbed.

In early July, Pailler signed off her program for what I thought would be a typical French holiday. On each of the last three or four Sunday mornings (1230 AM New York time) – I tuned in thinking she’d be back on the air. No such luck. I miss her voice.

But now here I am surrounded by French voices. For three and a half weeks.

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