Back in New York now after a Tuesday flight out of Brussels. Eight hours in the air with a nice big chair in the front part of the airplane. It’s one of those chairs where they serve you a custom made ice cream sundae after lunch. I watched a movie on the ride. Paterson. Adam Driver. A Jarmusch special. It was really good I thought. The funniest scene is when the character who plays Paterson’s wife serves a sprouts and cheese pie for dinner.

Every logistical moment on this 23-day journey now finished clicked nicely although the getaway from Belgium had a small wrench thrown in.

I flew Brussels Airlines from Toulouse to Brussels at midday Monday and hopped a train for the one night stay in Antwerp. When I arrived at the hotel Monday afternoon, a sign posted on the reception desk advised guests of a nationwide transit strike all day Tuesday.

When I asked the guy at check-in if this work stoppage would impact the train to the airport, he said “yeah, of course.”

“Didn’t anybody tell you?” he said.

“No,” I said, without asking who might tell me. I had been occasionally looking at French newspapers and the all-news stations on TV in France but had not heard about the strike in Belgium. In fact, when my friends Sonia and Fabien told me Sunday they were skipping work to participate in a large (unrelated, I believe) strike on Tuesday in Toulouse, I thought to myself that it was good fortune I was leaving France a day before any possible disruption. I had also nearly decided to return to the US via Barcelona which is an easy train ride from Toulouse. Given the breakaway effort in Catalonia – and huge developments in that conflict expected Tuesday – I had felt good about the plan to leave via Brussels.

The three workers at the hotel reception desk in Antwerp conferred and suggested I take a private bus company which they believed was operating on Tuesday. The woman who seemed most interested in my plight suggested I leave early because the traffic was expected to be crazy. She printed off the bus timetable and told me where to meet it.

I asked her how much a taxi would be. She said, “Don’t do that, it’ll be at least 90 or 100 euros. Take the bus.”

I asked her if the airport would be fully operational. How could workers arrive without transit? She said something to the effect that it was anyone’s guess how it might play out.

All this concerned me to the point that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy Antwerp on Monday night. I envisioned chaos on Tuesday morning. Paralysis. I checked the web site of Belgium’s National Rail service and they referred riders to their Twitter site. Written in Dutch, but translated via the Twitter app, the individual manning social media for the railroad said basically to expect the worst – as in a complete shutdown – but that it was unclear how it would play out.

I went over to where I was told the bus stop would be to case it out and then went down to near the city’s big cathedral for a Belgian beer and a dinner of frites with some kind of spicy chicken on a stick dish.

I tried to go to sleep early in order to rise with full rest for what I thought would be a big scramble to reach the airport. Instead, I tossed and turned all night, raised the white flag and checked out of the hotel at 330 AM to wait for the 4 AM bus.

At the bus stop, the driver for the Flixbus going to Dortmund laughed at the dozen of us or so waiting for the airport bus. “I’m not sure your bus will come. There’s a big strike today.”

But at 355 AM, the airport bus motored in for a 4 AM go and a hitch-free ride to Zaventem. It cost 10 euros.

The big departure board at the airport showed a few scattered cancellations but things were running normal it appeared. A recorded message playing repeatedly on the airport’s P-A system warned of disruptions to both flights and ground transportation because of “industrial actions,” but workers and passengers I interacted with made no mention of it.

Lots to cover from the fun-packed final stretch in Toulouse including two memorable side trips but I’m wiped out. More in a few days.

Down to the final three or four days here in Toulouse.

I’ve been staying in an apartment found via Airbnb. It’s in the center of the city so when you walk out the door – it’s full-on in-your-face – which is great.

It’s my first time using Airbnb. In each of the last three visits to Toulouse, I stayed with Jacques. I was welcome to return to Chez Jacques this time around but given the length of my stay – and the fact that I snore loudly – especially when on vacation – it seemed prudent to have my own space. Jacques works a regular 9-5 type job and my foghorn often went off just as he was in peak sleep mode.

Hotels in Toulouse are kinda pricey in the city center so I found a place on Airbnb that had received excellent reviews and was within my budget. I met the apartment’s primary resident at the agreed-upon time on the street in front of the address supplied to me by him – and the carefully laid-out process that Airbnb adheres to.

My biggest trepidation about Airbnb was the general notion of creating uneasiness among residents of a building who perhaps may be sensitive or are opposed to a temporary occupant. This revolving door effect runs contrary to the way apartment buildings – or any dwellings in a neighborhood are best inhabited by a community. In my building in New York City, I sometimes see people who stick out like a sore thumb with their big suitcases and unfamiliar faces. The “here one day, gone the next,” concept of living in a building just seems off.

And parallel somewhat to the arguments against Uber (which I refuse to use), does Airbnb undercut a long-planned system of rules/regs intended to maximize order and benefit to the residents of a community?

The impression I get in the case of the apartment I’m staying is that the host lives in it a good chunk of the year. The books – and trinkets – and photos – that adorn his walls are not up there for decoration. They match his personality and background best I can tell from the ten minutes we spent together. I believe he does the Airbnb to make extra money – and he must have at least the tacit blessing of his neighbors to allow strangers to enter the building. He told me he was staying with a friend for the duration of my time in his place.

The hardest part of staying here actually came in the first few nights when I was nervous about the four-step process of entering the building using a variety of keys, a swipe button and a code. The host provided written instructions on this which helped.
We’ve not had contact since the initial handover of the keys. He told me to drop them in his mailbox when I depart.

The bathroom is really small but there’s a pretty good kitchen setup and there’s one of those typical French washing machines which has been a great convenience.
I try to be really quiet all the time after hearing the story of a Swedish guy who we met at the bar two nights ago. This guy said he got a bad review for making noise late in an evening. Apparently a neighbor complained to the host – and the host relayed the info via the review that always follows an Airbnb stay. The Swedish guy said the bad review killed his ability to be accepted at apartments going forward. He had to start over and create a new account.

Tickets went on sale for next year’s Ryder Cup yesterday – and by some miracle – I scored one for day 1 of the competition. It’s one of my favorite events in sports and now I’ll be there about a year from now. It’ll be contested in Paris. During the ticket-buying process, one of the required responses was to a question about which team you’d cheer for. I selected the “neutral” option which is the honest answer for me given my love of the event without regard to country.

Tomorrow we visit the grape fields of a man who very well may be making the best red in the southwest of France.