I boarded a American Airlines 767 last night, seated next to a loquacious ex-Bostonian, and 7 hours later, as we vectored over the countryside near London, watched the early rose-colored sun slant across the hedges and woods, merging into the banlieu, then Wembley stadium, the Eye, the Gherkin, Westminster Abbey and London Bridge. We scudded smoothly into Terminal 3 where I caught the transit bus to Terminal 5 and wound through the serpentine underbelly of Heathrow. Terminal 5, brand new, was glass and metal and LCD panels, and quite efficient. I decided to dine at Gordon Ramsay's "Plane Food" establishment, unfortunately all the "interesting" looking breakfast food looked to heavy for my recently-deplaned stomach and I just had a bowl of Muesli, orange juice, and coffee, watching the glittering activity on the tarmac.
The BA flight to Nice was crowded with summer tourists. I was grateful for my aisle seat, but alas, a girl with Gucci sunglasses, a Louis Vuitton handbag, a t-shirt with sequined angel wings, and platform shoes asked me if I could please switch with her sister (who had a middle seat a couple rows back), so they could sit together. I obliged--it's impossible to say "no" without seeming obtuse--but was annoyed both by the fact I had to take a middle seat, but also because this gal, reeking of Eurotrash demimond, probably assumed that any fellow would yield her a seat.
Taxiing to the terminal, our porthole revealed palm trees, sun, and private jets. In the immigration line, Eurotrash was loudly talking on her cellphone: "Hello!...I should say Bonjourrrr...You haven't left for the airport yet?"
France apparently has dispensed with disembarkation cards and I swiftly checked through the Border Police, retrieved my luggage and found my taxi and Mike Stratton with whom I shared the ride to Tourtour.
The landscape is arid and sunbaked. I shouldn't, but I always find myself surprised by the crassly commercial furniture stores, car dealerships, and McDonalds that line the highways in Europe. In that sense, we are no worse off.
Tourtour was 100 km away, and we made the trip in little more than 1 hour, chatting about children and beginning careers in science. Les Treilles is on a hilltop encircled with olive trees and lavender. The drive that leads to the Grande Maison tortuously climbs the rocky hill, passing several low limestone cottages, and terminates in a tidy main house with a large library will floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a ladder rail and a patio awash with the Provencal sun and the background of breeze brushing through the trees.
Well, it's been a long hiatus. I'm 5 months away from finishing my Chief Residency in General Surgery here at Duke. Imminently I am signing on to stay at Duke in a research-weighted position in the Department of Surgery. I've learned an tremendous amount in the five dense (and intense) years of clinical work on the wards and in the operating theater here. As always, I owe a great deal to my patients, it's been a privilege to serve them. And to my clinical mentors I'm indebted to the clarity in problem solving that surgeons are so adept at inculcating.
I look forward to starting in the summer.