Nantes Atlantique Airport, July 19, 2018

“Are we in France, already?”

We walk by a couple kissing passionately outside the departure hall, in front of gate 12. The guy is also holding the stub of a hand-rolled cigarette between two fingers.

It does look like typical French behaviour. I’ll never know what language they speak, though. They’re not chatting, they’re communicating… ahem, differently.

But maybe they are locals, after all—this is Montreal, and some of our disgusting French habits made it across the Atlantic Ocean and flourished in Quebec.

Mark grabs my hand.

“Are you scared?”

He shrugs.

“Too many people?”


At 7 p.m. in July, it’s peak travel time and the airport is packed. There are hundreds of flights to every possible city in Western Europe and Northern Africa. I glance at the flight info screen and play the little game I like to play in airports—of all the cities listed, which one would I pick if I was offered a ticket? Bagotville—where the hell is that?—Barcelona, Boston, Calgary, Charlottetown, Chicago, Dublin, Frankfurt, Fredericton, Genève—for some reason, it’s the only city written with an accent—Lisbon, London, Lyon, Malaga, Marseille, Moncton, Munich, Reykjavík, Rouyn-Noranda—who flies to Rouyn-Noranda?—New York, Ottawa, Paris… Yeah, I’ll stick to Nantes. Nothing wrong with any of these destinations but none of them excites me that much.

I’m not feeling adventurous. I have a headache. We had the Greyhound ride from hell from Ottawa to Montreal. It’s usually an easy two-hour trip but this one was stressful and uncomfortable. We barely made it on time to the Greyhound station because of construction works in Ottawa. The bus was packed and the ride wasn’t smooth at all—the driver kept on breaking, accelerating, breaking… the air con was too cold and there were no curtains so it was way too bright. I was dizzy but Mark was fine—he wolfed down a ham and cheese sandwich, a pack of crackers and chocolate chip cookies while playing with the tablet.

There are so many French people at the airport. French families with kids, French retirees without kids, French students with the latest devices, French couples kissing.

French love Quebec and Québécois like France.

We get the luggage tags and boarding pass from a self-service kiosk. For once, we scan our passports easily—the Air Canada kiosks never work, either it doesn’t recognize Feng’s passport, or it beeps when I scan mine—and complete the process.

We drop off the backpacks at the Air Transat counter and find a quiet place to sit for a while.

Every trip starts with a long wait.

Fortunately, all of a sudden, the airport feels empty. Most flights left already. The Air Canada counters—half of the airport—are closing, so are most of the restaurants but for Poulet St Hubert—I suspect that if the beloved Quebec franchise was closing before the last flight of the day, there would be a riot.

It’s weird to sit around in an empty airport. It’s like overstaying your welcome when the party is over—suddenly, all you can see is the dirty floors, exhausted employees, broken carts and discarded luggage tags.

I put my hoodie on. It’s colder in Montreal than in Ottawa. Strange, I always expect the weather to be about the same given that both cities are fairly close (by Canadian standards).

People around me have this look on their faces, the grownup version of “are we there yet?” The kids are either glued to a tablet or jumping around for no reason. After repeating how excited he was all day, Mark is tired. A few years ago, I would have timed his nap, bottle, and diaper change… now I suggest he just watches a movie and sleeps on the plane, even though I already know he probably wants to watch more movies on board.

I take a last walk around the airport. There’s one place I avoid—the area around security. Not because I have something to hide, but because that’s where people are saying goodbye and I’d start crying with them. I can’t stand goodbyes.

9 p.m. We should get going now, the flight is at 11 p.m.

It’s going to be a long night.


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  1. Martin Penwald July 21, 2018 at 12:14 am

    Reykjavik ! Yeah ! I hope to go around the island one day, for a week. But I don’t want to do it alone, so possibly in a few years with my siblings. We’ll see.

    1. Zhu July 23, 2018 at 8:10 pm

      It looks like a beautiful place but it’s not at the top of my list. Too cold, I guess. Too expensive too from what I’ve heard.

      1. Martin Penwald July 24, 2018 at 1:31 pm

        Compared to Canada, it’s not very cold. Oceanic climate, but it’s very windy.

        1. Zhu July 25, 2018 at 7:49 pm

          Eeek, I don’t like wind. I can’t explain… it drives me crazy!

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