Last day and the weather is not nice

Last day and the weather is not nice

Our last day in Provence and it’s raining.  And we all happily came down to our breakfast buffet this morning to discover that some other group has snuck into the hotel during the night and taken over our three tables!  We have no place to sit!  The hotel seems confused that there are two groups here and must think that the same group is sitting at our tables and there are no other tables set up to be used for groups and only a few tables set up to be used by individuals.  Three of us decide to be rebels and sit in the same room where the food is (previously, we had to walk into an adjacent room to get our food and then walk back to our table in the adjoining room).  For some reason, this seems to be a big No No to the staff and we are asked by several different staff members to move back into the riff raff room.  We explain patiently each time that there are not places for us to sit, nothing set up, no multiple tables for groups and that our tables have been hijacked.  The staff finally gives up and lets us sit in the privileged room.  Guess they were worried that we would eat too much food if we sat so close to it.

Bags out and on the bus and mine is going to tip the scales right at the allotted weight.  I repacked several times last night to make sure everything was well padded and all liquids where they should be and nothing would break.  My “woven basket” purse is providing a much needed extra space for my purchases.  I honestly can’t buy anything today though.

We’re off to Cassis where we were due to take a boat trip.  From past experience, our wise tour leader says we aren’t going to do this boat trip because she’s done it in weather like today and it’s miserable.  So instead, we are going to stop and have a wine tasting.  Well, I see nothing wrong with that!

The vineyard is small but well known and quite respected and has been in the family for generations, etc. etc. etc. and won many awards, etc. etc. etc.  We have a very nice tasting and many of us decide that we would like to purchase some wine.  An arrangement is made to ship it all to one place if we have at least 36 bottles.  There isn’t a problem coming up with that many.  Then it’s off the Cassis for our last stop which will just be a quick lunch before we must be on the bus back to the airport.  It is raining when we get there and steadily just gets soggier and soggier.  We have to take a small train down to the town because the bus can’t drive down there.  Luckily after lunch, I am with some ladies that know how to get back to the train because I would have missed the important turn.  As it was, four ladies did miss that turn and it took them a while to figure out how to find the train.  But all was well and we made it back to the airport in time to check into our flight and have time for any last minute duty free or snacking or whatever.

All told a very good trip to a very lovely part of France with a lot of wonderful history, shopping, eating, and companionship.  Always good traveling with the women’s group.Image

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Avignon and Old Bridge Songs

Avignon and Bridge songs    SATURDAY MAY 19, 2012

Surely we almost all can remember the silly little song we learned in grade school about the bridge in Avignon.  I can almost sing it still but have long ago forgotten what the words meant.  So somewhat delighted to be traveling to Avignon today to see said bridge!    So another buffet breakfast at our three tables and away we go in the bus – but wait!  This morning there is a wonderful market outside of our hotel.  It is selling everything from fruits and vegetables and cheese and meats to purses, clothes, shoes, ceramics and more.  All of us got up in time to be able to enjoy breakfast and then take a stroll through the markets.  I so wanted to buy some cheeses and sausages but it’s a little hard to take them home in the luggage allowance plus with what I already have.  I did find a nice woven basket that will do nicely for my “purse” on the plane allowing me to have a few more things out of the suitcase so I won’t go over my weight limit.  Also found some nice olive oil to take home and some cherries to have for supper tonight.

We finally have to leave for Avignon and I notice that several of the other ladies are carrying their new “purses” made of the woven basket material as well.  We all did well!

Avignon isn’t just known for its bridge.  It also has the Popes Palace.  It was built in 1272 A.D. because Pope Clement V wasn’t too happy to stay in Rome with some violent outbreaks there.  Again from the site:

“””The star attraction of Avignon is the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), a vast castle of significant historic, religious and architectural importance. It is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe.


Avignon became the home of the popes in 1309, who were fleeing the violent chaos of Rome. The Palais was built between 1335 and 1364 on a natural rocky outcrop at the northern edge of Avignon, overlooking the river Rhône. The site was formerly occupied by the old episcopal palace of the bishops of Avignon.

The Palais des Papes was built in two main phases with two distinct segments, known as the Palais Vieux (Old Palace) and Palais Neuf (New Palace). By the time of its completion, it occupied an area of 2.6 acres. The building was enormously expensive, consuming much of the papacy’s income during its construction.

The Palais Vieux was constructed by the architect Pierre Poisson of Mirepoix at the instruction of Pope Benedict XII. The austere Benedict had the old episcopal palace razed and replaced with a much larger building centred on a cloister, heavily fortified against attackers. Its four wings are flanked with high towers.

Under Popes Clement VI, Innocent VI and Urban V, the building was expanded to form what is now known as the Palais Neuf. Jean de Louvres was commissioned by Clement VI to build a new tower and adjoining buildings, including a 52m-long Grand Chapel to serve as the location for papal acts of worship.

Two more towers were built under Innocent VI, and Urban V completed the main courtyard (known as the Court d’Honneur) with further buildings enclosing it. The interior of the building was sumptuously decorated with frescos, tapestries, paintings, sculptures and wooden ceilings.

The popes departed Avignon in 1377, returning to Rome, but this prompted the Papal Schism during which time the antipopes Clement VII and Benedict XIII made Avignon their home until 1408. The latter was imprisoned in the Palais for ten years after being besieged within in 1398. The building remained in the hands of antipapal forces for some years – it was besieged from 1410 to 1411 – but was returned to the authority of papal legates in 1433.

Although the Palais remained under papal control (along with the surrounding city and Comtat Venaissin) for over 350 years afterwards, it gradually deteriorated despite a restoration in 1516. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789 it was already in a bad state when it was seized and sacked by revolutionary forces. In 1791 it became the scene of a massacre of counter-revolutionaries, whose bodies were thrown into the Tour des Latrines in the Palais Vieux.

The Palais was subsequently taken over by the Napoleonic French state for use as a military barracks and prison. Although it was further damaged by the military occupation – the frescos were covered over and largely destroyed – ironically this ensured the building’s physical survival. It was only vacated in 1906, when it became a national museum. It has been under virtually constant restoration ever since.

The majority of the Palais is now open to the public; it also houses a large convention centre and the archives of the départment of Vaucluse.”””

They do the explanations so much better than me.

We had entry tickets and could get an audio guide but I declined again, preferring to wander at leisure and stop to read signs when something stuck my fancy.  I could listen to the audio guides as well as many people had them over one ear only and I could hear what was coming through the headphones.   As luck would have it, there was also a plant exhibition there that day so the courtyard was filled with lovely flowers for sale.

I made it through the palace and then once again was totally alone and detached from any of our group members.  I wandered through the streets for a while and had a gelato and then found some of the group.  They were heading down to the bridge but I really didn’t feel like going downhill so soon and then walking back up hill again.  So I went over to the church and walked up that hill to see the view.  Apparently I didn’t go far enough though as I only had a view of the square.  Had I gone up the garden path, there would have been a view over the river.  Finally I went down to the river and caught up with some of our group so we walked out to the end of the bridge together and took photos.    Here’s some history of the bridge from:

“”””The bridge of Avignon was started in 1177. 920 meters long, it had 22 arches and measured 4 meters wide. This imposing edifice, that was called the marvel of the time, was built in only 8 years, taking until 1185. The narrowness of the bridge of Avignon contradicts the famous song: “on the bridge of Avignon” one could not “dance round and round”; it seems more likely that one danced under the bridge, as an inn had been set up on the Ile de la Barthelasse, at the foot of one of the small arches.

Before the bridge, people crossed the Rhône in small boats, and this river that Man had not yet domesticated often made the crossing quite perilous. Arles having lost its Roman Bridge, that of Avignon became the only place between Lyon and the Mediterranean to cross the Rhône. The city attracted travelers, merchants and manufacturers and quickly developed thanks to the revenues generated by the tolls. Without doubt, it had also worked in Avignon’s favor when the popes made the decision to settle there in the 14th century.

In 1226, after the terrible siege to which Louis VIII subjected the city, three quarters of the bridge was destroyed. A few years later, despite it being forbidden, the people of Avignon put themselves to the task and rebuilt it. From the former bridge only the chapel remains and is called the lower chapel because the roadway of the second bridge was raised and so the newer St Nicolas Chapel built on it is called the higher chapel.

From the 17th century on, the city could no longer bear the costs of the bridge’s maintenance and repairs. In 1603, following strong flooding of the Rhône, one arch collapsed, then three others in 1605. Repair work didn’t start until1628, interrupted by an epidemic of plague, and the bridge was not usable again until 1633. Two months later, two new arches were swept away by the Rhône. At that time, various methods were used to cross the river. An island, today the Barthelasse, formed in the middle of the river bed. One headed for the island from Avignon in a small ferry, crossed the island on foot, following a path that lead, with the help of a wooden stairs, to the last 4 arches of the bridge, to finally reach the Philippe le Bel tower, in the kingdom of France.

The bridge of Avignon threatened so much to collapse that the relics of Saint Bénézet were taken from the St Nicolas Chapel in 1674. They were transferred to the Celestine cloister. After being moved several times and a desecration in 1791, there remained just a few bits from the mortal remains, which are now kept in the cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Doms. Of the bridge itself, there only remains the four famous arches and the Philippe le Bel tower on the Villeneuve-lès-Avignon side, and of course, the famous song known around the world.

From up on the Rocher des Doms, and with a little imagination, you can reconstruct the past: the turbulent river, unpredictable and unsettling, at a much higher water level than today, the Ile de la Barthelasse, just starting to form, and the Philippe le Bel Tower at the other end, awash in the waters.””””

Imagine my timing sorrow that we still had enough time to climb up the hill again to find some other members of our group and also to hit some of the stores.  Being the good tourist, I found some more things to purchase for friends.

All of us found again and back on the bus for the trip to the aqueduct and Nimes.  This old aqueduct has been in so many photos and movies that it was like visiting an old friend.  What a beautiful piece of engineering.  This aqueduct carried water to Nimes at the rate of approximately 44 million gallons a day and over its 31 miles, it only descends in height by 17 meters.  That’s one heck of a job of engineering.  It lost its ability to carry water as maintenance deteriorated but lords in charge of the area started charging taxes and tolls and people walked across the bridge rather than go upstream or downstream to a bridge.  Finally, it was restored and the traffic going across the aqueduct was stopped and now it is a beautiful tourist attraction.  There were a lot of groups there and a lot of people having picnics on the banks below the aqueduct and many kayakers going down the river as well.

Of course you can imagine that to get the best view, I had to climb up the hills and walk behind the aqueduct to look back at it framed in the hills.  That meant a trip back down then as well.  And yet we are not done yet for today.  We are heading on into Nimes to see the old Roman amphitheater.

This old place is quite large.  It had tunnels and circular walkways to get to different parts of the theatre.  We determined that the best photos would be from the top so a bunch of women set off to find the way to get there.  We walked down one set of stairs and up another set and suddenly we were on the second level.  We were able to continue up levels by just a hit and miss combination of stairs and tunnels and stairs.  We finally get as far as we are going to be able to go without climbing up the stairs on the inside of the arena. Opps.  Most of the actual stairs are blocked so it is going to be scrambling up high tall immense blocks of stone.  No way are my knees going to make that bend and no way are my hips going to support a push up if my knees did make the bend.  OK, looking around to make sure the entire arena full of people aren’t staring at me, I jumped up backwards so I could land my butt on the stone, twisted my legs around to get onto the stone, got to my knees and pulled myself up with one of the railings that keeps you from taking a head dive into the stairwell.  Not my most graceful moment by a long shot.    I made it up several rows of seats when I had to do the whole thing again if I wanted to get any higher.  And drat if I wasn’t about 2/3rds of the way into the arena so not a really good place for a photo.  I needed to be further down towards the end.  OK.  Sidestepped my way over to a better vantage point and decided it would have to do.  Took some photos and then had to reverse the process to get down.  Oh the indignities we bear for our photographic art!  And it’s only bound to get worse!

We all managed to find our way back to the entrance of the arena and nobody got stuck anywhere and we worked our way over to the market which was open on the square.  This was a smaller market of jewelries and clothes and such.  Sad to say could not find anything to buy at this market.

Back to Arles for our final night at the hotel.  The group is going out again tonight but each group will go to a different restaurant.  I didn’t feel like I could sit through another 3 or 4 hours of food and wine and talk so I stayed behind, grabbed a Panini and had that plus my cherries in my room while I labeled photos and everyone was happy.

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Arles & Les Baux, hills and steps and steps and hills and stairs

Arles and Les Baux – hills and steps and steps and hills

            Ah, Provence.  Such a wonderful place.  Who knew it had so many hills and steps in it and stairs and hills and steps.  Did I mention stairs?  I and my arthritis are not going to be happy at the end of this trip but oh, the beauty of it makes me do it anyway.

After a good night’s sleep with a good roommate (neither of us snore or at least she wore earplugs so was polite enough not to tell me I snored), we joined the rest of our group, the ones already awake, in the dining room for a good buffet breakfast.  They had three tables set up for our group.  We sat with Alison, our tour leader; she had to leave soon to get ready for the day.

            Our first visit is a walking around the town of Arles to see the old square and the buildings and the Roman history.  The main square has a wonderful fountain and obelisk that has four heads spouting water.  There is the Eglise de St. Trophim on one side of the square and we headed into it to view the cloisters next to it and then into the church as well to view it.  I’m taking this information from  because they can describe it so much better than me but the photos are mine.

“””The Église St-Trophime is a former cathedral and masterpiece of Romanesque art in the Provençal city of Arles, France.


St-Trophime was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries on the site of an 8th-century church dedicated to Saint Stephen. St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr; St. Trophime was an early bishop of Arles. Frederick Barbarossa was crowned king of Arles here in 1178.

The Église St-Trophime, along with other monuments of Arles, was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The magnificent portal was restored between 1988 and 1995 with the help of public funds and a large donation from the World Monuments Fund in New York.

What to See

West Portal

The Church of Saint Trophime is characteristic of Provençal Romanesque architecture. Overlooking the spacious Place de la République, St-Trophime’s very well preserved 12th-century portal is acclaimed as one of the finest achievements of the southern Romanesque style. Recent restorations have made its quality and beauty even more apparent.

The theme of the portal is the Last Judgment, with chained souls being dragged off to Hell on the right side and the righteous being delivered into the hands of the saints on the left. The tympanum depicts Christ in Majesty surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists. Other narrative reliefs depict events surrounding the Nativity.

Full-length statues of apostles and saints stand guard on either side of the portal, with the two patron saints of Arles, St. Trophime and St. Stephen, in prominent positions next to the main door. From left to right, the figures are: St. Bartholomew; St. James the Greater; St. Trophime; St. John; St. Peter; [main door]; St. Paul; St. Andrew; St. Stephen (in narrative context, showing his stoning and ascent into heaven); St. James the Lesser; and St. Philip.


The dark interior has minimal decoration and is not as interesting as the exterior, but is worth a look for its austere symmetry and artworks (including a 4th-century sarcophagus).


More interesting are the Cloisters of St-Trophime that adjoin the church on the southeast. Entrance is through a separate gateway to the right of the church facade. The cloisters are not as attractive as some others in Provence, but only because they are in need of cleaning and restoration (scheduled to begin in late 2008, just after our visit). Most of the stone is black with industrial grime and most of the capitals are patched with protective tape.

The north and east galleries of the cloister are 12th-century Romanesque, while the south and west galleries are late-14th-century Gothic. Pillars alternate with columns, the capitals of which are decorated with fine sculptures of biblical scenes. The pillars bear figures of apostles and saints and between them are narrative reliefs of Christ and the saints.””””

            After spending some time viewing these splendors, we wove our way through the streets and wonderful old houses with shutters and balconies and plants to the old Roman arena.  I was surprised to see bull fighting posters along the way.  I had not realized that bull fighting was still being featured here and you could watch the fights.  I have seen a bull fight years ago in Madrid.  While I must admit I root for the bull, the ancient traditions and the athletic ability and the majesty of the “dance” is a splendid thing to witness.

            We clambered around in the arena for just a bit and then we had some time in the old theatre before we were turned lose to get some lunch before our afternoon tour out of town.  My roommate and I and several other ladies hit the store right across from the arena to get some ceramic guinea hens and lavender and herbs de Provence and linens and any number of things.  The store owner was a happy person that day.

            My roommate has also turned me on to Santons.  Had never heard of them before but they are clay figures, of any size, and molded and hand painted and look like the typical people of Provence doing their typical daily things like baking, picking Lavender, and much more.  We found an entire store dedicated to them which is good because the ones in the hotel were quite expensive.  I have to admit that I know have a very nice collection of Santon figurines and just from that one trip.  I go back to Provence and I’m in danger!

            We grabbed some Panini’s and joined a couple of the other ladies on the trip in the former cloisters of our hotel in the lower floor.  It was semi rainy so at one point, we were eating with our umbrellas over our heads.  But it was nice and cozy and so much better than a restaurant.

            Enough dilly dallying around in Arles now.  We have to go to Les Baux!  OMG.  It said it was one of the most dramatic fortresses in France and they weren’t just pulling your leg here.  It sits in the small mountains, up on the hill top and it was obviously a holiday in France too because the cars were parked and lined up along the road for a mile or more from the site.  Our bus driver was quite the man for managing to get through the maze of curves and hills and cars and caravans and other buses.  He took us up to a site where we could overlook the town of Les Baux and the fortress then managed to drop us at the bottom of the hill that took us up to the city.

            Have you ever noticed that all the best stuff (except scuba diving of course) are always UP!  We were given a time to meet back at the hill to walk down to the bus and set loose on the town.  It was quite crowded, almost as crowded as some of the Christmas markets!  Most of us worked our way through the crowds until we reached the entrance to the fortress where we paid our fee and got into see the fortress.  I chose not to get an audio guide because I don’t really like them, preferring to read the signs or just to get a feel for the place and then read up on it later.  Luckily for the rest of our group because I became separated from them and would not have been able to turn in my audio guide with them later.

            I walked to the far end of the cliff and looked over the valley.  So very lovely.  There were several trebuchets and catapults in the courtyard and as I was picking my way back from the end of the cliff, they were doing either a demonstration of the weapons or a comedy show.  There was a lot of laughter but it was all in French.  I made my way over to the towers and climbed them.  Climbing again!  But of course, the views were even more fantastic.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to climb the last tower.  The views were probably crappy from that tower, I’m sure.  Must have been since I didn’t get to go.

            I headed back into the small town and while there are tons of people wandering about, I can’t see a single one of the 25 ladies that I am traveling with.  I stopped in a hat shop to look for hats as I still need one for Ascot.  He had a nice one that fit me well and was cute so I got it but nothing for Ascot.  Now I am rather nervous that I STILL don’t see a single lady I recognize so I walked out of the town and down the hill to where we were to meet the bus.  No bus, no tour leader, no tour guide so I figured I was ok.  I walked back up the hill – again.  Helped some lady who really wanted a drink but was afraid she’d have to pay to get into the town, and then luckily I saw some of the women I knew.   Happily I joined them.  Unhappily they were in a wonderful ceramic shop.  OMG.  I wanted everything I saw.  And every time one of them picked up something new, I wanted it too!  I am such the consummate tourist!  I support the local economy wherever I go!

            Now we were running out of time so I quickly picked out some items that were awesome and yelled at one of the other ladies to pick me up a couple of the items on her side of the store, please, since I was in line to check out.  Checking out is a bit of a problem because they wrap everything for you, in several layers of paper and sometimes bubble wrap as well.  Very good for the purchase but very bad time wise.  We are out of time so as soon as I checked out, I walked quickly (for me) through the crowded streets until I was out and saw our tour leader checking her watch and waiting for us.  Told her the rest of the ladies were in the checkout line and I went down to our bus and stowed away my goodies which are going to make packing a bit of a challenge as so far I have Santons and ceramics – all big and bulky or heavy.

            Finally we are all back on the bus with our purchases and ready to head to St Paul de Mausole which is where Van Gogh stayed for a while, a couple of years I think, and painted a lot (it had lavender fields out in the garden but the lavender isn’t in bloom yet).  This was a lovely small place where one could retreat and be quite well looked after and rest your soul for a while which apparently Van Gogh did.  There were reproductions of many of his paintings on the grounds.

            We didn’t spend a long time there but headed back to Arles where we were splitting up for dinner as it is hard for restaurants to handle the whole group of us.  I was going to a restaurant with Alison, our tour guide, and seven other ladies.  We were the furthest away from our hotel so we waited in the main square while Alison got the other groups into the right places.

            We had a very lovely meal albeit it was one of those meals where you sit and wait between courses for about ½ hour or so.  In all, it took us 3 hours for the meals and that’s just too long for me.  I’ve never been a social eater.  I was so tired of sitting and my legs were so tired of walking and climbing that I could have fallen asleep in my plate.  Finally a few of us said we wanted to go back to the hotel and the bill was brought and split unevenly, of course, as I had one glass of wine but helped pay for all the bottles that were drunk.  That’s ok.  I get mine back in eating all the bread I can – ha ha ha ha!

             Met one of the other groups on their way back to the hotel as well and then we all turned in for another good night’s sleep for a wonderful day in Provence.

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Very Early Beginnings – Ugh

Thursday May 17, 2012 Very early start as I had to be up by 3:30 to get picked up by the taxi at 4:15.  Luckily my husband had an overnight business meeting so he was saved from the early alarm.  Also, for once, there are people traveling close enough to me that I am sharing a taxi so the cost is more reasonable.  Luckily there was hot water.  I wasn’t sure there would be as I still haven’t totally figured out how the boiler here works so hot water but the towels racks were cold.  And everything was ready so really didn’t have much to do when I got up.  Made sure I had all the necessary documents and away we went.

Once again, practically like always now, I am at the airport before we could check in and by the time we had gotten our boarding pass from the kiosk, there was a very long line of people dropping off bags so they finally sent us to some shorter lines and we got through quickly.  Then through the security quickly and I got tagged again but just my purse this time and he said it was because I had a kindle in there.  Many others were going through with kindles and iPad so guess it’s just my year to get tagged.  Then into the large shopping waiting area.  I just loved the “forced shopping” of Heathrow and Gatwick.  Whoever designed those airports hopefully gets a cut from making all the passengers mill around the stores.  They would be uber-rich by now.  I love to go into the duty-free and try perfumes (although not many – don’t want to smell too strongly on a plane) and hand cremes and face cremes.  I certainly can’t afford to buy them but I get to try all the expensive ones there and see if they are really any good.

Finally we board and I trade seats with one lady because she has an aisle and I have a window.  I sit next to the lady who is my roommate and the three of us read the entire flight.  The rest of the group chattered the entire flight but I still don’t know many people so sitting and reading is fine by me however no way to sleep.

Everyone off and got their luggage rather quickly and didn’t take too long to go through immigration and hit the toilet one more time then out to a big yellow bus.  Will be easy to recognize.  I’m sitting in the second seat and have a seat to myself.  I doze on the way to Aix-en-Provence.   It was SUCH an early start.  We stop in Aix (which is pronounced  X for some reason – I just don’t get French).  It is the fifth largest city in France and supposedly the happiest and one of the hardest to get any property since it is as expensive as Paris.   There is a street market happening which looks good.  We are going to walk up the street a bit before our guide, gives us directions on where to meet and such.  Then people scatter and  I follow a couple of ladies I actually knew but was a mistake because they walked a good 5 minutes off the main street before they found something and it was tasty but service sucked.  I had  a lasagna because they were out of moussaka.  Arthritis is already giving me a bit of grief.  could be a very painful trip.

Then we are back to the square to meet the group for a walking tour and as we are there, we see the market is closing rapidly.  So much for that.   Poo.  I love street markets even if there is nothing good to buy.  The ambiance and atmosphere are always good. Real quick walk through the town which is quaint and lovely and many fountains and squares but just a European town with nothing special that I could see outside the architecture and famous buildings.  I appreciate architecture but don’t know it enough to realize it’s Gothic, Neo-gothic, renaissance, Victorian, etc. etc. etc.  I either like it or not.  We go in the church which is fairly nice.  I discuss with one lady on the cost of building it way back when the people were so poor.  Not as bad as the gold-strewn churches and statues in Mexico though where people were even poorer.  Never could understand that.

We are heading out to Cezanne’s workshop which is a bit out of the center of town.  it costs 5.5 euros to get in.  Eight of us are interested so we  take the bus to do this as it is a bit out-of-town and up a hill.  The man behind the desk knows we are a group trying to sneak in as individuals and tells us we can come in at 4:30.  We all get our tickets and sit outside or walk around a bit but there are no views as it is all overgrown now.  Back in the day of Cezanne’s time, he probably had a wonderful view of the city but now it’s just some trees and nothing grand. Finally we get to go upstairs at 4:40 as the group ahead of us had a nice long lecture.  Don’t know why as it was a single room with a lot of his props for still life painting but not much else.  Certainly not 40 minutes worth of stuff .  we were all out in about 10 minutes and that only because I read the information there on the table about it.  Then up the hill to the bus then drive into town to pick up the rest of the group who did some shopping and then a ride to Arles during which I fell asleep.

Our hotel seems to be very well located so we get our room assignments.  Thanks goodness we are on the ground floor so no climbing this time – yea!   for once I don’t have to climb several flights of stairs to get to my room.  We went around the hallways the long way and then realized we could go the other way and get to our room much faster.  We don’t have a view as it is overgrown but we must look onto a garden because the birds were there every morning to wake us before the alarm.

Dinner is in the hotel tonight and we have three tables and a set meal.  The first course is salmon on a small round rice patty and the rice is good but I only eat about ½ the salmon.  Then we get two slices of rare beef with some veggies and it is surprisingly good.  I liked the beef a lot and usually I hate rare beef.  Very tender.  Several ladies sent it back to be cooked longer.  There is wine and I pay for about 1/8 of it which was 10 euros but I only had 1 ½ glasses.  I’ll either have to drink a lot more to get my fair share or stop drinking at all but the wine takes the edge off the arthritis – humm

– or is it the pain killers – LOL.

In the hotel are some cases of things you can buy and my roommate had already told me about Santons which are clay figures and hand painted and modeled from the life in the area such as lavender farming and of course, a Nativity set.  There are a bunch of the Santons in the cases but they are quite expensive.  Hopefully we will find a shop tomorrow that is cheaper.  She takes a shower so I can have one in the morning and it doesn’t take long to fall asleep although the bed isn’t wildly comfortable.  A very good first day to a lovely place in the world.

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