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.