Sunday, April 14, 2013

Off We Go

                                  Rue du Rivoli in the Marais

"Everything ends this way in France — 
everything.Weddings, christenings, duels, 
burials, swindlings, diplomatic affairs. 
 Everything is a pretext for a good dinner."
~ Jean Anouilh

"Just think," I said to Mike as we climbed the 110 steps to our Paris flat this morning, "that this is the last time we'll have to climb all these steps."

"We might have to run out for something else before we go," he replied.

"Fat chance. If I don't have it now, I'm not going to ever have it." Climbing those stairs did me some good this past week, but not enough good that I was eager to have to climb them again.

Once we checked out with Valerie, we took the Metro to the Gare de Lyon train station.  Originally, we'd planned on taking a cab, but it was only two stops away by Metro, and we figured we could do it pretty easily since it was a Sunday morning.  Except for having to carry the luggage up and down stairs to and from the Metro platforms, it really was okay.

                                                         Moi on the train

Some of you may remember that we took the night train from Florence to Vienna a few years ago and had to spend an inordinate amount of time at the train station in Florence because the German train we were taking was so very late. Our "first-class" cabin was also so small that only one of us could stand up if we had both of our carry-on bags on the floor at the same time.  I didn't know quite what to expect given we had booked second-class tickets on this train, but we'd heard that the second-class seats were much better in France than other lines.

At any rate, I received an email from the TGV (The French train system) two days ago advising us that they would allow us to board 25 minutes before departure (11:07), and that if we weren't on board by 11:02, we were flat out o' luck.  We arrived at the station at 10:30, so we were doing pretty well.

"Where do we go from here?" Mike asked me when we arrived at Gare de Lyon.

"I have no idea.  We just have to find the right train."

"Where do we find that?" I'm not sure if he thinks I know this simply because I book the tickets and all, or if he's just asking a rhetorical question.  No matter, I roll my eyes every time he asks me something like that.

It took a few minutes, but we eventually found Hall 2 where we were supposed to wait, and the big DEPARTURE sign that didn't list which train we were supposed to board.  About 300 other people were standing watching the boards, and at 10:35, the Avignon-Marseille/St. Charles departure showed Train 15.  Almost at once everyone in that area turned and rushed toward number 15.

"DON'T STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WALKWAY!" I had to say a few times.  It just amazes me that people walking in a crowd come to a dead stop in the middle of the road causing more than one person to trip over them and their luggage.  "MOVE TO THE SIDE."  Of course, most of these people had no idea what I was saying since it appeared that most of them spoke only French.  C'est la vie.

                                              Fields in Provence

Our seats were in car #17, and in this instance, it was one of the last cars in line, although there were at least two others beyond ours.  "I think we've walked half-a-mile just to get to this car," I said as we arrived.  We lugged our suitcases up the stairs, stored the cases on racks right behind us and took our seats.  As promised, the doors closed at 11:02, and the train was off at exactly 11:07.

"Gobbledy-gook.  Gobbledy-gook.  Marseille/St. Charles. Gobbledy-gook.  Gobbledy-gook.  Merci."

Mike, who has not been feeling well due to a cold, tried to sleep while I wrote, read and played games on the iPad.  The scenery was absolutely lovely especially given the fact that the sun was shining.Paris was nice, but after 10 or 11 straight days of cloudy, gloomy, rainy weather, I was ready for sun.  We passed farms and little villages, saw sheep and cows and grape vines and large fields newly planted with something. This could be Central Ohio, I thought a few times, but then I'd see an old stone farm house or the ruin of a stone manor and remember I was in France.

I had just asked Mike how much longer we had (10 minutes) when the train started to slow down.

"Gobbledy-gook.  Gobbledy-gook.  Avignon. Gobbledy-gook.  Gobbledy-gook.  Merci."

Sunshine, warm weather and Amaury, the owner of our flat, met us as we walked out of the train station.  We rode to the historic old town section of Avignon and checked into our home for the next week, a 16th century flat that Amaury and Gilles, the designers who own the building, renovated.  Instead of looking at slate and clay roofs through small dormer windows, we look at a lovely courtyard through windows set in a 16th century arch.

                 The view of the courtyard from the flat

Avignon is quite a change from Paris.  The constant whooping sirens in Paris unnerved me at times, especially at night.  The sound of traffic — zipping motorcycles, rushing cars, trudging buses — buzzed in my head.  The smell of baking bread and the tinkling of classes filled the air.  In Avignon, we've found none of that.

"Eet eez Sunday," he told us, "so eet eez var-ray qui-ET. But, zee week eez not much dee-fair-ent."  the bad thing, he mentioned, was that the grocery wasn't open, and neither was the market.  And, there are very few restaurants open on Sunday, too.

When we went out for dinner after a Skype with Jason tonight, we found a number of bars open, but not one restaurant.  Finally, we stopped at one place that had a sign advertising some food, and Mike went in.

"Zees eez note fair foot," the owner said. "I ken offair shou quiche weet tuna o baif lasagna."

"Are there any restaurants open tonight?" Mike asked.

"Oonly one," the owner replied, "boot zee foot eez no goot."

"We'll take the lasagna," I said. I wasn't walking any more.

It turns out the French lasagna was probably the best meal we've had in a restaurant since we arrived in France.  Apparently not everything in Avignon ends in a good meal . . . on Sundays at least.

A couple of side notes:
We did walk to the gardens of the Palais du Papes this afternoon.  To get there, we had to climb steps. . . We'd do 20 and think that was it, turn a corner and find 30 more, turn a corner and find 20 more.  (Photo below of one of the sections) It had been a whole 4 hours since we last climbed steps, and I didn't want to get out of shape.

Steps leading to Garden of the Palais du Papes

Also, Amaury told us that the view from the top of the hill was absolutely beautiful.  He was right (See photo below.)  There's a huge park there, and families were outside enjoying the wonderful weather.

                             View of the Rhone

1 comment:

  1. The apartment looks wonderful. So glad you have good weather. I now know we must get back into stair climbing shape prior to our journey. Bon soir!