...scenic ride on the high speed train
06.17.2017 - 07.29.2017
A scenic ride to Provence on the high speed train is the plan today! What normally takes 10 hours is taking approximately 2 1/2 hours through the countryside on this train ride. But first we bid " au revoir " to our driver Marcel....Thank you for driving us all over France....we will miss you and we hope we meet again! Que sera, sera!
We get to enjoy views of Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, fields of sunflowers and lavender. There is a food service car on the upper deck, which to my surprise, is empty and has the best views. I grab my camera, take a seat and enjoy the passing landscapes. We disembark the train and Erica makes a run for the WC. I'm waiting and waiting and wondering where she is. Finally she returns and says " the cleaning woman wouldn't let me go! " NO! Madmoiselle, NO!" she says as she's cleaning and sterilizing the place. Each time Erica tried to enter, the woman shouted "NO!" She obviously took her job very seriously and people do appreciate a clean bathroom but...when Mother Nature calls....waiting a long time can really rain on your parade (so to speak). we are about to leave the station and here comes Erica! Whew! Just made it. We're not the only ones that heard the word "NO!" firmly spoken. A few folks in the group also commented on the "friendliness factor" although our experiences were very positive. Once we depart the train station...which has a piano in each station (for anyone to play) and seating for those waiting for the train, and coffee shops and shops for pretty much anything you'd like to buy.....
...we head for the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pont du Gard, the most ancient Roman aqueduct in France. Locals are sunbathing, swimming, kyacking and picnicing on the grounds..what a lovely way to spend a day. It is amazing how this structure (50 m high, 360 m at its longest point) was built without machinery back in the day and took only five years to complete. The purpose of this aquaduct was to carry water over the Gardon River. The Roman architects and hydrolic engineers created this technical masterpiece weighing 50,000 tons and where the major arch gap is 25 m (which is one of the greatest of the Roman world) and stands today as a work of art 2000 years later. You get the "pont"...right?
We now are melting in the sweltering heat and Anne, our guide, has a treat for us. She sprays us with mineral water from an aerosol can and says "this is how we stay cool in France"! Well, it works. Of course, next time we see the pharmacy...in we go and purchase a can. It's always nice to learn of new tricks we can take home with us! " Ques que se?" you say?... Evian mineral water in an aerosol can...".who'd have thunk it?"
Another way to cool off and feel that "joie de vive" in France is to visit a new winery. This one, in the Rhone Valley, is Chateauneuf du Pape where we sample a few sips of the wines that make this region famous. It's hard to choose the best wine...our sommelier has a saying: " The best wine is the one you like" ...how true! Great way to spend a little time....enjoy the scenery, sip some wine...perfect.
We are thoroughly enjoying the scenery here in the south of France, the lavendar and sunflower fields, and the beautiful villages spread out amongst the hills and dales of the valley. As we arrive in Avignon we are even more enthused as we enter the walled city of Avignon...home of the Pope's Palace. The quaint cobbled streets with their twists and turns and alleyways, their little shops selling their beautiful linens, baskets and, of course, lavender in every form imaginable. Erica and I decide to do a little wandering and see what there is to be discovered before dinner. A carousel seems to be the theme in every town. There is something dreamy about this ride in the middle of a village...a fairytale-like quality seems to play on your mind. Our hotel is located in the perfect spot...right next to the Pope's Palace which we can't help but photograph....from every angle (like everything else we've seen in France so far).
We meet for dinner (and wine) which is delicious....and then another walk through a different section of this charming town before we head back to the hotel.
Life is good.