Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Tuesday, July 27th, 2004 Heading for Provence

We enjoyed our crepe dinner in Paris last night as we sat outside under the awning watching the rain that started just after we arrived at the café. Purchased beer to enjoy with the crepes; it also allowed us to sit at the tables. The café is separate from the crepe maker even though they are in the same building. By the time we’d finished our crepes the rain had stopped and we walked back to the hotel under the dripping trees and enjoyed the fresh air! Band of Brothers was on the television as it was Monday night again.

On the road by 9 am; it only took us about fifteen minutes to be out of Paris. That’s definitely a record! It helped that we were only a short distance from the Peripherique by way of Port d’Orleans; then only a thousand meters on the Peripherique (thank goodness as it was bumper to bumper) and we turned south on the A6. The southbound traffic was a breeze; pity the poor souls headed into Paris in the stop and go traffic running opposite our wide-open route. For those who have asked about the cost of the toll roads; it was 439 kilometers (about 270 miles) to Lyon, took us about four hours and cost 23.50 Euros to use the Autoroute (toll road).

On the way down we enjoyed a beautiful day with lots of sunshine. Our girls were waiting for us with their faces uplifted to the sunshine. Enjoyed the Chateaus that dot the hillside and the castles ruins on the hilltops. The fields were full of sunflowers, corn, wheat, hay and herds Charolais cattle (the white ones). They are harvesting the hay right now. Farmers use the method of rolling the hay into huge round bales that remind me of rolling snow for a snowman in the wintertime. Right now, round bales of hay are lying all over the fields waiting to be picked up for storage.

Just outside of Beaune we passed the Chateau Chateauneuf where we’ve enjoyed several delicious meals and I remembered our stay on the “Lady A” (a canal boat that is permanently moored on the Burgundy Canal that flows through the valley) next to Autoroute that we were driving on. We stayed there for four nights in November of 2000 for our first visit to Beaune. There was another American couple also staying on the boat and we shared the drama of the trying days of the Presidential Election and the “chad” issues. The boat owners were constantly changing the television channels and/or ignoring our request to watch the news on CNN. We’re looking forward to being home for this election and also a smoother flow of voting results.

Stopped in Beaune to pick up my vitamin pillboxes that I’d left last week. Purchased gasoline at the local supermarket (1.04 Euros per liter compared to 1.15 on the autoroute) before heading south towards Lyon. We visited Lyon during our trip in 1992 and so decided to make our overnight stop in Vienne, about thirty kilometers south of Lyon. We had decided that to drive from Paris to Provence was just too long for one day.

Vienne is a beautiful town located along the Rhone River and offered extensive Roman Ruins to explore. As soon as we were checked in we headed over to the Gare (the train station) to see about purchasing the first of our seat reservations for our journey into Italy in August. I had purchased our Eurorail Pass for Italy prior to leaving home. I had also very carefully researched the train schedules on the Internet and made a list of the train numbers, etc. that we needed seat reservations for because of time schedules, etc. We also needed a ticket for the first day from Nice across the French border, as our Europass is only good for Italy. The stationmaster was great. Very patience, spoke no English, and spent nearly half an hour with us attempting to fulfill our request. Finally, he suggested that we get the last part of our reservations after we arrive in Italy as he was having trouble getting the hours that we wanted. But we did manage to get the tickets from Nice to the border, the reservations for seats to Genoa, then for the trip to Rome and also for the trip to Naples. He was so good we surprised him with a tip before we left. He was shocked to say the least!

Spent the balance of the afternoon exploring all the Roman Ruins scattered throughout the old center of town. Everything is walking distance from our hotel; an Ibis Hotel with central air, television, elevators, internet access…wow….and only a two star. One thing that we’ve learned is that when you need change, go to the Post Office. Banks post signs in their windows that say “No Change”. The Post Offices have a special machine for obtaining change; handy for parking meters and Laundromats. Yes, that is coming up before we get on the train so we made a visit and got prepared early.

Wednesday, July 28th: Back on the Autoroute; known in France as the Autoroute Du Soleil (route to the sun) as it goes from Paris to the south of France. Only used it for a short distance and then headed for the side roads to find a small town that one of my books (novels) written with French themes mentioned. The town is Seguret on D23 southwest of Vaison-la-Romain. A very old, small village located on the side of the hill. We walked from the bottom to the top and back to the car. Many of the shops were selling Christmas Nativity Scenes. Seems like a community theme as there were many different shops selling the Nativity Sets. The surrounding hills were covered with vineyards. We’re really in the center of wine production and nearly every Vintner has a wine tasting shop for the public. In France they sometimes call them Caves. So far we’ve managed to keep driving without testing the vintages. But, we sure have developed a taste for Pastis; decided to shop for another bottle today.

Weather is getting warmer. We had ninety-four degree weather when we arrived in L’Isle sur la Sorgue at 1 pm this afternoon. We’re here for three nights. Wonderful village known for its’ Market Days on Thursday and Sunday. The one on Sunday is most famous for it’s Antiques. We will miss that one as we leave Saturday morning. If you’ve not been here, there is a delightful stream that flows through the town. It’s fast moving with crystal water from underground springs. They race very thin boats that are only able to go under the bridges because the pole man lies flat in the boat as they scoot under the bridges. We had dinner tonight outside on the edge of the river. I kept looking for the twelve-inch fish that we saw during the afternoon. I have not seen any fish other than that one! We think they must release him once a day to entertain the tourists.

Our hotel is quiet, has all the amenities and is reasonable. It is also only two blocks from the center of the village and is called the Hotel Les Nevons. We spent a good part of the day today repacking our luggage for next week after doing the laundry. When we leave here we will be dropping the car off when we arrive in Nice. We’re mailing another box home and leaving a goodwill package here in the hotel room for the maids of things we decided to just leave. Amazing how luggage grows and grows and grows…..

We’ve been watching the Boston Democratic Convention today; so nice to have CNN and be able to catch up on the news. Until now the French TV station had a reporter in Boston covering the convention so we have been getting the news story; but only in French.

Thursday, July 29th: Slept in a bit and then headed for the Thursday Market. Had lots of fun; hard to not purchase sooo many things but then the “baggage issue” rears it’s ugly head! But we did find a couple of unusual small things to purchase. The food is what is so much fun. The wide variety of cheeses, olives, spices, vegetables, meats (cooked and raw), fresh fish including the head of a swordfish, bolts of material, flowers (fresh and dried) you name it; it was here. We found a clever little dish that grates food very easily and Jim purchased a small package of ground up spices. We’re going to find a pottery shop in Orange County when we get back to the USA that has the Provence style pottery; we’ve said this before, but this time we WILL actually do it when we get home! One dish that I really liked was made for olives; about six inches round with an attached small bowl for pits and a smaller one for toothpicks. Surely someone in America has made one of these! Lots of dogs, bicycles and baskets created a special flavor and the interesting places they find to park their cars while they shopped was a constant surprise. They’re so small the French seem to be able to park them on the proverbial dime.

Finally left the market, picked up our car and headed for the large supermarket on the edge of town. Needed to purchase tape and string for our last package. When we took it to the post office we were pleasantly surprised when she said we didn’t have to pay any postage. Seems as though when we purchased the box at the post office last week; the postage was included in the price of the box as long as we didn’t exceed a certain weight! That makes the first five boxes a bit cheaper than we’d thought. Hummm….maybe another box in the near future?? We’re keeping the extra tape and string just in case we decide to send more home.

Decided to drive to the Fountain of Vaucluse. We’d been there in 2000 but wanted to see everything in bloom. Beautiful and quaint, not very changed. Decided to walk about a mile each way to see the actual “source” of the water for all the crystal clear streams that run throughout the region. We were amazed when we arrived and found the pool to be extremely low due to the lack of rain for the past few years. It was at least twenty feet below the level in 2000. I guess California is not the only area affected by drought these days. We purchased a book and found that these conditions have occurred regularly over the centuries.

During the afternoon the children learning how to maneuver a kayak in the river entertained us as we walked along the river. A teenager seemed to be in charge; each of the kids wore a life jacket. He was working with a group of ten. He had them going up and down over small rapids created in the river; great place to safely learn the techniques. Other teenagers were busy jumping and diving into the water from a bridge; each trying to be more daring than his friends. Everyone in the water wears shoes we noticed; lots of rocks and unfortunately trash litters the bottom. All along the river there are concrete steps that allow people to sit with their feet in the cool water. Shoppers, both old and young, sit next to their bags for a break in their day with their feet dangling in the cool water. And so another warm day closes. It’s much cooler in the evening but hits the nineties during the day. The shade is comfortable but walking in the sun is guaranteed to burn your skin!

Friday, July 30th: This is our last day before heading for Nice. We decided to go south and find the town of Ansouis located just north of Pertius. A couple of years ago we both read “The Magic of Provence”, a book by Yvone Lenard. She had restored a home below a castle in a hill town and wrote a book about the village of Ansouis and her experiences.

Found the town perched on a hillside with the castle at the top just as she described. Parked near the café and walked up to the castle as we knew her home backed up to the base of the castle. We discovered a beautiful home that Jim was sure belonged the author; we also found the Tourist Information that was actually built into the back of the home. We were fortunate to find a delightful young French girl who spoke extremely good English in the Tourist Information Shop who confirmed that we were correct about the house. We were the only customers and she spent about twenty minutes with us. The castle is only open in the afternoon, it was now only 11 am, but she offered to ring up the author as she is now in residence and does not mind meeting people who ask about her. We elected not to bother her but asked many questions of the clerk. She has a new book out called “Love in Provence”…Jim is sure we’ve read it but I don’t remember reading that one. Will check when we return home. Asked her why the first book was not translated into French and she replied that the editor would not cooperate as French people don’t like to read books by Americans about their French experiences…or something like that. There was a German translation in the shop for sale as well as the English version. We also saw a selection of wines from Forbin de Janson. Of course Jim couldn’t resist asking about that one and again, she provided us with lots of information regarding the town where the wine is grown.

When we left Ansouis we had a new quest; we were on the road to find Forbin de Janson. Finally found the town known as St’ Egreve Janson after touring several cornfields. Nothing much, lots of new houses; but no winery with the name of Forbin de Janson was visible in the areas that we searched. We did find a street by that name and drove to the end of it without success. Headed back to our hotel for a late lunch and siesta time.

It’s been fun being back in Provence again. Tomorrow morning we head south to Nice and turn the car in at the airport. We have three nights in Nice and then take the train into Italy. I will miss the ease of using the internet in France. Last time we were in Nice at the same hotel I had trouble signing on and finally had to use my computer from the manager’s office. Do hope they’ve corrected that problem. So for now it’s adieu, farewell and au revoir until next time.

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