Friday, July 1, 2011

Old Stuff in Provence Death March, First in a Series

We jokingly called our four day trip through Provence the 'Old Stuff in Provence Death March'. This is because we felt compelled to see so many things in such a short time. Here is the first in a series of 'Old Stuff Death March'.
Since there are a couple of Besties I will henceforth refer to this one as simply K.

K arrived on Wednesday morning for a day of acclimation and recovery from the long flight here so I had her room all ready for a morning nap; clean, fresh outside sheets, Red magazines, a jug of water and a large box of Haribo candy. We had a small breakfast, the kids showed her around the house and then proceeded to climb all over her and ask a million questions like they do, and then she went down to take a nap while I took Ma Fille to her last week of horses. I took the Baby too but Middlest was having fun hanging out and didn't want to be dragged along to horses. So I figured I could let him stay with K, even though she was resting.
I called him a few times to check in and make sure nothing awful had happened and during one of the calls he told me he'd checked on her. Hmmmm. He said she was still sleeping and he just peeked in to make sure she was ok. Again, hmmmm. Turns out his version of 'checking on' someone while they are sleeping off jet lag and unable to defend themselves or their big, round tub of Haribo candy is to sneak in and pilfer. To eat handfuls of sweeties while said person is dreaming of flight connections, baggage claim and a guy named Tom who wouldn't stop talking and then fell soundly asleep when he was good and ready. My Middlest ate A LOT of her candy. While she was sleeping. Welcome.
forgiven for the sneaky candy eating

The excitement of the candy and the fact that Haribo is on the way to some of the best old stuff in these parts--Pont du Gard, the Papal Palace in Avignon--we decided to add a stopover on the way Thursday morning to stock up on a big ol' bag of candy for K's kids back in Texas. I should mention that Mon Mari is a huge fan of K and vice versa so when he wasn't scheduled to arrive home from a work trip until nearly midnight on that first night what were we to do but wait up for him. The time zone confusion had firmly set in by then so she seemed to have no trouble waiting. Oh, and there was wine.

first stop, Haribo
When he got home we were waiting on the terrace. And there we stayed for another hour. As you might imagine, this dealt a blow to our plans of early morning departures but we still managed to be on our way by 10 am. We headed straight to Uzés and Haribo to procure some candy. The roundabouts did no one any favors and by the time we arrived we both felt a bit green. Must soldier on....there is old stuff to see.

Pont du Gard
after eating half of my sandwich, see how happy it made me
Up next, Pont du Gard. It was a beautiful, fresh day; perfect for walking around gawking at a 1st century B.C. Roman aqueduct.  I bagged my idea of a nice, leisurely lunch in Avignon and bought a 6 euro ham sandwich at the snack bar instead. The remaining half I tucked into my handy travel Kipling bag for later.
Pont du Gard--my sandwich is in that bag

By now it was after 2 and we still had to hit Avignon and then over to our hotel in Bonnieux. Off we went to see the Papal Palace and the Pont d'Avignon.

Before we proceed let me tell you a little story about me and the Papal Palace. As you know, Mon Mari and I spent a week of our honeymoon in Provence. One day of which we went up to Avignon to see this palace. The day before we'd been to the Med and a beautiful beach in Le Lavandou and being young and used to super white hot Texas heat thought we couldn't get sunburned in the breezy, balmy S of France. Except that we could. And did. So the next day in Avignon, after we'd shared a nice lunch of warm goat cheese salad in the plane tree shaded place, we made our way to the palace. That day 13 years ago was similar to last week in that it was sunny with the purest sun and the palace is across a big courtyard where you have to stand and wait in line on huge, ancient stone steps to enter. As soon as I got to the corner of the big courtyard and saw all that blazing sun I stopped short and refused to budge. 'Ok, I've seen it.', said my sunburned 26 year-old self. 'Really?!', replied my 29 year-old Mari. 'Yes. I'm out.', said I. So that was that.

Papal Palace entry stairs I finally beat you!
This time as we approached the big sunny courtyard my 39 year-old self was tired and hungry. (And a bit spent from trying on summer dresses at H&M) When we got to the corner I remembered it all with clarity. This time I had no choice so across we went, past the copper painted man standing like a statue on a pillar, the three-piece band playing a jaunty tune and the swash-buckling piratey guy brandishing a fake sword at gawping little boys. It was pretty cool. And old.

cylindrical flue
vast dining room
We saw the treasury with its hidden vault beneath the 2 foot thick stone floor, the gorgeous dining room with its vaulted wooden paneled ceiling, the kitchen with a giant cylindrical flue for cooking a feast worthy of a rich Pope and his guests. And then there was the bedroom with its tiled floor and painted walls. Amazing. Jaw-droppingly beautiful. I wanted to take a photo of the tile (but it was against the rules) so I could bring it home and decorate with only those colors for the rest of my days. They were a glazed conglomeration of just that perfect shade of turquoise, sea green, deep orange and brown and yellow and daintily painted ones in sea green paint of birds, fish and flowers. Really magnificent. You can't take pictures but you can buy replicas in the gift shop. Of course you can. I cannot stress this to you enough...those tiled floor and mural wall rooms are worth the price of admission.
papal palace arched ceiling

Next we went up, up and out to check out the view. You could see all of the old walled city of Avignon from up there. And that pure sun (have you seen Hands on a Hard Body?) shone bright out there. This was where I got a bit cranky and hungry so I had a break on a bench and retrieved my half-eaten, now tepid ham and cornichons sandwich from my bag. K thought this was funny so she took a picture from a turret and called it 'the angry sandwich eating' picture.

angry sandwich eating picture
After this we huffed and puffed our way over to see the Pont d'Avignon--a bridge that stops in the middle of the river Rhône, only getting lost three times and turning a 5 minute walk into a 15 minute one. It was beautiful and worth it all. One of my favorite photos is one we took there. But we couldn't linger too long 'cause we had an hour drive over to our hotel and the sit down meal that kept eluding me.
pont d'avignon with H&M bag
lost. and not for the last time.

titanic moment on the pont d'avignon

bubbling brook
Our romantic chalet at the Auberge du L'Aiguebrun made us giggle. It was by a bubbling brook (really) and sat cozily alongside three siblings with large wicker arm chairs on private porches and was cicadas creaking, brook bubbling, bats swooping romantic.
romantic chalets

Day One of 'Old Stuff Death March' done, sleep came after a lot of giggling and recounting of the long day. We had to rest up though because after all, we had a lot more old stuff to see. And lavender. Don't forget the lavender.

Did I tell you too much? Are you tired? Imagine how we felt doing it!

A demain......


  1. Yay for besties! Sounds like you had an awesome time, can't wait to hear about the rest of the adventures.

  2. K is a much sweeter person than I, I get pissed if anybody eats my candy. My husband hasn't quite gotten used to that yet.
    I love the angry sandwich eating picture, I like how it's far away so you can't really see you, but I have a picture in my head of you furiously eating your warm little sandwich and hiding it a bit like Gollum. But a really pretty Gollum. x

  3. Kirsty,
    I thought of you many times on that trip and how close we were but how much there was to do so I couldnt' stop for any fun, Aussie friend visiting fun. x

    You would forgive the Middlest though. Have you seen his toothless smile?
    a xo

  4. Sara, the angry sandwich eating was soooo funny. She was very grouchy and tired, and I told her that "she wasn't 7. If she was hungry go eat the (&^%$#) sandwich." So, while I enjoyed the sweeping vista of the Rhone and Avignon, Aidan sat angrily eating her gross sandwich. And I laughed and laughed and laughed.

  5. K got the royal visit. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. You've also made me want to see the palace!

  6. It is nice to see Provence through your eyes!


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