Yikes! It's been a week since my last post! Be warned, this post is rather long! I've been writing it in pieces as I go, between limited internet time, crazy French keyboards, and many very busy days. But hey... here's what I've been up to the last week...
So I think I've figured out what makes me grumpy when I'm travelling (other than hunting for the letters and symbols on this French keyboard - they're all mixed up!). Good thing, too, cause it's happened twice now and it's been no fun. No fun at all. I get grumpy when I spend the first half of my day travelling, getting to city around noon. I feel like the whole day is wasted, especially when I have to wait in lines at the train station, bus depot, tourist office, etc. for infornation. Blech. BUT, the days always seem to redeem themselves, like in Nice, when I went out with a big group from the hostel.
Or like in Aix En provence, when I was just about ready to book it out of there I was so frustrated with trying to find the information I needed. Things all worked out, though, and I did some shopping, went for a lovely walk in a very pretty park outside of town, and lucked out on a ticket for the huge huge huge Cezanne expedition that is in town right now. Man, that town is obsessed with that man! Hee hee. In the early evening, I bumped into Rachel, the girl I hung out with in Nice. We went for a drink and hung out in town for a bit, doing some serious shopping in the Cours Maribeau - a big wide boulevard lined with all kinds of little outdoor kiosks/shops.
The next morning I headed to Avignon. Yes, I saw the bridge. And yes, I danced on it! I toured the Pope's Palace and took a little cruise on the Rhone. I had been hitting the wall a little in travelling, getting grumpy, feeling like maybe I'd had enough, but I loved Avignon. I was back into high gear seeing, doing, (eating!) and enjoying. It also helped things that I was staying in the cutest litle bed and breafast, hosted by about the most hospitable woman I have ever met! One of the best things I did in Avignon was go to a brass ensemble concert at the Pont (bridge) d'Avignon. The group was from Vienna and played all kinds of clssical music, singing, dancing, and all-round entertaining along the way.
The next day I took a day trip to Arles, where VanGogh spent a lot of time. I saw a number of different places that he painted, like the hospital where he stayed and its courtyard, and the famous Cafe de Nuit. I had dinner there! (The food was terrible, but hey, I ate there! *shakes head*) I took a city tour, seeing the Roman arena, forum, theatre, and baths. It still boggles my mind that buildings that are so old are being used. But the highlight of Arles had to be what I did in the afternoon...
I was getting reeeally sick of seeing cities, and, being in Provence, I really wanted to see some pretty countryside. Are you ready for a crazy story? I had originally planned on finding a route to go for a bike ride, but then decided to try for a guided bus tour that would take me to a whole bunch of different places in Provence, including a wine tour and tasting. BUT, the lady at my bed and breakfast suggested I rent a car and gave me some really great places to go visit. I was all set to do that, and was halfway through the process of renting when it occured to me that I can't drive standard. Ug! I KNEW I should have learned that a long time ago! No car for me... by that time it was too late for the tour, so I went back to the bike ride plan. It turns out that was the best thing I could have done...
After my walking tour, I found a little place that rents bikes, grabbed a map, and headed out into the countryside (not before having to navigate a few rather busy traffic roundabouts. Yeah, that was kinda nerve racking!). Fields, hills, the hot sun and a clear blue sky stretched waaay out ahead of me. (No lavender, though, I guess I have to go back again in July when it blooms!) It was absolutely beautiful! I rode along a quiet country road, came accross a roman aqueduct, and went to a tiny litte village with a windmill up on top of the hill. It was an absolutley beautiful day, and so good to get out into the country.
Early the next morning I caught the TGV train to Brussels. Man, that thing is fast! My only "oops" moment was forgettting to pay at my bed and breakfast! I realized somewehre in the middle of France that I hadn't paid! My host had driven me to the train station at 6am (see? Sweetest lady ever!) and we both forgot! I was MORTIFIED! I called her as soon as I got to Brussles, and we've got a way to get it sorted out, but yikers! I can't believe I did that!
In all, the south of France was really beautiful, but I tried to do way too much with not enough time. Four cities and two villages in five days is NOT the pace at which one should take in Provence. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but next time - oh, and there WILL be a next time! - I'm going to go much slower, go to more markets, spend more time in the countryside. I didn't do Provence justice, for sure.
My internet time is quickly running out, and this post is already waaay too long, so I'll post about Belgium later. I'll leave off by saying that I'm now in Amsterdam, and have only two more nights left. I can't belive it. I almost have forgotten that I have a life back in Vancouver. It seems very strange to have to go back to it in two days.
I don't wanna!!!