Are you rested from my world wind tour of Paris in my previous posts (First Stop Paris and A Weekend In Paris)? This week, I’ll share the pleasures of Provence – and there were many during the second half of my wonderful trip to France with my daughter A and son D.
We left Paris early Monday morning and headed to the Le Gare Lyon train station where we took the train to Avignon in Provence. The train station is very large and it’s best to know in advance where your train departs. My friend C shared a helpful blog post from a true Francophile to guide us around the train station.)
When we arrived in Avignon, we picked up a rental car. I had ordered a car with automatic transmission and a GPS. “Who is driving the car?” asked the nice Hertz representative. “Uh, uh, uh, I am,” I said with hesitation. I had never driven in Europe before and was very, very anxious. D wanted to drive but since he was under 25 it was too costly to add him to the contract.
After all the paperwork was completed it was time to sit in the driver’s seat. The nice Hertz man settled us into a rather large car to fit our luggage, programmed the GPS for the town where we were staying, and switched the language from French to English. Oui, oui, oui.
It was comforting to have my son D by my side as a navigator, along with the soothing female voice of our GPS – who I grew to know after traveling through Provence and decided to name her after one of my favorite movies, Gigi, that is based on a French novella. I drove up and down mountains, through narrow one way streets and round and round the roundabouts. Some days we got lost, but Gigi GPS was always there to lead us back home or to our day’s destination. I was very proud of my French driving skills during my life after 50. Go Judi! Go Judi! Go Judi!
Our apartment was in the teeny, tiny town of Domazan – about 20 minutes outside of Avignon. It was a two bedroom apartment attached to the side of the owner’s home. Another fabulous airbnb.com location. The owners R & P had equipped the apartment for handicapped visitors, so it was all on one level with easy access in and out of the rooms, handle bars in the bathroom and a pretty patio. (Being a blogger for the AARP Kitchen Cabinet on Family Caregiving, I thought this was especially nice for those traveling with seniors who might need special accommodations. The owner R mentioned that another guest who would be staying later in June was in a wheelchair.)
Adventures In Avignon
We spent our second day in Provence in the city of Avignon. We parked outside the city and walked into the center of town. (D had to help me get the car into the parking spot as there was no way I was going to fit a Citron into a spot sized for a Fiat – no, no, no – but D did it. Yes he did! Amazing D! Please don’t tell the nice Hertz man that D drove. Okay? )
We went to Les Halles Marketplace which was open until 1:00 p.m. Ooh, ooh, ooh, look at all the different salts with herbs and rose petals. Ooh, ooh, ooh, smell the lavender and lemon soaps. Ooh, ooh, ooh, so many luscious fresh fruits and vegetables – the lettuce so green, the tomatoes so red and the apples so shiny.
The clock strikes noon
The sun was bright, the umbrellas were up and we sat down for lunch at a corner bistro. We each ordered a salad with duck, prosciutto and slices of baguette topped with olive tapenade. “Voulez-vous du vin avec miss déjeuner?,” said the waitress. “Pourquoi des cours,” I replied. There was plenty of time for a glass of wine, as the shops shut down between 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. in France. (Sometimes they don’t even open back up again until 3:00 p.m.)
We returned to Domazan during the afternoon and D and I took a walk around the winding roads. The flowers were fragrant and it was peaceful to chill with my children in such a picturesque place. I felt lucky, so lucky to be in such splendor.
In the evening, we drove to the Carrefour market to buy bread, cheese, olives and more prosciutto and wine for our dinner. You must bring a bag to the supermarket or you will have to carry out your food in your arms. You also have to pay to use a shopping cart. It was a learning experience.
Travel tips for going abroad
There’s so much more to share about Uzes, Nice, Monaco and Monte Carlo, but I don’t want to overload your senses. Instead to close, I’ll be a good caregiver and provide a few traveling tips for those who may be going abroad this summer and want to stay in touch with your loved ones:
– Phone home: If you want to call home or within the country where you are staying contact your mobile phone provider and tell them you want an international plan for a short time period. I purchased 30 minutes for $30. Be sure to keep your phone on “airport mode with roaming off” the rest of the time so you don’t end up with large data charges. And don’t respond to any text messages unless you want to pay a hefty fee.
– Send email postcards: Since we had free wifi in all our apartments, several evenings I used my iPhone or iPad to email picture postcards with the day’s commentary to my friends and family. Quicker and better than a printed postcard — the news arrived in everyone’s inboxes early the next morning instead of weeks later.
– Pack light: I packed way too many clothes and I know you likely pack way too many clothes when you travel too. My suitcase almost broke my back and D’s back too. Next time I am getting a lighter weight suitcase and definitely packing less clothes.
– Don’t over program your days: There was so much I wanted to do in each city we visited. I will definitely have to go back again and again to see everything in Paris, Provence and Nice. Oui, oui, oui.
Note: I am a member of AARP’s blogger kitchen cabinet on caregiving issues. All opinions are my own.