Travelling into France…..
We were sad to leave Italy after being there such a long time, but excited at the prospect of a week in France – hopefully Glenda’s French would prove to be better (marginally!) than our Italian. After crossing the border on the autostrada (tolls of $50!!) and bypassing Monaco and Nice, we chose the scenic route through Cannes and further west along the coast. Quelle surprise!! Cannes was as expected – busy and glitzy. Glenda was last there in 1984 so was interested in seeing it again, Walter was keen to experience some of the lifestyle of the rich and famous. We drove slowly along the beachfront promenade past the casino and the home of the annual movie festival. As we followed the coast it became less busy and the landscape changed dramatically. A particularly amazing surprise was the area known as The Var! Vast stretches of red rock going down to azure seas!
We reached our accommodation mid-afternoon, and after unpacking, went for a walk to the rock village of Les Baux-de-Provence, about 2.5km away. On the way, we were surrounded by enormous limestone cliffs rising out of the ground. Set in the heart of the Alpilles regional country park, Les Baux-de-Provence is a listed heritage site that has won titles such as “one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France”. The village is unique and the essence that gives Provencal villages their very special atmosphere is here too – small squares, well-shaded terraces, narrow streets and small shops.
As it was towards the end of the day, the shops and cafes were closing town and tourists were leaving, making it magical and quiet. The downside was that we wouldn’t find anything to eat there for the evening. So we ventured back to the hotel and sat in the bar (restaurant closes at night), with a meat and cheese platter and a glass of local red wine. ZZzzzzz!!
With a key goal of seeing the Pont D’Avignon from the well-known children’s song, we headed off early the following morning. Having stopped off in a nearby village for crepe and coffee (not very good unfortunately) we passed though pretty Saint Remy-de-Provence, the birthplace of Nostradamus. Avignon was undergoing major roadworks, so Cilla (our GPS) was having great trouble getting us to where we wanted to go. Eventually we saw the huge walls of the old city so knew we were in the right place. But we still couldn’t get in!! Luckily, we’re always happy to walk, so when we found a free parking space in what looked like the grounds of a church, we left the car and headed back to the walled city. Still with no map (long story about our technology failures on this trip), we persisted until we stumbled onto the desired street and tourist office.
And all the trouble was more than worthwhile!! Avignon is so much more than the bridge. The bridge, the Palais des Papes (papal palace) and all the other buildings made for wonderful exploring. Together with the gorgeous pastries we found for lunch, this made for a good morning out. We were even entertained by a group of country dancers in costume performing in one of the main squares.