Two days in the sun!
19.03.2013 - 20.03.2013 16 °C
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that being an active tourist becomes harder as you get older. It also doesn’t help when you’re slightly (alright very) unfit when you set out. We tried to get into shape a bit before we left home but the fact is that we’re overweight and well on the wrong side of 50 and we can’t do what we used to – not sure that we could ever do that much. This means that we need to be sensible about our sightseeing or we’ll be shagged out and spend the rest of the next week in a sports massage or bed! We haven’t come so far to spend it in the sack so common sense has prevailed.
After Monday’s big trip to Avignon, we were a little slow yesterday morning. The alarm went off as usual at 0630 – why I ask myself are we getting up so early??? We got moving about 0700. At least I did – there were emails to respond to, Australian news to read and time to potter. Hugh, sensibly, decided that more sleep was in order and surfaced about 0830. We decided to have a “local” day – whatever that means – and to do some chores that needed to be sorted. First and foremost was sorting out a dry cleaner for Hugh’s clothes. It’s much easier to get his shirts and pants done at a laundry as they come home pressed and ready to go – before I completely stuff them up when I pack them in the case. He found a suitable candidate and then we got out the translator and wrote out what we needed. Once we’d done some washing and washing up, we took the clothes and tried out our translation. The lady there was lovely and all was sorted – clothes to be picked up on Thursday (just in time as we’re heading off on the next leg on Friday). Then it was time for coffee – of course – and back to the Café de France along with the other regulars.
Hugh decided that it was really too nice to do nothing – not sure I agreed as an afternoon with a book on the roof terrace was attracting me – so we packed a picnic (fromage and baguette) and went to the Fontaine des Vaucluse. This glorious spot is only 8km or so from us and is the point that the La Sorgue (the river that we’re living on) erupts from the rock like a natural fountain. We parked a little out of the town avoiding the one way streets and traffic hold ups and walked up to the source. Not surprisingly it was a steep rise as we made our way up the hill; it was sensational surroundings and fabulous sunny weather. It was far and away the best weather we’ve had since we landed with the temperature sneaking up around 19C – had to carry my jacket and stuff. The source itself is a tranquil pool at the bottom of the rock face and it then tumbles exuberantly down the mountain to form the river! Gorgeous!!!
A relaxing walk back – so much easier going downhill than up – and a stop in the village for some vital essentials (postcards and wine). Back to the car park which was located on the edge of the river and lined with tables and benches. We found a chunky concrete table looking out across the water and enjoyed our first French picnic – actually I think it was our first since 2007 and our stop on Salisbury Plain. We had some Brie and chevre which we’d bought at the market on Sunday and a fresh baguette. We’ve also bought a lovely olive wood chopping board and Opinel knife so are set up. We haven’t managed to buy some picnic cups yet so had to drink the wine from the bottle but only the ducks saw us and they didn’t care! Back to town and the daily fun of finding a car park close to home. We were lucky this time and got a great spot nearby. Home for a relax and a read and a pre-dinner drink and look at the news.
Nothing planned for dinner last night so we went for a walk to see what was open and what we fancied. It’s been interesting actually as we were warned about the need to pre book restaurants around the place. I think that the fact that we’re here out of season and with chilly weather has been good for us as places have been empty. Last night we ate at the Bistro Pascal and picked it because there were a couple of other groups there when we went in. Unfortunately as we went in, they left so we were the only customers. We had the Menu Prix – three courses for 19 Euro and all delicious!! I had Foie Gras fried and with a salad including cured duck and apple, this was followed by Coquille St Jacques (scallops) in a slightly curried sauce with beautiful baby vegetable and then a juicy apple tart. Hugh had much the same except that he had Gambas (prawns) as a starter. A bottle of Vin Pays (local red) and coffee and dinner came in about 77 Euro. Can’t complain about that for three courses and drinks. The owners were lovely and we battled on with their non-existent English and our non-existent French. I think they wanted to give us a glass of Marc but we decided to pass and came home.
After another good night’s sleep but some seriously weird dreams, we were up and moving again about 0730 today. It had rained fairly steadily through the night – I was up about 0430 and it was going then – and the world had a washed grey look about it. Another load of washing and another walk for croissants for Hugh and breakfast was ready. Once we were ready – about 0900 – we were out and off. Today we drove to Orange which was a former Roman stronghold and has some major Roman ruins. We’d done some homework as we were desperate to avoid the motorway – tolls are haunting our dreams – but the GPS took us up some backways that we really didn’t need to explore and we decided to follow the signs.
We got to the town without major drama and then went looking for a car park. Actually, that wasn’t too hard as we passed a large paying park as we drove in and only did one lap of the area before we found the entrance. We followed our usual process and took a photo of the park and the area so that we had it as a point of reference in case we got lost – still haunted by Liverpool in 2007!!! As it was there was a handy map nearby even though we did have to metaphorically turn it upside down to work out where we wanted to go. We were looking for the Roman Theatre and I somehow managed to go the wrong way. Realising that we were exploring the suburbs of Orange we retraced our steps and realised that the dirty great wall in front of us was in fact the back of the Theatre Ancient – what we were looking for! D’uh!
This is, without doubt, the biggest Roman building that I’ve ever been in – and that includes Pompeii! It is massive and I hope that the pictures give the sense of scale. Getting up to the top was a challenge on our knees (and getting down was a challenge for my vertigo!) but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything at all. To see something of this nature, so much still intact is absolutely extraordinary! I’ve read Peter Mayle’s account of seeing Pavarotti there and that sort of performance would be a rare privilege!
After the theatre and the nearby museum, we found our way into the central square and had a coffee before tackling the walk to the Arc de Triumph. Now the more observant of you will realise that we’re not in Paris yet but there are, in fact, multiple Arcs around France celebrating any number of triumphs. The one in question in this instance was a Roman success and the arch is no less exciting for being so old.
Back into the centre of town and wandering around the lovely narrow streets and oohing and aahing at the gorgeous buildings. Lunch was in a café in the square – andouilette (sausage) for me with frites and ravioli with truffles for Hugh. Some pink and the inevitable coffee and it was very hard to move.
We took a more direct route home although we nearly ended up missing the turn off for L’Isle as we were distracted by some of the installation art!!
We got a great view of Mt Ventoux which still has snow on it. It would be nice to go up there but not sure we’re equipped for it. Home without trouble and found a car park not far away. Wandered home exploring some more streets and picking up another bottle of French whisky for our aperitif. Just about to have a drink and then think about dinner somewhere. It’s a tough life!!