A Travellerspoint blog

A home of our own in Provence

A view of a waterwheel

sunny 8 °C

For the next week we're going to enjoy the delight of "living" in Provence in a narrow, three story, "town" house in L'Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue in the Vaucluse region of Provence.

Leaving Marseille yesterday was relatively painless, once we'd done a small lap of the streets near the hotel to get where we wanted to go. The inbuilt GPS in the car was a godsend and got us on the correct road with a minimum of fuss. We took it cautiously in terms of speed but know now to stay in the right hand lane away from things if you're not going fast or overtaking - unlike Australia, the French seem to be good about these things and we got a bit of a lesson on Wednesday when we strayed in the wrong lane.

It was a trip highlight so far that we managed to get through a tollbooth without being tooted and sworn at by a frustrated local motorist. We've been struggling slightly with these as we don't have enough French to understand the signage and we always manage to be in the wrong lane going in. On Wednesday we had to cross four lanes to get to one we wanted and then we couldn't reach the machine to a) get the ticket out and b) pay at the next stop. We've discovered a few things now - firstly to avoid the lanes with a big "T" on them as they're for automated entry (like our City Link), secondly how to fold the mirrors in so that we can get closer to the machine and finally, for me to have money in small denominations handy for feeding into the machine. We've also been leaving the change so hopefully that cheers up the car behind us!!! We're off motorways now as we're in Provence and driving through small towns and villages and glorious rural scenes - much nicer and might be the way to go as we travel around - certainly easier on the heart!

We got here to the town without any trouble - in fact we had a couple of hours to kill before meeting Pam - our landlady. We drove a bit further on and then came back into town and found a park - all free parking but we weren't sure about the signs and what they meant (more on that later). We had a light lunch at Le Bouchon near the river - Hugh had local lamb and I had a fondue (a dish of melted cheese served with a platter of charcuterie and lovely potatoes and salad).

Fondue Provence - yummy

Fondue Provence - yummy

Lunch in Provence - Lamb

Lunch in Provence - Lamb

Did I say light??? A couple of classes of a local red and a coffee and it was off to meet Pam. We found the house with little trouble and Pam was waiting outside for us as promised. Feel as though I've known her for ages - as we booked nearly a year ago and have been in correspondence since - so double kisses seemed appropriate. She helped us with our luggage and showed us the house before driving round with us to the garage that we can use if we choose to. As it involves a three point turn and reverse parking off a narrow street - we think we might not use it and park in the street. Apparently there is free parking everywhere with the only restriction being Sundays when the market takes over - we'll just have to find a park over the river tonight (Saturday) and remember where we left it. Everywhere in town is within walking distance so no car is not an issue - and it's good for us.

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To describe the house. You come in off the street into a casual lounge area with a couple of tables and two easy chairs. At the back of the house - through the lounge - is one bedroom. It's a good size for us with a comfortable double bed which has the advantage of a good length for Hugh. Plenty of wardrobe space which is great. Up some winding stone stairs and there's a bathroom to the left then up some more and you're at the living floor. This opens up into a good size kitchen which is beautifully stocked and almost makes me want to do some cooking - except that I'm on holiday. The rest of the floor is a tiled lounge/dining area which looks over the street below and the waterwheel across the street. Up some more steps and there's a storage nook and then to the top floor which has another bedroom and bathroom and a door to the roof terrace. It's all gorgeous - full of light from windows and skylights. Has open beams and is fresh and charming. Very happy! Not surprisingly, we've elected to use the ground floor bedroom - much easier on the legs.

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After walking and exploring yesterday afternoon - and it's hard to believe that there can be so many streets in such a small area - we came home and had a drink. We bought some French whisky at a bottle shop in town and were looked after by a very friendly and helpful young man - who, mercifully, spoke English. Dinner was at Cafe Fleur on the river and was a celebration as yesterday was our 27th wedding anniversary. We found our way there without trouble - got a bit lost going home though - and were welcomed warmly. Unusually for us we ordered the same dishes - Foie Gras, Filet Bouef and the fromage. It was all amazing - full of flavour and beautifully presented. A bottle of champagne to celebrate and a smooth full bodied local red and we were more than content.

Our dinner companion

Our dinner companion

Anyone want some Chartreus?

Anyone want some Chartreus?

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Walking home in the face of the Mistral (look it up - it's a local wind that takes your skin off) was a brisk affair rather than a romantic stroll. It got even brisker when I sent us down the wrong road and we had to find our way home. Manage it we did and crashed straight away. Today is sunny and the wind has gone. Hugh is about to go and buy le petit dejeuner and I'm going into the shower.

Au revoir mes amies. Eh bientot!

Posted by dawnandhugh 00:38 Archived in France Tagged meals provence Comments (5)

Bonjour - at bloody last!!!

More relief than anything..........

sunny 13 °C

We started to think that we'd never get here and by the time we went to bed last night we were wondering if we wanted to be here but now we're in love with the place and life is pretty good. We're now in Marseille after a brief sojourn in Nice and our first drive on truly "foreign" roads - the UK is way too familiar to be foreign!

It was with some trepidation that we got ready and returned to the airport on Monday. Once again, we go there early and checked in around 7pm. Once again it paid off as both security and immigration were deserted and we were the first into the lounge. We new the lounge was going to be busy becasue there was an additional flight. Yes, gentle readers, our rescheduled/cancelled flight was due to depart at 2330 that night - or roughly an hour after we left. I hope it left, it would have been really ugly if it hadn't. We got chatting to a lady named Debbie who works and lives in Cairo and commutes home every couple of months and the time went quite quickly. Back on board and got comfortable again, Booked our shower, got our amenities, got lots of sympathy when the team found out we'd been on the other flight and then heard the captain talking about departure. In a remarkably short time we were pushing back and I've never been quite so excited to take off from the ground in my life!!!

In the air we collected our menus and had a little supper - caviar and soup (served separately of course) for me and caviar and a mezze platter which was huge for Hugh. We'd both changed into something more comfortable after take off - I wore the Emirates pyjamas and Hugh put on some sleeping shorts and a t-shirt - great way to protect your clothes. After dinner we had the beds made up and curled up. Slept for a solid 6 hours and slowly came back to life about 5 hours or so from Dubai. Wasn't too energetic - had a coffee and read and watched some entertainment. Had breakfast about 2 1/2 hours out of Dubai and we were then called to the shower. We'd booked at the same time and perversely thought that we were sharing the 30 minute slot. No - nothing so swinging 70s - there are two bathrooms and we had one each at the same time. We were taken through bathroom protocol - you get a 30 minute slot, 5 minutes worth of water and it's all set up for you with all of the product, towels, etc that you'd need. There is loads of space both in the bathroom and in the shower itself and it was wonderful to freshen up and to consider that we were doing it (showering of course) at 38000 feet. Much refreshed and dreseed and made up we were back in our seats with lots of time to spare.

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Into Dubai on time and no problems on landing. We were through immigration/security quickly and then looking for the train from the A380 Hub to the other terminal. Really well organised and absolutely no fuss. We did have a huge walk to our gate and were grateful that there was a 1st Class lounge in the boondocks. Bizarrely we were boarded last for the leg to Dubai. Had a remote stand and were all shunted onto buses. Economy were sent first on ordinary buses. Then Business on what I presume were slightly flasher - assuming that everyone could sit down. First Class were called to a special bus which was equipped with leather lounge chairs in a position for chatting rather than side by side - it was like a moving lounge room.

Flight was fine - slightly fed up with planes by that stage but we survived. Into Nice on time and as the airport is virtually on the beach and in the City you immediately felt like you were on the Riviera. Getting through the formalities made our experience in Manchester seem like the height of beaurocracry - passports were checked quickly by the Police, no entry cards to fill out and no customs checks. Absolute chaos outside but we found our driver and were at the hotel about 30 minutes after landing.

The Negresco was extremely beautiful and the staff were very welcoming and professional. Mercifully, they all spoke English as well. To be honest, we probably weren't in the right mood to enjoy it properly as we were absolutely buggered and did not have the time to appreciate Nice in general or the hotel specifically. We went for a walk as is advised and found SFR (euro version of Vodafone) and bought SIMs so that we're now back on line. Bought Hugh a beret - he looks tres tres chic - and I bought a new red hat and scarf (yeah yeah I know!). Back at the hotel and a sleep for a couple of hours before dinner in La Rotonde. This place had to be seen to be believed! In fact I saw it but I don't believe it yet! It's like a carousel - complete with horses that move every 15 minutes or so and some spectacular paint work and decorations. Again, we weren't in the best frame of mind to enjoy it and dinner was rapid and we were in bed by 9 o'clock.
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Posted by dawnandhugh 10:43 Archived in France Tagged planes Comments (1)

Best laid plans......

Don't count your chickens - or your flights - before they're hatched

sunny 35 °C

We're still in Melbourne! Yep, that's right - 16 hours after our planned departure, we're sitting or reclining in the Parkroyal at Melbourne Airport. This is not how it was supposed to start and it's only the thought that we still have six weeks of fun that is keeping our spirits up.

All was going well last night. The lounge was lovely and restful early on although it got a bit crowded in the last hour or so. We had a few nice eats - love the fish cakes - and a couple of libations and life was pretty good. Plane came in on time and we started boarding about 10 - also on time. Cabin was lovely, loads of space, lots of attention - love Dom Perignion - booked our spot in the shower and all that. After about 20 minutes on board, all the power went out which made things a bit exciting. We were advised that someone had unplugged the ground based power source - tripped over the cable perhaps - and within 5 minutes normal service was resumed. Or so we thought! We started to get concerned when we were still sitting there being plied with offers of drinks and being encouraged to use the entertainment 20 minutes or so after push out time. Eventually the captain came on and explained that there was an issue with the computer's analysis of fuel and that the engineers were looking at it. It all seemed fine and we relaxed and started watching a film or something. After another hour of the stewards offering food and drink and apologising, we started getting concerned and it didn't get any better.

Finally, about 3.30, the captain announced that they were clearing the plane so that people could get more comfortable in the lounge (!) and the crew could investigate with the engineers. I can understand the move as, while it was quite comfortable in First, it must have been hell in Economy. We trooped into the lounge and looked with loathing at the lucky bastards who took off on the 4:00am flight via KL and we tried to relax. Acutally it was harder in the lounge than on board but we sat and tried to be patient. Hugh and I knew that we'd missed our connecting flight to Nice and, as there's only one per day, we knew that it was going to be the matter of overnighting in Melbourne or Dubai. Finally, around 4:45 we were advised that the flight had been cancelled and that we were going to be sent to hotels for the night (or whatever wa'cs left). At this point, I think Emirates dropped the ball. We got our voucher and were directed out and then got lost. The less said about waiting for our bags the better. It pisses me off that ours - First Class passengers - came off after the crew and it was a mess! The Emirates ground crew were swamped and not coping well and the air crew collected their bags and left.

FINALLY - again - we got out of the airport and crossed the road to the Parkroyal. It was fairly painless here at the hotel which is good as we were losing it at this stage. We were eminently grateful that our room was right opposite the lift as walking down the corridor might have been a bridge too far! Unfortunately, we had no idea when or if we'd be called regarding the fate of our flight which made us slightly tense and sleep difficult. A shower and a few hours sleep and we were awake at 9. Then it was time for answers so I rang Emirates and spoke to the lovely Dominic. The advantage of flying first class is that you have options and you get priority treatment - and at the fares we're paying we blood well should. After discovering that there's no idea when our original flight is going to leave, we got transferred to tonight's flight so hope to have more success. We're also booked on the connecting flight to Nice so that's all good.

We have the room until we leave around 7 tonight and have been catching up with lost sleep. Both of us have slept well and Hugh would like to sleep some more. I've spoken to the hotel in Nice and they're fine so I don't know what else we can do except hope that all goes well tonight! At least there's airconditioning here and room service so life could be worse - and unlike many (most) of our fellow passengers, we know when we're going!

I look forward to bringing you better news!

Posted by dawnandhugh 20:30 Archived in Australia Tagged planes Comments (0)

Shrek and Donkey on another great adventure!!!

We've made it to the airport!

sunny 28 °C

God I love premium travel!!! We're currently relaxing in the welcoming arms of the Emirates Lounge at Melbourne. Sipping a Veuve and enjoying some little edible delights. Our plane has landed and is in "turnover" and life is good!

After Melbourne's unseasonal heatwave today was a bit of a marathon as we battled to stay cool. Hugh slept in slightly so we ended up in the driveway sorting out the leaves in piercing sun. I can tell you that vacuuming the house in the heat wasn't fun either.

Never mind, we were ready with lots of time to spare; the car was early and the run to the airport was 55 minutes - no that's not a mistype!! We were first at the check in desk and were the only people going through security and immigration - how good is that. We've now had a couple of drinks and eats and are relaxing before boarding in about an hour.

Shrek and Donkey on another great adventure!!!

Posted by dawnandhugh 01:50 Archived in Australia Tagged prelimiaries Comments (0)

Prologue II: Departure -6 days

Getting organised

sunny 31 °C

So at D-Day - 6 we're quietly getting organised. Hugh spent a large part of yesterday charging camera batteries - the great York Battery Debacle still haunts him and I think he charges batteries in his sleep!! He then packed the camera bag before deciding that he really didn't have enough room in the chosen bag. Cue another hour or so transferring things from Camera Bag 1 to Camera Bag 2. All weighed it's around 8kg so quite comfortably within the carry on limit - don't want the frantic reorganisation of 2009 when we got to the airport with a 14kg bag!!! Apart from the fear of the bag nazi, there was also the damage it did to Hugh's shoulder.

I trial packed yesterday. With only a few things to go in, I'm well under 17kg so very happy with that. Luckily (!) it's hot in Melbourne this week so no problem with needing to wear clothes that I'm taking so they can stay in the case.

Fridge to empty tonight and itinerary to finalise and print and send to people. Looking forward to a chilled weekend trying to stay cool and reminding ourselves that we'll soon be enjoying a Mediterranean spring.

Posted by dawnandhugh 13:27 Archived in Australia Tagged preliminaries Comments (0)

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