Thursday, September 22, 2011

France 2011

We spent the 2nd half of our vacation in southern France.  The weather was great, only one day of rain.  And it was cooler than Italy and much drier.  We had a great time and I'm glad the pace of our trip slowed down a bit.

Saturday morning we left Venice early.  Our Easy Jet flight from Venice to Lyon left at 7:55 am but we left the hotel at 5:30 am.  The Marco Polo Airport outside of Venice is very nice and pretty new.  We lucked out, the Easy Jet flight wasn't full and it was a sunny day, so we had good views during the flight.  Lyon is a fairly small airport, 10 or so miles out of town.  It has a brand new fancy train station attached, so all we had to do was pick up our luggage and walk over to catch our train.  We had a couple of hours to kill, but that was OK.  The train south was very crowded, but we had reserved seats, so we got into Avignon on time about 1:30 pm.

The car rental started out as bit of a pain.  We used AutoEurope and they booked us a couple of cars with National/Citer.  Since we'd arrived at the old downtown train station we had to take a taxi out to the airport to pick up our cars.  It turns out that the Avignon airport is a small regional airport and was closed when we arrived.  We found a phone number (boy am I glad my smart phone worked well during our trip) and called their main office.  Then we had to wait about an 1.5 hours for the agent to drive out with our keys.  I really wish we'd been told just to go to the Avignon TGV train station where they have an office that's open all day.  But once we got on the road, things went pretty well.  We followed the instructions, more or less and found our way north to Venesque where we'd rented the 2  connected houses.  ( thanks Elizabeth for all your help).  Boy was the view from up on top amazing.  Here are a couple of pics I took from the parking lot.

We stopped in St. Didier for a few groceries, and a couple of bottles of wine (well a couple of bottles and a 5 liter plastic jug :-).  Once we got settled and unpacked, we had a nice dinner and just relaxed.  The view from up on top of the hill was beautiful, between the 2 houses we had 2 kitchens, 2 living rooms, 4 bedrooms with their own baths, and 2 more bedrooms that shared a bath.  Lots of room to spread out which was nice.
Sunday morning we tried to get moving early, but it was 9:30 am by the time we got out of town and headed for L'Isle Sur la Sorgue and their Sunday market.  It was pretty packed, so we set up a meeting point and wandered around.  Lots and lots of stuff to look at, but I mostly was interested in stocking up on groceries.  Bread, cheese, olives, fruits and vegis and an assortment of sausage.  Mmmmm...  We had a great lunch (a bit expensive but still great) and then headed home.  A little wine in the garden, then Linda and Mary made us a vegi lasagna for dinner.  It really was a good day.
Monday was a quiet day, we mostly stayed close to home and rested.  I spent a couple of hours sitting in the garden reading, which was really great.  Mon night Linda and I drove into Avignon and picked up Shari and Val.  They arrived on the 11:15 pm train from Venice/Lyon.

Tue we had a late start.  It's a bit hard to get this big of a group all headed in the same direction :-).  But we took both cars and drove through Gordes.  Cute town that has been totally rebuilt.  Then we went to a nearby Abbe and wandered around for a while.  Then we drove over to Rousillion for lunch and to check out the Ocher mine.  The colors of the soil was pretty amazing to see.  It's been used as a pigment for centuries.
The road was a bit stressful.  Lots an lots of switchback, no shoulders and idiots on bikes.
Wed we all went into Avignon and checked out the Place of the Popes.   We spent a couple of hours in one of the museums and then had lunch at a restaurant in the main square.  It was hot, so instead of hiking to a tower across the river, I found an Internet cafe and cleared out old e-mail. We didn't get the wi fi at the house working until Thur evening.

Thur was another mostly quiet day.  Went for a walk around the village in the morning.  The village used to be surrounded by small terraced private gardens.  There are a few being maintained but most are very over grown.  We found a lot of squash and fruit trees that were growing mostly wild.  And a few old ruined houses built under the limestone overhangs.

Then we decided to head toward Mount Ventoux.  We stopped in a small town for a great lunch, but then decided to split up.  Lowry took the folks wanting to go up the mountain and I drove the group going to visit a couple of wineries :-).
Friday almost everyone stayed home, but Mom, Val and I drove down to NimesNimes was a pain, but we made it.  We stopped at the Pont du Gard on our way back to Venesque.

Saturday I stayed home in the morning and did some laundry, etc.  Then we went to lunch over in St. Didier and walked around Le Beaucet looking for Penny and Val.  Le Beaucet is an old medieval village.  The older houses are build under the cliff, very interesting to see.
Sunday I got up early and took Linda and Lowry to the train station in Avignon.  Their train left at 7:12 am for Amsterdam.  It was pouring rain on the way back, so I stopped in Monteaux at a bakery and got breakfast for everyone.  Boy it smelled good with all those goodies fresh out of the oven :-).  I really liked the small bakeries in each of the town, much more fun and better products, than going to a big grocery store.

Late Sunday morning the rain let up and we decided to drive up to Chateauneuf du Pape for lunch.  It was still overcast and we got there late so almost everything was closed.  It was also the first day anyone felt cold.  After lunch we went into Orange to see the Roman Theater (very interesting) and a Roman Arch.  Then it was time to head home and get everything cleaned up and packed.
Monday was sunny, but rather windy.  We got going fairly early and were out on the road by 9:45 AM.  I really didn't want to drive south on the A7 so we took secondary road and headed toward Marseille.  We got there just fine, the MRS airport is a quite a way out of town, which was fine with me.   I didn't want to get stuck in city traffic.  We found a hotel right at the airport, and then drove down to Carry le-Rouet for lunch.  It's a small town right on the water.  We had lunch at restaurant on the harbor.  Good food and a great view.  A nice way to wrap up our trip.  We got back to the airport about 6 pm, and turned in the cars.  That went well so we got a couple of bottles of wine and sat around in the hotels breakfast room, chatting and looking at pictures for a couple of hours.
Tue we were up early.  Mom, me, Penny and Virg left the hotel at 3:45 am.  The shuttle driver didn't start until 5 am so we had to walk, but it really wasn't very far.  Just across a big parking lot.  After checking in we tried to get coffee at the airport, but none of the restaurants or shops opened until 6 am, which was too late.  By then we were boarding.  We flew to Frankfurt, had breakfast there and then caught our Condor flight back to Anchorage.  Once we got on board, we were delayed an hour due to the fog and other late flights.  But it wasn't too bad.  The flight to Anchorage wasn't too crowded, which was nice.  We got into Anchorage only an hour late, and picked up my car and headed home.

No comments: