Avignon Centre Ville – Palace des Papes
I approached Avignon, Provence with a historical eye. I took photos, but, was unable to capture the overpowering grandeur of it. I sat on a bench, and transported myself back to an imaginary scene filled with kings and queens, knights in armour, ladies in waiting gossiping, priests and cardinals scurrying down halls, secrets being whispered in corners, illicit affairs… horses hoofs tramping on cobblestone streets, boats on the River Rhone, lace made in backrooms, oven fires burning to make bread, cook meat, boil vegetables, barrels of wine rolling down the streets.. and I could imagine everyone and everything was protected by the Avignon walls with its castle tops and soldiers with their crossbows.
And now, museums, tourist attractions, some great art galleries, very trendy shops and very trendy prices, restaurants with 10 tables, bohemian areas selling art supplies, books, LP’s, and on, and on….
Cafe au lait in hand, and the other hand held my 2,456th “croissant avec chocolait” since arriving in this country, and again, I vowed it would be my last one. I watched the people go by. All nationalities trying to stay out of the way of the skateboarders who were using the ramparts as jumping points, and realized — life really hasn’t changed much — kids playing and irritating adults, poverty and wealth, religion giving a cause to some, political aspirations for the sake of power……
So, on that happy note, I walked out of the centre ville, and met my landlady at the Avignon gate to take me to my new home. We drove to the small village of Rognonas, 15 minutes south of Avignon, where I have rented a one bedroom gite for three months. A lovely couple from New Zealand bought the property 4 years ago, continued its renovation, and now operate 4 holiday rentals situated between neighboring vegetable farms and fruit orchards.
Since I have no car, I am dependent upon my legs, a bicycle and the bus. It is a 10 minute walk to town consisting of 2 bakeries, 2 butcher shops, 1 supermarket – uh – think monopoly game squares – small itty bitty places, 1 post office, 1 church and 1 school.
Since I have been riding the bus more(no train here) I have noticed a difference between the train and bus stations, and, the population who ride them. Graffiti is considered “art” at the train station, and it is always on the outside of the train station, NEVER on the inside; however, graffiti is all over the bus station and not pretty – harsh and angry. Waiting rooms at the bus stations have dispenser snack machines and a snack bar outside on the street usually with the word KEBAB in the title. Train stations have coffee bars, places to sit/eat, and always, a magazine store. Single men tend to ride the bus more often than women, and very few women aged 40+ ride the bus. Definitely, buses are on the lower edge of the socio-economic scale. That’s my demographic take on the two main segments of transportation in France. Not that it interests anyone, but these were observations while waiting for the bus.
99% of the drivers on the road are very respectful of bicyclists, so, I have no fear joining all the other bicyclists, all five of them(!), on the road in the village. I have learned just the proper amount, both quantity and weight, to buy at the little stores so it will fit in my shopping bag and be able to carry it home comfortably. There is another side of this country living, which is the accommodation I have to make by not having my own transportation = dependent upon others = s-c-a-r-e-y……
side note: One reduces one’s food consumption when one realizes one has to CARRY the food back to one’s house.
Village life is, well, this…..locals see you and some say “Bonjour, Madame” while others don’t, the post office lady helps me count the change because I left my glasses at home, the grocery store checker FINALLY acknowledges me, I see covert looks projecting “who is that?”, I greet a lady who opens her shutters in the morning as I pass by her house on a walk, I go to the post office which is supposed to open at 1:00pm but doesn’t open until 1:30 that day and letting that flitting bit of irritation GO,and am grateful for no tourist shops..
Life goes on… just a little slower here
Note from Provence that I am learning, feeling, and waking up to:
The Mistral may blow continuously for several days at a time, attain velocities of about 100 km (62 miles) and reach a height of 2 to 3 km (1 to 4m) towards the French Riviera and the Gulfe de Lion. These winds can affect weather in North Africa, Sicily and throughout the Mediterranean. It is strongest and most frequent in winter, and sometimes causes considerable damage to crops. Trees in Provence are forever bent in the direction of this fierce wind. But as inhospitable an element as it may be, this beneficial wind does clear and dry the atmosphere in the region, leaving the sun to shine some 2800 hours per year!
“Behind the Mistral is the beauty of Provence. Its fierceness blows away clouds and grime and doubt, leaving colors the depth of dreams and a freshness that can come only after the Mistral’s scouring. Provence needs the Mistral or it ceases to be the Provence of my dreams. I need the Mistral to cut through those dreams to truth – beauty comes after the wind.” Kamiah A. Walker
It’ll probably be a few weeks before I write again — settling in — living life in my own place for a while.. Enjoy Thanksgiving — be thankful for all you have ….