We are on holiday! We are staying in Avignon and visiting other towns in the vicinity as well. There is a great deal to see and the food is excellent. Also, the sun has mostly been out, and getting more sun was the object of the exercise.
There is, inevitably, not enough time to do everything and see anything, and I am compiling a mental list of things we didn’t get round to this time/that were closed for the winter/would have needed a car/etc. So we will just have to come back and take slow trains along the Côte d’Azur/see the Pont du Gard/look for flamingoes in the Camargue.
The difficult and perplexing
It is cold. The place we are staying at is called La Vie de Bohême and my hands are doing the Che manina gelida bit. The mistral is blows straight through me. Just like home, really. But why do all the hand driers in the public lavatories insist on getting in on the act?
Trousers over tights. Having a lie-down in the afternoon. Accepting the fact that really any establishment with a menu outside will feed me adequately and will be happy to do so.
I forgot to mention Winters in the World (Eleanor Parker) – following the cycle of the early mediaeval year and quoting a lot of literature along the way. I’m really enjoying it.
On the e-reader, I have These Violent Delights (Chloe Gong) – Romeo and Juliet, except older and more jaded, in 1920s Shanghai, with monsters and possession (sort of). I’m enjoying the story; the prose tends towards the clumsy (but see below). I’m also continuing with Death in Cyprus and returned to The Master and Margarita (the latter has now shown up). I’m not sure I’m really getting it.
Lots of Provençal monuments! We went around the Palais des Papes, and out as far as you can along the famous bridge (there was an exhibition, with quite an interesting film about how they have worked out where the rest of it originally was). This morning in Nîmes we went around the Roman arena and I learned a lot about gladiators, and into the Maison Carrée. This afternoon in Arles we looked at the outside of the Roman arena (two in one day seemed excessive) and through the railings at the theatre.
My favourite thing, though, has been the crib scenes in the churches. The one in the cathedral at Avignon is currently showing a Candlemas scene; the one in Saint-Trophime in Arles is a magnificent multi-level edifice occupying an entire chapel and featuring locals in traditional dress coming to visit the crib. It even has a windmill at the top of the hill.
I said there’d be pancakes. There have, in fact, been three: one with chilli con carne at My Old Dutch (Chelsea) on Wednesday night; one with ham and Gruyère and an egg on top yesterday lunchtime, and one (‘crêpe Mont Ventoux’) with chestnut and whipped cream and chocolate sauce for pudding yesterday night. That may be enough to be going on with. I have also eaten onion soup (very, very effective when I was tired and cold the night we arrived), lamb stew, and quiche with leeks and bacon. It’s all been delicious.
Climbing up and down a lot of steps of various antiquity.
A set of gallopers with black bulls alongside the usual horses. Young men with a shopping trolley full of puppies (I don’t know why; I hope they meant them no harm). Goats in a garden next the railway. Snow on the ground as we crossed the middle of France on the TGV. Two swans and a cormorant in the Rhône.
Having an apartment to ourselves. The SNCF app (when it’s been working). The friendliness and patience of pretty much everyone we’ve spoken to.
Badges for my camp blanket (though not, so far, one saying Avignon).
I keep passing shops full of soap and hats and shoes, and haven’t gone into any of them. Yet.
Line of the week
One really good one from These Violent Delights:
He was born with pride stitched to his spine.
This coming week
A little longer in France, and then home. I have quite a lot to sort out before next weekend, the beginning of a very busy February.
Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!