No Fields of Purple Lavender But Instead Riding High
20.09.2013 - 25.09.2013
Again with the getting lost!!!!
This time it was in the tiny little one way streets of the old part (inside the ramparts) of Avignon. That's where we were staying but could we find a place to even pull up and unload the bags????? NO!!!! The French have much the same attitude to parking as the Italians. They highly favour nudge parking, illegal parking and double parking with hazard lights on to block off a tiny one way street to meet their needs. So again around and around and around.
Eventually we made it to meet another AirBnB host and see our next apartment. Only trouble was, it was on the 3rd floor and even though he took the case I thought I was going to have a stroke on that last flight of stairs. (AND DID I MENTION HOT AND STICKY AND HUMID WEATHER?).
This time another funky but quirky French apartment but comfortable all the same and Sylvain was lovely as well.
Location being everything we were in great space, right near the Avignon Les Halles, the daily market and produce place open from 7-1 every day except Monday. So the next morning I enthusiastically hit the market and proudly got my way through purchasing vegetables fruit charcuterie and cheeses and of course fresh baguettes - all using my far from satisfactory French.
(Margot Corbett/ Big sister/ex French Teacher I soooooooo should have had some French conversation sessions with you. My memory of vocab and pronunciation aren't too bad but applying verbs and sentence structure are beyond me! Only trouble was I learned that one pronounced Les Halles as leyz arle. And now I've discovered you don't. Anyway once I worked that out it helped significantly. nd it is possible that in the last 40+ years I may have forgotten some pronunciation!!!!
So after my morning shopping I returned, armed with yummy goodies only to face those Three Flights of Frigging Stairs!! Yes folks we now have a new location for TFS Those Friggin Steps!
That day while off exploring etc I accomplished TFS Avignon 4 times. After that day I became a little less blasé about popping out for something without multiple reasons. No day had less than 3 up and downs on those stairs.
But Avignon was lovely and so was Provence which we proceeded to explore now that we were able to get about with a car to help us. What's more by now we had hoovered up some courage and had ventured onto the motorway. It really was the only sensible way to get from Lyon to Avignon. But gees....
The trucks must travel in the far right lane which they seem to oblige with. But if their truck mate up front is going too slow for their liking, they are allowed to use the middle lane to pass and on a curve they can end up over the lines onto the third lane. And if you happen to be passing and are Aussies not used to legally travelling at 130, it's bloody scary. For both new driver and scaredy-cat passenger/navigator holding her breath and praying in the passenger seat!!!!!!
Armed with new found courage we ventured off to visit the areas of Provence that had so long enticed me. P was just happy to get out there though still found the motorways stressful driving. The speed limit might be 130 but by god some of those Audis and BMWs and Mercedes and even other less powerful cars are often whipping past at 150/160. But certainly we were both happy to be looking at real landscapes rather than art after our feast of art in Italy.
So our first excursion was to Mont Ventoux. As a dedicated Tour de France fan for many years, long before it became so big in Australia, Phil has wanted to explore some of the sights of TDF. Mont Ventoux is a regular participant in the Tour thanks to its steeeeeep gradient and it appeared yet again in this year's recent exciting Tour. Because it is a Tour regular both the professionals training and (much more) the amateurs, who in-their-dreams wannabe, are out on the hardest access road to the Mont. You see Mont Ventoux has two enticing elements. 1) there is BEATING the mental and physical challenge of getting up to the top! And 2) there is the thrill of sailing down the same route at top speed whizzing around tight turns (like the pros do) at speeds of up to 80kph.
Ladies some of you may understand why I say that it seemed to me that I saw more blokes of a certain age ie between 40 and 60 (determined they would make it) than I saw young men or pros. Interestingly every single one of them young or old were hurting. But some would rather walk the bike up those final parts than give up.
As an aside, I'm sorry but men of a certain age wearing bandanas +/- helmets ( usually minus) are just sad. And yes PS I hear you wear one too!! #justsaying.
P called me mean for taking photos of people struggling. But it just seemed to me to be about understanding what drives people. I admire their persistence and courage even as I shake my head at some of their stupidity.
The delightful part of the drive was seeing all the signs, painted on the road by the fans for the recent Tour, were all still there!
But now let's come back to us.
It was all well and good watching cyclists grinding their way up through beautiful forests. But a few kms from the top of Mt Ventoux it becomes like a moonscape. All white, not because of snow as it seems at a distance, but instead from white rocks that totally cover the top third of the mountain. And the road has steep ravines right beside it across kms of sharp white stones and gravel. Bear in mind this is also a great skiing location in winter.
Now Chrissie is not so good at heights. The Great Ocean Road is wonderful but scary to me but those Mont Ventoux ravines left everything I had experienced for dead. And then we came to the cairns that have been put up for cyclists who've died on this road and it becomes very real!
So we got to the top, passing the sloggers and the successful as we went, and evading the speed-freaks on their way down. All about at the top were cyclists zinging with excitement and preparing for that daring ride back down. There had clearly been a local race on as well as we had passed numbered cyclists on the trip up. But with nowhere to stop on this tiny mountain top awash with cyclists we just turned around and headed down again. Only trouble was, this time it was my turn to be on the ravine side!!!!!! P needed no navigating so I busied myself trying to write FB posts to try and avoid looking at the front or side windows. Eventually P said, it's ok you can look now and I knew I'd been seen through all the way down to those lovely treed and delightful lower regions of this daunting mountain.
P was thrilled just to have driven it. Me? I just don't get it and I was awfully glad to have that weird but equally enthralling moonscape behind me!!!
So now for you? more of Provence in the next instalment!