Evening in Istanbul

Evening in Istanbul
The alluring and beautiful Aya Sophia

Sunday, August 21, 2011

LA FRANCE – Friend or Foe? Un petit problème en Provence

Sandra and me, near the village of Gordes, Provence

Walking along the banks of the Seine on our first evening in Paris, watching people dancing, seeing many people having piqueniques on pretty tablecloths, and enjoying a vin rosé at a corner cafe, Sandra Brooks (my French travelling companion) and I little knew the challenge that was soon going to be thrown at us in Provence. We passed Notre Dame cathedral on the Île de la Cité, and were intrigued by the intricate manoeuvring of five young rollerbladers, daring and inventive.

Our third day was a tour to the lavender fields near Avignon, taking many photos in the beautiful sights and perfumes of the purple meadows. Going on to the village of Sault we were initially held up by the traffic involved with the weekly market, and then by the throngs of shoppers and touristes, which proved to be the harbinger of our stay in Provence. All the world was there. It was August. Don't go then if you don't have to. It proved to be difficult to see the market stalls, so we made our way to a shop selling lavender icecreams. I can't remember what mine tasted like, as completely surrounded by people I missed a step and went heavily over on my ankle. Quelle horreur!! Now 2.5 weeks later it is mending quite well, albeit far too slowly for my liking, but it surely took some of the shine off Provence for us. Sandra had to do all the driving, and lots of waiting for me; a terminal snail pace was about my top speed. Crutches, and a brace, meant that getting around stone paths and flights of stairs was possible, but difficult, tiring and inhibited doing many things. Sometimes Sandra went off on her own and explored. We stayed in the villages of Sault and Gordes, driving over towering Mt Ventoux and wending our way through the flocks of cyclists putting a tick on their bike Cvs, through the impressive Gorges des Nesques, and enjoying much French cuisine and vin rosés. The final part of Provence was the seaside town of La Ciotat, where we thoroughly enjoyed the swimming pool, plus a voyage along the coast admiring the impressive calanques (cliffs).

After a night in Marseilles we travelled to Mont St Michel, being stunned by its incredible beauty and the size and amplitude of the crowds – thousands and thousands of people. Nose to tail; like the traffic before getting there. Unreal. Don't go in August! We absolutely loved the Abbeye, taking in as much as we could in one early morning sunrise photo shoot, and two visits inside; morning and evening. Walking up and down all those steep stone steps would leave a gym visit for dead, especially with a dud ankle. Not only astonishingly beautiful, it's an engineering masterpiece, and is a World Heritage site.

Back in Paris, we revelled in a grande finale with a Citroen 2CV tour around the main part of the city. Sandra returned to a 4ºC arrival in Auckland. Mark arrived this morning, and he and I grabbed hire bikes this afternoon and took ourselves around the Latin Quarter, before riding back to the Hotel Terminus Lyon. Yep, the ankle's improving! We've bought the necessities for a piquenique by the Seine, and will ride back soon to sit and people watch, and take in the music and dancing.

Off to Turkey on Monday, with Jenny Fraser.
à la prochaine - Jillian

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