Thursday, May 17, 2018


Up before dawn today, waking Than to kiss him bye, we Uber to St Pancras Station for the train to France. St. Pancras is a huge station - a complex of many buildings, both old and new, including a multitude train tracks. Sitting in the large public atrium and we have a leisurely breakfast before boarding the train. Ummm, savory scones and a large cappuccino.

There is security here and immigration before boarding. Harvey goes to check it out and comes back with upgraded seats. He’s a good man. First stop is Lille France, part of French Flanders, a giant hub for many trains in Europe. Changing trains there and intending to have a break, we have often talked about staying here, so that a new train could be engaged daily and taken all over Europe. Unfortunately, there was not much in the station. Sipping coffee, I watched a brother and sister fight and wrote my blog.

The train to Avignon was quite crowded. Next stop, Charles de Gaulle airport.  It seems to be like Orlando Airport as families of all shapes and sizes were boarding with their mickey mouse ears on. Closest stop to Disney Euro.Oy. Everyone else on the train seems to have massive luggage with them. We are traveling light and watch in wonder as folk’s board and depart with  giant luggage, backpacks and grocer bags full of lunch. We think how wonderful it is that one could just ride this fast train to get to and from the airport.
 At speeds of 188 mph (Harvey has an app for that) the country side is lovely. It’s spring ya’ll and the crops are flowering and the new shoots are various colors of green.  Every so often you spy a small town marked clumps of old growth trees with a towering bell tower from the local church towering above them. 
An uneventful yet comfortable ride, we both take turns napping. Each seat had an outlet for electricity, a place for your phone, a place for your laptop and a table. It will take 4 hours to get to Avignon with one more stop in Lyon. 

Exiting the station a light rain sprinkles on our heads. We hail a taxi at the train station. Neither of us want to handle bags and the rain. Almost immediately the road from the TGV station parallels the Rhone river. Within minutes, we spy the old walled city.  At a major bend in the river there is a high outcropping of stone and a fortress/castle is perched on top. Avignon used to be the home for the Pope int the 14th century. Way back when. Most of the Italian Catholic Church, moved to France at one time. Someone said something about the new pope was French, so he moved back home.  Leonardo Di Vinci is buried at Amboise in the Loire valley. There was a exodus from Rome to France during that period. I understand. The food’s better here anyway.

Thru one of the many gates that surround the city, our taxi glides us onto a narrow nondescript street (Rue Campane), which our residence is located this week. Our hostess, Cecile awaits us on the 3rd floor apartment. No elevator. One of the things I do insist upon when renting an Airbnb, are 2 rooms and a door in-between them. It’s also wonderful to have a washer. We have chosen both, the stairs mean only that I can eat dessert nightly without guilt. The apartment is clean but spare. The bedroom window looks out to a vine covered alley. As we arrive Sunday, our hostess directs us to a local eatery, Ginette & Marcel, that is open. This town closes tight as a drum on Sunday and Monday because everyone needs 2 days off, right? We wind down the narrow streets and hear the restaurant before we see it. Situated in a small rectangular courtyard with trees covering the tables, we sit and order. It is a Tartine restaurant which is simply a open faced sandwich. I have the mushroom and ham with a side salad and Harvey has the 3 cheeses with pear. A bottle of house wine. Ummmm. 

We strike up a conversation with 2 men at the table beside us. George and David who are longtime friends. They hail from Portland, Oregon and have just finished a 5-day bike ride from Lyon to Avignon thru some spectacular countryside. Prior to this vacation, they have just returned from Nepal, where they were digging toilets for a NGO. We tell them about the Cambodia Academy.  Like us, they like to include in their travels some work for the betterment of society. This trip, though, we are mainly supporting vintners.

The lovely food and bottle of wine have done their jobs. We are comfortably satiated and wander back down the twisting roads for a good nights sleep, avoiding the dog “bombs” on the pristine streets.

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