Stroll in Avignon

Conveniently, Avignon’s tourist office was a stone’s throw from our hotel so we decided to visit there first.

Next to the tourist office, there was a small garden, Square Agricol Perdiguier. Roses were blooming and the locals and tourists alike were enjoying quiet afternoon…

Leafy Rue Joseph Vernet. The street was famous for being lined by upmarket boutiques, however, the north end of it which met Avignon’s main street, Cours Jean Jaurés, was a very quiet affair…

The city was well-known for their annual art festival, Festival d’Avignon, and the enthusiasms and interests for performing arts were reflected on the various posters covering the streets…

At the tourist office, we were greeted by a team of very helpful staffs. The informations I wanted to find out the most was about the city’s public transport system. ‘Is there any mini-bus we can use? Like a hop on & off kind?’ The staff behind the counter pulled out a small map from one of the draws and with his Biro, marked a black dot on the sheet. ‘From here, you can catch the Baradine.’, he smiled. ‘It departs every 15 minutes and circulates the city centre anti-clockwise. You can ride and alight anywhere along the route and a single ride costs €0.60.’ Wow, it sounds great, I nodded excitedly.

After leaving the tourist office, mum and I walked to the first stop of the Baladines which was located at the west end of Avenue du 7 e Génie.

Bonjour, le Baradine!

‘Allez-vous a Place de l’Horloge?’, I asked a driver who appeared to be killing time before his shift. He replied that he would but also warned me his Baladine was the last one for the day. ‘I could take you two but you would have to walk back.’, he explained.

Oh, that won’t do. We thanked the driver and headed back to Cours Jean Jaurés.

‘Let’s have a little stroll anyway.’ We had no idea how large the city centre was but decided to explore it on foot…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Trust Google!

Ugh, we’ve missed the turn! Despite Google navigation was telling me to turn right, I momentarily hesitated because the street appeared very narrow and no car in front of us was turning in. Google, are you sure?! As I panicked, I ended up overshooting the junction.

The same as Toulouse’s city centre, Avignon’s infrastructure seemed to be undergoing an extensive makeover and the city’s tram system, which ran along the part of old city wall, was dug up and road traffic along the construction was reduced to single lanes.

‘We must U-turn QUICKLY!’

I turned to Avenue Saint-Ruf, performed three-point-turn at one of the side streets and joined the traffic which was heading north.

The works on the team track appeared to be causing a big headache to the locals. The traffic was at a snail pace and the drivers seemed fed up and tetchy.

‘Yeah, Google was right! That small gate over there you see was the one we had to enter.’ Thanks to the gridlock, I could observe the traffic with more time and this time, I spotted a few cars driving through the gateway.

We managed to park the car in the car park near our hotel…

A very well maintained underground car park.

I mustn’t forget where our car is…

Our hotel was situated along a side quiet street…

At the hotel, we were greeted by a furry receptionist…

Our room was on the second floor, and alas, they had no lift…

The room was cozy and cool.

A view from our window…

Now, let’s go out and enjoy late afternoon in Avignon…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Enchanté, Monsieur Trenet!

After the break we continued on A61 then changed on to A9 at Narbonne. It was around noon when we saw a sign for l’aire de Narbonne-Vinassan and decided to pull in for a quick lunch.

As we alighted from the car, we were greeted by a strange sight…

What the heck?!

A huge bronze head with a manic grin was looking down on us from the top of a small hill…

I had no idea what the sculpture was for and uploaded this image to my Instagram, asking about the meaning of it. Later days, thanks to one of my Facebook friends, the mystery was solved.

Enchanté, Monsieur Charles Trenet!

He was a French singer and songwriter who was born in Nabonne in 1913. He had many hits throughout his long career and the most famous song must be this…

“La Mer”, what a lovely song.

However, I still don’t understand why his statue was so bizarre though. A gigantic head sticking out from the mound, what was it all about? I showed the picture to Hubbie but he shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Well, that’s French for you.’ What do you mean? I still don’t get it!, I persisted as he walked toward a kitchen to make himself a cup of tea.

Anyway, mum and I shared spaghetti carbonara and mozzarella and tomato salad…

The kitchen seemed to specialised in Italian and they offered various pizzas as well as pasta and lasagna.

Oh if only Bella were with us…

I missed you very much, Bay-Bay!

Ok, on y va a Avignon!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bonjour Tropézienne

Our next destination from Toulouse was Avignon, the ancient Papal city. The distance between the cities was about 331km – Google estimated 3hrs 13mins which would meant the actual driving time was going to be around 4hrs.

The journey was one of the longest ones during our road trip, therefore, mum and I decided to take it steady.

We took our first coffee break at Aire de Toulouse Sud on A61. ‘Shall we have a cake as well?’, I asked mum as I placed a tray with our cups of café latte on the table.

Mmmm, which one am I going for…

I decided on a Tropézienne, aka ‘La Tarte de Saint-Tropez’.

As legend has it, Brigitte Bardot loved this pastry so much when she and her then husband, a film director Roger Vadim, were filming “…And God Created Woman” in St Tropez and she came up with the name, tarte tropézienne.

The appearance of the cake was deceptive…

At first glance, the cake resembled a sugared doughnut because of the pearl sugar on the top. However, the pastry was surprisingly light, thanks to the airy texture of the brioche and the lemon flavoured custard filling. ‘Oh wow, this cake is divine!’, mum and I really enjoyed this sweet treat.

While we were at the cafeteria of the service station, a large group of nuns had arrived and they soon formed a long queue for the cakes.

‘Do you remember the nuns in your school?’, mum asked me as she ferried cake to her mouth. ‘Of course! How can I forget them?!’, I retorted. Those nuns buzzing around the cashier like the Minions in Despicable Me, reminded me the nuns I had to put up with when I was in high school.

‘I am very sorry but I don’t have a very high opinion of nuns in general.’, I shook my head and mum nodded in agreement. ‘Yes, they were a bit too silly and vindictive sometimes, weren’t they?’ Yes, most of the nuns I met in my school were cruel, cynical and narrow-minded! ‘Look at them. They are all middle-aged yet acting like a bunch of school children!’ The nuns were still clamouring at the cake counter, each of them demanding their treat impatiently.

Oh well, after sacrificing most of the pleasure the life offers, eating is the only fun left for them, I imagined…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Beer & chat @ Toulouse

After coming back from Toulouse’s shopping district, we headed to a restaurant / bar near our hotel for beer and food. It was a rather hot and humid day and the idea of drinking ice cold beer really appealed to us.

I am so glad that your hip is getting better, mum!

She certainly was more comfortable than a few days ago.

While mum stuck to a glass of well-known brand, I opted for a white beer from Belgium.

The beer was aromatic and strong. I liked it!

For food, we shared sausage & chips and salad with cheese.

During our dinner, an elderly couple were ushered to a table next to ours. At first, we didn’t pay much attention to them and carried on chatting in Japanese as we sipped our beer and pecked on our food.

Then out of the blue, the elderly woman turned to us and started talking to us, ‘Vous êtes Japonais? J’adore le son du Japonais même si je ne comprends pas!’

From my very limited French, I gathered that they were here for holiday like us. In return, I explained to them how we arrived at the city and how we intended to travel to the south of France and beyond.

‘We used to live in Vietnam.’, her husband said. Until then, he was very quiet and only nodding in support while his wife was chatting to us.

It was again due to my limited ability to communicate in French but he was trying to say that they used to live in Vietnam when they were young but they had to flee their beloved house and community because of the Vietnam War. ‘C’était très très triste.’ They both shook their heads. Oh how I wished if my French were a lot better so I could express how sorry I was! ‘C’était trés tragique.’, I managed to say but nothing else…

When we went back to our hotel, we discussed how upsetting it must have been if you were uprooted from your home because of reasons beyond your control. There are still so many people who have to abandon their homes and communities because of conflicts and natural disasters. We really mustn’t forget our sympathy and compassion towards those unlucky people…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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