The Natatorium

An emporium of oddities from around the world, complete with somewhat informative plaques that almost never match the item they are meant to be describing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Avignon, You Can Keep the Song

Saturday, April 25 2009

Daniel and I left Paris for Avignon. Unfortunately, because he was using a rail pass (and, I think because the train was full) he couldn't take the same train I did. Mine left in the afternoon and I arrived without any trouble; all the public transport was running, so I was able to take a couple of buses and found the hotel with no problems. He, however, was not so lucky. The only available trains were at 7:00am (we were smart enough to know that THAT was NOT going to happen) or 7:00pm, so he arrived around 10:00pm in Avignon and had no choice but to take a cab from the TGV station, which is slightly outside town. I suppose it wasn't a total loss though, because he said he had an interesting conversation with the cabbie despite the meager overlap in their language skills.

I had about four hours to kill between when I checked in and when I expected him to arrive, and I was rather hungry as well (this became a theme on the trip... "oh guess what, Natalie's hungry again..."). The hotel was owned by a couple, and I'm pretty sure the lady was Spanish or Italian, because her French was heavily accented with a decidedly latin rhythm. Nevertheless, we could understand each other just fine, each speaking in a foreign language and listening to a foreign accent on top of a foreign language. She told me there was a mall just down the road, not too far, and I could find some food there. It was about 20 minutes away, and along a busy road, but it did allow me to kill a few hours. There was a supermarket, so I bought some snacks and wine to enjoy later in the room, then I went in search of something ready-made to eat. What did I find? Why, another "Quick" of course! For some reason I was starting to turn carnivorous again, and kept having cravings for cheeseburgers. I suppose hauling a heavy bag all over France will do that to you.

I watched some French-dubbed Kyle XY (lame) until he showed up, to my extreme relief. I'd been worried that he'd be stuck outside city limits at the TGV station with no transport, but I suppose I shouldn't have worried. By now I should realize that we're both more than capable of taking care of ourselves. Needless to say, we didn't feel like doing much more than drinking the wine, eating the snacks, watching TV and going to sleep.


We got a late start because it was raining when we woke up and... well, it just seemed like a better idea to stay inside. I think I am still of the opinion that we should have stayed inside the *entire* day, because the rain continued all day long, and honestly I found the sights of Avignon rather disappointing. We walked to the old city centre, which is usually about 20 minutes or so away on foot, but since we stopped every five minutes to huddle under a bridge or awning, it took much longer. By the time we got into the town centre and found a place to sit down and eat lunch, we looked like a couple of drowned rats. It was nice to settle in warmly to a table and relax, though perhaps not for the 3 hours or so (seriously) it took to finish our meal. Speed is not the cornerstone of French service. Daniel was half-convinced that they had forgotten about us altogether, but I figured it was just your typical Sunday afternoon service. Still, when his food finally arrived, it made up for everything. He had Confit de Canard, or roast duck, and he said it ranked up as one of the best meals of his entire life. Though I'm not a fan of unfamiliar meats (or usually any meats), I had a taste of it was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. It really was perfectly done.

After our extended meal, we went to the Palais de Papes, or Pope's Palace, where a few Pope's resided for a while in the middle ages. His beloved audio guide was included in the entry fee, so I got one too. I suppose I should be full of information about the place now, but even though I listened to almost all of the entries, I can't really remember much about it now. Honestly, I found the whole place terribly boring. It was a big old stone palace/fortress, but almost all the furnishings were gone, so it was just a bunch of empty stone rooms. I was still slightly damp and rather chilled, and once again assumed the Child in a Department Store role. The church was prettier, and the gardens at the top of the fortress were much more pleasant. I really enjoyed the views of the river and surrounding area.

After the (lame) palace, we scurried over the the famous Pont (Bridge) d'Avignon before it closed. It was raining again, and at times it started to come down pretty hard, so we hid in one of the chapels build into/under the bridge and watched the rain make patterns on the river.

As I had anticipated, the best part of the day was going back to the hotel room and changing into warm, dry clothes. I love putting on warm, dry clothes after being wet and chilled for a while. It's pretty much worth the being wet and chilled in the first place. We watched L'Auberge Espagnole, one of my favorite movies, which I had brought along. I thought it would be a good thing to watch before we got to Barcelona, as it's set there. He really liked it too, as I anticipated he would. I think anyone who travels and/or studies abroad can relate to it.


We went back to the city centre, then crossed the modern bridge to the other side of the Rhone, where we had nice views of the old fortress and bridge. We ate lunch in the Place d'Horloge (Clock Square) again, then walked around the gardens for a while before it was time to catch our train to Marseille. I was hoping the weather on the south coast would be better, and in fact we were fortunate from then on; we had nothing but sun for the rest of the trip. The train ride to Marseille was full of lovely scenery, and we arrived at the station in the late afternoon. If only we had been able to print out directions to our hostel beforehand...


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