A 8 day trip to Provence in the south of France. Strangled poodles, 13 tickets instead of 3, bike accidents and a hand caught in a ticket machine in the Marseilles Metro.

Day 1 Friday 6th October Glasgow to Avignon

An early rise at 2.30 am and an early pickup from Andy’s brother to catch the flight from Prestwick Glasgow(PIK) to Marseilles Provence Term2 (MRS) Fri, 06Oct06 Flight FR7844 Depart PIK at 06:30 and arrive MRS at 09:55. Bus journey into Marseille train station and then the train to Avignon TGV. Had a beer in Avignon then Raymond and the rest of the street had some words with a crazy guy blaring out car radio music in Avignons main street. Police came quickly. Number 11 bus to Villeneuve the town across the Rhone that the popes lived in when Avignon got too smelly.

We stayed in the Les Jardins de la Livree, 4 rue champ de bataille, Villeneuve les Avignon. This is a nice little suburb with plenty to see. Wandered into town at night for a few drinks and found this cracking student bar called Tapalocas where drinks were €1 each. Unfortunately we discovered the buses home stopped at 7pm so Andy had to phone a taxi. Raymond broke a glass when we got back and we had to get someone up to the room to clear up the mess at a late hour.

Day 2 Saturday 7th October Chateauneuf du Pape

Picked up bikes from Provence Bike , 52 Boulevard St Foch. Philippe Gaudin, the owner, was not there as arranged and we had to phone him to get him to open the shop. He gave us maps to use and we were soon out of Avignon heading for the vineyards that belonged to the papacy when, during the 14th century, the popes resided in Avignon and maintained a summer residence near Chateauneuf-du-PapeWe left Avignon by way of the Isle de la Barthelasse, an island in the middle of the Rhone River with splendid views of Avignon. We kind of got lost on this isle in the middle of the Rhone mistaking flood protection barriers for bridges on our map. The route took us down tiny roads through beautiful orchards, along the cliff-studded Rhone River to the village of Roquemaure, where we could have stayed. Glad we didn’t when we saw it. This was a hard day heading north against the Mistral wind and then to the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Brian was knackered. We visited no vineyards and when we discovered there were no trains started the long journey home. A quick dip in the pool and then off to watch the Scotland France game in France. 1-0 Scotland! Locals were very good. Ended up in a bar where they had card tables and a lamb dish of the day.

Day 3 Sunday 8th October St Remy

After visiting the local Sunday morning market it was off to St Remy on the west of the Rhone to the bridge just before Aramon. Met the woman who helped us on the bus who congratulated us on the Scotland win as well as the man in the pub who turned out to be the village policeman. Crossed the river then climbed a hill via a monastery called St Michel de Frigolet where we saw a bad cycle accident. Brian lost his passport in the monastery. Went onto St Remy and stopped in Millaine for a beer. Great place and square. Interesting French articles about Scots people after last nights football. Apparently we drink beer as its easier to puke! St Remy was a very expensive town and we got there too late for the lunch menu. Found a Chinese where we got a really nice meal. Cycled to Tarascon where there was festival on. Lots of people in traditional dress and various bands and dancers. Got train back to Avignon and had to put bikes in guards van. When we got to Avignon the guard forgot we had bikes and went off leaving us to stand in the doors of the train and refuse to let it move off! Eventually found someone who could let the bikes out. Went to Villa Agape with our bikes which was an amazing place – 17th century with oil paintings and swimming pool two floors up in an apartment building. We then collected luggage from Villeneuive hotel and got taxi back. Discovered buses do not run on a Sunday either. Ate in Place l’Horage but not great food – bull something.


Day 4 Monday 9th October Pont Du Gard

Breakfast was served by the pool by Michelle. A good day cycling down the west bank of the Rhone to the narrow ancient streets of Aramon then up to Pont du Gard, the 2000 year old viaduct built by the Romans. Cycled back down to Tarascon for a train home. This time we didn’t get our bikes stuck. At night it was back to Tapasloca for happy hour before a late night game of cards.

Day 5 Tuesday 10th October The Camargue and Arles

Breakfast was served outside this morning. Andy, the man who just boasted he passed conversational French with distinction, managed to buy 13 tickets to Arles instead of 3 so we missed the morning train and had to wait till lunchtime. This gave us a chance to dance “Sur le Pont”. At lunchtime we got the train to the Camargue, the vast wetland of the Rhone delta, where rice is the principle crop. Much of this region is a nature conservation area, and we saw a lot of wildlife including flamingos, white horses, and bulls. The road was straight and flat, which made it a bit boring. Got to out stop point La Sucre and had a beer then went West then the track home. We stopped at the worst bar ever where Raymond poured away his beer rather than drink it. Got back to Arles. Andy wandered round to see the Amphitheatre and Roman Theatre. Arles is like many of the towns in this part of France with narrow streets and well preserved Roman buildings. They have bull fights in the Amphitheatre. Got train back to Avignon.

Day 6 Wednesday 11th October Gordes, the most beautiful village in France.

Brian decided he was going to spend the day in Avignon while Raymond and Andy were going to cycle East into the mountains to visit Gordes, a village perched on the side of one. There was a long climb out of Avignon to Chateauneuf de Gadagne then onto le Thor and a beer stop in l’isle sur la Sorgue. This town was really nice with lots of boutiques lining old narrow streets. We saw a couple getting arrested handcuffs and all here. The Cafe France looked like it had been around for many years and we really liked this town. Very impressive church. Then it was on the bikes and up, up and up. Saw a sign that we had entered Gordes but it turned out to be a region or something as we still had to climb another 5 miles. Every bend appeared to promise the centre. However when we got there it was worth it. Terrific view. On way home got text message from Brian that he had had a “little accident and would explain back at villa”. He had went over handlebars smacked his face and teeth with blood and a broken front tooth that caused him quite a bit of pain for the rest of the holiday.

Day 7 Thursday 12th October Marseille

Spent the morning in Avignon, shopping and sightseeing before catching a train to Marseille. Its not a tourist town but a busy port and they were busy digging up the streets for a tramway. The metro was good but not for Raymond who managed to jam his hands in the ticket machine. He was bent over with his hand caught up the flap and in agony if he tried to move it. Had to report this to station staff who got a manger to come and let him out. Hotel in Marseilles was in a nice area. Walked into town and did tourist thing on tourist train. Found Irish bar with happy hour. Had Chinese in Shanghai restaurant in old port which was delicious. Walked home to play cards again before finding out Tony Mowbray had left Hibs.

Day 8 Friday 13th October Glasgow

Up early and off to the Metro. Raymond asked me to get his ticket. Bus to the airport then drink in the bar. Terminal 2 is the new low cost airport and not quite finished. After checking in you have to carry your own luggage to the security point. Before getting there there was a large sign saying “put your luggage here”. It didn’t look right but Raymond decided to obey the sign. Soon his bag was being chewed up by the machine and disappeared behind a metal flap. Men came running but Raymonds bag had disappeared. Eventually he got it back.

Plane to Glasgow was good as guy told us about jobs in France where you work on a farm – www.wwoof.org

In Glasgow we went to the Horseshoe bar. Raymond returned home to find “Opened my bag and there was honey all over my clothes (remember Marseille airport), and there was a big dent in my tin of olives.”

Raymonds story is here.

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