Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Heading for Provence

The reason for going to Provence was to visit Roussillon (another pretty place) and to see the other pretty villages. So we bought our tickets at Part Dieu and went to board the train which was already sitting on the tracks. We stowed our luggage away and Sophie looked at the map on the train and remarked, 'we'll be there in a half hour!' I said, 'it can't be just half an hour from Lyons, Avignon, the nearest town in Provence is at least 2 hours away, are we going to the right place?' I looked at the ticket, it said, 'la peage de Roussillon'. I said,'I think this is the wrong Roussillon'. We got off the train and ran back to the ticket counter, I must say, people are nice and friendly in Lyons. I told the ticket guy we wanted to go to Roussillon en Provence, a check of the train schedules showed no train station in Roussillon en Provence. I could have sworn there was one when I was making up the itinerary. Looking back I think I made the same mistake thinking that la peage de Roussillon is Roussillon en Provence. There is also another area in the southwest called Languedoc Roussillon which is entirely different. A screw up! What to do? 'Think quick', I said to myself. The ticket agent suggested we take the train to Avignon and to look for a bus from Avignon to Roussillon. So we exchanged our ticket for one going to Avignon. I was worried, it's no problem really, we were to be in Avignon on Monday anyway, today being Saturday, but what about Roussillon, the whole reason for the extension of this trip is so that I could see Roussillon.
Once in Avignon, we went to the Gare Routierre (bus station) which is next to the train station. There was a bus leaving at 4 pm (in 2 hours) for Apt which is a few miles from Roussillon, we could get a cab from Apt. So we sat down to wait. I suggested that we could stay in Avignon, forget about staying in Roussillon, then we can figure out a way to see Roussillon. We could rent a car or take an excursion tour. Sophie was for waiting for the bus. The bus station hasn't changed, this was my third trip to Avignon. On my first trip, 8 years ago, I did try to take a bus. The Gare Routierre is still dark, dingy and dirty. Not long after we sat down before some kids started lighting some cigarettes even though the sign said, 'no smoking'. Sophie got up, said, 'that's it, forget about the bus, we're staying in Avignon'. So we went to the hotel for which we had reservations but for Monday to see if they could accommodate our early arrival.
It is a small hotel (from Rick Steves' guide) run by a very nice French family. They had one room left. On the counter were brochures from tour companies that took people to the villages in Provence, we found one for Roussillon.Pascal, the hotel owner asked if we were interested, of course we were. At 60 euros per person, it wasn't cheap but we came all this way. What's money for if not to buy experiences?
I asked if he could find the phone number for the hotel in Roussillon and call them to tell them we wouldn't be staying in Roussillon. He did, so nice of him.
One thing about Avignon, not only is it pretty, there are a lot more services, there are a lot of local tour companies that for a fee can take you anywhere in Provence. It is a great way to see the lavender trails in July. The whole of Provence is covered with fields and fields of purple lavender and when they cut it, the whole place is perfumed with lavender smell. You've got to go to Provence in July at the height of lavender season. Sophie and I went a few years ago though not to Avignon but to Digne le Bains to the lavender fields. I'd love to see it again. It's an incredible experience, it should be on top of your 'bucket list'.
So the day was saved and our trip was saved.

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