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broodings from the burrow

November 12, 2008

france, day 7: on to avignon
posted by soe 7:07 pm

Today was laid back. We spent most of the day in Aix, retracing many of last evening’s steps through a now-open city. The day was rainy, so we either moseyed under umbrellas or sat in cafes or restaurants. We ate a ridiculously late breakfast (I slept in this morning and nearly caused us to miss out on a morning repast), wrote some postcards, and then moved on to lunch at Chez Maxime. Despite the fact that I ended up with an appetizer that had ham in it (I just scraped it off and passed it on to Rudi) and sat myself in a spot with a drip (darn those “covered” dining sections), it was a great meal — and I learned a new word. “Volaille” means chicken, and I was pleased to be able to use my new vocabulary this evening when perusing the dinner menus. (By law, menus in France must be posted outside restaurants so you can see your options before walking in…)

After visiting Aix’s cathedral, a lovely, living building, we returned to the hotel, where we’d stashed our bags, bid adieu to the city, and caught a train northwest. The train, which plodded along compared to the one we were on yesterday, took us past hobo camps (I’m embarrassed to say my first thought was, “Oh, look! Some locals are having a picnic in the rain!”), and deposited us in Marseilles, France’s oldest and second largest city. An hour’s layover later, and we were bound for Avignon.

Avignon is a walled city and the train station sits directly opposite the front gate, so it’s really an impressive introduction to the place. The main paved streets have sparklies embedded in them, while the older ones are rough cobble stones. All I can say is that good walking shoes are a must in any visitor’s wardrobe to this country.

The Let’s Go! Guide worked out for us again, offering us a great recommendation for a family-run hotel. We may have neglected to inquire about staying a second night when we checked in, so we’ll need to take care of that in the morning.

Tomorrow we plan to take in the Papal Palace, home to the pope for 68 years back in the 1300s. Crazy, I know! Also on the agenda is figuring out our return to Paris on Friday, buying stamps (our hotel is right across the street from the post office), and finding some souvenirs/cadeaux to bring back with us. We haven’t done so well on that front thus far (baked goods just don’t travel well…), and are running out of time. Suggestions for good gifts so I don’t have to result to the lame duty free shop at the airport are much appreciated.

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