Saturday, 6 July 2013

A belated bonjour

Last Saturday we enjoyed lunch at a little bar in a village called Lirac, not far from Avignon in the south of France, with our friend Richard who had driven one of his vintage motorbikes 100 km to meet up with us before we returned to the UK.  It was lovely to see him and it was a jolly good lunch too!

Our trip to France had begun in Avignon the previous Saturday, traveling down on the early morning Eurostar train direct from St Pancras International.  Because of the early start, we had spent the evening before in London and met up with daughter Katie and her partner Ed for a meal out to kick start the holiday.  By early afternoon, we had checked into our hotel just inside the city walls and were out and about in historic Avignon, including a visit to the Palais du Papes (Popes Palace) a fascinating place to explore.  

Sunday morning was a stroll round to the river and up to the park, where we took in the views from the terrace 

and watched people "sur le pont d'Avignon" - none dancing though - before meandering our way back slowly through the old town to the hotel to pick up our bags and head off to the new TGV station to catch a train to Marseille, our base for the next couple of days.

Marseille is European Capital of Culture this year, so a good time to visit!  Our hotel was very close to the waterfront area where we explored the old dock buildings which have been converted into new uses and enjoyed a lot of eye catching new architecture, looking lovely in the sunshine.  

In the evening, we walked down to the old port, had a meal in an excellent Tunisian restaurant and wandered around the harbour before making our way back to the hotel under the huge spring moon.  

The next morning, we were back on the waterfront visiting a former docks area area (familiar from the film The French Connection) which is now occupied by the Villa Mediterranee Cultural Centre and the new muCEM museum/gallery, recently opened and worth walking around even if you don't go to the exhibitions.  

After lunch in the old port, we spent some time people watching under the huge mirror canopy designed by Norman Foster, 

before catching a bus out of town to visit Le Corbusier's famous building Unite d'Habitation, with its wonderful roof terrace.  

The next day, after a brief stroll around the local area, we picked up a hire car to explore further afield, stopping at the historic town of Les Baux before traveling on to the village of Goult in the Luberon, made famous in Peter Mayle's book A Year in Provence.  We stayed in a gem of a village house, with a little roof terrace where we had breakfast every morning and drinks every evening.  Perfect for us!

This was not our first visit to France, but it was the first time we had explored the area of Provence to the east of the Rhone, which is famous for its lavender fields, which we were keen to photograph. In a normal year, the lavender would be peaking towards the end of June and the sunflowers would be beginning to flower (you've probably seen those aerial shots of the Tour de France cycle race going through fields of yellow and lavender...)  Well, not this year!  The weather in Europe has been as bad as the UK, so spring was late and the lavender fields were only just starting to colour up.  

The next few days were spent playing hunt the lavender field, in between visiting delightful hill villages and exploring former ochre quarries, where the colour is amazing!  

Quite energetic by day, so great to have a lovely base to return to and relax in the evenings.  

Our journey back to the UK involved changing trains at Lille to go through passport control and security before heading back under the Channel into England, followed by the tube to Paddington in time to catch the last train back to Oxford. We were home by 1 am, but too awake to go to bed straight away, so it was a very long day and a very late night.  But a lovely holiday, in spite of me coming down with a nasty cold while we were there and our dreams of getting wonderful lavender pictures not being realised.  Never mind. Good reason to return another time, all being well!

The pace hasn't slackened much in the week we've been home - a trip to Bristol to visit Steve's mum and deliver her belated birthday present; our son Jack returned with us and stayed here for a few days, plus I've been doing preparation for a work-related trip to Guernsey next week.  And of course, there's been tennis at Wimbledon and the Tour de France to watch on TV, and Steve has been raising the roof watching the Lion's rugby matches.  Apologies to any neighbours who have been disturbed by very loud shouts of joy!

I'm just beginning to catch up with what's been happening in to meso community.  Well done to Mavis and Siobhan (Debbie Brewer's daughter) who addressed a House of Commons Committee about mesothelioma.  That's an amazing feat at any time, but all the more inspiring bearing in mind that Mavis is currently on chemo and it's only a short while ago that Siobhan buried her mum.  Well done too to Debbie's son Kieran who has now finished school and been offered a place at college in September - many congratulations!  

Well done to Tess, who has had her last dose of chemo in this regime and now has the agonizing wait to find out the results of her scan.  Everything crossed for a positive result Tess!  Jan is off on another cruise - it feels like we are ships which pass in the night at present - we return from our holiday just as she leaves on hers...I do hope you enjoy the rest of the trip Jan. I'm hoping that Amanda and Ray have a better time this weekend than last weekend, which was spoilt by pain and fatigue.  Fingers crossed that you can get out and about on that big new bike in this perfect biking weather.  Love too to Lou and Steve in Australia - sending positive thoughts down under....x

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