Sunday, April 21, 2013

Coming down to the wire

April 20 and 21

Saturday was our big rain day.  So what do you do when it’s raining outside?  You go to a museum.  Granted, most people look for one nearby but Kathy, Bev and I headed for the Fondation Maeght just north of Nice.  This a private collection opened to the public.  There was an exhibit of artist Gloria Friedmann’s work.  We agreed that her paintings (a whole series named LSD1, LSD 2, etc.) were more than a little dark, combining animals and humans in odd ways.  But her sculptures were interesting.  My favorite was a man all in white.  In his outstretched hands, there was a long “necklace” of keys and in the middle of his forehead was the lock.  I loved that one.

Other artists were Joan Miro, Giacometti, Fernand Leger, Chagall, Calder and some others I have never heard of.  It was a very interesting hour and a half.  Then we tried to find a place to eat, missed the turn to the closest village, stopped for gas at the bottom of the hill, missed the turn for the interstate and went to Nice!  Everything you have ever heard about the color of the water on the Cote d’Azur is absolutely true!  Gorgeous blues and greens with scattered white caps.  The wind had blown all the clouds away and the sun was out.  We ate a ridiculously expensive lunch in a hotel facing the water.  The view was well worth it.

And then we drove home.  Finding the right way to go with a GPS that asks questions in French was harder for some reason this time.  Needless to say, we spent about 45 minutes going in wild circles until I conquered the GPS.  We saw some areas of Nice and St. Laurent du Var that the guide books don’t mention (although not scary).  We did manage to bypass the really narrow “shortcuts” the GPS is fond of – we’re talking two-way roads that aren’t really one way in width – and we finally figured out how to tell it we were happy to pay tolls if it meant we could get home in 2.5 hours rather than 5 hours.  Also by going west rather than east and north.  Yes, it was the craziest the GPS has ever tried to make us.  Kathy was an absolute brick through the whole thing, driving wherever I sent her even when we both knew it didn’t seem right.

And home we came.  Lee spent the day resting and catching up on his documentary.  We brought home the goodies to make another frittata, this time with mushrooms, ham, cheese and red peppers.  As usual, there was good wine and nice chocolate to finish off the meal.

This morning, Sunday, we got up leisurely and wandered down to the market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue again.  We all went and we all had a good time buying fun things for ourselves and others.  Eventually, we sat down for lunch and had a delightful young waitress who is headed to the States in two weeks and wanted to practice her English on us.  And the food was fabulous, right down to dessert! 

I had read about the church in Isle and suggested we head that direction and give it a look.  The church was finished in 1222 but the inside was redone inside in the 17th century.  So there’s this rather plain edifice.  Then you open the door and walk straight into the baroque!  And it was beautifully done.  We will go back tomorrow afternoon.  There was a statue of a saint that I cannot identify – I know, there are way too many for anyone to keep straight but this one looked like someone we should know.  The man was wearing a short military cape over a Roman-style toga.  His hat was round and hanging by a cord around his neck.  The really strange part of the statue was the dog sitting up at his feet, offering him a loaf of bread!  I’m stumped.  He also had scallop shells on each shoulder like epaulets.  Some research will be required.

Among our purchases today were another chicken, provencal potatoes, spinach pizza (more quiche) and a lemon meringue pie.  How balanced a dinner is that?!

And now the discussion has turned to retirement and insurance policies and healthcare.  It is friendly, thanks be to God, but I decided it was time to retire to a neutral corner. J  Soon, we will all retire to our various books and go to sleep.  But first, I am going to do the dishes.

Every time we make a meal here, I remember what our Untours host told us at our orientation meeting:  “Your hosts love you because American tourists clean up after themselves and eat out.”  Well, we do clean up after ourselves but we haven’t eaten but about three dinners out and we eat breakfast in every morning.  So we have done a lot of dishes, broken a few glasses and replaced them all. 

A bientôt and sleep well.

PS  I didn't tell you about our dinner in Chateauneuf du Papes.  First, when we left our gite, it was very windy and threatening rain still.  The GPS took us uphill and down dale and around at least one Robin Hood's barn and gave up giving directions before we got to the restaurant.  Fortunately, we began to see signs for the chateau and then for the restaurant - Les Vergers de Chateauneuf.  We were the first diners to arrive and had the staff of four waiting on us with grace and pleasure - two spoke some English so we had conversations as well as service.  Bev told our headwaiter that it was my birthday and it turns out his birthday was the next day.  So we exchanged birthday wishes - bonne anniversaire - before sitting down.  The wine was very good and reasonably priced (hard to come by in Chateauneuf).  All of the food was excellent.  For dessert, which none of us really had room for, the three ladies ordered a meringue filled with lemon sorbet and covered in whipped cream.  We did ask if we could skip the whipped cream and the young lady said, "I couldn't ask him to leave off the whipped cream."  So we had the whipped cream.  And the headwaiter placed an amazing sparkler in mine that went on forever - okay, only two minutes.  After all that, we took a different, less twisty route home, one that wouldn't shake anyone's dinner too much. ;-)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Two grand days

April 18 and 19

Yesterday, Bev took the day off, being still worn out from driving the long trip to and from – not to mention around – the Gorges du Verdon.  So Kathy, Lee and I set off for Les Baux without her.

Les Baux was once an impressive fortress/town essentially carved out of the mountain.  It dates to the 800’s and some of the stonework has been dated to 60 B.C.E.  Les Baux is still a soaring monument to man’s ingenuity and creativity.  It is obviously an ideal class trip site – there were at least three there yesterday – so they have demonstrations of old weapons and old games available.  Less interested in the weapons, Kathy and I watched some kids playing the games.  I could identify precursors of skittles, pinball (really!), ring toss and cornhole – this last had overtones of skee ball, too. 

The way to the castle is the village.  While the construction is quite authentic, the village’s sole purpose is to part people from their money.  Aside from restaurants and sandwich shops, there are all the wooden swords and shields anyone will ever need along with the usual Provencal mementos – soap, sachets of lavender, magnets, postcards and funny round towels with a loop in the middle for hanging it up.  There was a sweet shop and Kathy and I both bought cookies.  I’m still longing for a good ginger snap or oatmeal raising one. ;-)

After lunch, we drove home and spend the rest of the day there.  Bev and Kathy went to the grocery store to get asparagus and risotto for dinner so we had another good feast.  They bought ice cream, too, to go with the cookies but we haven’t delved into that yet.  We did wipe out the brioche at breakfast this morning, though.

The destination du jour was Roussillon, one of my very favorite towns in Provence.  In fact, we think it is the one we would live in if we were to live in Provence which is, of course, not very likely.  This village is the site of ochre production on a large scale until World War II when, apparently, the color went out of style.  I rubbed my fingers in some sand lying on a wall and they came away orange so there’s still a lot of ochre to be had here.

While most of Provence’s buildings are cream to a dark tan, Roussillon is anything but.  The varying shades available from the ochre range from a dark orange, almost red, to pale yellow.  And always the Provencal blue shutters are present.  We saw a wonderful dark green door today that really set off the ochre.  Houses built of stone have reddish hues in the rock and, of course, the mortar is also orange/red.  Only the church is out of character in this respect, tending more to the dark tan.

But this is one of my favorite churches.  The building is Romanesque and the altar is Rococo!  While it is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, the painting over the altar is the annunciation.  There is a wonderful modern painting of the Nativity that I had a terrible time photographing the last time we were here.  I did a little better this time but the yellow in the picture tends to blow the flash of the camera. 

We had a really terrific meal at the same restaurant we ate at last time.  So far, it is the best meal out. 

The last thing I expected to do today was shop.  But shop we did!  There was a store across from our restaurant that had these really great scarves and purses and, for me, lightweight cotton blouses that will be stunning with a clergy shirt underneath.  I bought three, pig that I am.  Then, as we left the church, we turned uphill to see the view except we found a ceramic store we hadn’t remembered.  Yes, we all bought ceramics and would have shipped them home but the cost was about half of what each piece we bought cost.  So they are carefully wrapped and I now have to look for a larger bag than the one I bought in Arles to bring home breakable stuff.  What a hardship! :_)

It is afternoon here and we have all had a refreshing cup of tea with a cookie or two.  I have also had a nap, equally refreshing.  We cut short our plans for the afternoon – Gordes and Les Bories – because it began raining and turned very chilly.  This evening, we are still planning to return to Chateauneuf du Pape for dinner.  I do hope it will be inside!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Picture time!

Here is the river Sorgue as seen from our lunch spot.  The Fontaine du Vaucluse is way up this gorge.

The water is rushing downstream.  

And here is the Fontaine.  No one knows how deep that hole is.  The last time we were here, Lee hiked down into that hole about 30 feet.  No so this time!

I got these pictures a little out of order.  This is the Alps as seen from Mont Ventoux.  If we had been able to go all the way to the top, we would have been able to see the Pyrenees, too!

This is typical of the country where we are.  I took this on the way up Mont Ventoux.

This is the top of of Mont Ventoux.

This is in the cathedral in Malaucen.  Of all the religious art we have seen, this is my favorite.  It really speaks to me.

This is the Pont d'Avignon as seen from the Popes' gardens.

I haven't said much about the flowers and gardens.  This is just one of many we have seen and oohed about.

The ligustrum is in full bloom.  

More interesting that the Roman theater in Orange - at least to me - are the pieces of fresco they have managed to find.

A wall mosaic from the theater.

Everyone loves griffons, right?

This is my favorite altar so far.  It's in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Nazareth and all Saints in Orange.  I am hoping Lee got a better picture of it.  The altar is a striking shade of aqua.

I've always wondered how Mary can look so serene while stomping on a snake!

Floor mosaic in the Cathedral.

An icon of St. Eutrope, an early bishop.

This is at the end of a building in Arles.  Art is everywhere!

And this is the Roman amphitheater in Arles.  They have bullfights here and have added lots of seating inside.

Her name is Mang and the people she allows to run her cafe make wonderful food and ice creams.

It wouldn't matter how close I had gotten to this piece, you still would have had a hard time distinguishing the contents as the skull of St. Antony of the Desert, probably the best known of the Desert Fathers.  I have no idea what he is/was doing in Arles.

The plane trees lining the road.  It reminds me of Oak Alley in Louisiana.

Arles - just pretend you are gargling and leave off the S

April 16

Today we made the longer trip to Arles.  We drove some lovely roads through the country side, past many of those strange apple groves – we’ve begun to feel sorry for apple trees that aren’t allowed to grow naturally – and then down a long stretch of road lined with plane trees.  These trees look a lot like sycamores unless they are pollarded.  This is a pruning process that creates great big knots at the end of a branch.  We have seen pollarded plane trees mostly in towns – apparently, the young branches were originally used for fodder or for fuel.  In any case, they are a feature in most towns around this area.  Kathy says they make her think of Tolkien’s ents and they do look like they could reach down and clobber you. J

Arles is a lovely city located just below where the Durance River rejoins the Rhone, having split off somewhere around Avignon.  The Roman amphitheater is in very good condition and is used for French bullfights.  These are not at all like Spanish ones, more like teasing the bull and running away.  Our host tells us that it is the bulls that become the star athletes with famous names and posters announcing when they will be fighting.  I wonder who negotiates their contracts?  And what does a famous bull do with all the money he makes?

We couldn’t decide what to see first so we sat down for a cup of coffee.  Lee went to use the WC and met a man from near Orleans.  We had a lovely chat before taking off down Rue du Voltaire in search of the Van Gogh “easels” which are located at points around town where he painted.  Sigh, we found two only.  But we did some great shopping!  Even Lee shopped; he bought a hat to keep the sun off his head and, naturally, made friends with the shop owners.  Another delightful chat ensued and we all made friends with Corteau, the labrador who looks after the shop.

We walked some more, discovered a visiting circus and the Rhone.  Then we headed back into town to find lunch.  The first place we tried, recommended by the Rick Steves book, was not open on Tuesdays.  So we went around the corner to a sidewalk café and had another fabulous meal!  Each of us had a different quiche with salad (all salads here are dressed just with olive oil and maybe a little salt) and then we had ice cream or sorbet.  Apparently, it is now warm enough to make it.  We had been told several times before now that it was not time.  I suppose when you make your own, you wait until the demand is greater. 

The wine we had at lunch was so good, we crossed the Rhone to find a shop that sold it.  While our café owner knew about them, they had never heard of the café.  We got a few reds, too, one of which wasn’t all that good.  And then Kathy drove us home with a few stops to take pictures of the tree-lined road, the sandstone wall-lined road and something else I have forgotten.  We are always on the lookout for a good picture.

We have been here a week and the snow on top of Mont Ventoux decreases by the hour.  We might see if the mountain is open and go back before we leave; that is, if there is time.

Today, the 17th, Bev, Lee and Kathy have gone of to the Gorges du Verdon, the Grand Canyon of Europe.  It is 2300 feet deep and many miles long.  And the road along the gorge is said to be one of the most treacherous in Provence; hence, I am not with them – heights and narrow, windy roads not being on my list of fun things to do.

So this is my day off.  Laundry, reading and a nap are in the offing.  The weather is once again simply beautiful with cloud-free blue skies and a nice breeze coming in the windows.  Someone is operating a jackhammer not too far away so it is not completely quiet but I have heard many birds calling back and forth.  We have cuckoos and magpies and really mournful mourning doves.  There is also a cat who wanders by occasionally but is not the least bit interested in greeting the strangers.  Must be a female….

Monday, April 15, 2013

Orange is not just a color

April 15

Today we were off to Orange and Chateauneuf du Pape.  We trusted the GPS once again.  As I set it, it said something and then asked a question that needed a yes or no answer.  Naturally, we chose the wrong answer and now know to say no when it asks if you want to “peages” which means something about toll roads.  Live and learn; it was a cheap lesson. ;-)

Orange is a nice city and relatively quiet – the occasional school field trip, of course, but we managed to move around them nicely.  We went to the Roman theater first.  It is an impressive sight!  I suppose there is one somewhere else that is more complete and grand but this one was pretty magnificent.  It is also still being used for at least one production a year.  The front wall is intact – three stories tall – but the pillars and statues and frescoes are not there or are only pieces of what was originally there.  The acoustics are very good – both opera and rock concerts have been held there – and the seats are solid stone so they would require some padding brought from home.

Theaters were part of the Pax Romana, a way to keep the people happy.  It was always free and usually lasted at least a day if not three or four.  Naturally, food was available as were many kinds of beverages.  The audioguide kept gently mentioning the vomitoria but never bothered to explain what those were.  Alas, some of us know a little Latin and some Roman history.  Gross!!

Across the street is a museum with some of the frescoes and pieces of statuary from the theater, also an art exhibit by Belleroche, an artist I am not familiar with.  His pen and ink drawings of Orange were exquisite and some of his paintings of nudes reminded me of Degas.  Kathy, Bev and I stopped for a café between theater and museum but Lee missed the cue so he did the museum first and went out for a pastis while we went there.

As we wandered down the streets to the Cathedral (Notre Dame du Nazareth and all the Saints) and the Arc du Triomphe, we passed through a square full of restaurants and bantered with one of the waiters.  He was a lot of fun – yes, we got his picture – and had been to New York once.  I suppose everyone but me has been there and I really ought to make the trip. ;-)

The Cathedral was magnificent.  Built in the 12th century, it was sacked by the Calvinists in 1561-2.  They wrecked everything inside and stole the organ before furnishing it to their taste.  And then the Catholics took it all back twenty years later (1584), reconsecrating it in 1599.  It has been beautifully restored.  There are six chapels in addition to the main altar.  Of course we took pictures!  We also lit candles and said our prayers.

As we made our way to the Arc du Triomphe, we passed a little restaurant called La Dinette.  Who could resist?  Kathy and I ordered chicken pie and wondered if it came with soggy undercrust and canned peas.  Well!  Imagine having a crab cake-type interior except with chicken.  Then wrap the whole thing in a kind of phylo dough.  Heavenly!  We asked for the recipe but the chef said it was the one thing she hadn’t made – her mother sent it over and was not inclined to share her recipes with the daughter let alone strangers from the U.S.  Sigh….

Not much to say about the Arc.  It is in bad shape but is definitely the model for the grand one in Paris.  It was a nice walk on a nice day.

Then we headed for Chateauneuf du Pape.  The only reason for going here was to taste wines.  The Rick Steves guide to the area suggested a particular cave (wine store, not underground room) where the owner is very knowledgeable and speaks English.  We spent a good hour with Daniele and bought five wines, none of which are exported to the States. 

Then we came home, stopping at the grocery store for essentials – wine, veggies, fruit, cereal, yogurt, tea bags.  We also stopped at a boulangerie for more bread and dessert things.

Now after our spectacular lunch, you would think we would just have cheese, bread and wine for dinner.  But no!  We had eggs, cheese, tomatoes, ham, potatoes and asparagus in the fridge so Kathy whipped up a simply amazing frittata.  It was fabulous!!  The first one she has ever made and it was perfect.  Alas, Kathy has already announced that two meals is all she plans to cook on this trip.  So we will be back to cheese and bread tomorrow.

The washing machine is running, Lee and Bev have already gone to bed and Kathy and I are settling down with our various ebook machines.  I think we are off to Arles tomorrow.  Bon nuit!

A radically different Sunday for me

April 14

What a wonderful day this was!  The weather couldn't have been better.  There was no need for a sweater, the sun was shining and it was Market Day in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

Isle is a delightful town surrounded by the river Sorgue – that which begins at Fontaine de Vaucluse.  This was where the pope’s fresh fish came from 700 years ago.  Then the waterwheels were put in and tanners, paper and fabric makers took over.  Today, some of the waterwheels are still there and turning but only so tourists can take pictures of them.  The town is the “go to” place for villages in the area, being the largest commercial center east of Avignon.  That said, large is not on an American scale at all.  There is one large grocery store, a Macdonalds (all over France) and several banks.  Other than that, Isle is simply a larger village than most.

Kathy, Lee and I went in for the market and had a grand time.  We bought cheeses, asparagus (great big thick ones), spices, tomatoes, carrots, bread, a rotisserie chicken and potatoes.  We also bought fun things like a man purse for Lee and a skirt and jacket for me.  Kathy got some things to take home and flowers for the house.  Next week, she will shop for herself and I will get the sweater I saw but didn’t purchase.  We think we saw about a quarter of the market.  It pretty much covers the town.

Then we came home to have a leisurely afternoon.  I had taken a Zyrtec in the morning hoping to stop my nose, so I took a very long nap.  Kathy prepared all that good food we bought for our dinner and it was the best meal we have had in France

So this was a good Sabbath for all of us.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


April 13, 2013

The first challenge of the day was to see if all four of us could really be up and out by 8:15.  And so we were!  We headed to Avignon where today was a market day.  I’m not sure if we found the “real” market but the one we did discover had fruits, vegetables, all kinds of meat, and clothing catering primarily to Muslim women.  Lee and Cathy both bought strawberries.  All of this was outside the city walls.

We managed to work our way into the center of the city without too much difficulty and no map.  First stop was a store to buy Bev a jacket.  Then we had tea and coffee while sitting in the sun.  Finally, we got ourselves up to the Palace of the Popes, the Church of Notre Dame and the Pont d’Avignon.  Along the way, we did a little shopping.  Bev and I both got mugs that we will bring home with us so we now have four working mugs (there is a non-working mug in the cupboard).

And then, of course, we stopped for lunch – salads for Cathy and me, albeit different ones; steak, potatoes and zucchini for Bev and a pizza for Lee.  Wine to go with. ;-) 

We were pretty sure we knew the direction out but I stopped and asked a nice police woman if we were right.  I think her exact directions were:  “Ça, et toujours, toujours, toujours” or “just keep going that direction until you get to the gate.”  She was right and so were we.

Not many people bother to go across the river to Villeneuve-les-Avignon.  There’s a castle and abbey there.  The abbey is well known for its gardens and we went to see them.  Cathy is a big fan of gardens.  This one was lovely even though we are a little early for many things to be blooming, like the roses.  Still, it was a nice end to our day.

The GPS and Lee got us home with a stop in Pernes les Fontaine for bread, dinner and breakfast, all from the same boulangerie.  And now Lee has gone off to take a picture of La Roque sur Pernes because the light is just right.

On our first day here, we drove past a field that had what looked like dwarf apple trees growing in it.  It turned out they were apple trees and they cut them back so that it is easier to machine pick the apples.  There is also another method of growing them that we didn’t see until today.  The “tree” is a just a straight trunk with a few flowering branches hanging down sort of like willow branches.  The top of the tree is anchored in a pole that runs the length of the row.  There are nets attached to the poles that cover the trees once the fruit begins.  It all looks very strange but does, we understand, produce very good apples.  So that’

Friday, April 12, 2013

I really do know what day it is

Friday?  Saturday?  No, it’s really Friday…

As you can see, I was confused about half the day.  I swear my computer said it was 4/13 this morning but it really didn’t.  Cathy believed me so the two of us wandered around in Saturday half the day.  Bev straightened us out. ;-)

Our destination today was Mont Ventoux, 6,000 ft. high and still covered with snow on the very top.  We passed through St. Didier on the way and discovered a boulangerie/patisserie!  We did not buy them out but I think Cathy was tempted.  The lemon tart was divine as is the brioche.  I also bought an interesting pastry called a sacristain – almonds, crunchy like a napoleon crust; in other words, thoroughly yummy!

Back on the road, we wandered through beautiful countryside as we wound our way to the top.  Several stops for pictures, of course, along the way.  And when we got to the turn for the top of the mountain, we discovered that the mountain is closed!  Just like that, closed!  Still, lovely views as far as the Alps but we were not able to see the Pyrenees since we weren’t anywhere near the top.  We agreed it was still worth the trip.

And then down we came, stopping in Malaucene for lunch – not the best meal I’ve had in France but Cathy loved her mussels and Bev’s pasta with Roquefort was also quite tasty.  Lee had fishy prawns.  Meh. 

We went on to Vaison-la-Romaine, a place with Roman ruins and a Romanesque cathedral.  Our thought was to have dessert here but none of us were really hungry.  So we went on to Gigondas, one of the wine towns we have visited before.  We did have tea and cake before tasting four wines and buying three – all to be drunk before we leave as we are not planning to bring any back.

The trip home through Carpentras should have been uneventful but I decided to thwart the GPS and follow a road sign instead.  It went downhill from there.  Poor Cathy is very good at finding places to turn around now.

And so home by 7:00 for a glass of wine, some cheese and bread.  Lee is taking a nap as he doesn’t feel real great.  Bev has a load of laundry in and she, Cathy and I are reading our respective book devices.

Day two

April 12

Good Morning!

Yesterday was a grand, leisurely day.  Bev got up very early – 5:00! – and then crashed again about nine.  The rest of us slept later and managed to stay up.  Still, we had tea and toast and showers before waking Bev up again to head out.

Our first adventure was to 
Fontaine de Vaucluse.  This is an incredibly deep – no one knows exactly how deep – spring from which the River Sorgue flows.  When we were here several years ago, the spring was so dry that Lee could hike down about thirty feet.  Not so yesterday!  The pool was deep and the river was quite wild.  Lots of rushing water bouncing off huge rocks in the river.  We took pictures, of course.  We had our lunch by the river in the sunshine, crepes and salad with white wine.

Lee and I figured out how to work the GPS, we all went to the bank (Italy’s Bancomat is France’s Cash Pointe is our ATM) and came home to take naps and/or read.

At 5:00, we had our Untours orientation at Max and Regine’s house.  There are fourteen of us here this week.  Some will stay two weeks like us but others are only here for the week.  Sue Baker from the home office in Media PA has been here for a few days and is heading to Alsace today.  It was very nice to meet one of the folks we have been talking to for ten years.

After the orientation, Regine laid out an incredible buffet for us:  Provencal pizza, three kinds of quiche (cold), several cheeses, olives and a marvelous vegetable casserole.  This last was layers of veggies – eggplant, onion, tomato, red peppers, zucchini – standing on their sides then drizzled with olive oil and some garlic and cooked slowly for an hour and a half.  Oh my, it was good!  And yes, Mother, I did eat the eggplant.

Home by about 8:30, we stayed up until ten or later.  And now we are all awake and thinking about planning our day.  Cathy has already ordered trips to a boulangerie and a pattissier.  We need to get Kleenex and more mugs, too. Stay tuned….

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Vive la France!!

April 10, 2013

Bonjour mes amis et ma famille!

Bev, Lee, Cathy and I arrived in Marseilles shortly before noon today.  Lee was packed before noon yesterday, a full five hours before the flight!  The four of us had a late breakfast at the Midnight Diner around the corner from the condo and then strolled back to await the time for leaving there.  We had no trouble at the airport.  All lines were either nonexistent or relatively short.  Cathy forgot and put a can of hairspray in her carry on bag, a big no no, so we had a short stop/chat with TSA before heading to the gate.  We had a little lunch – I still wasn’t hungry – and took our various sleep aides.  Right, none of them worked.  Bev did manage to sleep for three hours straight but the rest of us were wide awake, making sure that plane stayed in the air. 

I tried watching The Hobbit but just couldn’t get into it.  Cathy watched the whole thing and then said, “I thought that movie would never end!”  I also tried watching The Return of the Guardians – about Santa, tooth fairy, etc. and it had Arabic subtitles;  I loved the irony but couldn’t get into that movie, either.  So we all napped some, read some and sat there quietly some.  This plane had the restrooms downstairs.  I’ve never been on an airplane with a downstairs! J

Max, one of our hosts, met us at the airport and led us back to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (east, slightly north of Avignon if you’re looking at a map).  We met a few other Untourists and Sue Baker from the home office in Media (her sister and many friends went to UD).  Then our landlord arrived and showed us the windy way to our gite, the French word for apartment rental.  We unpacked and walked around the property before having some cheese and wine while writing our grocery list.

Now we have been to the grocery store, had a very nice dinner at entirely too early for the French.  Our waiter asked where we were from.  He didn’t seem to sure about North Carolina but he knew Tennessee for sure.  I didn’t bother to ask him why in case I didn’t like the reason.  
The scenery today has been really wonderful.  We began looking at the Mediterranean in Marseilles, realizing that this is no sandy shoreline but at very rocky one with some pretty high cliffs.  The drive to Ile-sur-Sorgue was lovely, surrounded by apple trees and grape fines.  Soon we could see snow-topped Mont Ventoux at the same time we were surrounded by very Mediterranean landscape.  We have discovered a stone beehive hut very close by.  This area was settled by the Celts before the Greeks so it is not all that startling to see similar dwellings here and in Columba.

Our apartment is really nice if a little chillier than we had expected.  It is supposed to be in the 60’s the rest of the week.   We shall hope.

And now I am fading at an alarming rate.  Time for bed!  Sleep well everyone!