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A gal alone and on the go from Provence to Rome: Trip Report

A gal alone and on the go from Provence to Rome: Trip Report

Mar 13th, 2006, 09:35 AM
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Day 3 Off to Aix

Get up around 9 and have my mandatory morning coffee brought to the room while I get ready. Daily stop at reception to review directions with Fabrice and I'm on my way to Aix. I actually find myself saying Bon Jour to Madam Knightrider as if she can hear in addition to talk.

The ride to Aix was an easy one especially the highway part. I look for parking as I arrive in town and spot an underground garage near a medical center.Walking up the street toward an intersection an eventually on to Cours Mirabeau. This is the main drag and the tourist office is at the other end which was my first stop. There are lots of people, the trees are bare and it is a cold grey day again. Haven't seen many if any American tourists since I arrived in Provence. Mostly German and a few Brits. At the tourist office grab a map , some pamphlets and off to explore.

There are alot of stores in Aix. It's Saturday ,I know there is a market but I've yet to find it and considering it's about 11:30 I might miss it and I did. The streets are packed, locals and tourists carrying lots of bags with all their purchases. Funny though, for the shopaholic that I am I haven't found anything that really appealed to me yet.

This day was really uneventful. I know on this board there are mixed feelings and opinions about Aix and I'd have to say I agree with those who don't love it. The town just really didn't do it for me. Aestheticly(i'm a bad speller, sorry) not a bit. But, hey different strokes right. I did have lunch there at one of the crowded tented cafes. An interesting, not sure if delicious ravioli/tortellini filled with pear and goat cheese in a tomato sauce, glass of wine and a cafe, about 25 Euro. I decide to head back to Avignon to see the Papal Palace which I hadn't seen yet.

Back in Avignon I take a stroll over to the Popes Place. Massive it is ,almost intimidating in size. The large open expanse of stone was virtually empty of people which made it seem bigger I guess. It was very interesting to learn the history of the popes of Avignon. I spotted La Mirande on the back side of Pope ( wait, that doesn't sound good) that looks like an awesome hotel. Took a walk along the popes walkway and to the Pont D'Avignon. All super impressive and a nice afternoon.

I decided to have dinner that night at my hotel the restaurant was supposed to be good. Tomorrow was a big day so I was going to take it easy tonite. The restaurant was busy with a nice atmosphere. I ordered a glass of wine and main course and dessert. I ordered a steak done medium. Rare was not the word for this steak, it was still bleeding and my butter knife just wasn't doing the trick. I ask for a serated knife which hadn't been sharpened since the pope lived there. I swear I was getting Carpetunnel from trying to cut my food. I tell the waiter the meat is very hard to cut, was it tough or just really rare, why I don't know. He takes it and 5 minutes later the head english speaking waiter comes with my plate and asks did I want them to cut my food for me. What? No!! I just want to be able to cut my own food. Needless to say I didn't eat it, had dessert creme brulee, and they only charged me 16 Euro so I guess something was comped. When I awoke at 2 am- I have a little insomnia problem- I broke open a 6 Euro tiny can of chocolate covered almonds, my stomach gave me no choice it was growling.

Day 4-- A big day
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 09:39 AM
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Super funny report. I'll be going to Avignon so waiting to hear more funny stories here.
mimosa is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 12:35 PM
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I am lovin this report. From the amount of driving you are doing, places must be relatively close. I keep wondering if we should reserve in two different places for the week we will be there to avoid driving or just stay in one place.

Thanks, Underhill, for the proper French - Je me suis perdue - Now how do you pronounce it properly. Is me pronounced mu?
Ronda is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 01:13 PM
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La Artista-
I'm loving your report! Keep it coming!

Adding to the "I'm lost" debate:

marcy_ is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 01:35 PM
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Ronda-the places are close to each other 1/2 hour 45 min. but some of them you need a car for so I would suggest driving.

Day 4- It is a packed one!!

I had a wakeup call for 6:30am which is early for me I 've been getting up at 9 am. But it is market day and perched village hopping day so I am psyched! My first stop is to be L'Isle Sur la Sorgue for what the Fodorites say is the best provencal market of all. No coffee this am and a super brief stop at Fabrice's reception desk and I am out the door and on the road.

It is a gorgeous Sunday. The first sunny day I've had since arriving on Thursday. It will reach 50 degrees today which is also warmer. So I've gotten really used to getting in and out of Avignon, dealing with my chatterbox car and mastering the roundabouts. About half way there in all the excitement for market day I realize I forgot ALL my maps. Oh man, this sucks, well I'll deal with it later.

I arrive at L'isle sur la Sorgue promptly at 9:00am. Some of the vendors are just finishing setting up. I park in a small pay lot next to a minimart type grocery store, stop at the ATM to load up on Euros. This is a really cute town with a canel going thru it. The market is set up on the other side from where I parked so I cross over one of their cute foot-bridges. At first glance I thought, this isn't so big, I didn't realize that the market extends into the small windy streets of the village.

Oh, it's just what I thought it would be and I was lovin it! Firstly I had to get a straw market basket for my wares, 10Euro. As walk the aisle I seem to stop at every soap vendor. 5 bars for 10 Euro, wow these would be 6 bucks a piece back home. Get some soap, 5 bars. Next, Herbs de provence 5 for 10, o.k I'll take 5. Next tablecloth, placemats and napkins,on request from mom all for 85 euro. All this shopping is making me hungry not to mention the stalls of olives and chickens and baked goods and sweets and I stop for a nutella crepe. The thing about these crepes, they are like Krispy Kreme Donuts, I could eat a dozen- but I don't.

Another 5 bars of soap and then I graduate to buying 10 at a time, 40 bars later-I'm a soap addict I discover. I also purchased 2 paintings oil on paper from an artist named Sandrik who has a website www.artmajeur.com/sandrik. Not done shopping yet, olive wood salad spoons, tapenade, artichoke garlic spreads, espadrills,sachets of every shape and size, did I mention the soap? My basket was overflowing with goodies I grab a seat and finally my morning coffee and just sit back and watch.

Watch the old ladies buying pre-made foods and wondering whether they throw it in a pot and say to their french hubbies, Mon Cheri look what I slaved over the stove for today. Watch the mothers buying their little ones new sunday dresses and watching the tourists oogle and ogle just as I had for the past 2 1/2 hours.

I'm done shopping and now I have to deal with the situation that I'm mapless.
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 01:36 PM
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hey marcy thanks for the link
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 02:47 PM
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What happened to the map?
Underhill is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 03:16 PM
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What a fun read! I've been laughing out loud and enjoying your tale. You are gutsy to do this alone, but then, why not? We had a similar lost experience in Winterthur looking for a restaurant. Asked a group of college students at a sidewalk cafe and after trying to explain directions to us, one of the girls got up and happily escorted us several blocks!
Am waiting for your next installment and another giggle or two. You have a great comic way of writing.
judyhm is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 03:19 PM
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Laartista, great report! I had to laugh when I read the part about checking in with your mother. As I was reading that last night, I was waiting for my 21 yr. old to check in with me when she made it back to Rome after a long weekend in Spain. Well, she called, we chatted, I was relieved, life was good. Then at 3:00 AM this morning, the phone ring rings. Of course, this happened to be one of those very rare nights when I was actually asleep, and not experiencing one of my normal bouts of insomnia. Turns out my daughter's phone accidentally hit redial when she was on her way to class this morning (9:00 AM her time). I couldn't really yell at her since I made such a point of telling her she had to check in with me earlier! I can't wait to hear about your adventures in Rome.
LouisaH is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 03:32 PM
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Oh Underhill, I left all my maps and driving directions in the hotel room by accident.

O.K. so I'm mapless, I know where I want to go Roussillon and Gordes. So at the parking lot as I pay the guy I ask if he speaks English, No, not un peu but NO. I say Roussillon? Direction? Blank stare. You see I pronounce these towns like they are spelled which is totally incorrect so he has no idea what I'm saying. I write it in big letters on a piece of paper. Oh, Roussillon and points to the right. O.K. fine to the right, I drive down the road first roundabout, around once, around twice, Yep no sign for Roussillon, but there is a carwash on this roundabout so I go there.

I see a man of about 70 standing with his car dressed in a sportscoat waiting to wash his car. Kinda dressy for a carwash I thought. I pull up and out the window say" Bon Jour Monsieur, Parlez vous englais? NO he replies. I say sil vous plait, oo e' la Roussillon?, which is like asking where is THE philadelphia? Blank stare. Get my piece of paper hold it up Roussillon or Bust, he says oh and pronounces it correctly which to me sounds like one of the teachers from Charlie Brown. He points and tells me in French of course, toward APT. So toward Apt I go.

I drive for about half hour, partly on this road with a rail guard and into the valley. Now this is what I'm talking about! This is the Provence I've imagined and dreamed of. This is beautiful!! This must be where sunflowers and lavender are at the right time of year, or maybe not. Still driving no sign for roussilon but I do see a sign for Bonnieux. Hey, I wanted to go there to so I follow that small road. In the distance I see it, perched up. Up the road at the first landing against a stone wall I park the car. I continue up the hill by foot and at a second landing see a card shop, grocery store, tourist office and hotel. I walk to the tourist office first. Not just closed, they've moved out! Across the street a hotel walk up to the door they look closed too. Looks like they moved out also. Place is like a ghost town. What's going on here? I see a woman by the gift/card store bringing in her sidewalk items to close up so I ask her if everything is closed, I mean it is Sunday. She says yes, I ask about Roussillon using the Charlie Brown teachers accent(*seems to work) she tells me to follow the road down the hill toward st. something, I forget now.
I make a quick stop in the mart for some water 23 cents for a big bottle , so I buy 4 and some chocolate and move on.
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 03:35 PM
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Thanks guys, your all so sweet and supportive. I can't type so these installments take me a bit. Plus I do have work that needs to be done. your never too old to check in with mom.
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 03:51 PM
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I follow the road which is very narrow past what looks like a country club maybe. I'm a little nervous because it seems only one car can fit on this road at a time. I'm hoping noone else comes. So far the roads have been mine ,not another car in sight. Wouldn't you know here one comes right at me and squeezes by, I'm totally freaked out. Out to a main road Yipee!!! A sign, a sign for Roussillon.

Now I'm going slightly off subject for a minute. I've travelled alone alot. I've also travelled with friends, boyfriends and family. When you have a good travel companion there is no better time and I prefer that to being alone. But if no one could go, or I have a friend I love dearly but can't travel with, well then I'm not gonna sit home and wait, I'm going solo. That said, someplaces are better for alone travel than others. Cities are really good for solo travel, Provence is super romantic and being single and newly 40 I hate to admit this but the night before it was bumming me out. O.K. what's the point? The point is this....

As I drive up to Roussillon, I really can't get over the scenery, I literally well up it so beautiful. And, I think to myself, hey, you maybe single and alone in romantic Provence but O my God, you're alone in the middle of the French countryside in a foreign talking car with no maps-who does this? I'm not single and 40, I'm fabulous and 40. Never gave the alone thing another thought for the rest of the trip.
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 04:22 PM
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Wow laartista, you are a role model for women everywhere!! And for someone who "can't type" you are certainly doing a fine job of it. Loving your trip report, your zest for life, your sense of humor.
LoveItaly is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 04:24 PM
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What fun, and you're hitting all my stops!!
cigalechanta is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 04:31 PM
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laartista: What a great report! I'm loving your sense of humor and wonderful writing style. I especially loved the two 60 yr. old ladies sitting in your backseat - priceless. I also admire you for driving solo. I would love to do this some day, but alas, I hate driving at home let alone in a foreign country.
Barb is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 04:57 PM
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Hey, Thanks guys! LoveItaly your sweet. I'm trying to finish day 4 before dinner.

As I approach Roussillon(have I been spelling that right?) I can't get over the colors. The sky is super blue today and this town is on an ochre quarry so the houses are all red, and mustard yellow and burnt orange and for an artist it is eye candy, really! It's actually pretty crowded here. Alot of French tourists and I'm having trouble finding parking. Oooh there's a spot.

Does anyone else forget to eat when they are away. I had the crepe this morning but am really hungry so I stop in a place ,very nice with a perched outdoor patio. Although still a little cool out I opt to sit outdoors. I order a ham and cheese omelet which came with a lettuce salad with some corn sprinkled on top. It was very good had it with an iced tea. I am driving, I thought I'd be responsible and lay off the alchohol. After lunch I do some shopping and head over to the quarry park.

Man, this is AWESOME!! The colors are so vibrant. I hike the entire place in my motorcycle boots and carrying my shopping bags while snapping what seemed to be a zillion pictures. Lots of people, families, people and their dogs all walking thru that dustlike indian red dirt that seemed to get on everything. It felt like I spent quite a while there. I really didn't want to leave because I was really enjoying it and it was such a beautiful day. But, I still wanted to see Gordes and it was my last day in the area before I headed to the riviera. So on my way out I stopped at a really cool art store that sold all kinds of pigments to add to your paints and bought a bunch of those and headed out of Roussillon. Let me say again I loved that village, thought it was fantastic.

The drive from Roussillon to Gordes did not disappoint in the scenery department. It was so peaceful on these roads. I kept thinking, here there is no worry of war or terrorism or the ills of the world, unlike New York where the possibility of what could happen always lurks. It must be nice to live here- maybe someday.

Can I say Oh my God one more time. Just when you think you've seen the most awesome scenery, it's Gordes. The approach is breathtaking and people have pulled their cars over all along the windy road up to take pictures. I've never seen anything like it. Pictures are one thing but the feeling of being there, the air, the smells, the goosebumps, those who have been to these places know words and photos just don't do them justice. Indescribable!

I park at the first lot and walk along the road with many others into town square. Some sort of town appreciation festival is going on. Art exhibitions, wine and bake sale at a community center I think. It was fun. It is a very adorable town but the view from the road is really the main attraction. I spent some time there, grabbed a cafe, it was getting dark and I had to drive back to Avignon still. The drive back took me a while because I kept following signs of towns I passed and think I might have gone the long way.

I'm really psyched, my friend Jess meets me tonite for 2 days on the riviera.
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 05:53 PM
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You ARE fabulous and 40!!!
I can't wait to hear more...
dina4 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 06:08 PM
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Sunday night and Jess is coming to Avignon. little background on Jess. She works for me sometimes in New York. A newlywed who is a dancer and in Paris alone auditioning for the Moulin Rouge and The Lido. I told her to meet me for a few days and her husband was o.k with and we've become friends so shewas on her way.

I met her at the TGV station her train arrived at 9:30. Now Jess is 6'0 tall and I'm 5'2" on a good day so together we look like Mutt and Jeff. Jess arrives with a tiny shopping bag and no luggage. Where's your bag I ask. Seems I'm not the only one who hit some snags. Here's what happened to Jess.

Seems some woman on her flight from NY to CDG thurs. night had mistakenly taken Jess's bag instead of her own. Air France contacted the woman and then gave Jess her number to set up a time to get her bag. Jess spoke to her once, the woman said she'de get back to Jess and Sunday evening still no call back, so Jess came anyway with a small shopping bag with some toiletries and the dance clothes she had to purchase for her auditions. The thing that sucks is that Jess and her husband are living on a really small income in NYC which is expensive. She had to pretty much spend all her money with the exception of 100$ on new audition clothes which Air France will reimburst her for. This was on Feb 23 that the woman took her bag. She returned it on March 8 to CDG. Some people are so inconsiderate it's amazing.

We laughed all the back to the hotel about our experiences over the past few days. Then the car pipes in. Jess is like what is that? It was so funny. Back at the hotel I gave her socks and my extra pair of pjs and a few Tshirts. Because of the size difference couldn't help her out much in the clothes department. She's really easygoing so it was o.k. alot of people probably would have freaked out. We went down the street for dinner (food not memorable)it was about 1:00 by the time we got back. We had an early wake-up, tomorrow to the riviera and let me tell you the drive down was WHACKED!

BY the way Jess got offers for both shows, I guess she can can-can.
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 06:10 PM
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thanks dina
laartista is offline  
Mar 13th, 2006, 06:23 PM
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I can can imagine, Will they move to France now that she has the offers?
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