June 30, 2010

More Paris

I won't write anymore about this trip, as we have been home now for close to a week. But if you want to see some food pics, go to my Picasa site and check them out.

As you could see from my previous post, we weren't too far from Notre Dame.

Here is a photo of the flying buttresses. You have to love flying buttresses:

And what trip to Paris would be complete without a photo of the Eiffel Tower?

Finally a couple of pictures of us at the Louvre:

What a life!
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June 27, 2010


Since we arrived in Paris about an hour late, we missed our lunch reservation at the Bistro Paul Bert. But luckily there was a great little cafe just a block away from our place called the Bistro Petit Celestin:

The owner, a woman I would guess around 65, looked just like Ruth from Northern Exposure. And she was just delightful. We told her we did not speak much French, and she embraced it, miming out the food, and in one case, even bringing us a plate with the main course (Pork ribs. We ordered it). When I ordered the wine, I her her tel Patrick (her son, I assume) "Deux verres" of wine. I said, "No, no! un carafe!" she then brought the two sizes of carafes to the table so we could pick the right one. (We picked the bigger one)

Doreen had boiled eggs with home made mayonnaise as her appetizer, I had fresh melon. Both were great - then we had the pork ribs as the entree, and coffee for dessert. A great meal.
Then we took some time to unwind in our apartment. It was on the 2nd French floor of this building:

We had the lowest level of balconies you can see. It was a great place!

We felt like nobility:

The place we had in Avignon was not very nice (Maybe I will write about it later. But suffice it to say it was not what we expected based on the website.)

But this place exceeded our expectations:

It was a little farther east than we usually stay - in the Marais, but when you have Metro tickets, who cares?
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TGV from Avignon to Paris

The train from Avignon to Paris left from this really cool station:

But the train was late. The good news was that this station had a new stand, so that Doreen bought a newspaper.

We we able to stay up near the track, and then when the train came we jumped on.

It was an interesting ride. We saw a nuclear power plant (no smokestacks)

but as we got closer to Paris, the terrain got less interesting.

It was a nice, easy trip, and we ended up in the Gare de Lyon - just blocks away from our apartment!
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June 26, 2010

Pope's Palace, Avignon

Like many medieval buildings, the Pope's Palace grew organically. But it was built in only something like 20 years, which seems fast for something build in the 14th century.

Here we are in front of the palace.

It had some great courtyards inside the building. Here is a very nice one we found:

See if you can find Doreen in this photo:

They had a crypt, but we don't know who is buried there:

They took the "Exit through the Gift Shop" meme to a new level at this place. They took you through a wine store! Selling the "Wines of the Rhone" (In English)

Worth a visit.
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Sur le Pont d'Avignon

After we got back from our trip to Gordes, we dropped the car off in its garage and wandered back to the apartment.

We had a great meal at a place called Thierry Piedoie that Doreen had seen listed as one of the New York Time's top five restaurants in Avignon. Look at the photos, the food was as good as it looked. The odd thing about that place is that they had no pink wine! I always thought that was a mainstay of Provence. They also eat their lamb very rare. Good for us, off putting for others.

After lunch we ambled on down to the Pont (made famous in song). It is only half a bridge anymore, having fallen down in a flood in 1668. (!). That is one old bridge.

It was so darned windy while we were there, you felt as if you might be blown off the bridge. We were told that this is the Mistral wind - a strong wind from the North. IT certainly made the skies blue!

Doreen dancing:

You cans sort of see how windy it was. Look at our hair! Neither of us could wear our hats in Avignon as it was so windy.

There was a chapel on the bridge to hold the bones of St Bénezet. He was the one whom God told to build a bridge across the Mighty Rhone there. The town elders laughed at him until he picked up a huge stone nobody else could move and laid the foundation.

As I am sure everyone knows, the Papacy was based in Avignon from 1305 to 1378. (From 1378 to 1415 the anti-Popes were there)

More later on the Pope's Palace.
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On our last day in Avignon, we knew we needed to fill the car up with gas (well, with Diesel, actually) before we could turn it in the following morning at the TVG station. So we drove over to a previously identified Shell station, filled up, and I was ready to head back into the city and spend a nice day relaxing around Avignon.

Doreen, though, thought it would be nice to drive to Gordes, a mountain village east of Avignon. Needless to say, we didn't have a great map, but we soldiered on.

This is our first view of Gordes:

It was a real medieval village, a walled town, that had given itself over to the tourist trade. The drive was sort of harrowing, and the road was very narrow. You don't get a good feel for how steep it was from this photo:

But it did feel like you were on top of the world.

There was an old castle in town:

that had been turned into the Hotel de Ville (city hall)

On the way out, we saw more grapevines, as above.
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June 25, 2010


We arrived in Arles after an easy drive from Nimes. We even found parking with little problem. As I said earlier, Doreen does a good job of navigation.

The old "inside the walls" part of Arles is not really that big. It is dominated by a Hotel de Ville:

(that is it up the street)

and a church:

The church had some interesting carvings (above).

We had a great meal at l'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel.

Here is Doreen standing outside, and here are some photos of the food.

And since it is a Roman town, there is, of course, a Stadium:

It was very windy the whole time we were in Provence.
We were told it was "The Mistral" so I have no doubt it was. You can see Doreen's hair responding to the wind.
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June 23, 2010

Avignon and Nimes

We arrived in Avignon a couple of days ago. The train took us to Montpelier, and the we had to pick up a car and drive to Avignon.

It alwasys surprises me how you can get bad service all over the world. The car was prepaid, yet we had to pay a "Green" tax of about €5 per day and a "Railroad station fee" of something like €15. Not that those fees kill you, it is just annoying. Then, when asking how to get out of the station and onto the main road, we were given completely different directions from the two people who were behind the counter - and they were sitting not two feet from one another!

But Doreen is an excellent navigator, and those of you who know me know that I take directions very well, so we were able to get to the freeway and drive to Avignon in about two hours.

INSIDE of Avignon was a different story, however. Many of the streets are pedestrian only streets for most of the day, and they were having some extra street closings the day we arrived. And if you have ever tried to drive on small midieval streets designed for hand carts, you know that it is not easy in the best of times.

I will admit, though, that most French drivers are infinetly patient and kind.

So after some hair-raising driving, we were able to get parked and head to the apartment.

I will not dwell on the apartment except to say it was not as advertised. 4th floor, with no elevator, and it was "redone" by the owner. He does not have a keen hand at reconstruction. But it was a good place to start.

We had a great meal at a place called L'Essential:

That is the main course. But see more photos here.

One of the best meals of the trip.

The next day we drove down to see the Pont du Gard:

Then on to Nimes to see an old Roman building.

It was covered up:

For reconstruction.

Oh well.

So we had to settle on the old arena instead:

I have more photos of the Pont here and more of Nimes here.

We then drove down to Arle for one of the best meals of the trip so far.

(Oh, and Google is trying to spell check my posting in French. So I apologize for any errors!)
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June 19, 2010

Entering France

The scenary on this train was was not really that spectacular:

For some reason I though that we would be crossing the Pyrénéens, but we just skirted them.

There was a lot of flat, including this salt pan:

But then it was time for our picnic!

We had to eat off our laps.

It did not discourage us.
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Barcelona to Avignon

Doreen and I got on a train this morning at 8:45 (well, we got on the train at 8:30. It left at 8:45) from Barcelona to Montpellier. It was a pretty standard train, not a fast train, but comfortable none the less.

Here is Doreen looking for something in her bags:

The train station was Barcelona Franca - (you can figure out what that means) and it is prettynice, but with no services:

No news stand or Tabac, no place to sell treats, no nothing. But the bathrooms were nice.

We got on the train (Assigned seats. A nice luxury that Doreen took care of while back in Houston. She always takes care of all these sorts of things) and noticed that there were no trays! We were in two forward looking seats (which is nice) but there were no trays of any sort. Now, at 8:45 in the morning that was not such a big deal.

But later on the trip (We arrived in Montpellier at 1:22) we had been hoping for a picnic. Doreen had gone shoping at the big market of La Rambla in Barcelona, and we had some great food to look forward to.

But in the meantime, we enjoyed the view.
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