Monday, August 26, 2013

Next Leg: Aix en Provence

August 11, 2013 - Aix en Provence 

On our way to the next leg. The hotel seems deserted, but compared to some I've stayed in, I have enjoyed the quiet.

Yesterday, we took over 300 pics. Many won't be used; I'm still trying to master "manual focus" with bifocals, and some were blurry or the flash didn't cooperate. But there are still lots of nice ones. 

Our rental, Mildred, has an "eco-feature" that when we're at a stoplight, she shuts off or goes to sleep. There's a bit of a "whump" when she starts back up. More than a tad disconcerting! 

1:15 p.m. - arrived at Novotel in Aix en Provence. Not a horrible drive, but it was interesting watching everyone on a Sunday afternoon driving back NORTH to come back from vacations. Hubby doubted Mildred's directions more than he doubts MY bad sense of direction! But Mildred prevailed. We have to figure out how to boost her volume; she's rather soft-spoken. 

Fountain in the square
The room is small, again, with 2 twin beds. It's off the interstate, and you can tell you're in the south of France: hot and humid! There's a hot-pot - and as a tea drinker, I can tell you that's a great idea. That way, my tea won't taste like YOUR coffee! 

The elevator in the hotel reminds me of the Dead Nun Elevator in the convent. There is NO way that "5 persons" can fit in this thing unless nobody breathes and we're all about 90 lbs. With Hubby and our 2 pieces of luggage, we were jammed in there. This one was even smaller than the one in Lyon, and at least the one in Lyon had a window-wall so you didn't feel like you were in a metal crate. 

I think we're spoiled for "real" A/C - it's set on -10*C with the fan on high, but it's really stuffy in the room. We have a west exposure, so we're keeping the shades closed. It's got to be about 86* or more outside (F, not C) and we're on the top floor with a gravel roof outside our window. Luckily, Mildred has very nice A/C but we're not sure if we're ready to negotiate public transport in Provence. We'll ask at the desk... Would be a shame to stay in the hotel, but it's too far to walk. 

So the lady at the front desk says "Take the #8 bus to the City Centre." Off we go to the bus stop, navigate the schedule, and #8 pulls up. The bus driver snarls at us and says, "It's the #19 bus." Okaaaaaaaaaay... It's Sunday and the bus schedules are minimal. So we drove. Mildred again proved her worth and got us to the City Centre with very little kerfuffle. LOTS of roundabouts again. We're getting so good at this!

Walked through a craft fair and made a few purchases: some lavender, some pictures, and an apron. And a glass rose, for my sister. 

The requisite fountain was there. Also trees lining the streets; chatter; cafes; people and their dogs. 

A Holocaust memorial. Which was very solemn, and surrounded by jets coming up from the plaza. It was a moving display in more ways than one. 

We noticed again the vast amount of public art; both relatively new as this memorial was, and the older things with the dead heroes. I'm not making fun of dead heroes. I'm just putting it in perspective.
Holocaust memorial

A ruined building (we didn't take the side with the graffiti on it). 

And a urinal in the parking deck. Seriously. Hubby made me take that picture; he said it would be "perverted" if he did. I guess this means that women don't need facilities? 

The street fair was really nice; we also picked up postcards for Hubby's friend's grandkid. And we strolled. Strolling is the operative word here; you stroll. You're not on a mission. You're wandering with a purpose and that purpose is to wander. 

The arts and crafts at the fair were pretty varied: clothing, candles, local honey, local baked goods, photographs of stunning quality, prints of "local" scenes. Most of it reasonable, and remarkably, not much duplicated. Several hand-crafted jewelry booths and a couple of hat places, too. I would probably have picked up a few more things, but customs and duty being what they were, we were prudent. The pictures really - the ones we took - were our main "tourist" items.

Yes, it's a urinal. In public.
Back to the hotel, along with a couple bottles of water and a slice of "natural" bread that will be breakfast. The room is still stuffy. But we went ahead and took another walk; now I feel REALLY warm! The French LOVE their dogs. At the cafes; in churches; all over the shops. And they're really well-behaved, but somewhat aloof. The dogs, I mean. 

Dinner at 7 p.m.: I had an omelet with polenta and strawberry sorbet for dessert. Hubby had a local whiting with fries and chocolate + vanilla ice cream. He loved the ice cream, since the chocolate also had chocolate chunks in it and the vanilla had the specks of vanilla beans. 

The total for this dinner in the hotel was $30 or so -- far, FAR less than we paid for the BREAKFASTS we had!! There was a dog at the restaurant; they sat pool-side and we sat inside. Managed to have a small migraine, which wasn't pleasant.

Old building next to expressway
Got to give this one woman credit: If she was 200 lbs., I was guessing light. And darned if she wasn't just in a bikini as if she hadn't a care in the world. Good for her! Too many sun-bakers for my taste, but I do give her credit. 

It was an early night; we were set to get onto our next destination. I am not sure if I would like another day or so in Provence. We were definitely in the city. Saw tons and tons of sunflower fields on the drive in, but would have liked to go farther afield to perhaps see something that didn't resemble the organized chaos of the cities. Couldn't imagine, some of the street shots we got - how they even get the smaller cars down there! 

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