Here’s me at the end of our flight from Denver to London in mid-November. Honestly, I felt more cheery than I looked. After all, I was arriving in the EU, of which I am now a member.
Brunhilde fairly leapt for joy when we drove out of the LandRover-crammed storage lot where she’d been cooling her wheels for the past year. Ahh, the delight of being back on the road again, finger on the map, uhh, I mean ear cocked to the British voice on our new Tomtom GPS who (which?) politely but firmly told us every move to make and then repeated it three times. I am trying to take heart and learn from her example, but it’s discouraging. My British accent just doesn’t cut it. And then there was the thrill of crossing the English Channel (why does no one call it the French Chanel?) in only half an hour, on a dry (that IS the point) and efficient car-train.
That was followed by the damn nuisance of the French toll roads whose pay machines could not understand our American credit cards, continually rejecting them in favor of cold, hard curos. Not to mention the utter unfairness of the dense fog that obscured the undoubtedly lovely countryside we drove through for two and half days. The new GPS proved her worth by guiding us to a garage when Bernard mistakenly filled Brunhilde’s empty tank with high octane gas instead of diesel. Wait! Did I just say that? Yes, I did. I have so many bonus points in my “Someone else made a mistake,” account that I don’t know what to do with them!!!
We did stop for certain marvels, like the steel Pont Canal which spans the Loire in Breare; a certain Mr. Eiffel of Tower fame was part of the design team. This aqueduct carries a side canal OVER the Loire and is entirely navigable even though it goes above the river. We saw a good several feet of it……
In what has turned into quite an aquaduct-related trip, we also saw, and drove over, this marvel, which spans the river Tarn near Millau:
But all that is a tale from far-away times, as since then we have been enjoying a peaceful existence a mere stone’s throw away from southwestern France’s best bakery as well as a most lavish indoor market.
Our routine is firmly established. Early morning one of us walks the 100 yards for a fresh baguette for breakfast. Some time later, I take two satchels and head to the market for fresh fruit, salad, radishes, olives and whatever else strikes my fancy. We eat all day long….and I don’t have to prepare any of it! Thank goodness for the three flights of stairs to our garret apartment; I call it my free, personal Stairmaster as well as proof that, despite my French passport I remain sadly calorie-conscious.
We’ve had visitors, too, with whom to share our local pleasures. Bernard’s sisters Odile and Laurence have both spent some days here. We’re eternally grateful that both of them brought sunny and warm weather with them, so we could eat lunches outside on our rooftop terrace.
To be honest, believing in a snowy winter here is kind of a stretch. Even the stringing of sparkly lights cannot disguise that palm trees in the small squares of old town, where we live, have fronds, not needles.
The evergreens that the city has splurged on to winterize each plaza have been sprayed with a white gunk more reminiscent of melted marshmallow than snow. Despite the dearth of snow, it’s definitely been chilly enough on many days for me to happily patronize the street stand where a large paper cone of roasted chestnuts warms my fingers before becoming a satisfying afternoon snack. And there’s a kiosk serving hot mulled wine in the plaza below, which I have my eye on. The rivers of lights overhead on the pedestrian streets are a dreamy vision on a warm evening when Bernard and I go out for an aperitif at a nearby bar (yes, I realize everything is nearby here), or in search of a new restaurant to try for dinner. We saw them being put up, which is kind of like seeing your Dad put on a Santa beard the night before Christmas.
We’ve accomplished a lot of regional inspecting, visiting quaint cobble-stoned villages like Uzes, the bustling university city of Montpellier, along with the well-known towns of Arles and Avignon. In Arles we caught the acrobat act of a small traveling circus; human and goat alike performed daring feats of balance before our very eyes!!
We’ve perused the countryside in between, where treasures such as the Pont du Gard still capture the imagination.Part of a 50 km aqueduct built in the first century AD, the bridge stands 160 feet high and carried 44,000,000 (not a typo!) imperial gallons of water to Nimes every day, which back then was one of the Roman Empire’s great outposts. We feel especially fortunate to be here in the winter, when the lovely old buildings and squares are quiet and empty, rather than the summer when even seeing the cobblestones underfoot would be an accomplishment, so crowded is the region at that time. Even our few days in Paris, accessed by superfast train in 3 hours (!!!), were a pleasure of normalcy.
As Christmas approaches, Nimes is lighting up all its monuments, including not only the arena…
…but also a ferris wheel which is the crowning feature of a children’s amusement area just outside old town.
I have been indulging in two photographic studies, which I will share with you in Part 3 of this newsletter, along with some amazing bits of information which I am certain will impress you as they did me.