A Week in Provence
Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
124Trip End Ongoing
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Avignon was bucketing it down with rain when we woke in our tiny hotel room the next morning. We had to get out. This being France on a Sunday however meant that it wasn't very easy - the lady in the 'information touristique' took great delight in guiding us through the intricate details of the bus to Aix-en-Provence before announcing with glee to the two bedraggled Anglais in front of her that there is no public transport on Sunday. Undeterred we gathered our bags and headed for the TGV station where rumour had it you could hire une voiture. We arrived in a total deluge and by this point failure was not an option, we'd have willingly hired a car just to sit in it and dry-off. The French rental staff tried their best to deter us : Hertz: "Ah haff no cars. Desolé." Europcar: "Ah haff no garaj peepul, and ah am ere on my ohn. Desolé." Alamo went with a slightly less outrageous price than Avis so they won, much to the girl's obvious disgust. One last trudge in the rain through a surprisingly full Hertz car park and our new Citroen C3
Visited Aix-en-Provence on Monday; a pretty but unremarkable town from the slightly overcast few hours in April that we spent there. Most fun derived from Jie drooling at shoe shops but being unable to buy anything. Far more entertaining was the local vineyard visited in the afternoon - Chateau de Clapier - we rang the bell and the custodian arrived to ply us with free tastings and a description on how exactly they get the grapes off the vines (it involves a horribly complicated contraption that apparently "shakes the vines enough to remove the ripe grapes without affecting the leaves or unripened grapes"). If Jie was half way there from the tasting, the bottle we took home finished her off.
Spent thursday morning in the Nice flower market (not as rubbish as it sounds - it's mostly food) and generally exploring the old town in the glorious sun before sitting on the beach throwing stones in the sea and seeing who could name the airline from the tail logo as the planes came in to Nice airport. Picked up the C3 and did some more of the mental hairpin mountain roads up to Eze and along to Monaco for a nice evening drive. Spent the night at a place perched perilously over a bay and had some very fine Prawns in Cognac.
We capped off our week with a day in Monaco, the first new country of the tour!!!! It's a pretty wealthy place; saw Roger Moore having lunch outside the Casino (he says "hi" to you all) and generally milled around all the super yachts till Jie found the one she wants. It's weird, a good 90% of all the really, really nice super yachts we saw all along the Riviera this week fly the British ensign or some derivative thereof (Isle of Man, Caymans seem to be most popular) so Britannia still ruling the more expensive parts of the waves. We did the touristy trail from the Grimaldi palace to the Casino and back along the course of the Grand Prix which is in 3 weeks time so they already had the course set up - all the grandstands and safety fences etc. Didn't take us as long to get back to the airport as planned - so to kill time once there we decanted the bottle of Cotes de Provence Merlot that we still had into my insulated mug and chinned it with some chicken wings in 'Quick burger' inside the airport. A touch of Monaco class.