A Day In Provence

Like I said, the original concept for the trip was to meet some friends from LA in southern France to see Fete de la Musique. After they were unable to come, we discovered that some other friends from Seattle would be staying in a different house in southern France, so we stayed with that part of the original concept as well.

The trip from Barcelona to Provence took us back through Montpellier, where we feverishly walked around the Fabre Museum looking for some painting of Achilles Ray had noticed on the Internet somewhere. There were several large paintings of male nudes all over the museum, and eventually we caught up to that one, which was nice enough. (My favorite was one of the death-of-Abel paintings, but whatever). Ray noticed some sign somewhere trying to explain away the large number of male nudes which said “this was an assignment in his painting class” or something like that. We almost made it through the permanent collection before the museum closed, and had no time for the temporary Impressionism exhibition. As usual, the museum store had almost no post cards showing the men. Typical male-gaze curation.

Our friend in Barcelona had recommended that we eat there at a restaurant called Entrecote, and I got back to the tourist office just in time to ask them where it was. The person there hadn’t heard of it, and looked it up on the computer, and said “It doesn’t exist”. We walked around looking at other places for awhile, decided it was too early for dinner anyway and that we should drive on, and as we neared the parking garage a huge restaurant “Entrecote” practically slapped us in the face, complete with signs “since 1959” and every indication it was a chain. It was still too early, and we headed on to Provence. Also in Montpellier there were gangs of young girls, some in bunny costumes, who wanted donations of pennies or signatures in a book.

We arrived at our charming little bed and breakfast located behind a small industrial park on a “residents only” road, and headed out for dinner nearby to what seemed like a small remote village, Saint-Remy de Provence. It turned out it’s an extremely popular small remote village, down a pretty tree-lined road, where Van Gogh was institutionalized, and Nostradamus predicted that, and where there are some Roman ruins. We weren’t able to get into the place we wanted, but the place across the street was just fine.

The next morning we met up with our friends from Seattle, and had a wonderful day driving around from one village to the next (it reminded me of cruising the tapas bars in San Sebastian). Provence is just packed with charming hillside villages, most fairly deserted, and every so often one that was quite crowded. Pimientos de Padron. Barbara called the plane trees “paint-by-number” trees because their bark looks like a painting which was painted by number, so Lily wrote some numbers on one of them. I hope somebody figures it out. After a small lunch, we were too tired for dinner, so we just relaxed around the pool behind the house they were renting, watched the clouds, and listened to the frogs.

Yesterday was another RyanAir day — we returned the car to the Marseille airport, shuffled even more stuff around between luggage to make the scale people happy, waited in a minimal new airport next to a bunch of loud floor sanders for an hour or so, boarded a completely full plane, flew to Stansted, and took the Stansted express to London. Our hotel was two blocks from the subway, but we had to carry our heavy bags up five flights of slanted little stairs. They’re making us change rooms today since we booked so late, but they insist they’ll carry our heavy bags down those flights of stairs — at least the new room is on the ground floor.

You know something, RyanAir is just not worth it. London barely is, and only because of friends of long standing who are living here now.

Today we’re going to visit some old friends who are staying in Birmingham. Hopefully when we get back tonight our bags will be in the new room, and then we’ll get them to the airport tomorrow morning for the stupidly long flight home.