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  • Day4

    A Hot Time in Avignon

    August 24, 2019 in France ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    There is no doubt that it has been a hot summer in Provence and it is not showing any signs of ending any time soon. The forecast is for a never ending succession of temperatures in the mid 30s – not exactly ideal conditions for a group of elderly Australians who have freshly arrived from the middle of a bleak Melbourne winter.

    At least our hotel room was very nicely air conditioned, allowing us to enjoy a very comfortable night’s rest. We arrived at breakfast just as a large group of lanky (and obviously very hungry) teenagers had devoured everything in sight. They had even used up all the crockery. For a while I thought I would have to eat off my breakfast tray, but managed to persuade the serving girl to bring out some extra plates. Catastrophe averted. Breakfast saved.

    We had previously decided to spend the morning exploring the city before the temperature soared too high. It did not take long for us to realise that we were too late. Even by 10 am the heat was almost overwhelming. Our group staggered down the main street while the women took every available opportunity to stop and take pictures, mostly of inane things like doorknobs and cracked windows. The men found a sign promising “Roman Ruins” and slowly walked in that direction. When we got there the ruins turned out to be rather underwhelming, leaving us wondering why we had wasted the energy. We could have just sat in the shade instead.

    We continued to walk past the very imposing Palais des Papes and even managed to climb to the highest point in the city. Although it gave a panoramic view down to the Rhone River and the famous Pont d’Avignon, we were all too hot and bothered to take much notice of it. We did what any intelligent person would do in similar circumstances – sat in the shade and had lunch at a lovely little restaurant by an ornamental pond.

    For the next seven nights our home will be the small village of Caumont Sur Durance. Our initial plan had been to spend a week pretending we were genuine French people. After searching the internet we thought that Caumont looked like a typical village and then looked for a suitable house to rent for the week. There were five of us who would be sharing the place, so it needed to have sufficient space for us all. Maggie conducted some research and found a likely looking place (at least the pictures looked good), so we made the booking. We had arranged to be at the property by 4 pm, but had no idea how we were going to get from Avignon to Caumont.

    Since we had had such a good experience with the mini bus taxi the previous day, I asked the hotel to organise a similar bus to take us all to Caumont. Although it arrived on time, we soon found that it was not really quite big enough to hold all of us AND our luggage. What followed next was a period of prolonged pushing and shoving by the driver as he tried vainly to cram all our bags into the rear. After many unsuccessful attempts to shut the rear door, we told him to pile the extra cases on top of Gordon instead. So that’s what he did.

    With no less than seven of us jammed inside and with Gordon helplessly pinned under a huge suitcase, we set off on the next stage of our adventure. The map had promised that Caumont was only around 10 km from Avignon, however it really seemed like much further than that, especially for Gordon who had lost all sensation below his belly button.

    We finally arrived at the small hamlet and went in search of our rented house. The entire town is a crumbling collection of old stone houses with tiled roofs. The meandering streets were only barely wide enough for a small vehicle and we initially felt like we were lost in a giant maze. At least we knew that our house was near the church, so we used that for a landmark.

    We were happy to tumble out of the minibus. Gordon was the happiest of all as he worked hard to restore some circulation to his lower legs. We went in search of number 11, Rue Mademoiselle de Perverts (or something like that) and started knocking loudly on the door. A few minutes later it was opened by an elderly Frenchwoman who proceeded to talk nonstop for the next twenty minutes, telling us all the things that were forbidden in her house. Of course we could not understand more than about 4 words of what she was saying. We just wanted to find our rooms and have a rest.

    The house itself is spread haphazardly over about 7 different levels, with rooms branching off in completely random order. The owner had added to this confusion by over decorating it with a profusion of mismatched odds and ends, all of which were eagerly waiting to be either broken or tripped over. She seemed very surprised that we had not brought our own sheets and towels with us from Australia. “If you want me to supply them, you will have to pay for them”, was the message. We also found that we would have to pay for everything else – soap, toilet rolls, gas, detergent, electricity, cleaning, etc, etc. Nothing was provided for free. But it would be our responsibility to water the pot plants. When the landlady finally left, we made ourselves at home by promptly breaking two glasses and almost breaking several other items. I also made an impression on myself by walking into one of the low wooden beams as I was walking down the stairs. I certainly won’t do that again.

    Maggie and I found ourselves in a room on the ground floor. Although it had its own toilet, it was certainly impossible to take a seat and close the door at the same time. Even getting into the toilet required the skills of a consummate contortionist. Once inside you were kept company by a massive collection of starfish and other marine memorabilia. It was going to be an interesting seven days, but that was the aim of this part of the trip. We knew it would be challenging and interesting at the same time. The heat also added an extra degree of difficulty as there was no air-conditioning. We also found that the biggest challenge of all was that the house had no Internet connection.

    I should have mentioned that Gael and Gerry had also learned that we had booked a house in Caumont and thought that it sounded like a good idea. They found another rental home nearby. For the next week there will be seven Australians wandering this place. I wondered if the town would survive.

    We had been assured by several different locals (including our landlady), that there were no cafes in the town, however Google stated otherwise. It showed that there were several within easy walking distance. Can you guess which source of information was correct ? The locals or Google ? If you said the locals, you would be wrong. After the heat of the day had subsided, we went on a walk around the town and found that there were indeed several eateries, a boulangerie and a supermarket. Perhaps the locals had never explored past their own front doors. Strange but true.

    We found a tiny pizza shop that was obviously doing a brisk trade and ordered three pizzas for dinner. An hour later they were ready. At 8 Euros each they were excellent value and were so big that we could only eat about half of them. They would have been even easier to eat if they had been cut into slices. We did not know if the lack of cutting was an oversight or a peculiar feature of this region.

    After the frenetic pace of the past few days it will be lovely to spend tomorrow doing almost nothing.
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