Guns and Frocks

Loving Delta and the Bannermen since 1987

All the cafés round here are full of hot young soldiers!

Friday, 29 February 2008

I just thought I’d mention it.

From Avignon to Nîmes

Thursday, 28 February 2008

A low nineteenth-century building with the words Gare d'Avignon Centre across the front. There's a car park in front of it.

Just under an hour before my train leaves for Nîmes. There are a few things I want to see here:

I’ve given myself three nights there. Hoping that’s enough time. And then to Rome itself. There’s a possibility I might have to catch the TGV back to Paris, and then another train to Rome. I’ll find out this afternoon.

Day off

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Well, I had a great day in Avignon yesterday, wandering the streets and visiting the Papal Palace. The palace is amazing. Most of the rooms are quite empty: stone walls, high ceilings and mullioned windows, with occasional traces of the frescoes and polychromy which once rendered the rooms garish and hideous. Unfortunately, they don’t let you take photos inside, but I did sneak one from the topmost tower.

A view from above of brick arched bridge going partway across a river, with trees on the far bank.

I can’t imagine what it would be like for a devout Christian to visit a place like this. The building is huge and beautiful, but room after room reveals the popes to be grandiose monsters, and medieval Christianity to be a brutal confidence trick. Does that sound harsh? Anyway, at least we got some lovely buildings out of it.

It’s my last full day in Avignon. Off to Nîmes tomorrow, for some Roman ruins. So doing nothing much today. I might walk over to Villeneuve-lez-Avignon on the other side of the river. I might go to Place les Halles, where there’s lots of great food at lunchtime. I might see if I can find that restaurant Geoff mentioned in his comment on my last post. But there’s no list of things to do or sites to see. Just gonna enjoy the atmosphere, I think.

Lost in Paris

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

I decided to stay in Paris for just two nights. So far, I’ve spent all my time in big cities, and I want to go somewhere smaller and more restful. I got a lot done during my one whole day, but it was tiring and a bit stressful, and I’m glad to be off.

I had three things to do: buy a ticket to Avignon, book a hotel room there, and see the antiquities in the Louvre. Not a hectic agenda, but nearly more than I could manage.

Buying the ticket was easy. I had checked out the Gare de Lyon the night I arrived, and I knew I could get there. But after leaving, I got lost almost immediately. And I discovered that despite years of high-school geography, I am completely unable to use a map to get from one place to another. I can’t remember place names and directions, and I need to turn the map around so that it corresponds to the layout of the streets. Except that that doesn’t really help.

After an hour of standing on street corners, frantically rotating an obvious tourist map and swearing in English, I came across a metro station and decided to use that. The metro system map was fixed to the wall, which made rotating it more or less impossible, so I decided not to tempt fate, and went to the station nearest the Louvre on the line I was on anyway.

There followed another hour of hunting for wi-fi enabled cafes, booking hotel rooms, rotating the map, swearing, tearing up the map, and being offered directions in French by a helpful old man. However, I can’t understand directions either, even in English, and I was too busy wondering if the old man would want money to really pay attention.

But I did find the Louvre, mostly by following the well-signposted Avenue de Louvre, with its Café de Louvre and Tabac de Louvre and so on. It ended up being the huge-ass palace thing at the end of the street. And although the Greek and Roman ceramics were closed (damn!) I spent a happy few hours wandering around, mostly looking at Classical Roman sculptures, finishing with a quick run around to catch the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s prisoners and the Venus de Milo. The Louvre map was smaller and much easier to rotate.

After that, I did the obligatory tourist spots, most of which I had visited last time. There are photos, as usual. Then dinner in Saint-Denis, as David suggested, and then back to the hotel. And I only got lost on the metro once.

Les beaux messieurs font comm’ ça

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Looking down my legs: I'm wearing jeans and sturdy walking shoes,  and standing on the pebbly surface of what turns out to be the  bridge at Avignon.

Well. I’m in Avignon. I arrived early afternoon yesterday, and I’m in love with it immediately. It’s small, for a start, and I don’t need a map. I wandered the streets last night, totally certain that I wouldn’t get lost. And it’s beautiful, full of well-lit medieval churches and surrounded by walls. I walked through a gate last night, and it was like leaving a fairytale castle.

And then there’s the famous bridge, with its well-known nursery rhyme. It’s too narrow to dance on, of course, but you can see me standing on it with confidence. There are lots of photos.

Today, the Papal Palace. And tomorrow, maybe I’ll catch the bus to the Pont du Gard, a massive Roman aqueduct just over 20 kilometres from here. Then off to Nîmes for a few nights.

I’m changing my plans. The trains are a bit complicated, so I’m going from Nîmes back to Paris, and then overnight on the train to Rome. Then Rome for a few days, before Sorrento, which is the place I’m most looking forward to.