Archive for July, 2015

More Purple Villages.

Friday, July 31st, 2015

The final outing in France was a bit of a village hop to visit more old Roman stuff with a foot slightly in and out of the tourist track. Also saw the Palace of the (corrupt French) Popes in Avignon. Any of these small towns would prove to be a quiet respite away from the larger cities in Provence. Fontaine de Vaucluse is a water town with an old Roman aqueduct and some impressively clear streams running from springs up the nearby mountains. Taking a half gallon in slugs from the drinking fountain near the bridge refreshes.  

The crazy 70 degree village of Gordes.

Up another crazy mountainous stretch the vertical village of Gordes is an impressive day trip or photo op. We spent some time checking out the 12th century Cistercian Senanque Abbey in a hidden valley. Unfornuately sans car, it’s impossible to navigate the public transit to these places.

Nearby here in Arles is where Van Gogh got crazy about sunflowers if you are interested.

The next day was the train to Barcelona. If you get stuck in Nimes for a few hours changing trains, look for Le Resto to grab a well prepared meal. The plate of the day is usually 11 or 12 euros.

Been in Spain a week or more already, need to get cracking.

Missed Purple.

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Avignon has no professional anything team or any particular facility to actually do sports that I saw, unless cigarettes with espresso are considered competitive. Though, the unofficial mascot of Provence should be a sprig of lavender with wimpy appendages and bug-eyes. The entire province is dotted with Roman constructed leftovers, reconstituted to ten-euro general places of disinterest with roped off entryways. History buffs must grimace at each site, having to drop coin to see an empty building with no ancient or even faux adornment. Again, get the audio guide or you will be staring at age sans understanding.

Greed from tourist cash has a grip on this place. There’s no “local produce” besides veggies and fruits by the motorways.

The public transport situation was a bit dire, so driving opened the small villages for spectation. My recollections here will be mainly mini cars, the type you can see Magnus bench pressing on the World’s Strongest Man series, wrenching around hideous curves at 90km/h. After a day of riding the break, white knuckled, I was also up to caliber and silently cursing the impotents in the way. The first stage of the caravan journey terminated at Valensole for some hours, the hometown of lavender that has since turned to a photo op town for tourists. At the Brasserie with the fewest diners, I tried the canard with honey and lavender sauce and some rustic sausage – both regional specialities I since learned. Tasty table wine.

It’s quaint and silent besides the Apple/Samsung default shutter noises; less and less cameras now. The selfsame purple buds dried and picked for oils, soaps, shampoos or whatever a month or more gone. Water’s pure enough to drink from the old pubic fountain. Ancient? When does an edifice attain that title? It had to be a few centuries at least.

The puny motor screaming up 60 degree inclined curves, seeing the cloudless blue diagonally above and through the windshield sometimes doubled my BP. Precipice to the right and rock face and other minis blurring past at the left should discount those that lack sternness or with aortic disorder from  

Which is bluer, the sky or the water?

even attempting this climb. Over the breech, Tarheel blue looked down shocked at the Lac de Sainte-Croix (lake) that rivaled even its boundless azure. It’s a 2-hour drive without regret to swim and just look on silently. After a period of the mid-afternoon sun in the water, it was the same roads back to the walled Avignon.

In the old city area, vagrancy is an issue and Meth by the looks of their grins. The homeless beggars sleeping behind buildings are all accompanied by dogs whose function are unapparent. They roam the Main Street, sitting astride banisters and reclining in arched doorways out of the sun. Are they failed actors on the famed Provence festival circuit or unable to seek out work? Drunken gangs of “punks” (I saw more than one mohawk) and motor scooters sans mufflers create a clamor that reverberates from wall to wall on the small streets makes sleeping with open windows unfortunately impossible. I can’t say I have the best impression of this place.

You won’t see the purple unless you come before July.

Côte d’zur.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

I’m not trying to be fancy, it just simply means “the blue coast.” For years it’s been famed for being THE place for uppity, European aristocrats to sunbathe in thongs and moor their yachts while drowning in champagne. It seems the masses have wedged themselves in between that tired Hollywood cliche and how the rest of the world travels: economy class and train. The remainder of us can see through the looking glass into their gated communities, 5* hotels and their huge boats gleaming in contrast with the endless blue. They are probably drinking the same cheap wine like everyone else; it’s that good.

The area around Cannes, Montecarlo, Nice, Antibes, and Villefranche are all lined with water bluer than toilet cleaner. The Mediterranean seems twice as salty as the Atlantic so only a fool could possibly drown. It’s best to spend as much time doing aquatic activities as possible and doing shutterbug activities involving the water as the other “sites” seem  

The hidden cove I swam.

 slammed with tourists and not really worth it. After visiting Grasse, I felt like an absolute failure. Keep in mind that on Sunday as well as Monday in France, hardly anyone works. Wait, it’s just in Asia where Sunday isn’t revered as some special day. Been away from civilization too long and worked on so many Sunday’s, it’s chipped away at my humanity.

Grasse could have been a odoriferous day trip as it’s famed for being the birthplace of the perfume industry, and that’s an important distinction. Whereas the other ancient areas of the world used colognes for culture and goD, the French were some of the first to sell it and get rich. They followed the trends and the pop culture through the centuries like David Bowie changed his sound to fit the decade. I learned that Chanel #5’s bottle design was special for being ordinary and out of the bombastic trend of the day. Hindsight, didn’t feel it was really worth it to bus/train back and forth to this place to visit a museum with broken exhibits; it all seemed half-assed and a theft of 6 euros. Wikipedia has better info.

Nice is nice. Just stay here the whole time and eat sandwiches and take out pizza. The Metroprix had choices a gourmand would nod at with a shaking triple chin. Do cook if you have the facility. About 80% of the restaurants here are disposable and are looking for the single serving diner. In the middle of the “ancient area” mess is an oyster shack called Au Posiedon. It’s much better than Cafe du Turin on the main drag and has nearly the same selection of fresh shellfish. Even with no French, they are happy to help and the service is no nonsense and prompt! As for the pizza, straight down from Place Garibaldi and around a corner near Le Port Is a joint by the name Pizza Snacks. Really, no other ad. You can get a margarita pizza for like 8 euro which may come as a welcome change from mini serving sizes on huge plates.

As for the water, walk down to the port, hang a left and make your way around the rue in the opposite direction of the famous beach area. About half a  kilometer up the road, you’ll see several small shoals below with people sunbathing and swimming. These are the places the locals and other European frequenters relax. The beach area for tourists is also beautiful but rife with scammers and thieves.

I will absolutely come again and next time spend 2 weeks.

Parisian dialect.

Friday, July 24th, 2015

You will need 5 days. Not because the sprawling expanse of France’s capital city is oppressive and obstacle-full; it’s because the locals move quickly through the public transport hubs and that’s the only situation in which they are actually spry. I had dinner in a great local restaurant/cafe/bar called Le Plomb du Cantal and it cost nearly 4 hours. Where we sat, there were several folks that had been there since the afternoon and were still there carousing as we departed. Time is unrelenting to those that lack it and unforgiving to them that need it.

I was absolutely abashed at their dinner culture. Afterall, I hail from a country where we eat fried chicken and pizza with our hands and live in a country where you could encounter a deficating baby being held aloft outside the door of a restaurant. I was unable to wield fork and knife anywhere near an adult level and the lack of glasses upon the table amused the bartender.

Yeah…5 euros.

A negative level in French while traveling in France is shy but bearable. They laugh at your ignorance in a forgivable way if you fain attempt and utter a few pathetic words. Be wary, those that don’t respect the French language, you might be barred service or accosted. Nod and smile, grin and nod.  

Notre Dame is a massive facility, dripping with history and gargoyles burnt by acid rain. It’s worthy a few visits, but the trip to the towers is debatable. You could get a good view of the city and the surrounds from Montmartre or Sacre-Coeur without the hour+ queue.  A great afternoon could be spent just walking about the small islet that houses this gothic cathedral. Views of the Seine’s many bridges and bikini clad sunbathers are some of the other sites. Small streets also house hidden gems. I found a place that fresh squeezes OJ for 5eu a liter. Totally destroyed my jet lag.

The Louvre is a must but either do research before entering or grab your audio guide for 5 euro (for the apt: rumors circulate that the audio guide was pirated online). It’s like any major museum or temple – sans a specific understanding of what you are looking at, it all gets to be extreme in culture. You’ll suffer painting boredom. It was too post modern watching people selfie with the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Is it deemed evolution to photograph ancient works of art or forgery? Plagurism? It seems ugly behavior to me. Why can’t they just stand and enjoy?

The cemetery that holds Jim Morrison’s bones closed at half 5. Missed it. People ARE strange.

The tower is the tower. The cost to go up is against backpacker norms and oozes tourist, just find a nice hill to snapshot from. It’s free and with no pickpockets.Two.point.Five days is a sad attempt at conquering Paris and merely breaks the egg’s skin. I missed the snobbery that this place is famous for. Being told to pointlessly stand at the bar to be seated by the boss after the waiter told us to sit down wasn’t that at all, it was education. He was teaching me how it’s supposed to be. Thanks for the unforgettable lesson in the Parsian dialect. I will ask for a table using it when I return.

Now on a second class sleeper to Nice. Will get some pics up when I remember how I did it last time.