Category: Avignon

City of popes in south France

A Photo Guide to the SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport

If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to create a CDG Airport Photo Guide to help me learn and remember where to go.

This is a beginner’s level CDG train/airport guide that may help you navigate. As they say in France, “bonne chance.”

CDG Airport Photo Guide

“Gare” = Train

The first thing for non-French speakers to know when looking for a train station is the word for “train station”  in French. It’s  “GARE. ” If you plant that into your brain, you can read the signs.

Next you should know that SNCF and  TGV  train lines run out of the same station at the CDG airport. They go from there to almost anywhere in Europe. Those acronyms should also go on file in your head because you need to watch for them on the signs along the way.

International arrivals

 

CDG train/airport guide

A better map of CDG airport from the Internet

The most important thing for you to remember is that the train station (GARE) is in between Terminal 2 (A)(B)(C)(D)  and Terminal 2 (E)(F) 

CDG train/airport guide

GARE at CDG airport

Arriving Terminal 2  A-F

You have it made. Head for GARE on “Niveau 2”.

CDG train/airport guide

CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV

Arriving Terminal 1 or Terminal 3

If you arrive at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3,  you have to take the shuttle from “Aeroport CDG 1” at Terminal 3 to “Aeroport CDG 2-TGV (see below)

CDG train/airport guide

Shuttle from Terminal 1 and 3 to Terminal 2 and TGV at CDG Airport

From Terminal 3 this is one of the entrances to the shuttle. The sign is near a rack of baggage carts.

You have to go down an escalator here. (Hope you don’t have too many bags. I have no idea where there’s an elevator.)

 

CDG train/airport guideEntrance to the GARE shuttle from inside Terminal 2B

 

CDG Airport Photo Guide

After the Shuttle

When you exit the shuttle, signs for “Gare SNCF” will show you the way to the train station. This is a multi-level building. The station and trains are on the lower levels. See map of CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV above.

CDG train/airport guide

Take a left when you pass Paul’s 
If you have plenty of time and you’re hungry, stop and eat. There aren’t many choices for food beyond here.

 

CDG train/airport guide

When you round the corner from Paul’s you’ll see this huge board. Never mind it. Look for the nearest “down” elevator.

CDG train/airport guide

Downstairs looks like this.

CDG train/airport guide1

If you’ve made it here, you’re almost there!

Look for the Departure and Arrival signs that list destinations in France and Europe.  (Trains leave this same station for destination inside Paris, so be certain you’re looking at the correct sign.)

Have a seat and wait for 20 minutes until it’s time for your train. That’s when they post the platform where you board. If you don’t see the name of your destination right away, don’t worry. The train must be within 20 minutes of so from the terminal to show up on the board. 

If you miss your train, like I did, you’ll need to look for the SNCF information office. It’s on this floor and the entrance is well-marked. The information agents help with TGV, too. Be sure to grab a ticket when you walk in the door, or you’ll never be served. The line moves quicker than you think, so don’t take a ticket and walk out. 

BUY INSURANCE – It’s really cheap to purchase trip insurance when you make your original purchase, especially when you’re coming in from an international flight.

If you miss your train, you’ll get a full refund deposited into your bank. Unless you have lots of time at the station, don’t worry about getting a refund on the spot. The attendant at the information office will help you buy a new ticket and you can get a refund for the missed train from the insurance company later. Ask for a duplicate of your new ticket so that you can send it to the insurance company if they request it. You have five business days to file for a refund.

CDG train/airport guide

SNCF Information at CDDG

CDG Airport Photo Guide

How to find the right train car. 

Since I make every mistake possible, I’m going to assume you’re as uninformed as I am about trains and how to board them.

On the ticket pictured below I’ve circled the train car number and the seat number. VOITURE = CAR #         PLACE ASSISE =  SEAT #

“Depart” and “Arriv” are self-explanatory — except remember you’re on a 24 hour clock!

CDG train/airport guide

All that’s left to know is the platform where you meet the train. You find that out from the board inside the terminal about 20 minutes before the train’s arrival. (See above.)

Assuming you’ve found the correct platform, you’ll find electronic displays on the platform indicating where each car of the train will be located for boarding. You can use this chart to find the mark on the platform corresponding to the car you would like to board. Don’t hesitate to ask another passenger or railway agent for help. Even if the person doesn’t speak English, you can show them the “car” and “seat” number on your ticket and they’ll point the way.

CDG Airport Photo Guide

First class or second?

I like to pass on budget-conscious tips to others when I can. Having traveled in France by train, both first and second class, there are a few distinct differences: crowds, space, noise. Everytime I’ve traveled first class I’ve had a place that seats four all to myself. This time, on second class, all four seats were filled. There were also lots of children and babies.

If you can deal with these differences, the cost of second-class vs. first class is sometimes as much as half. They both arrived at the same place at the same time. 

CDG train/airport guide

Second class train car Paris to Avignon

Hope this has been helpful.   

For more information, this TGV post has more photos, videos and explanations.

Here’s a post with tips for safe traveling through CDG for 60+ travelers

Stay tuned for more adventures traveling in France! 

 

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

Tracing the history of the Romans in the south of France is a fascination I am anxious to share with visitors.

Guests visiting from North Carolina were more than happy to take the short ride from Uzès to Nimes to attend the Roman Days extravaganza at the Arena. Even though the event was narrated only in French, we were able to understand the storyline. The anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death was being celebrated by a reenactment of important events during his life.

On top of it being a beautifully sunny day in Nimes, the opportunity to step back into a time, nearly 2000 years ago, was extraordinary. It was particularly interesting to see the costumed actors roaming through the city before the event. (For more about Roman Days, click here to see the earlier posting.)

Roman Days in Nimes

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

 

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France: Pont du Gard

Tracing the Romans in France must include a visit to Pont du Gard.
Even though I’ve been to Pont du Gard four times, there’s no better place to take visitors who come to Uzes. The aqueduct that supplied water to the Romans in Nimes as early as 1AD is still a marvel to behold. Every time I round the bend along the walkway in the World Heritage park and see the magnificent structure, I get chills. Visiting during different times times of year makes it new each time to me.

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

School children at the highest point viewing Pont du Gard put this Golden Girl in her element.

The Romans in the south of France

Avignon, City of Popes.

An afternoon in Avignon is hardly enough time to get a fair impression of the historic city, much less to write a post. For the Golden Girls, it was a beautiful and convenient place to stop for dinner.

The Roman connection in Avignon is difficult to follow because most of the Roman ruins have disappeared. However, the Pope’s Palace, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed “Palais des Papes” reminds us that Avignon was once the center of the Roman Catholic world. It is a place that is definitely worth spending time to explore. The Palais des Papes was the residence of seven successive popes in the 14th century. Avignon’s control by the Papacy ended in 1791 when the city was claimed by France during the French Revolution.

I shall definitely research Avignon and write more later. Until then, enjoy the photos of our quick visit.

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

How to get there
From Uzes to Pont du Gard is a 30- minute car ride. Buses run regularly to the park area from the station in the center of Uzes, as well. To travel to Avignon, it is another 30 minute ride or drive.

Where to eat
The park at Pont du Gard is very well equipped with cafeteria-type restaurants and snack shops. The park itself is perfect for hiking and for finding places to stop for a picnic lunch.

In Avignon we had a quick meal before returning back to Uzes that night. Nothing to brag about.

Next: Sete to Collioure. Picture book towns along the Mediterranean

Romans in the South of France

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

visit to Provence

A Travel Pro’s Favorite Places in Provence

A visit to Provence – one of the most visited areas in France – is the second post in the Barefoot Blogger travel series by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France.

Nancy has lived in the south of France for over 30 years so, I’d say, she knows her way around. When asked “what do you recommend when tourist want to visit Provence?” Nancy gave me her picks below. Now that I’ve visited with Nancy in Sete and we’ve taken a some really fun trips together, I’ve learned to take her advice. In fact, I’m convinced it’s really important to ask an expert to help with your plans. If you have limited time, a bit of sage advice will help you make the most of every day you’re traveling. You’ll see the places you’ve heard about as well as off-the-beaten-path sights you’ve only dreamed about. It’s the best way to sample French life like you’re a local. Need I say more?

Welcome to Provence!

From bustling, edgy Marseille to the red cliffs of Cassis, fragrant lavender fields of the Luberon, Aix-en-Provence’s colorful markets, wine and art … there’s something in Provence to please everyone. No wonder it’s everyone’s favorite.

Visit Provence: Marseille

Founded in 600 BC, Marseille, France’s second largest city, is steeped in history and culture. A good way to start the day in Marseilles is to visit the Basilica of Notre Dame. Perched high above the harbour it offers breathtaking views of the Old Port and the Mediterranean. Those who brave the climb on foot no doubt work up an appetite. And that’s why bouillabaisse – Marseille’s famed dish –  was invented. It is almost ‘obligatoire’ with a traditional glass of pastis. There’s more to see so explore the Old Port and don’t miss the iconic MuCEM museum – one reason why Marseille has held the title ‘European Capital of Culture.’

 

Visit Provence: The Red Cliffs of Cassis

Anyone who has seen Paris, but hasn’t seen Cassis, hasn’t seen anything,” said the Nobel poet Fredric Mistral. When visitors see the stunningly pretty Roman harbour it’s invariably love at first sight. Two natural monuments protect the town: Cap Canaille, that glows red when the Mistral blows, and the white limestone Calanques (sheltered inlets) that can be admired on a short boat outing. It’s a joy to simply roam the streets, browse the museum, or enjoy fresh seafood with a glass of the local rosé wine.

Visit Provence: Bandol

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine… and there’s plenty of each in Bandol, where vineyards bask in 3,000  hours of sunshine a year! The resort itself – just a stone’s throw from Marseille and Cassis – is among the oldest and most popular on the coast.  Its sandy beaches lured the literary set long before the days of Brigitte Bardot and Saint Tropez. A cliff stroll, a vineyard tour and dining on fresh seafood – to which the fruity and racy rosé wines are a great accompaniment – is on everyone’s list.

Visit Provence: Chateauneuf du Pape

Red Wine…The distinguished red wines of Chateauneuf du Pape need no introduction. Masterclasses, food and wine pairing workshops  and wine tours of the historic chateaux and vineyards are “must do’s and can be  arranged. The vineyards in Chateauneuf du Pape are so cherished that a 1950s decree banned flying saucers from sailing over them! The tiny town itself is sheer magic. Take a walk up the hill to the ruins of the 14th century château  – ‘the Pope’s castle’ – and the reward is a view as far as Avignon and its Popes’ Palace. Hungry after that climb? There are many fine restaurants in town serving traditional French cuisine to complement the wines.

 

Visit Provence: Avignon

visit to ProvenceSur le Pont d’Avignon…Standing on the legendary bridge in Avignon provides a good view of Le Palais des Papes,’ (Popes’ Palace), the ancient ramparts and much more of this historic and cultural French city. There’s something for everyone here: museums and galleries; fine dining to please the most exacting palate; and plenty of shopping. During the Avignon Festival in July, live music and theatre fill every street, but the ‘hot ticket’ is a performance in the Popes’ Palace. As for the bridge, the angels inspired a poor shepherd, Benezet, to build it and, convinced of divine intervention, the town’s authorities canonised the shepherd. That’s the legend at least and a popular song was born.

 

Visit Provence: Arles

From Ancient Rome to Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso … Located on the banks of the Rhone River and known as the ‘gateway to the Camargue,’ Arles is one of the most beautiful cities anywhere in France. The ancient arena, amphitheatre and Roman baths top any visitor’s list, as well as a walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso. Talking of Van Gogh, a visit to nearby sunflower fields will brighten anyone’s day.

Visit Provence: The Luberon

Lavender Fields Forever ...The very best time to visit the Luberon is July, when the Valensole plateau is awash with lavender and the towns are alive with festivals celebrating everyone’s favourite flower! It’s a sight – and scent – to behold! There’s something here for foodies too –  from a range of small bistrots serving the “dish of the day” to the local delicacy “lavender honey.

Visit Provence: St Rémy de Provence

Here’s Van Gogh Again! Whilst we’re in the area, let’s not miss St. Rémy.  Pretty and picturesque, this pocket-size town offers much to do amid its narrow medieval alleyways, shady squares and wonderful architecture –  including museums, excellent restaurants, an annual donkey fair and the remains of nearby 2nd century b.c. Glanum. As for Van Gogh, his stay in St. Rémy inspired many masterpieces.

Visit Provence: Les Baux de Provence

“Ils Sont Beaux.” Set on a rocky plateau, magical Les Baux de Provence offers stunning views of Arles and the Camargue. It is a listed heritage site that has earned the accolade of ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’, amongst others. What it lacks in size it makes up for with art and cultural activities, one of which is the annual Carrières de Lumières – the most amazing light show we’ve ever seen.

Visit Provence: Aix-en-Provence

The City of Art and Lights. Beauty, culture and a rich historical heritage exemplify Aix-en-Provence, hometown of Paul Cézanne among other luminaries. Having taken leave of lavender fields and vineyards, here is the opportunity for some serious shopping, sightseeing, not to mention food tours and culinary workshops. . Follow in the footsteps of Cézanne, browse the museums or the famous farmers’ and flower markets or buy that designer outfit in one of the upscale boutiques.  There’s never enough time in Aix and you’ll never want to leave!

How’s that for a tour of Provence? What are you waiting for?  I can’t wait to see it all myself!

visit Provence

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

 

For information about Med cruise shore excursions 

36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence

If the Barefoot Blogger didn’t live so close to Provence, I’d stress about where to go and what to see if I had only 36 hours to visit.

Cousin Judy from Arizona spent two weeks with me this summer giving me a chance to figure out some new road trips from Uzes. Touring Provence was high on our priority list. When I got down to planning, 36 hours — spending two nights on the road — would give us time to enjoy each stop. Digging deeper into the plan, the trip began to take on a theme: “36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence: “wine” in the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, and “roses” at La Bastide “Rose”, home and boutique hotel of Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger.

Hope you enjoy following our trip!

Itinerary

Day One 

Morning tour of Avignon

Lunch and tour Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Two 

Morning touring St. Paul de Mausolee and the “trail of Van Gogh”

Lunch and shopping Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Late afternoon Carrières de Lumières and wine tasting in Les Baux de Provence

Dinner and overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Three

 L’Isle sur la Sorgue Sunday Antique Market

Drive back to Uzes

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Day One 

Itinerary: Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Thor

To get anywhere from Uzes, you almost always have to go through Avignon or Nimes. For this jaunt into Provence, Avignon was the direction to take. Plus, it is a city I wanted Judy to see, even if only briefly.

Our travel plan for the first day was to visit Avignon in the morning then to have a late lunch in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We would wander through Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the town famous for wines, stop for a few tastings (degustions) and end up at La Bastide Rose where we were staying for two nights.

Avignon – Morning 

IMG_4073An early morning wakeup in Uzes got us to Avignon in time for our second cup of coffee. Since I had taken the tour of the Pope’s Palace on an earlier visit, we opted to stroll around the main tourist area, then take a mini-train to view the rest of the historic landmarks. The timing was perfect for us to get to the second stop of the day, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. For a tour of the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) add another 1 1/2 to 2 hours to your morning in Avignon.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape –  Lunchtime 

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Just over 30 minutes up the road from Avignon, the wine district of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was waiting for us. In English the name of the town and region means “Pope’s new chateau.” The once glorious chateau in the village, which was the summer home of Pope John XXII, the second of the popes who resided in Avignon, is now in ruins.

While part of our mission in Chateauneuf-du-Pape was to taste wine, we also wanted to see Chateau Des Fines Roches and have lunch on the terrace of the elegant hillside resort.  I wish I could say we enjoyed the meal as much as the scenery, but the food and service were disappointing. Perhaps it was a bad day for the chef and staff because I’d seen rather good reviews by others who have been there to stay and to dine. You should go there anyway… even if it’s for a cocktail. The view is amazing and the poolside dining spot is elegant, indeed.

IMG_4110

Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Afternoon Wine Tasting

Chateau Cabrieres

Chateau Cabrieres

After lunch it was on to wine tasting.  A little research reading online wine magazines definitely helped identify some of the world famous domaines to seek out.  If we could hit just one of the well-known places for “degustion” (a wine tasting), we would be happy.

The first place we stopped was Chateau Cabrieres.  The wines we tasted were very typical of the Côtes du Rhône region, filled with flavors of figs, cherries and berries. Quite nice.

IMG_4183Our second stop was at one of the domaines on our list — Paul Avil’s Clos des Pape. The centuries old domaine consistently ranked high in wine publications and, for example, they were Wine Spectator’s 2012 Top 100.  The tasting room was unassuming and the host was very friendly and helpful. Needless to say, the wine was superb!

Thor – La Bastide Rose  – Overnight

IMG_4424

Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger

A friend told me about La Bastide Rose, a boutique hotel located centrally in the area of Provence we were planning to visit. The bastide is owned by Poppy Salinger-Le-Cesne, wife of the late Pierre Salinger, press secretary to President John Kennedy. My friend also told me there was a museum on the property, filled with memorabilia from Salinger’s days in the White House.  Since I was a huge fan of the Kennedys and a journalist myself, I could think of nothing better than to visit Salinger’s home to learn about his life and career. Perhaps I would learn some secrets about the days of “Camelot.” Cousin Judy agreed that a stay at La Bastide Rose would be the crown jewel in our tour of Provence.

Pierre Salinger lived at La Bastide Rose with his family the last four years of his life. The private property, which is less than an hour from Avignon, is hidden away among groves of apple trees and acres of vineyards. The seventeenth century home and adjoining structure, converted from a paper mill,  is along a section of the Sorgue River.  At one time the property was a production facility for Italian marble objects.

The comfortably elegant estate includes an outdoor garden with massive contemporary sculptures and art pieces. Beside the garden is the river and a park-like island that is part of the property. Hammocks, swings, benches and sun chairs are arranged throughout the island where visitors can relax and hide out. The peaceful ambiance is complete with a waterfall that sends rippling sounds throughout the place.

Our first night at the bastide we enjoyed a light meal of tapas, served to us as we sat on the terrace. Then it was early to bed. Day two was going to be very busy.

Day Two

Itinerary: Saint- Remy,  Le Baux de Provence, La Bastide Rose.

Even though I had been to Saint-Remy, I was anxious to see it again. My last trip was in the springtime and I knew the surroundings would look much different in the summer. Of course, who can resist shopping and lunch in the beautiful town of Saint-Remy? In Les Baux de Provence we were headed straight to see the famous light show (Carrières de Lumières). A wine tasting at Cave Vignoble Sainte Berthe was conveniently nearby. Next, dinner and overnight at La Bastide Rose.

 St. Paul de Mausolee in Saint-Remy -Morning tour

St. Paul de Mausolee is the hospital-asylum where Van Gogh self-committed himself just prior to his death. The well-maintained site is faithfully preserved to remind visitors of the time when Van Gogh was a patient there. From the bedroom where Van Gogh’s wheelchair and desk sat, to the courtyard below, everything was just as he would have left them. A new addition to St. Paul since my last visit is the kitchen, restored to perfection.  

 IMG_4224Saint-Rémy – Afternoon lunch and shopping

The morning market in Saint-Remy was coming to a close when we arrived, nevertheless, there were plenty of shops open and ready to serve up everything Provencal.  From olive oil to configures and calissons — a new sort of candy to me that’s famous in Provence. Cans of sardines, Camargue rice — both red and black — and flavored salts were my finds of the day.

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence- Late afternoon

IMG_4302Not too far down the road from Saint-Remy is Les Baux de Provence. The village that sits atop a hill in the southern part of the Alpilles mountain range is a sight to see. During the summer the hilltop village is packed with tourists, so we opted to skip the steep climb and visit only the Carrières de Lumières. Neither of us was prepared for the experience. First of all, the cave was mammoth. Second, the presentation of art and music was mind-blowing. Hundreds of tourists filled the aisles between the illuminated walls of the cave, yet it seemed as if we were the only ones there. Visitors sat around the perimeter of the huge space just so they could take it all in. 

Mas-sainte-berthe

Mas-sainte-berthe

Coming out from the light show we were happy to run into Mas Sainte Berthe , a winery on our way out of Les Baux. Yes, more wine!  Some of my favorite tastings of the trip.

Bastide Rose in Thor -Dinner and overnight

Discovering that Bastide Rose had a fine restaurant onsite was an added reason for staying for two nights. The mastermind of the kitchen is Poppy’s son, Emmanuel de Menthon.

La Bastide Rose for dinner

Emmanuel

Along with his son, who serves as wine host and waiter, Emmanuel and his chef create imaginative dishes from local and home-grown products. Guests appear at La Bastide Rose from far and near to enjoy a meal and the beautiful surroundings.

Day Three

Itinerary: L’Isle sur la Sorgue and return to Uzes

My Aunt Rose was one of the reasons I grew to love collecting things, so I knew her daughter Judy would love L’Isle sur la Sorgue. The small town has a Sunday antique market that is well-known in this part of France. There is also a Sunday “everything” market, similar to Saturday Market in Uzes. It was a perfect last stop for our tour —  and only a few kilometers from the bastide. After our “goodbye” to Poppy, we set out to see what we could find.

In the tiny town lined with canals and shopping stalls, we walked through throngs of people and stopped only for a late lunch at one of the busy cafes. With full stomachs and happy hearts we were ready to head back to Uzes, ending our 36-hour tour of Provence.  We had “been there, done that” … and had a ball along the way!

For more information about places we visited, check out these blog posts.

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

On Van Gogh’s Trail

A Sunday in Provence: L’isle Sur la Sorgue

Friend

Trip Ideas You Can Steal From a 10-Year-Old’s Visit to France

Special friends are on the way to visit the Barefoot Blogger, including my dear 10-year-old McKenna. Planning the 7-day visit has been easier than you’d think.

McKenna and I have always had a closer-than- usual relationship because we share the same birthday date. We both agree, that makes us “twins” of sorts.  Almost every birthday since she was born, we’ve spent the day together. Her mother and I are friends from IBM. This past birthday, McKenna wanted her theme to be “Paris” in preparation for her upcoming visit to France.

Paris themed birthday party

Paris themed birthday party

 

Here’s the 7-day itinerary. You’re welcomed to steal!

My guests are arriving the end of this week and we’ll be taking off for an active tour of southwest France.

Day one: Pick them up at the TGV station in Avignon and take a walk around the Pope’s Palace.

Day two: Saturday Market in Uzes. Of course, it’s my favorite thing to do! Trek in the Vallee d’LEure and take a swim at the public pool. Dinner somewhere fabulous in Uzes.

Day three: Pont du Gard tour followed by a visit to Nimes to follow in the footsteps of the early Romans.

Day four:  Morning tour and lunch in the walled city of Aigue Morte. An afternoon “Safari” tour of the Camargue, starting from Grau de Roi. Drive to Sete and spend the night at my favorite Airbnb apartment.

Day five: Breakfast at the city market in Sete followed by an afternoon at a beach club in Sete on the Meditterean.  Catch an early evening train to Carcassone in time to check-in our Airbnb “converted bar” lodging. View the Bastille Day fireworks display in Carcassone, along with 40,000 other tourists.

Day six: Guided tour of Carcassone and shopping (along with thousands of other tourists.) Catch the late afternoon train back to Sete. Drive two hours to Uzes.

Day seven: Say goodbye and scurry to Nimes for an early morning flight.

Collapse. Sleep. Repeat.

(Yes, there will be posts and pictures of it all. Stay tuned!)

2015-06-07 11.17.47

Renting a French Apartment

Back to Uzes and Breaking All The Rules

There are times when the Barefoot Blogger thinks she’s a seasoned international traveler. This trip back to France, however, I broke all the rules.

Rule #1 – Wear dark clothes to travel

Khaki traveling pants

Khaki traveling pants

Murphy’s Law says that if you’re traveling, and you eat or drink along the way, you’re going to end up with it on you. Always wear dark clothing. That’s why I wore khaki pants. On top of that, they were brand new. What was I thinking?!

There were no disasters, but I’ll be working on some grease stains from the Einstein bagel sandwich. Could have been worse.

Rule #2 – Take emergency cash

Again, what was I thinking? Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by having too many accessible ATM machines where I travel. A good rule of thumb is to carry about $200 in cash. I left the states with $20 in my pocket. Figuring that I wouldn’t need money until I reached the airport in Paris,  I knew there was an ATM machine there where I could get euros with my credit card. Little did I know that my choice of low cost airlines — WOW — charges for everything you put in your mouth. Not even a free bottle of water or cup of coffee. The $20 was used up fast before I landed in Paris. Which leads to Rule #3.

Rule #3 – Tell your credit card companies you’re traveling

4441573-Free-of-charge-anti-euro-sign--Stock-Photo-euro-noOops! When I ordered a sandwich wrap and Coke at the train terminal at Charles de Gaulle — after I’d missed the train, by the way — my credit card was refused. I pulled out my brand new AA Advantage card. It worked. It worked again when I bought a new train ticket to get to Avignon. It didn’t work when I wanted euros out of the ATM. So what did I do? I messaged my adorable daughter-in-law! She was home. I gave her all my credit card information and she called the bank impersonating me. Voila!

I don’t even want to think what my next step would have been.

Rule #4 – Make certain you have all the keys at your destination

Breaking this rule had me standing in the street outside my apartment in Uzes until the wee hours of the night of my arrival.

Let me take you back a little to the day(s) of the trip to explain my state of delirium.

WOW Airlines

WOW Airlines

As you recall from the last post, I chose to try the “budget” route back to France. I saved $500-600 dollars on the one-way fare. In so doing, my trip consisted of four legs — Atlanta to Charlotte; to Boston; to Iceland; to Paris. Unfortunately, the plane sat on the runway in Boston for three hours as a terrible thunderstorm swept over the airport. Fortunately WOW airline waited for us to arrive in Iceland. Never mind, we were still three hours late to Paris. Since I’d given myself barely three hours between original air arrival time and departure time on the train to Avignon, I missed the train.

This story gets longer and more confusing, so I’ll save getting a ticket exchange, maneuvering through the airport to the train, and other such information for the next post. 

When I arrived in Avignon, Geoffrey was there waiting, as planned. (I was able to text to him about the delay.) Happily we chatted all the way from the Avignon TGV station to Uzes. Since he was as exhausted as me, I insisted that I could carry my own bags to the apartment.

He asked: “You have your keys, right?

I knew I had the key ring that I retrieved from the dresser drawer in Atlanta. The keys had been safely tucked away since my arrival there in December.

Yes, of course,” I said dangling the keys in front of him. “Right here,” I added.

I no longer have the set of keys you gave me,” he stated.

He had given the keys to my friend who was minding the apartment while I was gone. She lives in Nimes.

With that, I bounded out of the door, grabbed the bags as Geoffrey handed them out of the car, and headed for the big wooden doors to the apartment building.

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

I even remember the code for the entrance door this time,” I chimed smugly.

Good thing,” Geoffrey replied, remembering the code had been a problem on my last return from the states.

By the time I carried the bags through the big door that leads to the atrium to my building, I was feeling the pain from my long journey.

Only 55 steps and I’ll be home,” I said to myself as I staggered up the first 20 steps.

2013-07-11 10.20.29The red door that leads into the tower was a welcomed sight. I fumbled with the keys and the lock to the tower door. It opened.

“Almost there,” I panted.

Now up 20 steps to the door to my apartment. Key in door. Open.

Then up the remaining 10 steps to my living room and bedroom area where there are more locked doors.

This open door was locked. closed. Here's the spot where i landed in despair!

This open door was locked. closed. Here’s the spot where i landed in despair!

These doors were locked. AACCHH! There were no more keys.

Where was  that third key?!

At that point, I don’t know whether I screamed or fainted. All I do know is, after taking every bag and parcel I was carrying apart more than once, I flopped on one of the stone steps, close to tears.

If I had thought there would be a resolution to the problem in the morning, I may have slept on the spiral steps.

Knowing that wouldn’t be the case, I pulled myself together and tried, in vain, to call Geoffrey. No answer. I called his number again and again. No answer.

OK,” says me to me. “He must be at a bar downtown, “I surmised. “I’ll go to one of the restaurants near his house and wait for him to go home.”

I could close and lock the door on one level of the apartment, so I left my bags behind. Off I went.

When I reached downtown, the first restaurant I came to was closed. The second restaurant I walked to was closing. The restaurant owner told me the only places open at this hour would be at Place des Herbes — the touristy fountain area of town.

Sure enough, Terroirs was still serving customers.

I wasn’t the least bit hungry, even though I’d eaten only one meal since I left Atlanta, 26 hours earlier. But I did need to sit down. I composed myself as best I could, then engaged the waiter. She could speak some English, so I told her my plight. Bless her heart, she was as upset as I should have been. I was numb. She brought a menu and a bottle of cold water.

Then an idea came to my head. “Why don’t I just look for a hotel or place to stay? Even if it was almost midnight.” Then I remembered I had the telephone number of a friend of a friend who, I thought, owned a B&B.

I called.

It turns out he doesn’t own a B&B, but, he was awake and he did have the keys for our friend’s three-story mansion — across from the Duche! In 20 minutes he had called our friend, met me at our friend’s home, opened the door, and showed me to the guest bedroom.  

View from the guest bedroom

View of the Duche from the guest bedroom

I landed in heaven!

Next day, I was awakened by a phone call at 2pm from the friend in Nimes who had the set of keys. All the keys. I picked myself up, packed up, and rescued the set of keys from her office in Uzes.

Lessons learned?

All of the above are rules that will stick indelibly into my brain. I hope. However, on another note … if these things didn’t happen to me, would life be so grand?

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12 Things You’ll Miss in France This Year

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In case you haven’t heard, this is the year to visit France. The euro to US dollar is at a twelve-year low. If you don’t already have your bags packed, here are a few things you’ll surely miss staying at home.

#1

Sunset on the French Rivera

Sunset on the French Rivera

 

#2

 

Un-shuttered windows and flowerpots

Un-shuttered windows and pots with bright flowers

 

#3

 

Narrow, winding, ancient village streets

Narrow, winding, ancient streets

 

#4

 

Morning breaking over stone skycaps

Morning breaking over stone skyscapes

 

#5

 

Vineyards and poppies and chateaus  with tile roofs

Vineyards and poppies and chateaus with tile roofs

 

#6

 

Bright lights on sparkling water

Brilliant lights and sparkling waters

 

#7

 

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Quiet walks on sleepy canals

 

 

#8

 

Finding wonder through peepholes

Finding wonder through peepholes

 

#9

 

Music in the streets

Music in the streets

 

#10

 

Busy sidewalks and Saturday Markets

Sidewalk cafes and Saturday Markets

 

#11

 

Majestic cathedrals

Majestic cathedrals

 

 

HISTORY

HISTORY

Where will it be?

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