So the day for us to embark on our European trip had arrived. I had spent quite a lot of time planning for this trip, you know, like spent some time looking for restaurants with yummy food. 😛 Our travel dates were very much dependent on the dates for Roland Garros. Somehow Roland Garros started bit late this year, so our travel period ate into June, which is not quite my favourite month for travel (read: crowds!). No matter though, where Rafa and Paris are concerned. So I was very happy to secure tickets for the men’s semis and finals, although we had rather lousy seats for the semis. After getting the tickets, I proceeded to book our flight tickets. This time round, being much more savvy, I had booked all accommodations and transport at least 3 months ahead of our departure date, which translates to lower prices!! 😛
Do indulge the long-winded me for a while more. Its interesting how people evolve when they become more experienced. I remember very clearly, many years ago, when I was preparing for my first trip overseas with my then boyfriend (who’s my husband now), I had finished packing my luggage something like 1 week before the departure date! 1 week! And now? Starting packing only the day before our flight to Paris and only finished packing on the day of departure. I can only hope my enthusiasm for travelling would never dim.
So our flight departed from Singapore at 2355hrs on a Saturday night. Fast forward to touchdown at CDG at around 0700 hours. Hmm, I’m starting to really dislike long haul flights, but there is nothing I can do about it, short of flying in business. Anyway, we were heading to Provence immediately after the flight. Our only problem was the train to Provence was to depart at 1140hrs. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to clear customs and to get our lugagge, and how difficult it would be to get to the train on time in the event of a flight delay. So, I decided a decent amount of time in between would be good. But there was no flight delay. We cleared customs really fast (they are still just stamping the passports) and got our luggage pretty fast too. So I think we were done within one hour of our flight touching down.
So we headed to the TGV at terminal 2 and you ask why didn’t we change our train ticket to an earlier timing? Because I had bought the tickets at a very good price that doesn’t allow for exchanges or refunds, we were stuck with the ones we had. 🙄 And mind you, we touched down on a Sunday. And I think the TGV train timings on Sundays are not the most convenient ones, at least for us.
So after we had some fuel, we decided to start up the GPS units that we had brought along, as we would be getting the rented car immediately upon arriving at Avignon.
It was a rainy day and it was pretty chilly but it felt really good to enjoy some cool air as opposed to the humid heat we are constantly exposed to in Singapore.
So there was nothing to do but to find seats and wait for time to pass. And we were initially confused about the North and South entrance at the TGV, thinking that different exits might lead to different train platforms. In the end, we figured the TGV trains are long enough to require a North and South entrance. 😉 The wait was the longest wait of our lives! Never again! We cannot waste precious time like that in the future!
And we reached Avignon TGV and headed for a quick toilet break. I can’t actually remember paying to use any toilets last year we were in France. And a trip to the toilet costs a hefty 0.50 euros. That is pretty expensive, in my opinion.
So we headed to EuropCar to get our car. And they didn’t have our Audi for us. 😥 So we made do with a Citroen DS4. And similar to last year, in what is turning out to be a tradition, we had a problem putting the car into reverse mode. For the car we had last year, there was a button to press to engage the reverse gear. This year, thanks to a Frenchman who showed us how to reverse the car through demonstration (he couldn’t speak English, we can’t speak French), it turned out that one has to pull the gear stick UP to engage the reverse gear. What a timely reminder we were indeed in France and no longer in Singapore whereby everything is so very standardised (read: boring!). I just wonder how does the French know what they have to do to engage the reverse gear, as the Frenchman we asked was driving a KIA. So at this very moment, yes, NOW, I conveyed this thought to my husband and he said that Frenchman is actually an Avis employee. 😉
The GPS was kind to us and we reached Arles in about 40 mins. We drove right up to the hotel (Le Calendal) and deposited our luggages in our room and got instructions on getting to the car park. We were given a carpark ticket which would allow us to make unlimited entries and exits. We took the wrong turn and had to make a detour to get to the car park. However, when we did get there, the barrier at the entrance did not lift up for us! After inserting the carpark ticket into the machine, there seemed to be an error message. But it was in French and I wasn’t quite sure if there was something wrong with the ticket. So I pressed the ‘Help’ button, hoping for ….help. 😎 After 2 or 3 tries, a man’s voice came on. I asked “Parlez vous anglais?” and he said apologetically “Non”. I really didn’t know what to do but tried to convery we had a problem. “Problem, problem” with a French accent of course! Then I repeated “Hotel Calendal” a few times. I think he finally understood we are staying at Hotel Le Calendal and obviously have a problem. So he ‘Ahhh, Le Calendal” and viola, the barrier was lifted! PHEW!! And of course, I said my “Merci beaucoup”. That was getting very very stressful!
This is the street Le Calendal is on. Spot the hotel yet?
And it has this car as its mascot.
There’s a notice on the car that kindly invites people to take photos of the car and to even enter the car for photo taking. I took up the invite and went into the car. The seat felt like a very used foam couch. Hmmm, cute, but so vintage. 😛
So we conveyed our problem with the car park to the receptionist and she was surprised to hear of our problem. She said there’s probably a problem on this Sunday but no worries, the next morning everything would be solved.
A photo of the reception. You can see the room keys on the board at the wall. The keys were held with colourful keychains.
And here’s our bright cheery colourful room. We both liked this room a lot. It sure helped to lift our mood after 20 hours of travelling.
And a pretty and clean bathroom!
The cherry on top of the cake? The view from our room! Its marvellous!
Look at the cheery curtains
We thoroughly enjoyed the view!
And we could see this tower from our room, although we had no idea what this tower is.
I suspect it is a clock tower.
So after all the hours on the move, we were happy to just stay in the room, enjoy a nice shower and the tennis being shown on the TV. It was the first weekend of Roland Garros afterall!
By 6pm or so, we started to feel hungry. So we headed to the reception and asked for some recommendations on restaurants. The receptionist gave us a list of recommended restaurants in Arles but our choice was highly limited as it was a Sunday. FYI, Sundays and Mondays are usually the quieter days of the week in France. So we headed to a recommended restaurant just a few doors down the street. Unfortunately, the restaurant was fully booked. I was starting to get worried as most restaurants with good food are small and I had expected them to be fully booked. I really regretted not making reservations in advance for our stay in Provence. (I did make reservations in advance for restaurants in Paris!)
So we decided to walk to the other two recommended restaurants which open on Sunday and try our luck. However, in the vicinity of the 2nd restaurant, we saw a pretty Italian restaurant and having pasta for dinner sounded very good to us. So in we went. Initially we had chosen terrace sitting but we were so bothered by flies we requested to move inside the restaurant. A good thing we did because halfway through our meal, it started pouring. 😎 The interior of the restaurant is very pretty, with stone walls.
So we started with an appetiser to share. It was some fried chicken roll.
We both ordered pasta.
I had ordered the cream pasta. What was interesting about this dish is that it was accompanied by a raw egg. The waitress didn’t leave any instructions for the egg but I presumed it was to be mixed into the pasta. So that’s what I did and the pasta got more creamy. Although the pasta was a bit too al dente, I’m just glad it wasn’t soggy. All in all, food was fine, nothing to shout about but nothing to complain about too. Or we were just too hungry! 😐
And we had company for dinner!
What a plump French dog! 😛 I had thought the French would keep their dogs as slim and well, French. 😉 It was a cute friendly dog that a customer brought into the restaurant. Apparently its owner knew the restaurant staff well as the dog wandered on the premises while its owner was chatting with the staff. The owner of the dog was waiting for pizza to go and it was probably waiting for bread crumbs 😛
So feeling a wee bit carbo-overloaded, we decided to walk around Arles to get a feel of the town.
As we headed back towards the direction of the hotel, we came across the most outstanding sight in Arle -the amphitheatre.
Loved the flowers!
A signage showing the attractions nearby.
A interesting layout for a restaurant. Closed on Sunday.
A peek into Theatre Antique.
Place de la Republique:
We were getting really sleepy, so headed back to Le Calendal and enjoyed an early night.
Nick woke up in the middle of the night and said the sky remained very blue and took a picture of the of the sky from the bed using his iphone with some filter.
Ah, how blissful it was to be in Provence again!