Snow was falling on the rooftops and sidewalks of Paris as we walked downhill to our métro station, Pigalle. But as our TGV, Train de Grande Vitesse, headed out of Paris towards Avignon in the south of France, the sun was shining brightly. Despite coughing, chills, and general malaise gripping my body, I tried to appreciate the little clusters of red-tiled roofs with a single church spire rising from the middle and the large swaths of farmland with grazing sheep.
When our train pulled into the Avignon station, Maryse and Jean were there to meet us. Maryse took me, arm in arm, directly to the pharmacy where I was directed to take massive doses of Tylenol, fizzy aspirin and a throat spray for my mal à la gorge.
We walked on the famous Pont d'Avignon where St-Benezet was told by God to build this bridge over the River Rhone. After dinner we walked down the main store-lined street and saw Esprit, Pandora, Foot Locker, McDonald's and their French counterparts.
Sunday morning we stepped out of the hotel onto the Place de l'Horlage. The sun was
shining but the wind was icy cold. That did not deter Catherine from wanting to endlessly ride the carrousel, so her daddy and Papi lovingly obliged. We walked across the cobblestoned street to the Palais des Papes which is the largest Gothic building in the Christian West. In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Pope Clement V appointed a majority of French cardinals who then elected French and not Italian popes. This caused the church to be divided from 1378-1417. The palace was built in 1334 and, since the Avignon popes had a greater desire for comfort and luxury, they created not only a fortress, but also an ornate urban palace.
Next we drove to the Pont du Gard which is located between Nîmes and Avignon. To get there we drove past small vineyards and olive groves. It was a beautiful walk towards the Roman aqueduct where we passed by an olivier that dated back to the year 908. This aqueduct was built around the year 50 to bring water from its source near Uzès to Nîmes and is the highest Roman aqueduct bridge in the world. Looking at this incredible feat of engineering, one can't help but be totally humbled by the construction. With Tom's help, I made the trek up to see the panoramic view of the bridge which was a great feat for me since I felt sick from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes.
We walked through the Provençal town of Uzès and bought cookies, some filled with chocolate, almond, lemon, or apple spice. The drive back to Avignon seemed especially long since Catherine had lost all patience with us. Luckily she loved flirting with the customers at the restaurant, Le Vintage, where the duck, steak tartare and Paris Brest for dessert totally exceeded our expectations.
After a quick tour of Avignon's back streets and sitting at a café drinking a café noisette on Monday morning, we said our goodbyes to our friends, Maryse and Jean and promised to try to return again someday. As the TGV entered the Paris environs, Catherine said, "Almost home?" And I answered, "Yes, Baby. We are almost home".