Plaisirs de France – en Anglais

December 9th, 2019

It was late spring, or perhaps early summer – at least between the dawn of summer and the time when animals and humans finally adapt to the new era – that I saw the alluring offer on Spot Deal: a week at a small family run hotel in southern France with the name Villa Mon Amour en Provence

Honestly – where else is one to take one’s beloved on a wedding anniversary trip than to the hotel Villa Mon Amour en Provence? Where van Gogh’s Arles and Avignon and Cézanne’s Aix-en-Provence – as well as Pont du Gard, Uzès and the Camargue, with its white horses and the dead city, Aigues-Mortes – are within easy reach. Not to mention vineyards and outlets, olive fields and olive oil outlets, French food and sunshine and lovely landscapes.

So with that accommodation booked, the stay prepaid and the dates in place, it was only necessary to decide the itinerary and the overnight accommodation along the way.

The driving distance is 1500 km, doable over two days for one driver and passenger – which meant accommodation in the Strasbourg/Freiburg area in both directions. A small apartment in the spa town of Baden-Baden was chosen and the two nights in question prepaid.

Almost automatically, the route used the Rødby-Puttgarten ferry, the Autobahn A1 to Hamburg, the Autobahn A7 continuing via Hannover and Kassel and then the Autobahn A5 towards Baden-Baden and the German-French border near Müllheim and Mulhouse. The departure day was Saturday.

Drivers experienced in Germany immediately warn of Autobahnstaub between Hamburg and Hannover, due to longer road works, on Saturdays as well, but Google gave 8.75 hours for the trip including the ferry and delays, which seemed OK.

I would not claim that the trip was not hassle-free, but there were no accidents.

Thus, Alexej, the host of our first (and last) overnight stay, in Baden-Baden, sent a text message late Thursday night – 30 hours before departure – about plumbing problems and that he had to cancel our first overnight stay.

He suggested somewhere else and would refund our prepayment. On Friday morning, before I’d booked the ‘new’ place, Alexej said that it was fully booked. He suggested another new place that we contacted and got confirmation from shortly after.

Later, Alexej said that his bank had trouble sending the money back – it was probably the strange Danish letters in the street agddress, so the address was changed to an alphabet that also IT programs developed by American programmers without language skills can understand; the money has come back.

Unfortunately, the drivers experienced in German traffic were right in their warnings. At one point there was one car length forwards for every 5-10 minutes over a longer stretch. Lunch time disappeared at Münster, and when we reached the designated place for lunch, the delay was over three hours.

I had told Artur, the new host in Baden-Baden, that we expected to arrive at 6 to 6.30 p.m. But after the highway delays, there were a few other things that meant we first arrived at 10 p.m. The apartment was on a side road to a pedestrian street in the old town, and there is no parking there. Not that my GPS could direct us there as the access road required codes for the moving bollards blocking the road.

Finally we found a parking garage for a large department store a la Harrods – fortunately within walking distance.

We found the apartment, took the keys out of the coded locker – but we couldn’t open the door. We called Artur. “Everyone can do that,” he asserted. We are not everyone. He came and unlocked the door for us and showed us what to do.

Fortunately, we had not eaten our packed lunch, which was in a refrigerator in the car, so it was our dinner.

By 8 the following morning we were ready for departure. Down the stairs, through the main door, lock it and hang the keys in the locker. Five steps down the street towards the pedestrian street … “My wallet is up in the apartment!”

In addition to money, credit cards and passports, my wallet contained the parking ticket, so we had a problem.

Take the keys out of the locker, put them in the doorlock and – problems.

There was nothing to do but try (unsuccessfully) over and over again, and call Artur, who was asleep. He came to us within half an hour, a little angry, but opened the door. Finally, with the wallet in my pocket, we could walk to the parking garage and drive out of town.

We saw this shop window at the end of the road we lived on, shook our heads, and said, ”Non! Nous sommes pas jolie!

On Sunday I had expected to drive on the Autoroute A36 to Beaune, and from there with the A6 to Lyon, and the A7 to Orange. But no, the GPS wanted the A36 and the A42 to the south of Lyon, through traffic on péripherique sud to the A7 and then to Orange.

A small stretch of the A9 – La Languedocienne – brought us to the exit for Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres (which is actually in the Gard département, adjacent to but not in Provence), where Hotel Mon Amour de Provence is located in the town centre. A seven hour drive including lunch break.

Received from our hostess, our room key set also had the key to the main gate – but, having collected our luggage from the car we could not get the lock work several times and needed help to get from inside.

Behind the gate is a small paved courtyard with a staircase up to the first floor with five rooms, as well as hallways and living areas. Our room had a double bed, a large wardrobe, table, chairs and an ample bathroom. From the two windows there was a view over the inner courtyard and its swimming pool – maybe 5 meters wide and 15 meters long – and sunbeds and chairs.

On the bedside table was a card with instructions/exhortations on the use of the pool. Especially point three is important.

During Sunday, Alexej had sent a new text message that the plumbing problems meant that we could not stay with him on the return trip either, so Sunday evening was used to find another new accommodation option. One place fell to our liking, a Landgasthotel just outside Baden-Baden’s city centre. No problems.

Sunday night we ate at the hotel – where Christine made finer French peasant food (one evening it was a delicious beuf bourgignon), three courses, for € 25 each guest (similar to restaurant prices in France), plus any wine (you buy a bottle that lasts as long as it lasts). The dining table had seating for 10 people for communal dining, but we were alone.

Here it is worth mentioning that Christine is Française and mother of Nicolas, who owns the hotel and otherwise runs a restaurant in Skindergade in Copenhagen’s city centre (the rooms do not have numbers, but are named after various children and grandchildren – ours was called Manon). As we were a little tired after the trip, we went up to the room and read.

During the evening there was some noise and the next day someone took an early trip in the pool. It turned out that Nicolas and a friend had passed by before returning to Denmark.

We enjoyed the breakfast – bread, cheese, marmelade, muesli, coffee, but not wine – at the communal table before deciding to look at the town of Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres.

When you, like us, live in a small Danish town with about 6,000 inhabitants and a pretty lively daily life (Præstø), you realise that a town with 3,000 inhabitants has not so much to offer. A tower, the remains of the city wall, a Romanesque church, and narrow streets and barred alleys with more or less charming houses, a tabac, a real estate agent (the properties are not cheap) and the three restaurants we found (all closed: the season was over) constituted the rapidly overlooked, hard core of the town. Just as well you have the scenery, the wine and the time while the temperature sneaks up into the high 20s.

Well – when were we going to Avignon, Arles, Pont du Gard, the wineries?

On Tuesday we went to a wine outlet at Tavel (best known for rosé wines) on our way to Avignon. Tavel is not far from Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres and the outlet is on the outskirts of the village and is partly surrounded by vineyards.

With the help of a lady (one of the best who said they only spoke a little English – “un peu“) who obviously knew more than enough about wine, we got to taste four different wines – and was told that the taste difference is mostly due to the terroir, e.g. sandy or rocky soil and the various varieties of grapes (outside the outlet were 5-6 beds with different types of soil and grapes to look at).

We chose a box of biodynamic rosé (grown without artificial fertilizers) and a box of mixed rosé wines. The price for the most expensive was € 9 (DKK 70-75) per bottle, probably at least DKK 100 or more cheaper than in Denmark, if you can find them in a store here.

And no – I did not drink the wine during the tasting (you spit it out into a little sink) and thus could drive on. (You’re supposed to have two breathalysers in the car, and use them if in doubt…)

Before Avignon there is a town called Villeneuve-lez-Avignon (it is also called Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, but the one with ‘z’ is odd), where we stopped for a little late lunch.

The town is known for Fort Saint-André on a hill outside the city; the tower of Tour Philippe Le Bel, on the river toward Avignon, and the Church of Notre Dame, the last two from the 13th century, as well as the Notre-Dame-du-val-de-Bénédiction monastery.

In the central square we found an restaurant, Aubergine, where one of the owners is from the small and delightful Danish island of Ærø. She and her husband have owned Aubergine for 10-11 years. The food is highly recommended.

One afternoon is not enough for Avignon if you want to see the Pope’s Palace and Pont St-Bénézet (“Sur le pont d ‘Avignon….”), as well as everything else.

It’s easiest is to park (free) on the Villeneuve-lez-Avignon side of Pont Édouard Daladier and walk across the bridge and into Place Crillon, just inside the city wall, where everything is within easy reach (there is also a bus from the parking lot). Otherwise, it costs to park…

The Pope’s Palace is an expensive and well-visited attraction and access to the famous bridge is not free.

In the Pope’s Palace there was a strong and moving exhibition of French artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s pictures under the title ECCE HOMO. His works illustrate, among other things, the condition of the poor and immigrants in France and the condition of the blacks in South Africa during and because of apartheid.

He is also known for using classic motifs in contemporary reproductions, such as in 2015 for using Michelangelo’s statue Pietà as a model to celebrate (?) the 40th anniversary of the death of Italian writer, philosopher and film director Pier Paolo Pasolini; in Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s version Pasolini bears the perished Pasolini. On the morning of November 2, 1975, Pasolini was found killed on the beach at Ostia.

The Les Halles marketplace in Avignon (signposted) is free to visit, the selection of (fresh) goods far exceeds that in the similar market in Copenhagen (which is also physically smaller), and the prices are quite inviting…

We visited Avignon again a few days later. in connection with a trip to the mountain village of les Baux de Provence. Here, French geologist Pierre Berthier discovered an intriguing material in 1821, named bauxite.

Near the village lies the Carrières de Lumières, a quarry from which large white stones were carved for use in construction; the quarry is today transformed into a place with son et lumière events – the day we were there works by Vincent van Gogh as well as some older Chinese artists were projected on rock walls, ceilings, floors and the crowd, while good classical music was played. In previous months, it was Chagall and Picasso.

Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gaugin shared a studio in northern Arles – a small yellow house on Place Lamartine – for 63 days in the autumn of 1888. It was during this stay that the so-called drama in Arles took place – it was the culmination of a quarrel between the two painters and led van Gogh to cut off one ear and send it to a prostitute whom the two artists had visited.

We did not find that house, but we found the more central La Fondation Vincent van Gogh, which, in addition to conducting research and keeping archives on the painter, also exhibits a few (just a handful) of his pictures – the painter partly paid his way through life by painting and donating pictures to his creditors.

So did Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani. And the two contemporaries – (van Gogh: 1853–1890 and Pirosmani: 1862–1918) – lived poorly. Pirosmani received little recognition and was ridiculed for his naivistic painting style.

The now-closed double show,”Niko Pirosmani – Wanderer between Worlds; Vincent van Gogh: Speed & Aplomb”, was interesting because of the different styles of the painters.

In the area around Avignon, Arles and Nîmes there is something not to be missed: the 2000-year-old Roman Pont du Gard, a combined aqueduct and bridge over the Gardon River, completed about 18 BC.

There are three levels with a total height of 49 m – in the upper level the water flowed, at the lowest a bridge was made for pedestrians (you can no longer drive here, and certainly not on the other levels). The bridge is 275 m long.

The Pont du Gard was part of a 50-km-long water supply that brought water from a well close to Uzès to the Roman city of Nemausus (today Nîmes). The direct distance between the two cities is approx. 35 km. Daily, the bridge carried approx. 20,000 m³ of water. Over this stretch there is a decrease of approx. 17 m – or approx. 0.34 ‰.

From the nearby cliffs you have exhilarating views of the Gardon River and the surrounding countryside to the town of Remoulins.

A museum and an exhibition give a good impression of the Roman construction method. Among other things. the wooden forms for the arches were later used for the arches of Roman-style churches.

The Gardon River flows through the Gorges du Gardon landmark, with approx. 270 km of hiking trails.

We obviously had not had enough fresh air and wine. After our last breakfast at Villa Mon Amour en Provence in Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres, we drove for 90 minutes northwestwards to another village, Joyeuse, in Ardèche, where we were to spend the night. The trip was on a road with hairpin bends, climbs, falls and great views – through the canyons of the Gorges de la Cèze.

But first lunch, a visit to the Lablanchère cave wine cooperative outlet and then to their publicised Sentier Vigneron.

It was good that we chose that order as the cave closed 30 minutes after we bought wine, being Sunday.

First a croque monsieur and some water in a nearby café, then in the cave where we tasted the wines we had chosen in advance – and discovered that they had lowered the prices per box of six bottles by 10% to make room for the new wines. With the wine boxes in the car we went over to the overview map – for the Sentier Vigneron or Winemaker’s Trail hike.

This walk was marked as 9 km (5.5 miles) and two and a half hours, with a level difference of 80 m. What was not stated was that the level differences often happened on steep rocky slopes without many opportunities to cling to trees and the like. The paths through the vineyards and the wine terraces were good gravel or dirt paths, the connecting roads between them were paved, but then there were these steep ascents or descents that challenged the pedestrians and especially their legs.

Well, we weren’t pressed for time (the wine had been bought after all), but the timing was perhaps a little optimistic. A little tired we drove to Joyeuse (whose edge we touched on during the hike).

Somewhat larger than Saint-Laurent, this elongated town is a relatively quiet countryside town; we lived in a house on a parallel road to the main street, separated from this by a steeply descending road that led up to a hotel that was probably the city’s only quality eatery.

Our hostess, Catherine, has a background in the French Foreign Ministry, with several years of postings in Africa and a craze for various locally made objects – figurines and furniture – that now characterise her home. She assured us that the house was not built around some large and heavy wooden furniture, but it is good that we are not the ones to move them …

The next day, driving on a route nationale brought us to the A7, the Autoroute du Soleil, a little north of Montélimar, to Lyon, Mulhouse, the Rhine and Baden-Baden and via the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse to our hotel, Landgasthof Hirsch, i Geroldsau. Friendly staff, a good room with a large double bed and a large bathroom, a cozy atmosphere and quiet despite the rather well-traveled B500 right outside the door (and our windows).

An interesting experience in the restaurant gave us some insight into the Baden-Baden residents. At dinner, a married couple in the 50-70 age group sat down at the neighbouring table.

With his long, curly, white hair, round glasses and casual clothes, including bright red trousers, he was eye-catching. So was she – youthfully smart in her clothes, with tight leather trousers, big hair – maybe helped by extensions – and Botox-tight facial expressions. They greeted us pleasantly, and began to speak among themselves in the local dialect – apparently about fashion and other cultural issues.

They left the restaurant before us – greeting us again – and when we were the last we asked the waitress if there was anything special about the neighbouring couple, if they did have anything to do with fashion.

The answer was, no, they were typical of Baden-Baden residents – slightly eccentric, snobbish and culture-loving, fashionable people who undoubtedly enjoyed life, no matter the cost.

The following day, after a full breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, we made the return trip – in rainy weather, which, more than a few roadworks, resulted in a half-hour delay on the way to Denmark …

Plaisirs de France

October 28th, 2019

Det var sent forår, eller måske tidlig sommer – i hvert fald mellem sommertidens indførelse og det tidspunkt, hvor dyrene og menneskene endeligt tilpasser sig den nye tid – at jeg så det lokkende tilbud på Spot Deal: en uge på et lille familiedrevethotel i Sydfrankrig ved navnet Villa Mon Amour en Provence. 

Ærligt talt – hvor ellers skal man tage sin elskede på bryllupsdagsrejsen end til hotellet Villa Mon Amour en Provence? Hvor van Goghs Arles og Avignon og Cézannes Aix-en-Provence – samt bl.a. Pont du Gard, Uzès og Camargue, med sine hvide heste og den døde by, Aigues-Mortes – er indenfor rækkevidde. For ikke at tale om vinmarker og udsalg, olivenoliemarker og udsalg, fransk mad og solskin og dejlige landskaber.

Så med bestillingen hjemme, opholdet forudbetalt og datoerne på plads, var det kun nødvendigt at beslutte rejseruten og overnatningen undervejs.

Køreafstanden er 1500 km, overkommeligt over to dage for én chauffør og passager – hvilket betød overnatning i området Strasbourg/Freiburg i begge retninger. En lille lejlighed i kurbyen Baden-Baden blev valgt og de to pågældende overnatninger forudbetalt.

Næsten automatisk blev rejseruten Rødby-Puttgarten, Autobahn A1 til Hamburg, Autobahn A7 videre via Hannover og Kassel og så Autobahn A5 mod Baden-Baden og den tysk-franske grænse nær Müllheim og Mulhouse. Afgangsdagen var lørdag.

Tysklandsfarer advarer straks om Autobahnstaub mellem Hamburg og Hannover, på grund af vejarbejde på længere strækninger, også om lørdagen, men Google gav 8,75 timer for turen inklusiv færgen og forsinkelser, som syntes OK.

Jeg vil ikke påstå at turen ikke var problemfri, men den var ikke uheldsramt.

Således sendte Alexej, værten på vores første (og sidste) overnatning, i Baden-Baden, en sms sent torsdag aften – 30 timer før afgang – om VVS-problemer, og at han var nødt til at annullere vores første overnatning.

Han foreslog et andet sted og ville tilbageoverføre vor forudbetaling. Fredag morgen, inden jeg havde booket det ‘nye’ sted sagde Alexej at dér var fuldbooket. Han foreslog et nyt sted, som vi kontaktede og fik bekræftelse på kort efter.

Senere sagde Alexej at hans bank havde problemer med at sende pengene retur – det var nok de sære danske bogstaver, så adressen blev rettet til et alfabet som også IT-programmer udviklet af ulærde amerikanske programmører kan forstå; pengene er kommet retur.

Desværre havde tysklandsfarerne ret i deres advarsler. På et tidspunkt var der tale om én billængde frem for hvert 5-10 minutter over en længere strækning. Frokosttiden forsvandt ved Münster, og da vi nåede det udpegede sted for frokosten var forsinkelsen på over tre timer.

Jeg havde sagt til Artur, den nye vært i Baden-Baden, at vi forventede at ankomme kl. 18-18.30. Men efter motorvejsforsinkelserne var der et par andre ting, der betød at vi først ankom kl. 22. Lejligheden lå på en sidevej til en gågade i det gamle by, og der er ingen parkeringsmulighed dér. Ikke at min GPS kunne dirigere os derhen, da adgangsvejen krævede koder til de bevægelige pullerter, der blokerer vejen.

Til sidste fandt vi et parkeringshus til et stort indkøbsvarehus a lá Magasin – heldigvis indenfor gåafstand.

Vi fandt lejligheden, tog nøglerne ud af det kodede nøgleskab – men vi kunne åbne døren. Vi ringede til Artur. ”Det kan alle gøre,” påstod han. Vi er ikke alle. Han kom og låste døren op for os og viste hvad vi skulle gøre.

Heldigvis havde vi ikke spist vores frokostmadpakke, som lå i køleboksen i bilen, så det var vores aftensmad.

Inden kl. 8 følgende morgen var vi afgangsklare. Ned ad trappen, gennem hovedøren, låse den og hænge nøglerne i nøgleskabet. Fem skridt ned ad gaden mod gågaden… ”Min tegnebog er oppe i lejligheden!”

Udover penge, kreditkort og pas indeholdt min tegnebog parkeringsbilletten, så vi var på den.

Nøglerne ud af nøgleskabet, låse døren op og – problemer.

Der var intet at gøre end prøve (resultatløst) igen og igen, og ringe til Artur, som lå og sov. Han kom til os i løbet af en halv time, lidt sur, men åbnede døren. Tilsidst, med tegnebogen i lommen, kunne vi gå til parkeringshuset og køre ud af byen.

Vi så butiksruden for enden af vejen vi boede på, rystede på hovederne, og sagde ”Non! Nous sommes pas jolie!

Søndag havde jeg regnet med at køre på Autoroute A36 til Beaune, og derfra med A6 til Lyon, og A7 til Orange. Men nej, GPS’en mente A36 og A42 til den sydlige del af Lyon, gennem trafikken på périphique sud til A7 og derefter til Orange. 

Et lille stykke A9 – La Languedocienne – bragte os til afkørslen til Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres (der faktisk er i Gard département, der grænser op til men er ikke i Provence), hvor Hotel Mon Amour de Provence findes i bykernen. Syv timers kørsel inklusiv frokostpause.

Vor værelsesnøglesæt havde også nøglen til hovedporten – men den kunne vi hellere ikke finde ud af flere gange og måtte have hjælp til for at komme indenfor.

Bag porten er der en lille stenlagt gård med en trappe op til første sal med fem værelser, samt gange og opholdsrum. Vores værelse havde dobbeltseng, en stor garderobe, bord, stole og et rigeligt stort badeværelse. Fra de to vinduer fik man vue over den indre gård og dens swimmingpool – måske 5 meter bred og 15 meter lang – og solbænke og stole.

Ved natbordet lå der et kort med instrukser/formaninger om brugen af pool’en. Især punkt tre er vigtigt.

I løbet af søndagen havde Alexej sendt en ny sms om at VVS-problemerne betød, at vi ikke kunne bo hos ham på tilbageturen, så søndag aften blev brugt til at finde endnu en ny overnatningsmulighed. Ét sted faldt i vores smag, en Landgasthotel lidt uden for centrum. Ingen problemer.

Søndag aften spiste vi på hotellet – hvor Christine lavede lidt finere fransk bondemad (den ene aften var det en herlig beuf bourgignon), tre retter, for 25€ hver gæst, plus eventuelt vin (man køber en flaske, der holder så længe den holder). Spisebordet havde plads til 10 personer til fællesspisning, men vi var alene. 

Her er det på sin plads at nævne, at Christine er Française og mor til Nicolas, der er i ejerskabet af hotellet og ellers driver en restaurant i Skindergade i Københavns midtby (Værelserne har ikke nummer, men er opkaldt efter diverse børn og børnebørn – vores hed Manon). Da vi var lidt træt efter rejsen, gik vi op til værelset og læste.

I løbet af aftenen var der en del støj, og dagen efter tog én en tidlig tur i pool’en. Det viste sig at Nicolas og en ven var kommet forbi, før de tog tilbage til Danmark.

Vi nød morgenmaden – brød, ost, müsli, kaffe, dog ikke vin – ved fællesbordet før vi besluttede at se på byen Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres. 

Når man som os bor i en lille dansk by med omtrent 6.000 indbyggere og en ret livlig dagligdag (Præstø), går det op for en at en by med 3.000 indbyggere ikke har så meget at byde på. Et tårn, resterne af bymuren, en kirke i romansk stil, og snævre gader og spærrede gyder med mere eller mindre charmerende huse, en tabac, en ejendomsmægler (ejendommene er ikke billige) og de tre restauranter vi fandt (alle lukkede: sæsonen var overstået) udgjorde den hurtigt oversete, hårde bykerne. Godt man har landskabet, vinen og tiden mens temperaturen sniger sig op i de høje 20’ere.

Nå – hvornår skulle vi til Avignon, Arles, Pont du Gard, vingårde?

Tirsdag tog vi en tur til et vinudsalgssted ved Tavel (mest kendt for rosévine) på vej mod Avignon. Tavel er ikke langt fra Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres og salgsstedet ligger i udkanten af landsbyen, og er dels omgivet af vinmarker.

Ved hjælp af en dame (én af bedste, der kun sagde de talte lidt engelsk – ”un peu”), der tydeligvis vidste mere end nok om vin, fik vi smag på fire forskellige vine – og fik at vide at smagsforskellen mest skyldes grostedet – deres terroir, f.eks. sandet eller stenet jord – og de forskellige vindruesorter (udenfor butikken var der anlagt 5-6 bede med forskellige jordtyper og vindruer, som man kunne se på). 

Vi valgte en kasse biodynamisk rosé (dyrket uden kunstgødning) og en kasse blandede rosévine. Prisen for den dyreste var 9 € (70-75 kr.) per flaske, nok mindst 100 kr. eller mere billigere end i Danmark, hvis man kan finde dem i handlen her.

Og nej – jeg drak ikke vinsmagsprøverne og kunne således køre videre.

Før Avignon er der en by der hedder Villeneuve-lez-Avignon (den hedder også Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, men den med ‘z’ er spøjst), hvor vi standsede for en lidt sen frokost. 

Byen er kendt for Fort Saint-André på en bakke udenfor byen; tårnet Tour Philippe Le Bel, ved floden mod Avignon, og Notre Dame-kirken, de to sidste fra det 13. århundrede, samt karteuserklostret Notre-Dame-du-val-de-Bénédiction.

På det centralt liggende torv fandt vi en restaurant, Aubergine, hvor en af ejerne er fra Ærø. De har ejet Aubergine i 10-11 år. Maden er at anbefale.

En eftermiddag er ikke nok til Avignon, hvis man vil se Pavepaladset og Pont St-Bénézet (Sur le pont d’Avignon….), såvel som alt det andet. 

Det nemmeste er at parkere (gratis) på Villeneuve-lez-Avignon-siden af Pont Édouard Daladier og gå over broen og ind til Place Crillon, lige indenfor bymuren, hvorfra alt er indenfor rækkevidde (der er også en bus fra parkeringspladsen). Ellers koster det at parkere…

Pavepaladset er en dyr og godt besøgt seværdighed og adgangen til den berømte bro er ikke gratis. 

I Pavepaladset var der en stærk og bevægende udstilling af den franske kunstner Ernest Pignon-Ernests billeder under titlen ECCE HOMO. Hans værker illustrerer bl.a. de fattiges og immigranternes kår i France og de sortes kår i Sydafrika under og på grund af apartheid. 

Hen er også kendt for at bruge kendt klassiske motiver i nutidige gengivelser, såsom i 2015 at bruge Michelangelos statue Pietà som model til at fejre (?) 40-års jubilæet for den italienske forfatter, filosof og filminstruktør Pier Paolo Pasolinis død; i Ernest Pignon-Ernests gengivelse bærer Pasolini den omkomne Pasolini. Om morgenen 2. november 1975 blev Pasolini fundet dræbt på stranden ved Ostia.

Markedspladsen Les Halles i Avignon (skiltet) er gratis at besøge, udvalget af (friske) varer overstiger langt det i Torvehallerne i København (som også fysisk er langt mindre), og priserne er ret så indbyderne…

Vi besøgte Avignon igen et par dage senere, bl.a. i forbindelse med en tur til bjerglandsbyen les Baux de Provence. Her opdagede den franske geolog Pierre Berthier et spændede materiale i1821, der fik navnet bauxit.

I nærheden af landsbyen ligger Carrières de Lumiéres, en grube, hvorfra store hvide sten blev hugget til anvendelse i byggeriet; gruben er i dag omlagt til et sted med son et lumière events – den dag vi var der blev værker af Vincent van Gogh samt nogle ældre kinesiske kunstnere projiceret på klippevægge, lofte, gulve og tilskuerne, mens der spilledes god klassisk musik. I de foregående måneder var det Chagall og Picasso.

Vincent van Gogh og Paul Gaugin delte et atelier i det nordlige Arles – et lille gult hus på Place Lamartine – i 63 dage i efteråret 1888. Det var under dette ophold at det såkaldte drama i Arles fandt sted – det var kulminationen på et skænderi mellem de to malere og førte til, at van Gogh skar sit ene øre af og sendte det til en prostitueret, som de to kunstnere havde besøgt. 

Det hus fandt vi ikke, men vi fandt det mere centraltliggende La Fondation Vincent van Gogh, der udover at føre forskning og arkiver om maleren også udstiller nogle få af hans billeder – maleren ”betalte” jo delvist sin vej gennem livet ved at male og donere billeder til sin kreditorer.

Det gjorde den georgiske maler Niko Pirosmani også. Og de to samtidige – (van Gogh: 1853–1890 og Pirosmani: 1862–1918) – levede fattigt. Pirosmani fik liden anerkendelse og blev latterliggjort på grund af sin naivistiske malerstil.

Den nu lukkede dobbeltudstilling, ”Niko Pirosmani – Wanderer between Worlds; Vincent van Gogh: Speed & Aplomb”, var interessant på grund af malernes forskellige stil.

I området her omkring Avignon, Arles og Nîmes er der noget, man ikke skal undlade at se: den 2000-år gamle, romerske Pont du Gard, der er en kombineret akvædukt og bro over floden Gardon, bygget færdig omtrent år 18 før vor tidsregning.

Der er tre etager med en højde på i alt 49 m – i den øverste flød vandet, ved den nederste blev der anlagt en bro til gående (man må ikke længere køre her, og bestemt ikke gå på de andre etager). Broen er 275 m lang.

Pont du Gard var en del af en 50-km lang vandforsyning, der bragte vand fra en kilde tæt på Uzès til den romerske by Nemausus (i dag Nîmes). Afstanden mellem de to byer er ca. 35 km. Dagligt blev der transporteret ca. 20.000 m³ vand. Over denne strækning er der et fald på i alt ca. 17 m – eller ca. 0,34 ‰.

Fra klipperne tæt på har man spændende udsigter over floden Gardon og det nærliggende landskab til byen Remoulins.

Et museum og en udstilling giver gode indtryk af romernes byggemetode. Bl.a. blev træformerne for buerne senere brugt til buerne til kirker i romersk stil.

Floden Gardon flyder gennem seværdigheden Gorges du Gardon, med ca. 270 km vandrestier.

Frisk luft og vin havde vi åbenbart ikke fået nok af. Efter vores sidste morgenmad ved Villa Mon Amour en Provence i Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres kørte vi i 90 minutter mod en anden landsby, Joyeuse, i Ardèche, hvor vi overnattede. Turen var på en vej med hårnålesving, stigninger, fald og flotte udsigter – via kløfterne i Gorges de la Cèze.

Men først frokost, et besøg i udsalgstedet for vinkooperativet i Lablanchère og gå på deres annoncerede Sentier Vigneron

Det var godt at vi valgte dén rækkefølge, da cave’en lukkede 30 minutter efter vi købte vin, idet det var søndag. 

Først en croque monsieur og lidt vand i et nærliggende café, derefter i cave’en, hvor vi smagte på de vine, vi havde valgt på forhånd – og opdagede at de havde satte priserne per kasse af seks flasker ned med 10% for at gøre plads til de ny vine. Med vinkasserne i bilen gik vi over til oversigtskortet for Sentier Vigneron – vandreturen Winemaker’s Trail. 

Denne gåtur var angivet som 9 km og to en halv timer, med en niveauforskel på 80 m. Det, der ikke blev angivet, var at niveauforskellene tit skete på stejle stenede skrænter uden mange muligheder for at holde fast i træer o.l. Selve stierne gennem vinmarkerne og vinterasserne var gode grus- eller jordstier, forbindelsesvejene mellem dem var asfalterede, men hist og pist var der altså disse stejle op- eller nedstigninger, der udfordrede de gående og især deres gangtøj.

Godt vi ikke var presset af tiden (vinen var jo købt), men tidsangivelsen var måske lidt optimistisk. Lidt trætte kørte vi til Joyeuse (hvis udkant vi tangerede på vandreturen). 

Noget større end Saint-Laurent, er denne langstrakte by en forholdsvis stille by på landet; vi boede i et hus på en parallelvej til hovedgaden, adskilt fra denne af en stejlt faldende vej, der førte op til et hotel, der nok var byens eneste kvalitetsspisested. 

Vores værtinde, Catherine, har en baggrund i det franske udenrigsministerium, med flere års ophold i bl.a. Afrika og en hang til hjemtagelse af diverse lokalproducerede genstande – figurer og møbler – der præger hendes hjem. Hun forsikrede os om, at huset ikke var bygget omkring nogle store og tunge træmøbler, men det er godt det ikke er os der skal flytte på dem…

Næste dag bragte kørsel på en route nationale os til A7, Autoroute du Soleil, lidt nord for Montélimar, til Lyon, Mulhouse, Rhinen og Baden-Baden og via Schwarzwaldhochstrasse til vort hotel, Landgasthof Hirsch, i Geroldsau. Venlige medarbejdere, godt værelse med stor dobbeltseng og stort badeværelse, hyggelig atmosfære og stille til trods for den ret så befærdede B500 lige udenfor døren (og vores vinduer). 

En interessant oplevelse i restauranten gav os lidt indblik i Baden-Baden-boerne. Ved aftensmåltidet satte et ægtepar i aldersgruppen 50-70 sig ved nabobordet. 

Med sit lange, krøllede hvide hår, runde briller og afslappet tøj inklusiv knaldrøde bukser var han iøjnefaldende. Det var hun også – ungdommeligt smart i tøjet, med stramme skindbukser, stort hår – måske hjulpet på vej af extensions – og Botox-stram mimik. De hilste pænt, og begyndte at tale indbyrdes på lokal dialekt – tilsyneladende om mode og andre kulturelle emner.

De forlod restauranten før os – pænt hilsende – og da vi var de sidste, spurgte vi servitricen, om der var noget specielt med naboparret, om de var noget med mode. 

Nej, var svaret, de var typisk for Baden-Badens indbyggere – lidt excentriske, snobbede og kulturelskende, mondæne folk, der nok nød at leve livet.

Følgende dag, efter en fyldig morgenmad i hotellets restaurant, gik turen hjemad – i regnvejr, der mere end enkelte vejarbejder forårsagede den halve times forsinkelse på vej mod Danmark…