Friday, November 19, 2010

Jiggety Jog

Everything went smoothly this morning. We were up early (thanks to jetlag) and used our food voucher for breakfast at the hotel. The lines at the airport were long due to the fact that you go through U.S. Customs here before getting on your flight. But we had plenty of time as the agent last night told us to show up early. Our bags took forever (again!) in Orlando, but wonderful Elizabeth was there to pick us up. We headed to Taco Bell for some lunch before heading home to see Kira!

Thankfully Elizabeth had the idea to go inside by herself first and put Kira out back – when Alan and I went in she barked at us first, but when she figured out who it was she got all excited and peed everywhere. Either that or she thought we were ghosts… Lol. I wish I knew what went through her mind! She did seem happy to see us; we decided to stay in Orlando for today and tomorrow and make the final trip home to Savannah on Sunday. Everything felt so normal and yet wrong all at once. I guess being home will take some getting used to!

Things we will miss about living in Lacoste:
1.    Hiking
2.    Hiking
3.    Hiking!
4.    The inconsistent Lacoste bell that never seemed to ring exactly on the hour
5.    Fresh food from the market
6.    Fresh bread
7.    The views around every corner
8.    Curvy little roads
9.    Roundabouts
10.    The metric system
11.    Small, efficient diesel cars
12.    Seeing all the fit athletic outdoorsy people (especially the older ones!)
13.    Saying “Bonjour”
14.    European fashion
15.    Colorful little birds
16.    Agriculture everywhere
17.    Nougat
18.    MuscatĂ© grape juice

Things we will not miss:
1.    The hike up the hill to the house
2.    Everything being closed for two hours over lunch
3.    European parking lots
4.    Mistral wind
5.    Lack of wildlife

Things we are glad to get back to:
1.    Kira!
2.    Clothes dryer
3.    Consistent Internet
4.    English speakers
5.    Some more variety in our clothes
6.    An oven I am not afraid of! (or, our own kitchen)
7.    Taco Bell
8.    Pandora Radio

Things we are not glad to get back to:
1.    Pickups and SUVs
2.    Bad drivers
3.    Traffic lights
4.    Billboards and bombardment by advertisements

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A journey of a thousand miles...

Step 1 to reach home: Check out of hotel.

Step 2: Wait for car lease guy for 15 minutes in the 2 minute waiting area at the terminal. Sign paperwork, and return car.

Step 3: Check in at Lufthansa, get told that you can’t carry on anything more than 8 kg, so our littlest roller bag has to be checked (thank goodness they didn’t actually weigh our other ones like Alan’s camera bag!). After groaning about paying $55 euros for an extra bag, we are informed that Luftansa give you two for free! I swear I read on their site yesterday that you only got one, but we didn’t argue.

Step 4: Fly to Frankfurt, passing over Marseille and Provence on the way. Clouds were covering where we thought Lacoste and our valley would be, but we had a very nice view of the area!
Marseille, Cassis, and the Calanques
Step 5: Fly to Toronto, Canada, and enjoy their very nice in flight entertainment system.

Step 6: Land a little late in Toronto and rush to customs to pick up or luggage to go though U.S. Customs.

Step 7: Tell Air Canada lady we only have 45 minutes to get our flight, can they check on our bags?

Step 8: Start watching the clock with the 4 other people waiting to go to the U.S., all of us with short connections, but ours in the shortest.

Step 9: Hobnob with the customs guy who says he could whiz us through if we didn’t have any checked luggage.

Step 10: Luggage comes 15 minutes before our flight leaves and the attendant tells us we can’t go though. She books us on the 10:15 am flight in the morning, gives us hotel vouchers, and we head back to go through Canadian customs.

Step 11: I spend my first night in Canada! We contemplate that we should have asked if we could spend a whole day here, but really we aren’t prepared and it’s probably time to go home.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A fond farewell to Lacoste

This sign means "You are now leaving Lacoste."
We may not be able to see around the bend,
but we hope whatever the road brings will be
as wonderful as our time here has been.
The car’s windshield was frosted over this morning; thankfully it melted with the defroster, as we didn’t have an ice scraper! It was 7am, the house was locked and the keys were left for Madame Collette. We sat it the car watching the ice melt away to reveal the now familiar view of Bonnieux across the valley. I knew I would miss the view, and as we drove away from Lacoste we had already started making a list of things we would miss about living here.

The drive to Barcelona was uneventful and much less stressful than our original trip over two months ago – how can it really have been that long?! We had carefully printed out directions to get to our hotel, and found it without too much trouble. The room wasn’t ready, so we left the car in the hotel garage and headed out to find some lunch. We had tossed around the idea of going to the Hard Rock CafĂ©, and with the realization that we wouldn’t be tourists much longer we set out for this world-wide tourist attraction.

As we walked along I suddenly realized I felt short – or, more specifically, that everyone else was really tall! It was my first realization of how much I had gotten used to France… and all the short French people : ) At the restaurant I could actually understand other peoples conversations, and while it was nice to be able to talk to the waitress I missed the sound of French voices. I constantly said “Bonjour” and “Merci” and then felt very silly – what was this American doing speaking French to Spaniards, especially when I actually know way more Spanish than French? For the first time in all my travels, I felt more attached to the country I was leaving behind than to home I was heading towards.

Monument to Christopher Columbus - he is
pointing to America. Maybe he is telling us something...
Along the sea
 One place I really wanted to see in Barcelona that we missed before was the Picasso museum. It doesn’t house hardly any of his famous Cubist works, but is filled with his early (and mush more traditional) paintings as well as later works, including pottery. It was a very nice museum, and it also included a temporary exhibit comparing the works of Picasso and Degas, which was quite interesting.

We had brought food from Lacoste for supper (although I managed to leave the peanut butter behind – oops) and so walked back across the city to our hotel, where we watched a good game of soccer on TV before heading to bed for a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s travels.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dentelles, Mt. Ventoux, and Gorges de la Nesque

The day was cloudy, but no rain; the wind wasn’t blowing in Lacoste but we soon founds it whipping the car as we motored north. We had decided to hike around the Dentelles de Montmirail first; these interesting mountains are just to the west of Mt. Ventoux. I thought their name had something to do with teeth, but it actually means lace. Half way through our drive I realized that I had forgotten the hiking book that described the walk; we didn’t have a hiking map of the area, which put us in a bit of a hard spot. We decided to continue on our way and see what we could find.

Unfortunately, the first thing we found was that the road through the Dentelles was “route barre”. The deviation signs lead down roads too small to be on my driving map, and we were soon forced to head back to the main road and try a different approach. We drove around to the east and tried again, but that road turned private after a while instead of reconnecting with our original road like I’d hoped. The next road was more fruitful; a sign for mountain climbers lead us to a trail heading straight up to the base of some of the rocks. We decided to not take our packed lunch with us but to just go on a short hike.

For a short hike we picked a good one; we came out right at a pass between two bits of “lace.” But the wind! It was gusting strong enough to knock you over! We climbed up to the narrow gap (which was probably exacerbating the wind issue) in fits and starts as the wind would practically send us flying off the mountain and then stop altogether for a few seconds. When it is windy in France, it is windier than anywhere else I’ve been! Going down was even harder than coming up; we had to alternate crab-walking and clinging to the rock with quick dashes in the lulls.

I am sitting down and still actively holding on to the rock!
We’d worked up quite an appetite, so our next stop was at an overlook where we sat in our car (out of the wind!) and ate our lunch looking back over a lovely view the Dentelles and the valleys below, with the clouds whipping across the sky above. We could see that the top of Mt. Ventoux (ventoux, by the way, means “windy”) was still in the clouds, but having come this far we decided to go see what we could see anyway.

Looking back at the Dentelles
The road wound up the ridge of the mountain, and we did pass a few bikers (Mt. Ventoux is part of the Tour de France and a very popular bike ride, although I’m not sure I’d make it). But as we reached the edge of the cloud we also reached the end of the road for us; it was closed for cars to the top till May. Oh well!

A little disappointed, we decided to add another stop to our day: the gorges de la Nesque. Located in the valley to the south of the mountain, the gorge was not really on the way home but we decided to cut across and pretend it was : ) The color on the trees, while fading, was lovely, and the road and tunnels made for a very scenic drive. We’d ended up driving much more today than we’d expected, so we made one last stop to hike a short trail to another Chapelle St-Michele. It was located at under an overhang at the river’s edge, straight down the gorge wall from where we’d parked. But our legs were glad for a stretch!

Alan overlooking the gorge

Is that an angel? Nope, just Alan... lol : )

The sun started to set as we reached the car again, and the whole way home the sky amazed us with a fiery show of colors. I couldn’t get enough of it, and we had to stop a couple of times for photos. By the time we reached Lacoste it was dark, and we hurried home to finish packing our bags in preparation for tomorrow’s early morning departure.

Mt. Ventoux (still in the clouds)

Photos just don't do it justice...