Hoje é domingo de carnaval. Logo, segunda. Estamos em Lisboa, na trip pelo sul de Portugal. Em breve, um relato sobre essa viagem (até agora, Coimbra, Nazaré, Peniche, Lisboa, e em breve Sintra e outras). Aqui no hostel, usando o PC deles, pois meu notebook ficou em casa, no Porto, acho no desktop um arquivo de texto (.txt) intitulado “Jess”, que deduzo deve ser o nome do(a) autor(a) (trata-se de um nome unissex). Curioso, abro-o. Trata-se de um interessante relato de viagem, em inglês. Na dilema ético entre roubar ou não essas memórias, com um gostinho de invadir a intimidade e os pensamentos do outro, leio-o. Decido publicá-lo. Foi deixado para trás, não deve ser assim tão secreto. Com vocês, a delícia de saber a opinião de outras pessoas. O relato de viagem, copiado e colado, de Jess.
Day 49: Aix En Provence
After a long day on the train, we arrived in Aix En Provence 30 minutes later than scheduled. A connecting train from Lyon to Aix en Provence TGV departed late and we ended up missing the last
connecting bus from TGV to city centre. The 2 choices were to either walk 16 km or catch a cab to the campsite. Seeing that it
was close to midnight and we were knackered, we made an executive decision to splurge on a taxi.
30 minutes and 45 euros later, we arrived at the campsite. We were eager to check out this 4 star rated campsite. Apparently there were excellent facilities and plenty of privacy
for each plot. We got out of the cab and were dismayed to see that the reception is closed. It would be a very expensive night if we had to catch another cab back into the city.
While I was contemplating the worse and Robin contemplates camping regardless, we hear the swish of a golf bugy and a youngish guy jumped out of it. He was typically French – lanky,
oversized clothes and black rimmed glasses. He welcomed us and took our bookings for 3 nights. Hearing Robin’s Irish accent, he immediately launched into his work experience in
Ireland a few years back.
After a brief friendly exchange, we were told to choose an available plot that we preferred and register with him later. The campsite was really quite tranquil and peaceful.
The layout ensured that all campers had their own privacy from each other and most importantly from the campervans. There were tall oak trees all around and it was rather
pleasant to hear the rustling of the leaves on this windy night. 20 Euros a night, we definitely made the right decision here. We found a quiet corner and Robin headed off to register
our home for the next 3 nights while I attempted to set up camp. Fortunately Robin didn’t take too long with the check in and came back to help me with set up. This was
definitely a stroke of luck because as soon as we nailed the last pin into the dry ground, we felt the heavy rain drops on our heads. It didn’t take long before the
drizzle developed into a downpour. We rushed to the campsite’s bar/restaurant to seek some shelter. What the hell? Best thing to do after being caught in the rain while
seeking shelter in the bar? Have a beer. So we did.
Next morning, we woke up bright and early. The night’s sleep was really nice since the summer heat cooled considerably with the rain. It felt like we had a mini air conidtioner
in our very own tent. After a brekkie of left over bread, wild boar salami and boiled egg, we took a bus to the city centre. It was a lovely day after the rain, still slightly
cloudy but just enough sun to warm your skin in the early hours of the morning. We breathed in the fresh air and strolled to the tourist office for some information. I have been
wanting to do a wine tour and see the lavender fields of Provence for a long time so it was exciting to finally get a chance to do it.
Unfortunately for me, the wine tour day trips were all sold out for the next day and we were only in town for one full day. The kind staff suggested that we do a scenic tour of
Provence to see the real colours so we booked ourselves in for the next day.
Day 50: Saint Remy market, Hell´s Valley, Cathedral D´Images, Les Baux de Provence
We slept like babies for the night due to another even bigger downpour than the previous night. We could actually feel the stream of rain water under our tent and cuddled closer
when we saw lightening… what an experience! The cooler night temperature was really soothing when we have a travelling tent that does not usually give us much wiggle room. The only downer
was that both our backpacks were damped. After finding some clean (and dry) clothes to wear, we headed back to the city for our day trip.
It was off to a good start with only 8 participants, including the guide and us. So it was a nice cosy group. We were fearing the worse that it might be a group of 20 and a guide with a loud speaker and a flag. The guide spoke excellent English and gave us a good introduction to Provence. The first stop was Saint Remy and we drove through tree tunnels and past lavender and olive trees. I sadly discoveredthat we have missed the lavender harvest and the rolling fields of purple beauty was only available once a year in July. Nevertheless it was still beautiful and we felt fortunate to be enjoying the view. Our guide informed us that Provence was home to famous artists like Cezanne and Van Gogh and we could see why. The peaceful surroundings and perfect weather. We were only there for 2 nights and we could appreciate the appeal.
After an hour´s drive, we found ourselves in Saint Remy´s market and were informed we had 90 minutes of free and easy time. Wednesday is a major market day in Saint Rémy-de-Provence and the crowds certainly proved it. The market spreads across parking areas and squares around the northern and western parts of the Boulevards ringing the old town of St Rémy. The stalls sell everything from handmade jewellery to fresh fruits bursting with summer goodness. I could easily be lost in here for days! We went straight for the fresh produce and bought ourselves a punnet of farm fresh strawberries and white peaches as a treat for later. There were a fair few fashion designers to show case their handmade clothes of all styles, scarves of all conceivable colour and design. We decided to be utterly and completely lost for the next hour. After wandering around for some hidden gems, we stumbled across a small studio with some beautiful and disturbing photographs. We greeted the artist while he was having a smoke outside and was instantly captured by his photographs. His work left us speechless and if you are interested to see why we both fell in love with his pictures, please have a look at his website http://www.flyingblindpictures.com
Moving on froom the studio, we decided to stop for a little snack by the fountain. One downside to backpacking for a long period of time was that you are not able to buy anything. Not neccesserily that you couldn´t afford it but more so that you would not be able to afford the space. The delicious white peach was a great starter and lunch time was close, so we hunted around for some yummy street food and had our impromptu picnic under a leafy tree.
After our lunch break, we met up with the crew at the bus station and headed off to our next stop Valley of Hell and Cathedral D´Images. Below Les Baux is the irregular and jagged gorge which caves used to be inhabited by people. Apparently people believed that witches, fairies and spirits live in these caves. We took a few snapshots and paused to admire the tranquility. Next stop was the Cathedral D´Images – a quarry that has been converted from a dark space of squared lime stoned columns into a 3D experience of the artists`photographs. The exhibition on display was directed by Jean Charbonneau and he took us on a journey for 60 minutes from the very beginning of Australia. It was really impressive.
We left the Cathedral feeling rather breathless and thanked our guide for recommending the Cathedral to us. The final stop was Les Baux. It was a village that stood still in time after the quarries were abandoned and was later preserved by the French government. The guide took us an olive oil shop and we woke our taste buds while sampling some of France´s best olive oil. Pity – we couldn´t bring any of this back home with us. The guide informed us that we had some free time to ourselves before headed back to Aix so we used the rest of our time to wander around the alleys and streets of Les Baux. It is not boldly magnificent like some of the architecture that you will see in big Italian cities but it was quietly confident. The sun was setting against the sand stoned buildings and took a rest on a bench to soak in the beauty.
We snoozed on our way back to Aix on a rather long bus ride and it was dinner time by the time we arrived. The day ended with an even better night with an excellent Provencal dinner on a small street in old town.