Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sur La Pont D'Avignon!

Wednesday's adventure began at 10:00AM for Jen with an appointment with a local dentist. I dropped her off at the dentist where she prepared to battle with the rude receptionist from the previous day while I went off on my morning mission.

I spent 1,40€ a liter on filling up the car with diesel. I think this gas station may have arranged to have the sun shining so brightly that it would blind its customers so that they could not see the exorbitant prices. We spent the rest of the day driving around seeing gas for as low as 1,26€ a liter and no higher than 1,32€. Minus one point for La Bégude-de-Mazenc!

Jen got her tooth repaired fantastically by the French dentist when I picked her up. She was delighted by the state-of-the-art office and the great experience, not to mention the extremely reasonable price. It may just be worth the flight over here to get dental work done in the future. Plus one point for La Bégude-de-Mazenc!

We then drove on to Avignon to check out where some of both the real and fake popes used to live! It was a gorgeous city, completely fortified on all sides by a giant wall. The approach to the city looked a little reminiscent to the approach to Warwick, Rhode Island. Luckily when we entered the city center it was much more impressive. Instead of a Red Lobster and some seedy motels, there were beautiful examples of 14th century architecture. Who is to say what is better?

We went down the main drag and had lunch at a little place in the park at the end. Jen thinks that the waitress hated us but I am not convinced: I was too mesmerised by the endless stream of girls who were greeting each other as though they were Sims. They lined up and approached each other in a mechanical fashion, lining up to deliver three cheek kisses and then wave at each other from an uncomfortably close distance. Jen was facing away from all of this so she didn't get a great view of any of it. I, on the other hand, don't think the waitress hated us, I just think she may have been an artificial intelligence and I understand how that can come off as kind of cold.

After lunch we headed back towards the Palais and Pont D'Avignon. Recently Jen had started singing the song, Sur La Pont D'Avignon. She claims to have known this song her entire life. She thought I was crazy for not having heard it before. I thought she was making it up. She was humming and singing it all day. When we got to Pont D'Avignon there was a point where you are lead downstairs into a dark little room where the song, as Jen has sung it, is playing on a constant loop. It's being sung by children then it morphs into a Jamaican version with steel drums, then it switches to a dance number with North African overtones that uses the same tune. I give Jen credit for setting up this elaborate practical joke in such a convincing fashion. However, I am nobody's fool. It's going to take a lot more than that to pull one over on me.

The drive started out okay but as we approached Orange I could see where Orange, New Jersey got its name from. Orange is not quite the nicest place in France. In fact, it is reminiscent of some of the seedier portions of New Jersey. The only difference is that Orange, France has about six hundred times the number of stop lights as all of New Jersey put together. There are some points where you can see eight traffic lights in a row with barely enough room for three or four cars between each. It becomes a never-ending stop-and-go nightmare until, at the very end, you are rewarded with some impressive Roman ruins.

I'd been looking forward to seeing the Roman ruins in Orange since we began planning this trip. While I was made a bit cranky from the traffic I was very happy when we got a chance to check out the Arc de Triomphe from somewhere between 30 B.C and 20 A.D. which represented the conquests of Julius Caesar.

When we turned to walk back towards the car a big ridiculous-looking train pulled up. As the train passed by the driver whipped out a pack of Lucky Strikes and lit one up. The train was repeating some sort of prerecorded spiel in French and English. The French version sounded pretty good but it sounded like the person reciting the English version was being paid to sound obviously bored by what she was reciting. We were tempted to ride the little train but we thought that maybe the English narrations would make us too depressed.

With a little tricky navigation we were able to locate the Théâtre antique d'Orange. According to the audio tour we listened to this was the largest and best-preserved theatre from Roman times. There were two others, one in Turkey and one in Syria, but this one was the most impressive.

The most striking part of looking at this theatre was walking behind the seating and looking out every so often to see the main wall through the entrance to the seats. It was the same feeling of depth you get at any sporting arena you go to when you are walking by the concession area. It's remarkable to think that the basic layout of a building like this remains unchanged over the past 2000 years. The only difference is at these ruins you did not have the option to buy a Bud Light and two soggy hot dogs for $36.95.

After our Roman Ruin excursion we drove back north a bit, back towards Châteauneuf-de-Mazenc. The picture above is the signage that appears that reminds you that you are back in the Montélimar area. Montélimar -- famous for its nougat, as everyone in and around the area will be quick to remind you -- displays signs on the highway to alert drivers of all the necessities available at the next exit: gas, food, lodging, nougat.

When we got home we had a little snack in our back terrace. The melon was delicious and maybe a touch overripe at this point. Wrapped with a little jambon cru it was a great afternoon snack. We also had a local beer that was not Jen's favorite. We got it because it claimed to be blonde but upon drinking it we could have been convinced it was Guinness stout.

After the sun set on Châteauneuf-de-Mazenc we had a quick dinner of leftover bits from last night while lying about reading from Is Paris Burning, Oprah Magazine, and Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything while we listened alternately to Hair and Les Miserables through the iPod cassette adapter with the stereo in the apartment. It was a hodge-podgey end to a hodge-podgey day.

But who doesn't like a hodge-podge.

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