A Change of Plans and One Night In Provence

It’s been a crazy few days. The whole, not-having-internet-thing, felt slightly romantic and even a bit novel until we started needing to make some plans. The first part of our trip, was, for the most part, all planned. At least our accommodations were planned, and everything else was easily accomplished with our without internet. Our mode of travel was mostly by train. Easy peasy. But I took for granted the fact that we would have decent and nearly-constant internet access throughout our trip, so we could plan the last portions as we went. It seemed reasonable. At the time. But, as you know by now (possibly because I can’t stop talking about it) we have not had decent or constant internet access since oh, about Germany. Prague was terrible. And then a brief 3 days in Venice was fine and then we haven’t had internet since then. I’ll shut up about this sooner or later, but it went from a ‘nice break’ to a major nuisance pretty quick. Anyway, we found that place in Cinque Terre to sit for an hour at a time and use their internet. So while we’re there, we decided to check on the weather in Switzerland. It was a passing thought, and not something we’ve been doing a rule by any means. But just had the thought to check the weather where we going the following day. And I’m busy trying to figure out how to get from the Ligurian coast in Italy to the teeny tiny town in the Swiss Alps and was getting a bit frustrated because it seemed as though any way I tried to manoeuvre it, we were looking at around 4-5 stops and 12-28 hours by train. Flying/training wasn’t looking much better. And then Nolan very casually passes his phone across the table and puts it down in front of me. I’m already a bit annoyed; we’ve been at the Pirate restaurant for way too long already with laptop installed, and one of  the slightly creepy owner twin brothers have been giving us the stink eye for the past 20 minutes. They want to start setting up for dinner service. And we’re leaving Cinque Terre the day after tomorrow. And Nolan’s iPhone weather app has a snow icon and a big -8 for Lauterbrunnen – where we’re going next. I look up at him. He looks calm. He shouldn’t look calm. This is a joke. Ha, it’s a joke! I fidget with my flip flop as a bead of sweat drips down my back. It’s 34 degrees. Feels like 40 in the sun. I hand him the phone back. “Very funny!” I say. He looks blankly at me. It’s the only Lauterbrunnen I could find, he says calmly. I take his phone back and type in another town close by. Same. -8. High of -4. And snowing. All week.
Then I furiously check on the laptop. Yep, looks like it’s a snow storm in the Swiss Alps at the end of June. Who knew? Certainly, we didn’t. If we were unprepared in May for +4 weather for a few days in Belgium, we sure as hell are sitting ducks for snow and -8 for a week. So we cancel. What else can we do? I had one pair of socks, and I sent them back! I don’t even have SOCKS people. Let alone a coat or pants that fit me. Sundresses, I have. The day before I got a sunburn. I wear my flip-flops most every day. We can’t do -8.
So I cancel. It’s apparently no big deal- we didn’t have a deposit on the apartment and I think she understood. It was just that easy.

So. I’m secretly relieved; as much as I wanted to spend a week in the Swiss Alps, getting there was going to be a full day on many trains. Not so much fun. So now, we have to figure out where to go. For Nolan, it’s a no-brainer. Spain. I feel badly; Nolan was really keen on spending some in Spain, and because it went at the end of our trip, we didn’t have a lot of time for Spain. So it’s an easy choice. I’ll spare you the uninteresting details here, but basically, we waaay overstayed our welcome at the Pirate place, smiled at the stink-eye, ordered some food and kept on going. We booked a rental car – booking a train that spanned Italy, France and Spain was mind-numbingly complicated. We decided to overnight in Provence and then head on to Catalunya and spend a week on a beach in Spain with some day trips to Barcelona. I think we were so shocked that we were so close to spending a week in a snow squall that we had to get as hot and as beach-y as possible. Quickly.

So we took the train to Nice, picked up our rental car and drove to Arles in the south of France. It was about half way and supposedly a lovely little town. It was glorious. I know, I know, I love France. It’s no secret, but after a month in Italy it was a relief to finally understand what was going on and be able to communicate. We stayed in a lovely little guest house just outside of the town, set in vineyards and run by a cute couple with a 1 year old. They greeted us with glasses of wine (Nolan got my share) and were gracious and we made us feel like we were members of their family.

We went out to eat; we didn’t want anything fancy or expensive. It proved a bit harder than we expected. Apparently the Gypsy Kings were doing a reunion tour and were kicking off their tour in Arles. On that very night. Weird, right? Remember them? Exactly. Me neither. I sort of remember a song or two from the 90’s but had no idea they had apparently such a massive following. In the south of France. The town was bursting. Literally. There were no parking spots, no tables available at any restaurant and the streets with packed with throngs of, apparently, Gypsy King fans chomping at the bit to see the band reunited. We waited about half an hour while walking around  sidestepping masses of groups of people. Eventually the people cleared out to head to the amphitheatre and we could get a table at a restaurant.
We had a great meal at a cute little bistro. Nolan ate escargot (that’s fancy talk for snails) for the first time.

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And almost licked the bowl out he loved it so much. We walked around the town a bit afterward, to the backdrop of a roaring crowd and echoes of the same two Gypsy Kings songs I remember from the 90’s. Or maybe they just all sound the same.

It’s just kinda like we couldn’t figure out if we were living in an alternate reality or if everyone else was. But it was good. The town was charming and we meandered and generally had a lovely night.

And then there was the episode later that night entitled, Nolan Gets Food Poisoning. I won’t go into too much detail, for obvious reasons, but it wasn’t such a super time. I was fine. He had a rough night, and I had a sleepless one by extension, but he was feeling fine by morning light, thanks to a lovely petit dejeuner prepared by our hosts.

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And some cat love. We turned on the tap so he could get some water. And he loved us in return. Not a bad exchange.

Afterward, we packed up and headed out on the road again, on course, to find our beach in Spain.

I guess when you’re travelling for almost 3 months, it can’t all be lovely mountains vistas and delicious meals. Not that our meal wasn’t delicious. It was! Even Nolan, who spent the night in great pain and discomfort is still talking about how good those snails were. Maybe sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to know that you can be a rock-bottom riser after all.

And that was our weird / wonderful one night in Provence.

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