Provence, Avignon, Nimes......a whirlwind few days in France.
Updated: Jul 17, 2019
I was chatting with my friend tonight about feelings ON tour, versus AFTER a tour. For me, although I can be tired, thirsty, hungry, need to use the restroom, feet hurting, I ALWAYS come home from an international trip and absolutely revel in the memories made. On tour,I might think, "oh, this is the WORST!" but once I am home, that "worst" becomes the best. That awful memory becomes a life long, once in a lifetime memory.
SEIZE. THE. DAY!
Get the chance to try and buy some French perfume?...do it.
Gelato and croissants getting to your waistline?...diet when you get home.
Giant grocery store only open for TWO minutes when you arrive with 8 people?...RUN, don't walk and go straight to the wine for adults and candy for kids.
Chance to swim in the Gardon River by an ancient Roman aqueduct?......no brainer and go ALL IN! So what if you go to dinner all gross and kinda wet and probably stinky! You get one shot at this life! My hope is to leave a lasting impression on others, leaving a legacy of loving our world and others.
This philosophy is something I love about all of my travelers when we go on group tours. They know how to seize the day and live in the moment. They appreciate every little opportunity to learn and experience something new. The "parade" celebrating Bastille Day is a great example. We didn't know this parade would be happening in Nimes, but how exciting to be a part of it! Longest wait for an actual parade ever! But the French...they knew it would full of military celebrations and awards. They go and celebrate their country's history with respect and quiet and calm. (notsomuch in Paris we saw on the news later) and for sure notsomuch like American parades. Is one better than the other? Of course not. They are just different. And not ALL parades in Europe are like that anyway, We never judge one event and assume it it that way everywhere just like we know that not all Americans wear cowboy hats:)
To start our 2 day journey in Provence, we visited the Papal Palace where we were given and iPad and headphones for a self guided tour. To the parents surprise, some of the kids were very interested in learning about this historic place! After the Palace we went to lunch. We have learned on these trips that splitting into small groups of no more than 8 is imperative. If you have 4 you can pop into any cafe without a problem. But if you have more than that it can be difficult to find a good cafe with space. So we split into groups and off we went. I always find selecting a cafe to be extremely difficult so I usually just grab a seat at the first one that looks okay and hope for the best. If I have a little time and am not too hungry I will spend more time looking at what is on each menu and seeing how many people are eating there. On this day we were hungry but also wanted to get off the main square. We settled on a place where 2 had quiche and 2 had the french bread with ham (prosciutto) and a lovely tomato based sauce and mozzarella cheese. We talked with the kids about how important it is to try new things and that if they don't like them they can go to the market later and get a snack.
So how does a group of 6 adults and 8 kids make a wine tasting work? TAG TEAM! First off to our incredible tour director, Raoul. He talked to the local wine shop making them aware that we would be coming by at some point in the day. So we decided to meet at 4:00. Corby and I took the kids to the gelato shop where ordering and paying is always an adventure with eight kids. I put the name of the wine shop in Google Maps and we made our way....slowly due to the fact that the shop was very close but buried deep in a very short alley.I walked those cute kids up to the curb just outside the shop and had them sit to eat. The adults inside came out to the tables and everyone was happy! Corby and I went in for our little tasting as the other adults and kids would pop in now and then. It was the epitome of teamwork and all were happy!
Walking around a city with no specific plan is the BEST! We had one group find a fish pedicure shop and of course..SEIZE THE DAY they went in and enjoyed the tickle of those tiny fish munching on their dead skin. Scattered throughout Avignon were musical and theatre troops singing and acting and handing out flyers to try to gain attendance at their show that evening and what a treat it was! We always found a cellist and a saw player (if that is what they are called::) My favorite was the musical troop from Hercules! I will be sure to post their performance!
We had a little free time left, so some of us followed google maps to a park where our Raoul, Tour Director, had spent his morning. I had messaged him on WhatsApp to as for the address. We followed the bouncing ball through the winding streets and behind the Papal Palace there was a delightful little park where we rested for a bit before heading back to the bus. Waiting for the bus we found ourselves with a little extra time. Raoul pointed out the lavender field across the street so we made our way there and took some very fun, artsy pictures.
I am tiring as I write this so my first draft will be more about journaling our days events with speed!.......and I think I have to finish tomorrow because going and going from 6 am to 1 am isn't a writer's dream! In Nimes, we had free time first as some of our larger group attending a mass in the cathedral which they enjoyed tremendously! The rest of us found a sweet little cafe and many of us ordered cappuccino, which was the best I had on the trip. Normally the best cappuccinos are in Italy, but our itinerary just didn't allow for sipping cappuccinos in Italian cafes, so I had to settle for France.
After many years of touring ancient ruins and castles, I don't get too excited about this anymore, but I sure enjoy watching others enjoy it! Comments from travelers were just awe that something that old is still around and standing.Thinking about how people created this concept of the arena so long ago and the kinds of events held there was truly an experience to learn about.
After the arena, we agreed as a group to find the Carrefour market. We walked about 10 minutes through the very quiet and empty town due to it being a Sunday and a holiday.We invaded the little market and everyone found their favorites. I always go for the prosciutto and french bread if I can find it but at this store the bread was fresh and warm!! I grabbed the meat and bread, along with a couple of nectarines and of course the obligatory chocolate croissant made me a happy lady! Some of the kids found hummus that they said was delicious, ham sandwiches, Pringles and desserts. We picnicked under some trees in the middle of an intersection of small roads. It was delightful!
We ventured in to yet another gift shop and took some fun pictures while we waited for a few late arrivals to our group. We made our way to the bus and off to the aqueduct for swimming we went!
These trips are never easy. They are never clean or cool. Some of the group ruined their shoes going in the water (myself included) and some changed on the shore of the river as their moms held a big blanket in front of them. You hike, you walk, your feet hurt, but it's always worth it! We could not do most of these things if we weren't in a group tour. The bus, the guides, they make it happen.
We were able to visit the ancient aqueduct and get in the river which was cold and amazing. Some of the group did some rock jumping...me, I just loved feeling like I was getting a free ice bath!
The aqueduct wasn't easy but it was FUN! Afterwards, we went to dinner and it turned out to be the best one we had! In true, "go with the flow" form, we made our way to the second restaurant because the first one had a "kitchen incident." Somehow they managed to get a marvelous dinner served of lasagna and salad with a pear tarte for dessert. But it was the little things that were also great. Cool air conditioning, plenty of water to drink, and wine available for the adults.....in carafes which is always the best. Ordering the wine for the table, in French, is so fun for me! I turned to the adults and said, "Well, I THINK I ordered a few carafes of white and a few of red but we will see what shows up!" I did well! (If you don't know that getting carafes of wine in Europe is the BEST wine, then that is your tip of the blog!)
We have learned to use the restroom and grab water whenever the opportunity presents itself, so that is what we did before we left for our hotel.
Yes, at night it can be dicey announcing curfews and quiet times and dealing with middle school behaviors, but it is always a great time to watch my groups grow closer and form bonds and learn about each of our personalities. The first couple of days, the kids that had parents on the trip stuck close to them, by the middle of the trip they were being loud and silly as all middle schoolers are, and I got to see the quieter ones come out of their shell. What a fabulous thing to witness and it is also why as I move on to working with EF in a different department, my tours will always be adults and kids!
Join me NEXT summer, June 6-14 for Germany, Switzerland and Austria with a Prague optional extension. It is destined to be a fabulous experience, especially if we can nab Raoul as our guide!