Monday, January 28, 2008

More from Avignon

Here's my slide show from Avignon. If you are traveling to France, take a trip to Provence and don't miss Avignon. Really lovely!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Pont d'Avignon, Rocher des Doms and Palais des Papes
(partly hidden) from across the Rhone River

Avignon (Avenio) would be my home for the five days I was in Provence. It had been Gino's home at the time for the previous three months. Finally, I was sleeping on my own mattress and eating at home. Home sweet home!

We arrived Monday night. Tuesday, Gino was going back to the University of Avignon. He was up early working on his laptop while I was still curled in bed, recovering from fatigue.

The street where Gino lived. The first door
on the right was the door to his apartment.

"Mom, I know where we can take a shower. We can go to a campground outside the city's wall. But we have to leave soon because we are gonna walk," Gino said.

"How long?" I asked.

"15 minutes. You have to shower really quickly because my class is at 9:30," he said.

15-minute walk to the shower! Oh well, you gotta do what you gotta do and I gotta shower!! So we packed our bags and toiletries, walked on very narrow sidewalks, out a city gate and over a bridge crossing the Rhone River.

On the bridge, I had my first taste of the mistral--a cold, strong wind that comes in squalls. It was blowing away my hat and blowing through my long slitted denim skirt, sending chills up my spine. I was careful not to walk too closely to the edge of the bridge for fear of being blown over.

Glancing back to where we came from, I had a great view of the walled city, shimmering in the early morning sun. Golden yellow! What a beautiful sight. The Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes) on top of the hill looked magnificent. Oh I should have brought the camera!

We took a very quick shower in the campground, where the hostel Gino stayed at before he found an apartment, was located. That was how he knew about this place. Clean and fresh, we hurriedly walked back home.

It was good to see Avignon at daytime. I was very excited to tour the city with Gino or alone when he was at school.

"Mom, ok, let's have some house rules," Gino told me the day before. "Be home when I come home from school. And don't stay out after dark. Men here are very aggressive." We had switched roles. Gino had become the parent, afraid I would lose my way or get into some kind of trouble. In Florence, he freaked out one night when I wandered in a city square and we were momentarily separated.

Gino's apartment was just outside the University of Avignon, maybe a one-minute walk away. I went to his school when I needed to go to the washroom. I did not want to use the one at home until his water was reconnected.

Alone in Gino's attic, I rested some more and savoured the moment. I took out the Bible and read through Psalm 121. I would be meditating daily on Psalm 121 for the rest of my vacation for good reason.

When Gino came back from school, we did some grocery shopping--lettuce, cheese, eggs, bottled water, some cold cuts, baguette... We were going to start home cooking.

Later, we walked around the city. Gino was already very familiar with Avignon, he made a very good tour guide. We went back to the imposing Palais des Papes and the more commercial section of the city. I was a wide-eyed tourist, ooh-ing and aahh-ing.

I loved this stretch of road leading to the Palace.
For pedestrians only.

The entrance to the Palace. You can hardly see me in this picture.
Click to enlarge.

More pictures to follow...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

To Provence, finally!

To get to Avignon, Provence in Southern France, Gino and I had to take 4 train connections from Florence in Northern Italy. Total travel time was about 12 hours including wait times in between. Goodbye, Florence! I hope to visit you again someday!! I shall return, hopefully with more cash and time, preferably in that order.

Our first train ride brought us to the city of Genoa, Italy, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus who discovered the Americas. Because we had at least 1.5 hours till the next train ride, we decided to walk around the city, which was not as easy as we thought. The terrain was hilly and my legs and feet were sore. I had to go slow to catch my breath.

"Mom, I'm carrying much more than you," Gino said as he went past me.

"Well, I'm more than twice your age," I replied.

Still, we got far enough to get a view of the port and the sea on one side, and residential buildings on the other side.

People walked to their homes on paths like this.
I wondered how old folks, like the ones in this photo, managed.

From Genoa, we took a train to Nice, France. We traveled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We saw some very pretty sights when we were not passing through tunnels--lots of them. Monaco was lovely! Unfortunately, it was difficult to take pictures from a speeding train.

On the way to Nice

We were so looking forward to getting off at Nice and sightseeing again. But the station was located in a seedy part of the city, not at all the touristy section you see in travel mags and brochures. Disappointed, we walked back to the train station and waited for our ride to Marseille.

It was already dark when we reached Marseille, the second largest city in France. We were hoping to get a glimpse of this beautiful city. Gino had been here before so he knew where to go. But we did not have much time to go out the station. Besides, I really had little energy left. We had been travelling the whole day. Unlike me, Gino seemed to have lots of energy left.

Finally, we left for Avignon. I think we arrived there around 9 pm. Avignon is a walled city. From the train station, we walked through a city gate. Just as Gino said, the sidewalks were very narrow. Streets made of cobblestones. My roller bag made a lot of noise on the streets.

We walked several blocks to Gino's apartment. He decided to show me the Palais de Papes at night so we took a longer way. It was very impressive. More on this in the next blog.

At last, we reached Gino's apartment. I felt very tired and sticky and sleepy. It was good to be "home". Before hitting the bed, I used the washroom and discovered there was no water. One flush was all we had! Gino's water had been cut off by the water company while he was away. Oh no!

I was too tired to worry about it.

(Next, Ahhhvignon!!!)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Flourishing Florence

Florence means "flourishing", a very appropriate description of this Italian city where art and architecture and literature flourished around the beginning of the 14th century to the 16th century, according to my recent readings. If you are a history buff or a student, you might already know that the Renaissance started here and spread to the rest of Europe. For me, this is new info, if not long-forgotten info, for what it's worth.

Visiting Florence surfaced some of the things I had learned in school decades ago. Those lectures would have been less boring had I been to Florence then.

I was never bored in Florence. There was so much to see and explore. Here are some more photos from the city.

The Duomo, dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore.
That's me at the foreground.

Ponte Vecchio, built in 1345. It is the only bridge in Florence
that survived WWII. It has lots of shops today, mostly jewellery.
And that's the Arno River.

Piazza della Repubblica. We chanced upon a military ceremony
as we passed through this area. There are expensive cafes and hotels at this piazza, the biggest in Florence.

The Loggia dei Lanzi has beautiful statues on its balcony.

Gino recognized most of the sculptures and statues that we saw in the Piazza della Signora where the Loggia dei Lanzi is located. Some looked familiar to me. Hmm, I think I've seen this somewhere... That's about the extent of my familiarity with sculptures. In fact, prior to the trip, I could not recall what the statue of David looked like, supposed to be "the most recognizable stone sculpture in the history of art" according to Wikipedia.

Talking of David, which I sometimes erroneously called Michael after the name of its creator Michelangelo, we went to see it at the Galleria dell'Accademia. The gallery itself was unimpressive on the outside. But inside, the sculptures, paintings, collection of musical instruments, etc. were breathtaking. For Gino and me, the statue of David was the best. It was surprisingly huge and commanding, absolutely beautiful in its stark nakedness. There was a youthfulness and strength and innocence about it. "Wow!" Gino and I reacted when we first saw David.

Half-shot of Michelangelo's statue of David.

"Mom, there's one thing that Michaelangelo forgot. David was a Jew. The statue isn't circumcised," Gino commented. Good observation.

The next day, we attempted to see the Uffizi that housed masterpieces by great artists. The line was very long. We went to Pitti Palace instead and walked around the Boboli Gardens.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves. No soundtrack this time. Enjoy the slide show.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A blessed New Year to all!!

Greetings from our family. We are now complete. Yay!!!
(photo taken at Tita Ma's house)