Monday, February 11, 2008

Memories of Avignon - the good, the bad and the ugh!

Here are some more of my recollections of my short stay in Avignon. Just preserving them here for my brood. But go ahead and read along...

The good

In Avignon, I was finally able to lay back and relax after a hectic week of traveling from Paris to Venice to Florence to Provence. Avignon was home.

After Gino left for school in the morning, I enjoyed the peace and quiet. No TV, no radio, no emails (oh, this one I missed). I took that opportunity to spend a mini-retreat, read the book The Sabbath Rest of God (very fitting), and Psalm 121. That was all the Bible passage I meditated on.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber...

Traveling is always an occasion for me to look up to God for protection.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Anything can go wrong during a trip -- vehicular accidents, lost luggage, stolen passport, traveler's diarrhea, food poisoning, mugging, natural catastrophe, name it. God spared us from them all. We came and went with no incident. Thank you, Lord! The worst that happened to me was sore legs and blisters on both feet.

Another good thing about Avignon was its beauty--both man-made and natural--and its ancient history. You can read about this in one of my previous blogs. Or simply google it, if you want to know more information.

The shops! I never got tired of checking out the shops. I am not a shop-till-you-drop kind of person, but I enjoy window shopping a lot. I visited the same shopping areas in Avignon like I watch my favourite TV shows -- over and over. Towards the end of my vacation, I knew it was time to do some real shopping that I would not be able to afford in Paris on the way back to Vancouver. So I bought some clothes and accessories for my family from Celio and H & M. Good stuff! For myself, I got a black top on sale and a nice sweater, also on sale, that Gino insisted I get for myself. Sometimes I need that push, you know.

The food - Gino and I bought a yummy donair wrap, or kebabs, one night as we were walking along the Rue de Republique. 5 euros per wrap that was so huge we saved some for lunch the next day. Baguettes, or French bread, were very good and cheap at a nearby bakery. Crepe was sold everywhere. I enjoyed watching how this was done. One time, I bought a crepe with nutella on it. The nutella made it more expensive by about a euro. Too sweet! I should have asked for a plain one. Our daily food at home included baguettes, cheese (so many choices at the grocery store), cold cuts, and lettuce. Sometimes I cooked eggs and ramen or miso soup that I brought from Canada.

The grapes, ahh the grapes in Avignon were perhaps the sweetest I had ever tasted. I did not eat lots of them though until we had water in the toilet. Just being careful...

The wine--this is Provence where some of the best wines in France were produced. Red and white wine were sold in nice bottles at the grocery store and they cost less than bottled water. Gino said they tasted okay. I wouldn't be able to tell because I don't like wine that much. I didn't have any in Avignon. Again, just being careful.


The bad

Gino's water had been cut off while he was away. We had no tap water at home for more than 2 days. It was reconnected only after Gino contacted the water company. So for 2 1/2 days, all we had was bottled drinking water, and the 1.5 liter of water that I collected from the laundromat. I used up lots and lots of baby wipes, baby powder and hand sanitizer.

We simply laughed off our predicament and lived with it. It brought back memories of our early years in our house in Fairview, Quezon City, Philippines when we had running water for less than an hour a day for months and months and months. Those days, we, including Gino and Mickey, used to fetch water from a nearby subdivision. They were only 6 or 7 years old and I could still imagine them carrying jugs of water under the midday sun. I was rather amused that I would once again experience how it was to live with scant water, and in France at that! But with the 1.5 liters of water, I was not only able to wash two sets of dishes and a pan. I was also able to wipe clean the sinks by recycling used water. Very Third World!


The ugh!

My hair at the end of the day.

Because it was the mistral season, winds were very strong in Avignon. I could hear it howling on our rooftop at night. During the day as soon as I stepped out the house, my hair, which was cut short for this trip, was blown in all directions. It was always so messed up, I wondered why I bothered brushing my hair at all. Warning: Avignon is not a place to wear wigs or toupees at that time of the year.

My French.

I know very little French, mostly greetings and public signs and some words that I read on food labels here in Canada. But I wouldn't be able to carry a conversation with the words I knew. So it was quite a challenge for me to go around Avignon when Gino was at school.

I observed that every time I entered a store, salespersons would say Bonjour. The right thing for me to do was to say Bonjour too. As I left the store, they'd say Merci. Au revoir! to which I should reply the same. Easy? Well, not for me. Sometimes, I got stumped and confused about which one of the three greetings to say. Merci? Or bonjour? Awkward pause. Mere smile. You have to pardon my French--or the lack of it.

Bonjour, merci, au revoir! Whichever of the three.

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