The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Monday, June 17, 2013

I love Provence, France

Provence is a "state" in the south of France, and I love it. I keep discovering the most interesting places to see and the most fun roads to ride.

First, the roads (and a little about French motorcycle riders)---

There are great superhighways all through France, but I tend to stay off them. I enjoy the little country lanes a lot more. Most of them are as twisty as a child's jump rope discarded at the end of play. It is hard to get up much of a head of steam on them before they hairpin around in a tight curve. I leaned the bike over so far several times that I scraped my foot peg. Odysseus is a dual sport bike, so the pegs are up pretty high. I think if I had been on a cruiser (a Harley or other bike with floorboard type footrests) I would have scraped on almost every curve.
Both the cars and I tend to go a little slow (45 miles an hour seems about right usually), and I am often passed by other motorcycle riders who sometimes seem to be doing about 100 miles an hour.  When they go around me, they always stick their right foot out. I was never sure what that meant. Were they saying "hi", or were they saying "get your foot off the brake and shake a leg, grandpa". So, I googled it, and learned that it was just a friendly way of saying "thanks for letting me pass".

Fortunately, there never seem to be any radar police on the road.

Lane splitting must be legal here, because motorcycle riders never sit in traffic behind cars like I do. They go around, and car drivers move over to the right to allow them to do that. I tried it myself, and felt a little uncomfortable doing it. I mean, what if the car I am overtaking, or the car in the oncoming lane had to swerve? Splat!

There is a lot to see and do in Provence. One thing not to miss is the Castle of the Popes in Avignon. Did you know that the center of the Catholic Church moved from Rome to France for a few hundred years around the 1300's? Here are some pictures of the castle---
Quite the little shack, isn't it? At that time, the Pope was more important than the King.
Here is a statue of one of the Pope dudes. Pretty contented looking fellow, isn't he?
Actually, there is not really much to see at the Palace of the Popes, or in Avignon itself for that matter. Here is a picture of Avignon for you:
Like all cities, Avignon is crowded, pricey, and set up mostly for the tourist set. That's not me. Avignon is on the Rhone River, if you are interested. That's it down there in this next picture. Not much to write home about, is it?
I didn't stay in Avignon long. I was more interest in riding the lanes of rural Provence. I was going around a corner in the sandstone hills south of Avignon---
When I spotted this city across the valley---
I think, when traveling, the best things to see are found by serendipity.
Can you spot all the cars and motorcycles parked there? People are exploring the heck out of this place on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon.

Up at the old castle on the top of the hill they were putting on a show. The first thing I was interested in were the catapults and trebuchets. My students and I had made models of some of these in our classroom, and we had a lot of fun throwing balls with ours. The medieval knights here were throwing giant water balloons. 
Take that, ye varlets! Arg!!

 They were letting people shoot crossbows. I had never done that before and I got to take my turn. I missed the target entirely (I am hanging my head in shame as I type this. I'm glad you can't see me because it is a pitiful sight, I can tell you). 
Time to put myself in the stocks and pillory--
They were demonstrating medieval weapons--
 And they got some kids out of the audience to help do a medieval duel. Cute!---
This town is named Les Baux. And here is something that is probably only interesting to a geology teacher like me:  Here in Les Baux is the first place aluminum ore was mined, thus the name for the ore--Bauxite. How about that. I learn something new every day.
They were having a display of Monet art in the city. I thought I would try my hand at it. Here is a picture I took at an outdoor cafe as I was eating luncvh. Hope you like it--
Today, I was riding along when I kept seeing these fields of lavender.
I learned that Provence is the only place in the world where lavender grows wild. They were showing how they turn it into perfume. Very interesting, I thought.
But now, my laptop battery is about to die. I am in Toulon, a big city with not a thing to recommend it, and I have a ticket to catch a ferry to Corsica. I have to be on board in an hour for an overnight trip.

So, more to come later from Corsica.

1 comment:

  1. Greeting from Fairbanks, Alaska. Thinking of Summer 2012 vistors. Wishing you safe travels and a return to AK some day.
    Philip & Josie


To comment click on "comment as" and choose name/url. List your name (you can leave url blank). Make your comment and click on "publish". Please keep your comments clean and positive because my students and family also look at these pages. Ron