Monday, January 5, 2009

Invasion of Avignon (1/3/09)

Whoever said that traveling by train in France is easy, hasn't truly been on a train ride....

Today we go up early and headed to Gare St. Charles (the train station) to go to Avignon. For this trip, we needed to reserve our seats at the train station, since we hadn't done it earlier. We went to the ticket area and purchased our seats for the train.

We went to the track and waited for the train to arrive. It was quite cold there in the open air station, and we all hoped it would be warmer as the day went on. I hadn't dressed as warmly as I should since the day before had been in the 50's.

The train arrived, and we hopped on board. We were making jokes that we were once again, in car 13 and that it was a train coming from Nice (we had been in car 13 for our crazy adventure home on New Year's Eve).

When we got to our seats, we found two young men in our seats. We told them those were our seats, and they promptly got up and moved and one hopped off the train (obviously he didn't have a ticket).

We got comfortable and waited for the train to load. A couple with a young boy came over to us and said we were in their seats. We got out our tickets and compared them with their's, and it all appeared to be the same...the car, the seats, the destination, the time, all the same. We couldn't figure out what was going on. We were about to get up and give them the seats (since they had a child with them and shouldn't have to stand the whole way), but they went to find a conductor instead. We figured we should do the same to figure out the whole mess.

Chris looked closer at the tickets, and realized there was a problem, it was dated for January 6th, and not the 3rd! The ticket guy had sold us seats on the wrong date.

We found a conductor and told him our story. He was very nice and spoke in English, saying that we would have to go to talk to the ticket counter or pay more for the correct tickets aboard. He asked if we were American, and we said yes, that we were from New York City. He smiled and said not to worry about it, he would take care of everything. He said we would have to find seats somewhere on the train and that it would be fine this time around. The conductor also told us to get our return tickets fixed once we reached Avignon.


Always say that you are from New York City when traveling in matter if you are from there or not. People treat you better when you say you are from there. If we had said "Indiana", I very much doubt the guy would have been as nice to us.

Back to the story....

So we hopped back on the train, in car 13, and there was one empty seat next to the couple and child, so we let Carolyn have it. Chris, David, and I sat right inside the door by the baggage rack. There was 3 seats that you could pull down from the wall to sit on. Here we had paid for 1st class seats, and we were stuck in baggage next to the toilet! When the train started going, we just had to laugh at the whole situation. Chris was still really mad about it all, but I told him things could have been worse, and we may have ended up missing our trip to Avignon. David was joking about his "window seat" since he was right by the door to the train car. There was one guy standing in the area with us, and he just kept looking at us like we were crazy as we laughed and laughed.

The train stopped in Aix, and we had to move a bit to let passengers on and off. One lady asked Chris if he would watch her suitcase since it wouldn't fit in the baggage slot. He said yes, and later said he should have asked for a tip.

We made it to Avignon in about 30 minutes, which was good. Our ears hurt a bit from the pressure in the train (when you go through tunnels, your ears pop, and it was worse being by the door).

We found the ticket booth and Chris got the return tickets changed to say the 3rd instead of the 6th.

Walking out of the train station, we found the bus stop to go to the center of town. We only had to wait about 5 minutes or so for a bus to arrive, which was great, because it was VERY cold outside. I was really missing my long coat, mittens, and hat.

The bus ride only took about 10 minutes to get into the walled city of Avignon. Once inside, we got out at the bus stop and walked down the main road filled with shop after shop. We found a candy store and went in. Chris found some gellied fruits he has been wanting to try.

For lunch, we went to Cafe Lou Mistraul. It was a bad choice in the end. The salmon was way overdone, Carolyn's chicken was blah, and Chris wasn't that pleased with his sausage. The sausage he ordered had tripe in it. Tripe is intestines, for those of you who don't know, and man did it stink and look disgusting! About as bad as the blood sausages we have had in the past. David was the only one who had a good meal...mushroom and chicken gravy over noodles.

Our next stop was the Palace of the Popes. Chateau Neuf de Papes (Chateau of the 9 Popes) was very intersting. We had to pay 11 euros each to get in and that included an audio guide. I'm really not one for those audio guides, and the British guy on there could "put a horse to sleep" as Chris said. I ended up listening to it on and off, but preferred to have Chris explain things to me.

The inside of the Cheateau was very bare. The ornaments, paintings, and decorations have been destroyed over the years, so it's rather plain now. Only two rooms are having their walls restored with copies of the original paintings. I had been expecting a palace like Versailles, but it wasn't like that at all.

After we finished our tour, we came out and walked up the hill to the cathedral. We went inside for a little while. When we were coming out, we heard people yelling. When we got to the edge and looked down, there was a mob of Palestinians with flags, banners, blowhorn and they were all coming to the area right below the cathedral. We stood there watching as more and more black wearing Palestines came in. They were chanting in French that "Israel murders". There wasn't a cop in sight, which was odd because if this had taken place in Marseille or even in the states somewhere, there would have been cops all over.

I took some videos of the rally for you to watch. I'll upload them soon.

The rally was loud, but peaceful, and after a while, we moved on and walked towards the Pont de Avignon (bridge behind the chateau). It was a long walk and we probably didn't take the most direct route there. We were all so cold! Our tickets to the Chateau also covered entry onto the bridge. We walked out on it, Chris danced a bit (I have a video of this too, and will upload it soon) because of the song "Sur le Pont Avignon".

We checked out a few shops on our way back to the train station, and stopped off to buy some bread to take home with us. We ended up getting to the train station early, and we were able to change our train tickets to an earlier time so we would get home faster.

Our trip home was uneventful, thankfully, and we got home in time to cook dinner. Chris made an amazing dish of pork chops with a white wine, apple, and apricto sauce and I made salads and mashed potatoes.

Pictures of the day can be found at

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