Puppy in a handbag

It seems a lot longer than a week since we were last at home. Okay, it’s actually eight days but, even so, it feels like we’ve been away for an age. This could be because of the heatwave that has melted Europe or just the delightful company with which we spent our break. Whatever the reason, the holiday was largely a brilliant escape from home. For a bit.

Mind you, last night I was a bit concerned I’d be returning without Mirinda. I felt exactly like Liam Nesson in Taken except for the part about me being an ex CIA agent. I paused momentarily to take a photo of the revellers on the high street. When I lowered my camera and turned back to where we were going there was no Mirinda.

I’d taken about 30 seconds and she’d vanished entirely.

Where, oh where, has Mirinda gone?

I continued walking up the street figuring she’d be in front of me given I’m slower than a really slow thing with mobility issues and she can be quite forgetful. I kept glancing at my phone and was rewarded in this strategy with a series of text messages.

M: Where r u (21:31)
G: On the main street looking for you! I'm walking up (21:33)
M: Ok you're heading for the hotel? (21:34)
G: Just passing Jud's fav place. And yes (21:35)
M; R u at hotel (21:41)
G: I'm at hotel now. What ru? (21:41)
M: Almost (21:42)

I realise the whole scare only lasted ten minutes but when there’s thousands (literally, as Luca loves to say) of people milling and juggling and generally being loud and boisterous, it can feel like a long time. Still, the wonders of modern technology saved us and we met at the hotel and were finally, and happily, reunited.

On our return to the hotel I booked a cab for the morning. The clerk suggested he book it for 07:00. Google maps told me that the drive to the airport from the hotel was just over 20 minutes and our flight left at 10:20. Over three hours seemed somewhat excessive.

I queried his early call and he said the airport is quite a distance and there may be traffic. Best to be careful, he advised. When I told him that I didn’t think Avignon airport was that far from Avignon he suddenly admitted that when I’d originally said Avignon, he thought I said Marseilles. Clearly it’s my ‘unusual’ French again.

He then reassessed and suggested 07:30. I counter offered 08:00 and we agreed on this even though I was convinced we’d be at the airport hours early. Which we were.

When Mirinda told the very nice taxi driver about the timings and the planes departure time, he was astounded. He was also astounded at my command of the Spanish language which is clearly not that relevant to a French holiday.

And, as it turned out, the wait in the delightfully air conditioned Avignon Airport, complete with lovely cafe and few fellow travellers was perfect. There was even the added pleasure of a very small dog in a woman’s handbag, its little head poked out, observing all the English tourists going home.

And the flight, too, turned out to not be delayed by the full 40 minutes threatened by the pilot, reduced to about ten minutes by a clearly lovely control tower operative.

Some grossly oversized liner at Southampton

And so we landed at Southampton and had cleared the terminal by 11:50 which was very good because our short stay car park time ended at midday.

Actually, I was very impressed with the car park thing. I was concerned, having read some horror stories of people having to hang around waiting for staff to clear up issues when planes were delayed or just annoyances caused by illiterate machines. And, while there was an unexplained hold up when we first approached the exit gates, our transition was smooth as silk.

Then, as a treat, we decided to have lunch out. At first we were going to the Holly Bush but then decided that Odiham would be good given it was on the way and we hadn’t been for a while. We parked and went into Bel and the Dragon.

Never again!!!

Now, normally I love going to Bel and the Dragon but not today. We were treated with a fair bit of neglect and disdain. We stood and waited for ages then, having reached a table, sat and waited for ages. I did get a beer but that was it. When Mirinda politely asked a passing waitress if we could get served, the waitress grunted a sort of yes but was largely dismissive with a wave of her hand as if clearing the air of an errant fart.

We left Bel and the Dragon and, instead, went where we should have originally gone, the restaurant that used to be called Next Door at the George but is now The Red Lion. We were served almost immediately, the food was delicious and the staff perfectly attentive.

I tend to only give one strike options to restaurants so I reckon that’s about it for Bel and the Dragon, Odiham for us.

Then, finally, home, which, thankfully, was still there. Mirinda wandered the garden bemoaning the fact that the blistering heat had dealt some of the foliage death blows but glorying in the reasonable temperature and the general greenery that is our garden.

Now, before I finish this entry, I am under orders to write a sort of round-up of our time in Arles. So, here is Jud’s much anticipated Arles Round-up.

Cons – mostly the apartment

The single toilet was interesting. While a second one would have been quite handy rather than the ridiculous bath in our bedroom, the one that did exist would have been nicer if it was slightly bigger. I wasn’t keen on having my knees behind my ears in order to close the door. Mind you, being airtight, one way to remain cool in the apartment was to sit in the toilet for a few minutes. Re-entering the apartment you were then rewarded with an actual drop in temperature for a few seconds.

Also the single shower was annoying. The shower itself was excellent but, rather than the bath, a second shower (next to a second toilet) would have been a much better use of space in our room.

The fridge was quite scary. It worked far more like an oven, particularly the outside which almost throbbed with heat. In turn this didn’t help the ambient temperature very much, particularly in the kitchen. And, of course, nothing was really very cold.

A lack of air conditioning given the heat was a problem however, having talked to the lady in the figurine shop I realise that it is a town order that you mustn’t have it.

Pros – everything else

I LOVED Arles. The whole Roman thing, the layout of a basically small town, the art everywhere, the people (apart from the rude bus passengers). Most of all, and top of my list for favourite things about the holiday, HAS to be the Bull Race.

Sharing some of Sharon, Jud, Joel, Naomi and Luca’s European Adventure was a definite tick on the pro side of the equation.

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