Drunk on a terrace in Provence

Today was just a tad pressured. The woman who runs the hotel told Mirinda that she’d not been able to book the taxi so Mirinda then freaked and contacted the private hire person to see if she could drive us for a phenomenal fee all the way to Arles. Then, as we ate lunch (delicious though it was) the woman came over and, still talking to the taxi company, asked Mirinda what time we wanted the cab for.

Having established that the taxi was in fact coming to pick us up at 14:30-ish, Mirinda had to once more contact the private hire place and tell them all was well. This was all on top of her trying to send a document to work that just refused to go because it was massively huge.

Anyway, as things generally do, it all worked out in the end and we had a lovely lunch with another marvellous bottle of local wine (a white from Mont Vendoux) and were then whisked away by the nicest taxi driver I’ve come across for many a long while to the station at Orange, so called because it was the only citrus fruit that didn’t grow there.

Of course, I was suffering from a severe lack of funds so I had to practice asking the taxi driver if he could drop us at an ATM first. This was not easy but I did manage to find a French conversation primer where the sentence “Pouvons-nous d’abord faire un saut au distributeur automatique pour retirer de l’argent?” was perfect. And it worked.

The driver dropped me into the street almost opposite an ATM, I withdraw a swodge of dosh and we then continued to the station.

Possibly my favourite thing so far this trip was sitting behind Mirinda and the driver as she spoke French to him and he spoke English to her. Their skills in each other’s language were about equal and they were clearly practising on each other.

So, we bought tickets to Arles, carted the bags down some steps then up some others in time for a train to Miramar which stopped at Arles before it. It was all smooth as the proverbial and the train was delightfully air conditioned.

I’m certain I have yet to mention the ridiculous heat we are experiencing currently. Each day seems hotter than the last one as the mercury creeps towards 40. It’s not nice. Consequently, when we left the train at Arles, the heat hit us like a train coming in the opposite direction as we carted the bags down some steps then up some more.

Then we waited for a taxi to take us to the address we believed we were staying with Sharon, Jud, Joel, Naomi and Luca.

This is a random photo and NOT where we were staying

Mirinda had been in semi-constant communication with Sharon or Jud for the last few days and, of course, there was the long, heavily detailed itinerary they’d already sent to the entire world. This incredible document was to prove invaluable as we stood outside the building known only as 15.

I say it was invaluable because it helped us decide to go and sit in a coffee shop rather than wait around in a deserted doorway for very long. Mirinda did wander up and down the stairs and knock on the doors but answer there was none so the coffee shop was where we went.

And the coffee shop was very nice even though the two women behind the counter and my wife all ganged up on me, claiming I was an idiot for various reasons not least for forgetting what time of day it was when we left. Okay, I may have said bonne journee when I should have said bonne soiree but my excuse was the length of time we’d spent in the coffee shop. And it was very light outside. Still they laughed!

Anyway, eventually we had a message from the team to say they’d arrived and we made our way back to building known only as 15 and there was Sharon.

Jud and Joel were disposing of the car somewhere a goodly distance away so we sat around (Mirinda, Sharon, Naomi, Luca and me) and talked about what and where they’d been and how much fun it had been climbing hills and scaling mountains and generally being outdoorsy types scorned by us weak and pale city people.

When Jud and Joel returned from across the city, it was all repeated with even more healthy lifestyle nonsense. Then Sharon and I, disgusted with such talk, left to go shopping for beer, cheese, sausage and something disgusting for the kids to drink.

And speaking of disgusting, I can’t help but mention that, although they are in the country with the best food ever, they went to McDonalds for lunch today. Jud seemed strangely proud of the fact that he could eat something entirely inedible incorrectly hiding behind the name of food.

A little later, having eaten through the cheese, sausage, nuts, beer and some of the wine, we went for a walk. Well, four of us did. The two boys were more than happy attached to their devices and, in their own words, Couldn’t Be Bothered.

We walked along the river Rhone for a bit which was lovely as the last rays of sun vanished behind the buildings on the other bank. We then headed back up to the Plaza de Forum for ice cream which, given the heat and just the fact that I love ice cream, we had to have.

What a happy bunch

I think the constant travelling and trudging up very big hills is taking its toll, if the above photo is anything to go by. Let’s see what they’re like tomorrow after standing in heat, watching the backs of French heads as they pretend to see the start and then finish of the Tour de France in Nimes.

Just crazy.

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