As always we managed to pack heaps of activities into the 3 full days we had in Aix en Provence. Our first day was rather laid back, we just wandered around the city, visited the many markets, wandered up back lanes, ate a bit and drank a bit.
The hardest thing was figuring out the bus system. As we had no idea where our hotel was in relation to the city, we hopped on, what we were told was the correct bus, got to the city eventually but we went in the opposite direction, the long way. Thank heaven it was a circular route.
Next day we went to Marseille. Ranked as the third most dangerous city in the world, and second largest in France, we decided that those little statistics would not stop us, and were we glad we followed our instincts.
Marseille is just brilliant. Sure there are unsavoury types around, but they are everywhere, especially here in France and Italy.
The old harbour of Marseille has been transformed into a mega tourist place. Lined with cafes, restaurants, the fishermen still sell their catch along the sea edge and there are yachts and boats anchored along the wharves and sea walls. The whole place is just a riot of colour. We did do a little train ride (like the one at Darling Harbour) up to the Notre Dame de la Garde, which is a huge cathedral that sits atop the highest point in Marseille and from where you get 360 degree views of the city. It is too far to walk and also very steep to access the church, hence the train. Later in the day we did lunch in one of the cafes and just soaked up the atmosphere of the wonderful city.
Our final day was spent in the lovely old city of Avignon. We had anticipated a peaceful day wandering the streets and enjoying the ambiance, but instead we arrived to find the old city was positively jumping. It seems that in July Avignon hosts a month long festival of theatre. The streets were jam packed with people (tourists), theatre performers, musicians and locals. Every street and building was festooned with placards advertising the various performances that would be held throughout the month. This was not the sedate place we had thought we would find, but it was great fun.
We did get to the Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes) though and were absolutely amazed at the size of the place, room upon room, passageways leading up and down and all over the place. A regular rabbit warren. The Popes actually did live in Avignon in the 1300's and it did not become part of France until 1791. We did get down to the Rhone to see the Saint Benezet bridge (Pont d'Avignon). Originally this bridge was built with 22 arches. But it kept falling down so it was just left.
We left Aix en Provence this morning and are now in Carcasonne. We plan to spend the best part of tomorrow in the old city so haven't rushed over there today to see it. The entrance is only about 800 m from our hotel, we have sighted it but getting our washing done was the priority of the day.
It is very hot in France at the moment, it must be well over 37 today.
After our whistle stop tour of 2 night in Carcasonne we head off to Tours (I think).
Starting off in Sydney we head over to the US for a few days in Los Angeles, then Las Vegas and finally over to the Big Apple. Then off again, down to Cuba for about 18 days for some old cars, cigars and Baccardi. After that we head north, this time to Toronto in Canada for a whistle stop before crossing the Atlantic to the UK. One of the highlights there will be a week down on the Isle of Wight. Jetting off again we will then spend approximately the next two months driving around Italy and France. After all that hard work we journey over to Greece where we will island hop using the local ferry systems, with 3 nights on Santorini, 3 nights of Mykonos and 3 nights on Paros. Yep, we love doing the tourist stuff! Finally we begin the long haul home stopping off on the way in Honkers for a little retail therapy.