Thursday, October 11, 2012

The End of Hurricane Season & a Last Minute Trip to see the Sun

The best of news I bring forth.  We have made it to October, which means the crazy busy season is over, and I can breathe a sigh of relief.  If I'm sailing on a little boat called my job, then that boat has been in a hurricane since May, trying to stay afloat, on the verge of drowning, and capsizing a couple times (i.e. breakdown crying to my boss via Skype...embarrassing!!).

Now I'm kind of laying on a piece of wood like the ending scene of Titanic, panting and looking around.  "I'll never let go, Jack!" 

My boss's name is actually Jack.

So that's something to celebrate.  We've made it through our first full year of tours with Easy Pass Tours, the new part of the company that I'm in charge of.  It went from nothing to 7 different tours operating several times per day: Skip-the-line Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Catacombs, Louvre, Orsay, Pompidou, and a Wine tasting/Evening fountain show at Versailles.  Whew!

And that's why updates and content all but ceased to exist right around mid-May.  Now that peak tourist season has subsided, I'm going to attempt to broadly recap the past 5 months of my life.  Not now.  Eventually.  First, I'll just start with last weekend and the last minute trip I took.

Sometimes I forget that I'm in France, and I have a network of trains at my fingertips ready to whisk me away to magical dream regions, like Provence in the South of France, that would normally cost me $1,000 and a week of vacation.  Instead, within 3 hours and the cost of a drive across Texas, I can go to the land of lavender and olives and sunshine, for a quick weekend trip.  Why don't I do this all the time?

On Friday, I started looking through my planner, and all but two weekends between now and Christmas are booked up with something or other, which meant this was one of my last free weekends. Couple that with my already impending dread - the shoulder-drooping, head-dragging, scarf and jacket-covered horror that has already come upon me knowing that our days of sun and warmth are over.

We had somewhere around 6 days of sun this summer, and now cold, gray, wet, and cloudy are here to stay for 6 more long blistery months.  I am weeping as I write this.  As a Texas girl, I need sun.  I need it all the time, every day, on my face, and I need it year round.  I LIKE wearing t-shirts in January.

I did a quick weather survey for the weekend to see where the sun was, and I found it in the South of France, so I booked a train ticket leaving early Saturday morning.  I love trains.

It was a lovely relaxing weekend, minus the fact that I almost missed the train entirely.  I stupidly set my alarm for the time I needed to leave the apartment rather than the time I needed to wake up.  This is not advised.  I had to RUN full-speed through each connecting metro station (one that I swear was a mile long), and then again through the train station (did I mention I'm out of shape and never exercise), arriving with all of 3 minutes to get out of the underground metro area, connect to the station, make it up to the train tracks if I could ever find them, and hop on my train.

Me: "Excusez-moi!! Where is platform 13??" (Pant, gasp, pant)
Train station guy: "Hm? Let me look at your ticket..."
Me: "Train! Leaving now! Right now!! Where is the platform??"

Train station guy, looking at my ticket, realizes that my train is actually leaving in 3 minutes, and kindly takes on my fear and panic.  "There!!  Go up there!!"  I thereby run pathetically up a really long ramp, running awkwardly uphill at the same speed as the people who chose to ride the escalator thing next to me.  "Has she ever run before in her life?  No, it appears this is the first or second time."

I ran to the track, jumped on the train, the whistle blew, and the doors shut.  Ho-ly crap.  I ran up and down the aisles high fiving everyone and asking if they saw how awesome that timing was.  Actually I just stood in the hallway panting and sweating like a freak until I sufficiently caught my breath enough to go into the seated area and not sound like a hyena.

Even the view out the window confirmed that this train was speeding away from the darkness and cold of Paris skies and into the southern direction of sun.
How I've missed you, dear friend.

The town I visited is called L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which means Island on the Sorgue River.  It's a tiny town surrounded by the tiny river, practically stuck back in time, and you can walk across the whole thing in 8 minutes.

Just what I wanted.

The building to my apartment rental had an adorable entryway with a fountain and bike casually leaning beneath the shadow of a chandelier hanging from wooden beams.  Typical France: adorable and magical and ridiculous without even trying.

Just outside, historical centuries-old cafes.  Oh just stop it with your cuteness.  I half expect a horse-drawn carriage to roll by.
I wandered in circles, stopped in stores, and strolled and strolled, stopping for a glass of wine and snack late afternoon at wine shop that had high wooden tables outside.

Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is famous for its gigantic Sunday morning market.  Turns out part of it was right outside the front door, because at 5am, all the vendors were making a big ruckus setting up in the dark.  Here's the view from my window:
I had the Beauty in the Beast song in my head the whole day.  There goes the baker with his bread like always!...

The market was incredible.  Mounds of every imaginable type of olive, sun dried tomatoes, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, honey, jams.  So much goodness everywhere.  All I could think about was how to take a month off work to come live here, shop at the markets each week and cook and cook and cook.

I collected a glorious picnic of roasted chicken, olives, tapenade, tomatoes, cheese, bread, and wine, and sprawled out in the park across the street.

Bon Appetit!

I came with two small bags and left with five.

The market was too tempting, and I walked out with a woven basket, small quilt, scarf, lavender, honey, mustards, salt & herb grinders, and a beautiful yellow baking dish.  If I could've carried more, I'm sure I would've gotten more.  Best of all, after my picnic, I got to sprawl out in the sun and fall asleep under its warmth, a sensation which I shall not likely experience until 7 months from now.

At 6pm, I hopped on the train back to Avignon, and then took a late train back to Paris.

All in all, I was reminded of how wonderful Provence is, got to relax a little and get out of the city, and enjoyed wearing a sleeveless dress in the perfect 75 degree weather.  I hope to take another weekend trip next spring or summer.  And set my alarm for the right time.


  1. i mean seriously? i couldn't go on any kind of trip on my own but there you are panting and all. i envy you and so glad you got to get away for a little bit. so glad you've survived the past five+ months! yay no more crickets... lol -faith

    1. I only started traveling solo because I was forced to the first time I moved to France right after college. I lived in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and as a teacher, we had a 2 week vacation every 6 weeks between April and September. Crazy, huh?? So my choices were to sit around and do nothing or travel solo. It's actually really great. You appreciate things much more, take more time to look around, and often get to meet all kinds of people.