Europe 2013: Random Provence Bits and Bobs

Our admission ticket to the Carrières de Lumières (which I mentioned in the previous travelog post) was bundled with admission to the nearby Chateau des Baux. The surrounding village of Les Baux was cute, if a bit touristy, and we were glad to stop for lunch in a little restaurant that had a beautiful mountain view.

A sweet elderly couple at the next table offered to take our photo. Fortunately I remembered enough of my rusty conversational French to say "thank you" and "same to you" (in response to their "bonne journée").

A sweet elderly couple at the next table offered to take our photo. Fortunately I remembered enough of my rusty conversational French to reply with a couple of polite phrases (like “thank you” and “same to you”).

The Chateau of today comprises what’s left of a 10th century fortified castle. To be honest, ruins, medieval re-enactments and and replicas of trebuchets aren’t really my thing, but the views of the surrounding countryside made it well worth the climb.

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We finished with a little touristy shopping in the village – caramels, lavender pillows, pottery – and headed onward to Avignon, the city located nearest to where we were staying in Boulbon. Avignon has a rich history as the seat of the Roman Catholic popes (for a brief time, at least), but it was nearing nightfall and by this time in the day I was far too tired for any more sightseeing. So we strolled for a while, then grabbed a random dinner and called it a day.

In lieu of the Papal Palace - just another random handsome Provencal doggie.

In lieu of the Papal Palace – here is another random handsome Provencal doggie.

The next morning we set off fairly early for the  drive to Barcelona, which we broke in Montpellier for a bite of lunch. Here’s the thing I noticed about many Provencal cities – it’s a pain to drive into them. Either they’re surrounded by walls, or by motorways which seem to comprehensively surround them with very few exits in and out of each city. Montpellier fits into the latter category. We made a few passes around it and even through it before we got our bearings.

And just as we found our way into the city, the bumper of our rental car came to grief. In a bizarre freak incident, our front bumper was crushed from the bottom upwards as we tried to turn into a small lane which looked like it had parking spaces, but was actually a private road with an automatic bollard which we didn’t know about because it had just retracted into the ground seconds before we passed by.

The rental car company’s office in Montpellier had already closed for the day, and it was futile trying to reach them on the phone… so we parked the car and stopped for crepes instead.

Because when the going gets tough, the tough eat carbs.

Because when the going gets tough, the tough eat carbs.

After our lunch break, we tried driving to the rental company’s location just outside Montpellier. But when we found that closed as well, James made the executive decision to just drive onward to Barcelona with the smashed and hanging bumper. Logic: since it didn’t fall off en route to the rental company, it probably stood a decent chance of making it to Spain. It was a little stressful hearing the dislodged bumper scrape the road every time there was a slight change in gradient, but we eventually reached Barcelona with no further incident. (Whew.)

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