Thursday, October 9, 2008

On to Paris and Home

We woke up to beautiful weather as the village's church bell rang out 6:00am, its first ringing of the day. The bell rings out the hours every hour and at five minutes past from 6:00am to 10pm with a single gong on the half hour. It used to ring every hour for the entire day until one gentleman who had just moved into the village threatened to sue if it continued to ring at night. He could not sleep with the bell pounding in his ears. Most of the village wanted it left as it always had been but the threat of a suit made them reach a compromise of ringing until 10:00pm and starting again at 6:00am. His honor and sleep satisfied, the genteman proceeded to move out of the village within a year of moving in, but the bell still remains silent at night.

After a breakfast of bread, jam, and coffee (plus the end of some every good goat's cheese from the village of Le Pompidou just up the road) it was sadly time to leave and head down to Avignon and the TGV. At least Kelly was going to get a chance to sit in the front seat of the car for once this trip since she spent the entire drive in the back seat. Arlette says she gets car sick in the back and so always claims shotgun. I think she's pretty sneaky.

A last look at the front door of the house.

The village from the road to Col D'Exil. Just after I took this picture I stepped in a deep hole while walking and fell flat on my face. After removing the debris from my mouth (which is usually open) I found the grass in the Cevennes had a more earthy, yet pleasant taste, than the grass here in Chandler. The dirt is better tasting here, though.

The drive to Avignon was uneventful and I drove slower than usual enjoying the perfect weather and the unusual lack of traffic. I did not even make my normal coffee stop in St. Jean du Gard. In fact I drove so leisurely that we missed the train we had hoped to catch to Paris. But, no worries, another TGV was arriving and leaving within 90 minutes.

The TGV is an incredible train and riding it should be on every ones' list of things to do before dying. It fast, smooth, comfortable and, well, fast. It reaches speeds of 180mph on stretches of the track. It doesn't feel like you are moving at that speed until you fly by cars on the autoroute which are traveling at 80mph.
As the train travels up the Rhone valley you can see many hilltop villages and towns that border both the left and right banks of the river. Before the new high speed track was built for the TGV, it shared the normal track which the slower trains use (they only travel at 80-100mph). It passed through Montelimar, Valence, and the vineyards of Hermitage (my favorite wines). I prefer the old route, though it added over an hour of travel time because it was so much more scenic.

The church of Saint Michel de la Garde Adhémar from the TGV at 180 mph. This is one of my favorite Provencal Romanesque churches. It was constructed on the site of an existing chapel and dates from the second half of the twelfth century, though its bell tower was heavily reconstructed in the 19th century. It also contains a wonderful medieval wooden Madonna and Child in its presbytery.

Arrival at Gare de Lyon after 2 hours and 50 minutes of travel.

We took a cab from Gare de Lyon to a nice hotel in the LAtin Quarter across the street from the Cluny museum. It was such a gorgeous day we took off to Notre Dame, which was less than 1/2 mile away.

Notre Dame from the Pont Neuf.

Notre Dame from the Parvis.

As I was taking the preceding picture the bells began to ring for Sunday mass. It was awesome. We have been in the bell tower before as the bells were beginning to ring. They quickly move you out of the room as the big bell begins to swing (it takes awhile to get any moment. The ball on the clapper is larger than my quite sizable head). When you are standing on the landing outside as it rings, you feel the entire structure vibrating under your feet. It is an incredible feeling. I sure hope the gentleman who left St Roman does not live near here.

Statues flanking St Anne's Portal on the west facade.

We didn't have much time to hang out in the Latin Quarter or go to Montmartre so we found an Italian restaurant, chowed down and went to bed so we could catch an early flight back to Phoenix.

And thus ends a great trip. Well, there was the umbrella incident at security in London Heathrow, but that's a story for another time. I'll only say that it was not a 3 Fingered Moment on my part, but it had the potential to be so. And, I no longer have a nice yellow Tour de France umbrella.

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