Travel day. We left Barcelona (sniff...I fell in big love with that city) at about 9:30. We were both exhausted as sleep did not happen last night for whatever reason. Too much expresso? Nerves? Anyway, we made the train...had to go through security just like in an airport...found our platform and boarded the high speed train to a small French town called Valence where we would make our connection. Doing the math, I figured the distance was about 800 miles. At 183 mph we were there in four hours. The train was not only fast, but smooth as silk...no rocking, and our seats were big and spacious. We thought we would have beautiful views of the Mediterranean, but the tracks are too far inland. So, after a wonderful banquette sandwich, we snoozed and woke up right before our station stop. The station was smaller than in Barcelona and there was truly no one who spoke English. Some how, we got on the right train and 45 minutes later we arrived in Aix en Provence. It is affectionally known here as Aix (pronounced X). Great cab driver who didn't speak English but did speak Spanish, so between Jon's Spanish and French we had a fun conversation. Except I kept having to say," What did he say? What did you say?" Lol. I wondered to myself if I could have done it alone-probably-the human race is really very kind and helpful.
We checked into our hotel, which is built around a courtyard. Our room is tiny...but clean and way too $$ for the space, but that is this city. I'm trying to find an analogy...this is where Parisians and other French people come for weekends and holidays. It is in the far south of France, near the Mediterranean Sea. Much like Nisswa, MN, Door County, WI or Michigan if you live in Chicago; although on a bigger scale. Other than the Cezanne museum which I intend to visit, the main attraction here are natural hot springs, and Roman architecture. It is mostly outdoor cafes and shops. Which is just fine for me.
When I was in college I went on my first 5 week trip to Italy. Freshman were usually never invited and my parents had to sign off that I wouldn't get too homesick. Hah. I loved it. I do remember, though, a lecture we all had to attend about culture shock. It was 1975 and that probably was a thing, since the world was not the global marketplace it is now. I felt it then but I had been schooled that differerent isn't bad, it is just different. That and the trip I took through Europe two years later with my bestie Sue Sudduth Moynahan were life changing. It taught me that we in the US are just a little
piece of the puzzle. I remember being surprised that not everyone wanted to be in the States.
I mention this because I had some culture shock this afternoon. This is so different from the international city that is Barcelona. This isn't an American tourist town. We haven't heard an English speaker all day. That's fine, I just needed to wrap my head around the fact that I know NO French and so I need to rely mostly on sign language, or I ask Jon.And that's fine. By the end of the evening, it was part of what I was loving.
Tomorrow we take a day trip to Monaco and Nice. Our intention was to mix famous cities with small authentic ones. The fact that we are visiting Nice on the anniversary of 9-11 isn't lost on us. We remain aware, but stubborn in the fact that we will not let hatred win in experiencing this world.
The next day we will take a trip into the vineyards of Provence. And then on the third day we will explore this awesome place.