After the ball is over

Avignon5In my current life, I go to bed early. It’s the joy of being on holiday on one’s own. Next Saturday, I move in with friends. It will be nice, I hope, but you have to fit in with other folk’s arrangements and lifestyles. Where I’m going, life largely revolves around the wants and needs of a number of felines of the Norwegian Blue variety. Currently, life revolves around me. I have a drink, write a few lines, eat my dinner and watch an episode of Breaking Bad. Then I read my book – The Goldfinch – then I go to sleep feeling more than a trifle content.

In the morning, I get up very early, drink some coffee, write a few more lines and wonder what to do with the rest of the day. You can see why I go to bed happy. This morning, when I was drinking my coffee and writing my lines, before anyone else was out and about, a woodpecker, with a violently red beak, arrived. As I said, you can see why I’m happy. I even went to the village to purchase croissants – what a luxury. But the weather was indecisive so I reflected a little on ways in which the day might not be wasted. I decided to go to Avignon.

Back in the day – a popular phrase which indicates many lifetimes since, but for me means 2008, – I would drive into the city. In the past, you could randomly park almost anywhere against the city walls. Things have moved on: the parking areas have been replaced with grass and flowers and very nice it looks too. Makes it difficult with a car though. Back in the day, I would bravely drive up La Rue de la Republique and not bat an eyelid at all the other vehicles fighting their way through town in order to reappear outside the city walls and make for another battle in the car park under the Palais du Papes. And back in the day, I would drive my loyal Fiesta down back streets that, frankly, had a cheek to call themselves a street; waging war against the lycra brigade and those who had the audacity to live in the city. In my sabbatical year, I became French. I’m not French now and I have a hire car without premium insurance. I took the bus.

Avignon Festival finished yesterday. Today, Avignon looked liked somewhere after the ball was over. If you’re lucky enough to happen upon Arles on a Saturday, you can enjoy one of the biggest and best markets Provence has on offer. And if you stay for lunch, you can watch the good folk of Arles clean up their town and hose the roads down. And within half an hour, you would never know that fish stalls, vegetable stalls, fruit stalls, flower stalls and all things Provencal had ever been near the place. Avignon, meanwhile, was clinging to memories of its festival. Old posters littered the joint. I dismissed the main routes, favouring the far more interesting back streets but they were infested by debris.

Finally, I sought the hidden path behind the Palais du Papes and sat quietly in the undisturbed quarter of le manutention with a welcome glass of Coca Cola. A woman arrived and asked me if I would save her a table. I don’t know who she thought I was but I agreed. She later returned with her friends who offered their thanks and asked whether I’d had to engage in battle to save the table. It was peaceful.

Later, I caught a bus home – notice that word ‘home’ – and the driver forgot to stop at my point of disembarkation. No worries – he just drew up outside the lane back to the gites. It’s better in the country.

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