Friday saw us leave Paris and board the TGV which is the super fast train to Avignon bound for our art retreat at Le Moulin Vieux (the old mill). Great journey – we were in First Class because of booking very early and getting the special price – you can only book these trains three months in advance of travel – register and you get notification when tickets are on sale.
We were met at the Avignon TGV station by our hosts at Le Moulin Vieux, Claude and Sylvane – so fabulous to finally meet up after all our organisation – they are so helpful and Claude allowed me to talk to him in French so that I could practice (poor man!) A 20 minute drive to their magnificent accommodation – think walls 30cm thick of old stone, tiled roof, blue shutters, vast rooms, a summer patio opening onto the pool, extensive grounds with tumbling flowers – tamed wildness, just perfect! We each have our own bedroom and all have views. We all fell in love and now by Sunday, no one wants to ever leave!
On our arrival we were treated to the most enormous strawberries – so, so sweet and delicious Rosé by our hosts – I had a tour which included all the necessary household information as well as possible adventures to undertake. The village (Entraigues sur la Sorgue) is very close and it was pretty soon that we found our way and bought food and wine – we are self catering – and more wine!
The village looks like a movie set for a French romance – beautiful river and bridge, buildings with walls and doors with just the right amount of distress! Clean but quirky, poppies and roses growing in disused lots, cafes and artisan bakeries in the square, a fountain and more glorious flowers.
The day after arrival we just stayed in this paradise, some swam and everyone painted and drew – there is no shortage of subject matter and then out for dinner at a local pizza restaurant where we were made to feel so welcome.
No sign at all of the famed arrogance of the French in this village, on the train or in Paris – we have had nothing but gracious help. Everyone of us is trying to speak some French words and we are learning so much about French culture and society.
It has also been very interesting to be here at this time just after the French elections – most of the people I have spoken to seem positive about their new young president, Emmanuel Macron.
Today we ventured forth further afield and took the local train (clean and very new looking) into Avignon, a really historic and truly ancient town with an intact medieval wall surrounding it (built upon Roman ruins) and the enormous and fascinating Palace of the Avignon Popes (they reigned during the era 1300 – 1400). This is worth visiting if you have an interest in medieval history but it is probably even more important to take the little ‘train’ that takes you around the city for 8 Euros with a commentary. It is worth it just to see how narrow a street can be and still accomodate a train! Great views – Mt Ventoux of Tour de France fame in the distance and of course the famous Pont d’Avignon – damn song – everyone starts to sing it as soon as you mention it!
The weather has been superb, so it was home for a swim, a nap and more art and then cheese, paté, biscuits and some more tasty local wine.