I have been thrilled by your response to the stories I write on my blog – even a few self confessed ‘tragics’ who wait for the next instalment! So I thought I should just finalise my French adventures and my return to Australia before I leave this Great Southern Land again for Los Angeles and grandmother duties.
As I finished up my art residency at Ateliers Four Winds just outside the village of Aureille in Provence, I was very lucky to have my daughter, who lives in London, and her friend arrive to celebrate my birthday which occurred during my travels. I had walked past their choice of the weekend stay, a hidden treasure of a boutique hotel, Le Balcon des Alpilles, on my daily walks into Aureille – it was behind a high hedge and I could just glimpse tennis courts and a beautiful, manicured garden. I was told by others that it was superb with magnificent food. Once inside the gates there was no let-down, the gardens were manicured, irises abounding and so very French in style and set into the green, green lawn was an absolute jewel of a swimming pool. Fortunately the day of arrival it was warm and bliss to sit by the pool and catch up.
We ate in the village one evening and on the second, ate at the hotel. What a meal that was! There was a party consisting of a husband and wife celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, their three children plus partners/spouses and two friends. We were invited to be part of the celebration and so, along with the rest, we toasted the happy couple with multiple glasses of champagne and paté and then joined a large table with the hotel owners/chefs at the other end! It was an interesting exercise in French language practice, but most had more English than I had French. Course after course arrived – asparagus with truffles in butter, steak with a special mushroom and brandy sauce (much discussion of the skills in preparing this dish), about 30 cheeses came with a green salad, then pannacotta with strawberry in a glass and then chocolate mousse in caramel sauce with cherries in brandy! I got home to the studio about midnight….
The next wonderful stop was St Rémy, a beautiful town with a historic centre – ribbon thin streets! All hail the driver! Our hostelry that night was a newly refurbished ancient building – Hotel de Tourrel . Magnificent room and full, deep bath with all mod cons….. More food, wine, wandering into and out of bistros and shops.
My final farewell to Provence was not without incident – having arrived in plenty of time for the TGV at Avignon and worked out exactly which train to board, I managed along with another couple of people to board the wrong train to Paris. Instead of going to the airport, it was a direct train to the Gare de Lyon in the centre of town! The conductor/controllers and other staff were fabulous and using my new facility (!!) in French was understood and I understood in return. I was given a seat and instructions on how to get to my destination by suburban train. Realising there were others in the same boat, I suggested we share a taxi at the other end – they readily agreed and no one had a flight connection, we had booked hotels at the airport, so settled into another comfortable and very speedy ride.
So glad I had a really nice hotel for the night and a quick shuttle to the airport the next day – crowded and super busy at Charles de Gaulle, but well signposted and found my way this time quite straightforwardly! Touchdown into Australia is always lovely and so good to get really good coffee again…….