Monday, October 22, 2007

Because of the size of our bags, we took a taxi to the train station, Gare de Lyon. It wasn't 10 minutes away, but didn't want to struggle to get on and off the metro. We arrived a couple hours early because the hotel door man, Stephan, had made advance reservations for us and we had to pick up our tickets. Being unfamiliar with the train system I felt it better to get there early. It was just as well, although in reality it was quite a quick process, and everyone from information to ticket agent were extremely friendly and helpful.

Once we had our tickets and had the info we needed to find our particular train gate we had time for coffee and croissants.
The station was full of people and we waited a bit before a couple seats in the waiting area came available. While doing some people watching D. spotted this young woman comforting her pet rabbit. Maybe the rabbit was comforting her.

In short order it was time for us to board our double decker train.

Once we located our seats on the second level and settled in it seems we both put our cameras away and didn't take any more pictures until we arrived at the Chateau. Oh well, I guess I'll have to rely on my superlative skills as a descriptive writer to paint a scene for you of the 3 hour trip from Paris to Aix en Provence. In case your wondering, (I did), Aix is pronounced...X.

A charming and handsome young family joined us in our elevated cabin. They were a couple with two young children, the oldest child was near to 4 or 5 years old and the youngest, an infant at the breast. I recall thinking back to when we traveled with young children and about all the stuff we had to carry along. Well, this couple were the modern and French incarnation of that past life of ours. D. thinks they were having a silent argument, but I didn't notice. I didn't notice for two reasons, 1. I'm a man and don't pick up those kind of signals until they smack me in the face, and 2. I tried to keep my gaze out the window rather than embarrass the mom when she was trying to breast feed. Although I may have been the one to be embarrassed. The dad put a DVD in their lap top for the older girl and that entertained her for the majority of the trip. Dad was up and down and running around doing one errand after another, hardly taking time to sit and eat the lunch they had brought along. He seemed quite attentive , but heck, what do I know.

The train travels at around 200 mph and yet was as smooth and quiet as can be. When I wasn't reading , dozing, or eating, I was taking in the scenic countryside repleat with medieval village after medieval village. Really, it was easy for me to imagine that I was in a time machine, traveling back in time.

Just a few minutes before arriving in Aix we stopped to discharge a large number of passengers at Avignon. This is where our young travel companions left us. The dad started taking gear down to the door at least ten minutes before arriving at Avignon.

The Aix-en-Provence TGV station is about 13km (8 miles) west of the city, out in the countryside. The new and very modern station has shops, cafes and restaurants, and several car rental agencies. Once we got our bearings we had to take an elevator to the ground level and then outside and down the way a few blocks to reach the rental car lot. The girl at the car rental counter was very courteous and helpful and spoke English much better than I speak French.

Fortunately for me, I had run off a Google direction page, at home, of directions from Aix to Nans des Pins, because when I asked the girl how to get to Nans Des Pins she gave me a look that said...WHERE? So I said, " how do I get from here, the rental car lot, to highway A8?" No problem says she, " just go through the ticket gate ( to which she provided a ticket), turn left, go 500 meters, bear right onto A8. The A8 goes east towards Nice."Tres bonne. The access to motorway A8 was, infact, as easy as she had described. In retrospect, however, I failed to ask a very important question; "how do I get back here?" That will be a story at the end. ;)

We drive in Canada frequently and I've been know to comment occasionally that the Canadians don't waste too much money on direction signs. Well the French are even more frugal. The Google directions told us to exit A8 at #34. No problem. Bear right and follow D568. Guess what; no sign for D568. Thinking we were lost. Thinking? No, we were lost. Actually we were on the correct road, going in the right direction, but without a sign, we thought we had missed a turn or something. So, unlike the typecast male traveler, I stopped at a gas station in the village of Tourves to ask for directions (did you faint?). The woman running the desk spoke zero English, but I spoke enough French so as to ask her to draw me a map and voila---turn left go 11 kilometers and there is the chateau. D'accord, perfectement.

A little later and after a slight detour into Nans des Pins (I'm not a great follower of directions, sometimes), We arrive at our home away from home for the next week.

Front entrance to the Chateau. That's our Peugeot rental parked in front.

Next: A tour of the Chateau.


Blogger Lee said...

Another interesting post, Rel. That's a mean train! :)

10:43 PM  
Anonymous tongue in cheek said...

...and how you ever found this Chateau B&B from the TGV Station in Aix is still a mystery to me! Google directions or not, you should be given an award!!

4:55 AM  
Blogger Flossy said...

A chateau no less! It looks gorgeous, I can't wait to see more photos.

You realise of course, that while I am lime with envy, I am at the same time devouring the details!

I want to be French.

5:04 PM  
Blogger PEA said...

"It was easy for me to imagine that I was in a time machine, traveling back in time"....I love that!! Gosh, I would have gotten lost for sure...and I'm just talking about the station, never mind the road! lol D and I would get along great, I love to people watch too:-) Can't wait to see inside that chateau! xox

6:37 PM  

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