Friday, April 27, 2007

France: Avignon, Rhone Valley; Switzerland & Italy

Well, here we are in Florence. Yes, that's right. We decided to skip Siena instead. I like to say that we came to our senses that it would be folly to come this far and pass right by the birthplace of the Renaissance, but the truth is that it was more a logistical decision; it just would have been a pain in the arse to get to Siena after already having been on the trains from Switzerland for seven hours. It's a pity, since Siena is meant to be "charming," according to the Lonely Planet, but another consideration is that accommodation is harder to get there.

Back in Carcassonne, the lady at the little shop where we bought our absinthe gave us a sample of these little white lollies which were really tasty, called pastilles au lait d'anesse. My French is only average, and it wasn't until I was eating one on the train from Switzerland that I realised this translates to lollies made of donkey's milk.

Florence is, as expected, overwhelming. Everywhere you turn there are incredible sights. It's a shame that the morass of tourists one needs to wade through almost ruins it. This isn't even high season, and they are thronging. We plan to catch a bus to San Gimignano tomorrow (27 April) and spend the day there.

Okay, catching up....

On our way to Avignon, we saw the Pont du Gard, a massive Roman aqueduct which is nearly twice the height of the one in Segovia. We didn't do any sightseeing in Avignon; the only thing we did was laundry before heading to the Roman theatre in Orange. Then we drove up the Rhone valley and stayed in two little ancient mountain villages: Alba-la-Romaine, dating from Roman times where we stayed in a 200-year old stone B&B; and Pont-en-Royans, built at the end of a gorge at the foot of the mountains with old houses built hundreds of years ago perched on the side of the gorge, propped up on stilts angled into the canyon wall.

We had by this time already extended the rental of the car by a day, and we were still running behind my itinerary, so we decided that the breakneck pace we were setting was too much and agreed to scale back. We would skip Vienne, blitz Lyon, leapfrog Geneva and Bern and head straight to Lucerne. Lyon was a very charming city; I would like to see it sometime! We also decided to skip Venice and Verona. Alas.

Next chapter: Switzerland; but for now, I won't get a chance to update again until after Rome when we are in Paris, from 01 May.

1 comment:

Mr McBlackwind Snr said...

Sounds like your having a great time,don't forget to sample some of the local Lambic(Fruit) beers on your travels.Snowflakes chance in hell of trying to get them here.Enjoy,be safe Dan.