Monday, May 20, 2013

Faster than a speeding bullet! Now stop!

During our last couple of days in Paris, I think that Sarah and I began to secretly fret and worry a bit about our coming change of location. Partially because of how rough the move from Reykjavik to Paris was, and partially because of the feeling that there we are a lot of opportunities for something to go wrong. First we had to pack and get out of our apartment in a timely manner, then secure a taxi in a part of town not exactly swarming with them, get to the train station, find our train on time, board with the kids and luggage, get off at the right stop, get our rental car, drive to Arles, get in touch with the woman we were renting our apartment from and then actually find our apartment.

None of these things alone seemed especially challenging, but the unending string of them, combined with a few worrying random factors (not even sure if the woman renting to us knew we were coming on the right day... and wait, where is Arles from Avignon again?) was enough to cause some concern. Plus, at any point, one or both kids could mutiny, and the whole thing could come grinding to a halt. Here goes!

Luckily, the morning went as good as could be planned! Sarah gave the kids a pep talk in the morning that seemed to actually stick. Packing and cleaning the apartment went smoothly. Talking to a receptionist at a Best Western down the street, I was able to get a cab with little hassle. Furthermore, it was a van cab, so there was plenty of room for our collection of bags, car seats and children. We arrived at the station just in time. Found and boarded our train with reasonable effort and were off!

Now, planning the trip, I'd sort of thought that the kids would be excited about the train trip. And that they might geek out at both the experience in general, or the speed of the TGV train, at least. So, let's see how they responded...

They literally did this for the entire three hour trip. Occasionally, they'd ask for food or water. Or I'd make some half-hearted attempt to point out some sheep or what looked to be a distant passing castle. But, meh.

They seemed content, so Sarah and I were content to leave them be.

Unfortunately, everything went pear-shaped when we arrived at the Avignon station. Roused from their Word World stupor, the kids went into full on mutiny mode, claiming to be hungry, thirsty and tired at the same time, and then commenced to declare war on each other over who would get to carry a Gogo Kidz wheeled-car seat caddy. Defeated, a screaming Otto attempted to scale Sarah, who was already weighed down with a two packs and a car seat. Meanwhile, Stella declared the caddy too heavy to carry, dropped it and broke into vocal sobs. Somehow, despite this, we managed to all topple from the train into a crying, sweating pile of backpacks and car seats on the sweltering Avignon train station loading dock.

Recollecting ourselves, we made our way to Hertz and got the keys to our Renault Clio. (Picture to come, promise!) Then, Otto made one final attempt to torpedo our commute by losing his poop both figuratively and literally. Sarah took him, screaming again, to the restrooms to change him. Those ended up being pay restrooms. But, I believe taking sympathy on Sarah's situation, the women manning the restrooms let Sarah and the kids in, with the promise of later payment.

When I went by a short while later to pay them, and only had a 50 Euro note, they were less than  pleased.

Anyhow, shortly after being deposited in their car seats, first Otto, then Stella, crashed out... and it was off to Arles! Luckily, starting at the train station, there were signs that read "Arles," so getting too Arles was a breeze. And what did I think of driving our micro-mini Clio down winding Provincial roads?

Something about small cars and country roads just finds my happy place. Much like our week in Tasmania, I could drive like that unendingly.

Soon we arrived in Arles, where Sarah and I got to test our marriage by living the tired cliché of "male driver won't stop and ask for directions," but we'll just breeze over that... and the several dead end roads ...awkward trips the wrong way down narrow one way roads ...uncomfortable silences from the passenger seat ...and parking lots with no exit... and focus on arriving at our apartment after stopping for directions at the tourist information booth.

But, what an apartment it is! An ancient three story townhouse, with old stone walls, wood rafters, cute blue shutters and a roof deck overlooking the Rhone! Despite the inevitable fall one or both children is bound to take down the narrow marble staircases, it is a definite win!

And did I mention the rooftop deck?!

And, so what is my impression of Arles so far? It's definitely more "Otto-Speed." Less chaotic. Narrow streets with few to no cars for his parents to try to keep him from getting run over by. And, lots of quiet plazas and courtyard to run around in, most with jump-worthy cement posts. Let's take a quick visual tour shall we?

 This tiny courtyard, a block from our place, is already dubbed "Otto's Plaza." He runs straight there after we walk out or front door, and -upon arriving- declares "here it is!"

 A small street we ate dinner on our first night. This sort of shabby-chic look seems to be the towns defining charm.
 Stella and I headed down a narrow street. Pedestrian-friendly places like this are a welcome change from the crowded, narrow sidewalks and busy streets of Paris. 
Breakfast breads at the towns central plaza. At first I was eager to "go, go, go," but after watching Stella dance to the accordion player there, Sarah reminded me it was probably more important to let the kids have their time.

Anyhow, today was a quiet day. Partially to give the kids a chance to rest, and partial because I was feeling a bit ill this morning. Fermented shark, no problem. But, switch my diet to bread, cheese and rose wine... and apparently all bets are off. But, our plan tomorrow is to pile back into the Clio, hit the road a bit and hopefully find a nice village to explore and some nice wine to taste.

Small car, country roads and the promise of wine at the end? Sounds good to me!

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