I never thought I would be back in middle school again. With that huge ‘ole backpack filled with multiple books and notebooks. Little did I know, I would do the same thing ten years later. I sat in my marketing class with a 58L bag right next to me. The bag was twice as big as me. I also got those strange looks as I walked to class. But now, of course, I was on my way to France rather than geography or history class. Today, I realized I truly am becoming a world traveller. This I know because in the past three days, I’ve given multiple people advice and direction on what they should do when they say where they plan on going this semester. It’s an indescribable feeling to have this kind of knowledge.
I left the train station at 14:40 and arrived in Avignon at 21:45. Luckily, not going how it went in Milan, Italy but rather I learned first hand what it meant to only be able to speak English. Arriving in Avignon, I went directly to the info guy which was of no help this time. I finally had a nice, French gentleman in a suit walk me out to the Taxis and wait their until someone came. He ended up leaving and told me that there is a bus that should come soon. So I waited… and waited… and waited… Until the bus finally came.
Lesson Here: If you are every traveling to a city that isn’t very touristy (especially in France) then call a taxi on the train. I had to learn it the hard way.
Getting dropped off in the city center of Avignon, I knew I had a long walk to get to my hostel. With my dad teaching me the knowledge to always be safe, I made a “weapon” with my bike lock and master lock by connecting them. I held it in my hand and always kept an eye out.
I didn’t get too lost but I knew I was going in the right direction when I saw a group of drunk kids who seemed like they were done for the night. I was right; they were going to the same hostel as me.
Upon arrival, long after midnight, I knew I had to tell my dad that I made it to Avignon safely. I knew he would worry especially after the Milan fight. So, I attempted to use the Internet Kiosk at the hostel, which was a waste of 2 Euros. It didn’t work at all. So I used my German phone to call a USA phone and wasted another 8 euros for a 2-minute conversation but he knew I was safe! I went to bed exhausted but excited to see southern France.
When I woke up the next morning, I had to “officially” check in and get the Wi-Fi password. Again, the lady not speaking very good English… she didn’t understand that my Wi-Fi didn’t work. Luckily, a girl from Boston was there and understood my frustration and told me that her iPhone didn’t work as well but her computer did. Just my luck!
After the Internet not working, two huge Mastiffs and an older couple from the states happily greeted me. I sat there, had my cup of coffee, and engaged in a conversation for about an hour. They told me, “Wow. You are really going to be something some day by traveling by yourself. That is very impressive for a young girl your age to be doing this. Your parents should be very proud of you.” It made my heart huge as well as made my parents proud when I told them this.
On a side note: In Prague, when we went on the free tour.. I remember my dad telling our 20 year old tour guide to tell her father the same kind of news.
Lesson here: If you are an adult traveller and come across a young adult traveling, it makes their week if you tell them something like this. It makes all those times when traveling got frustrated well worth it to have somebody three times your age say this.
After this, I was headed off into the town of Avignon! My first stop was the “Information” point in the city which actually came into quite some use. They gave me a detailed map and a pass that would give me a reduced entrance to all the museums and churches in the town. My first museum was the Archaeology Museum, which displayed all the collections from the Calvet Museum. It was very small but interesting.
After that, I went to the Angladon Museum which had paintings from Van Gogh and Picasso but was closed at the moment. I passed by a few beautiful churches and wandered through the city a little bit until I reached the Palace of the Popes. Which was a large gothic palace where the popes lived in the 14th century. After the 25 rooms of the palace, I went to see the Saint-Benezet Bridge. This was pretty cool! It was built in the 12th century and destroyed a hundred years later at the time of the Albigensian Crusades and then later rebuild. The bridge was damaged by floodwaters and finally abandoned in the 17th century. Basically, the French gave up but it was a major witness of Avignon History.
After seeing the bridge, I wandered through the city streets to come across a little restaurant in town. It had some locals (always the best) and I asked the young man (who spoke very good English) what his favorite was. He actually had been in California before yet he still said the Cheeseburger was the best. After giving it some time, I decided to try it! Yes, a cheeseburger in France. BUT it was the BEST cheeseburger I have ever had. I still tell people about it to this day, a few weeks later. Leaving the restaurant, I saw a couple getting frustrated with each other because it was two o’clock and they hadn’t found lunch. I interrupted and told them what I had found which they thanked me and headed in that direction!
Another lesson: If you are in a foreign city looking for a good place to eat, ALWAYS look before you get starving because it can take up to 2 hours to find a “hole in the wall” place.
Wandering the streets again, I came back to where I started– the Angladon Museum. This showed the works of Van Gogh and Picasso. It was in a private mansion in the heart of the old Avignon.
After the paintings, I decided to take a hike up to Saint-Andre Fort which was a medieval military structure built in the 14th century. The fort protected the boundary of the Kingdom of France as well as had magnificent views of Avignon. It was a symbol of rivalry because the kings of France were looking for a way to expand the kingdom towards the south and the Rhone river because of a border. The partnership act (signed in the 13th century) caused the two banks of the river to be in opposition, the French on the West and the Provencal on the East. It also was a symbol of royal power because during the time of the insecurity (middle of the 14th century) which was caused by the Hundred Years War, the fort lost its strategic role when Provence once again became part of France in 1481. The fort was maintained by the military until the late 18th century and was marked a historical monument one century later.
After the Fort, I came back into town thinking I knew the town like the back of my hand. I was wrong, I got quite lost when I was looking for a place to eat dinner as well as figure out the direction of my hostel. I had to find out the hard way that their “sausage” was the “smoked ham” of Dubrovnik. In America, we call these different kinds of meat, pepperoni. Yes, I once again, had pepperoni for dinner.
After that meal, I decided to eat an actual meal and have spaghetti at a restaurant near the hostel. You can’t go wrong with spaghetti, right? Well you can and also learning that their “salt & pepper” was the Parmesan cheese. Or at least they didn’t understand me very well and gave me cheese! What a long day… I was off to bed then Nice (pronounced Neeeese), France the next day!