Sur le pont D’Avignon? Mais non…

Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond

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I wasn’t feeling in the mood for dancing, despite the beauty of le pont d’Avignon.

So, after a great time in Marseille, I was flagging. I had driven 1500 miles, spent most of 15 days by myself, and lugged my rucksack, cold box and backpack up more stairs than I care to remember… and I was remembering many things…

It was coming up to Mr T’s birthday. I was having a great time, but I knew that it was coming to an end. And the sorrow was beginning to increase. More and more, I was feeling the black cloud coming over, reminding me that, in a few days time, I should have been enjoying my husband’s retirement day and we should have been finalising our plans to move to Spain to begin a new life. Except that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I was alone, grieving again.

Avignon is the place where the Pope used to have his Palace, and what a palace. It’s also the place of  the 15th century bridge or “pont”, on which traditional dances were held.  But I was tired, listless and losing enthusiasm at a rate of knots. Where previously I would have eagerly bought my ticket, a guide book and enjoyed a selfish afternoon, immersed in culture, language and history, all I could do was stare at the beauty of the place…and feel nothing. I felt ashamed that I felt nothing. As though I was incapable of appreciating the fine architecture. I apologised to Avignon. It wasn’t its fault, it was mine.

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Palais des Papes… Where I realised I’d had enough

My final meal in France was in a delightful restaurant where I ate all manner of fishy things and met a wonderful waitress called Adele (with an accent over the first e). She sensed my loneliness and pepped me up with funny stories, her own dreams of travelling to England and how she had had a row with her boyfriend the night before. My impending misery dissipated for a while… along with a few glasses of rose and a beer.

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Something fishy going on… and lurking under the white fish were 3 snails… chewy but delicious
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Adele my delightful waitress…
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Feigning happiness but feeling weary…

I sat and watched the world go by. I watched families, couples, children, all strolling in front of me, lost in their own worlds. I wondered what problems they were facing, what issues were going on in their lives. I spotted a little girl, engrossed in a cartoon artist’s work, innocent of the knowledge of future sadnesses that she was to face. I wanted to reach out to each and every one of them. To tell them that I was alone, and ask them if they would just hug me. And I’m sure if I had, I would have received what I was aching for… but we don’t do things like that, do we? I had skin hunger. An overwhelming need to communicate intimately with someone who knew me, loved me, cared about me…

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I was unsure about his artwork, however this little French girl seemed impressed… or maybe she was pointing out some home truths…

I was beginning to use alcohol as an anti depressant – never a good sign, since I get high on life. And drinking is totally useless on a driving holiday. I awoke the next morning, with a headache and heartache. My next journey was to be onwards to Arles, where Van Gogh lived and stayed in the psychiatric hospital for a while. This was becoming a little too close for comfort.

I had 4 days of my journey left, and approximately 1000km. I sat in my hotel room and despaired at my inability to carry on. My weakness for letting the clouds build up and my overwhelming feelings of isolation. I rang  my friend. He said “Come home”. It was all I needed to hear… Van who?

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There’s no place like home…

Well that was it. Once I heard the smooth, soothing tones of my friend Nick’s voice, the homesickness flooded in. There was no stopping it. Except 846 miles (1094 km), torrential rainstorms in the middle of France, the fact that every French person alive was going in the same direction as me….and the English Channel.

I was in Avignon. Which is a medieval town in the South East of France. It wasn’t designed for cars to drive around, a fact I discovered when trying to get out and onto the autoroute. Yes, I had a satnav. But the satnav assumes that road signs don’t really change over time. It’s a bad assumption to make in a medieval town at the height of the tourist season. Every left or right turn that I had to make seemed to be blocked with a “no entry” sign. Frustration escalated as Mini and I were blocked at every turn. I seemed destined to stay in Avignon forever, and as much as it is a beautiful town with heaps of history and a nice bridge (it is nice but it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind at this point), I just wanted to get out.

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A little light shower through the middle of France… there was no stopping me. I wanted to go home and clicking my heels together wasn’t going to work…

 

 

Eventually I followed a French car which seemed to have a purpose in mind and I just hoped that its purpose was the same as mine, to escape the gilded cage of Avignon. Hurrah! After an hour of driving around, reversing around corners, 23 point turns and countless numbers of apologies to the ambling tourists that I nearly ran over, I was free and onto an A road which would eventually lead me to the autoroute (I hoped).

 

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My homies, Nick and Sukhi gave me a huge welcome home after my travels