Waking up in the morning to the sound of church bells playing Ave Marie. That’s different!
Today is the day I pick up my car and attempt getting around Provence. The car is at the TGV station so I need to hop back on the local train. The ticket line is huge so I attempt the machine – hmmmmm – fortunately I’m not alone trying to figure it out and a young local helps us out. Ticket in hand I meet another 60 something American woman finding her way around. It turns out she’s also traveling solo and has been staying in Isle sur la Sorgue, another small town on my list. She’s on her way to Aix en Provence for the day. Unfortunately she’s leaving the area soon or we might have planned to meet up another day. The train ride is short so there’s no time to pick her brain about Isle sur la Sorgue either.
I find the Hertz desk easily and within no time have my little Opel – I call my little white car Blanche. Blanche and I need to become good friends quickly.
She new, she’s shiny, and she has a manual shift – oh boy. It’s been at least 10 years since I’ve driven a stick shift – now I’m in a French city, not really knowing where I’m going, and I can feel the snickering from the Hertz staff as I drive away knowing I may stall several times. However — its okay, it all comes back, I see the sign for Nimes which is the direction I want and I’m on the road. Of course I’m white knuckled for awhile but I soon calm down and enjoy the feel of the road with the shift. The signage is good and in no time I’ve driven the 40km to Uzes. I have no idea where I’ll leave Blanche in Uzes but I pull into the first garage I see and figure the main square can’t be far – ditching the car as soon as possible in a walled town with narrow streets is upper most in my mind – sorry Blanche.
I’m in Uzes to see a second cousin I haven’t seen or heard from in 45 years. Shelley and her family provided a home away from home when I was at school in Lausanne Switzerland 1968-69. The family was transferred there from Canada when Shelley was 16. I was the naive little Canadian newbie and Shelley was the sophisticated French speaking, college girl. The family was very kind to me.
Shelley is recently widowed and just sold her house in Sommieres, a small town near Nimes and Montpelier, and moved to Uzes to be close to her daughters. After lunch we went to her very interesting new home – its an ancient barn she’s redoing! It belongs to her son in law and rather than pay rent for a year she’s renovating it as a home until she knows what she wants to do and where. Shelley is an interior architect so this comes naturally. She explained that the barn was just that last January, dirt floor, front and back barn doors and one tiny window on the upper level. Technically no one is supposed to live there and the building can’t be changed from the outside, the local officials are turning a blind eye regarding the inside. The barn doors are still there but when you open them there are huge glass door/windows. The interior is transformed with a concrete floor, countertops, shelves, and a loft bedroom – did I mention she has no electricity, only solar. The solar provides enough light and she has propane for cooking but she can’t use any appliances that make heat – like a toaster. They’re working on finding a way to heat the barn but for now she plans to spend some months with her son in Toronto this winter.
On the other hand she has the most amazing view because the land is protected against building (hence the reason she isn’t supposed to be living there or changing the structure) so there isn’t a sign of civilization in sight. She explained that her home in Sommieres was on several acres with no neighbors in sight so she’s used to it. She has two dogs, a horse, and a donkey for company.
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It’s time for me to get back to Avignon and we make plans to see one another in Avignon on my last day. Shelley is leaving to meet her brother in Copenhagen for several days.
My ride back to Avignon is uneventful and I find the free parking area just beyond the wall. Blanche’s temporary new home. Lots of writing to do to catch up, then much needed sleep.