Seeing old friends


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 supChurch in Uzes, I happened upon choir practiceposed 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.


I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.


  • Gail Duffy September 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm Reply

    Hi Kath-

    This sounds wonderful, and I am in awe of how you (and Blanche!) are navigating your way through the countryside! How cool to see your long-ago friend and find she is a now-friend too!

    How is your French holding up? Getting better with all this practice?

    I want to let you know that your most recent post seems to have a “page not found” prompt when you click on the “read more” button. I’m sure it’s an easy-fix, but I’m anxious to read more about Avignon!

    Talk soon!

  • Marilyn September 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm Reply

    I love how you tell the story of your day, when I finish reading I have to remember I’m not there with you. You are adding to my list of things to do and see. I have always thought it would be fun to renovate a barn, I knew someone who did it in St. Lazare Quebec and it fascinated me. I hope you have more pictures to share when you’re home. Thanks for sharing.

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