Monday, 12 September 2011
Three trains, one underground & a whole lot of scenery...
We had to wait right until the end of the summer for our holiday this year, but it was worth the wait. Amidst much excitement, anticipation and adrenalin which covered how very tired we were at starting the day so very early, we set off to catch our first train. Up to London via train and underground (never a good experience with luggage) at the crack of dawn to catch Eurostar. Laden with luggage, books, magazines and croissants we boarded the train at St Pancras and before we really had time to adjust to French time we were in Lille.
Just enough time for us to decipher where we were to board our TGV southwards (we had forgotten just how stressful this bit can be). Searching desperately for your coach number, locating the boarding point along the very long platform, negotiating the stairs, lift and escalators with 100s of other passengers and somehow managing to watch aghast as our youngest daughter disappeared with her luggage in one hand down an escalator whilst we stood waiting for the lift. I will never forget the look of horror on her face as we set off as fast as our luggage allowed in hot pursuit of her!
Excitement over, we somehow managed to hurl ourselves and half of the girls' wardrobes onto the train and sat back ... and relaxed... and smiled ... and ate ... and smiled ... and read... and smiled ... and played cards ... and smiled.
And all the while the everchanging beauty of the French countryside surrounded us. Through flat green fields, lush green pasture lands, through rain showers, clouds and brilliant sunshine we headed south. The alps to one side the Massif Central on the other as the landscape grew more dramatic, the temperature rose. Medieval hilltop villages, olive trees, meandering streams, majestic rivers flowing through Provencal cities. Plane trees, poplar trees, cypress trees and olive trees.
When i was at University I spent summers driving up and down the length of France and had vowed to do the journey this way ... I think the other passengers could gauge by the squeals of delight coming from our table just how happy we were.
Five hours and hundreds of kilometres later we found ourselves on a blisteringly hot Provencal train platform, negotiating once more the stairs, lifts and escalators ... a quick bus trip took us to our final destination and after the obligatory "I think it's this way, no that way, no, this way" walk to our new home which took a good half an hour longer than necessary, we arrived at a huge 19th century wooden door that would be our front door whilst we were there.
We arrived to half locked shutters, with tantalising glimpses of the view beyond
Views to the left of an already setting sun from our terrace against the bluest sky I had seen in a very long time
And just looking to the right stood the most beautiful 13th century church that would waken us each morning and frame our glorious view across centuries old chimneys, balconies, shutters and weather worn and sun bleached terracotta tiles.