Tuesday the 16th of June
The connotative images that arise with the mention of France are those popularised icons, yet what I was most looking forward to on this holiday were the authentic towns that still hold true to tradition. This is exactly what I found in the quaint town of Avignon which, although a tourist hotspot, was rich in culture and beautiful scenery. Within an almost confined area stood ancient buildings that still purposed their original uses including a bank, the town hall, the cathedral and the pope’s residence. Engravings of the state creed were embedded sporadically in the architecture and the scent of lavender wafted through the sweet air. From every corner of the city a large castle was in view. This central attraction had tall arches and rectangular spires atop its towers as though it had been plucked from a fairytale. Having been to silly to remember my phone and having lost my group, I borrowed Alex’s wristwatch and took to exploring the plane on my own – best idea ever. With my croissant and take-away coffee, I entered a cobblestone alleyway, passing street musicians in its alcoves, and arriving at a raised platform from which I could see surrounding city. Another set of stairs open to the public lead to a viewing point atop which a cross, portraying the crucifixion of christ, could be seen from the square below. Had I joined the rest of my group, I might have ended up in a supermarket or a quaint cafe instead of amidst the hidden beauty of Avignon.
We were intoxicated by the strong floral aroma of the Fragonard Perfumery before we had even entered through its glass doors. It was nearing the end of the day so our company could not muster enough enthusiasm to show interest in the given explanation of the complicated process that is perfume making. The guide showed us both traditional and modern methods of creating their signature au de toilettes but I was too busy nursing my headache to follow her words. I am very sensitive to smells to the extent that if mum were to spray perfume before entering the car I would need to breathe out of a window to avoid congestion. You can imagine that a perfumery was torture for me – the only relief I found was in the coffee bean box used to clear the palette of the cluster of overwhelming scents. I escaped outside, preferring the musky smoke of cigarettes to the intensely fruity chemical production plant of Avignon.
We were warned to always close the gate to remove the risk of waking up the following day with ducklings and rabbits in our rooms (not that I would have minded if that had happened). Our accommodation was in a special stopover Contiki Cabin next to a farm that held goats, cows and horses in the neighbouring paddocks. That evening, we had the opportunity to try another French delicacy: frog legs! Their appearance I found most off-putting, the two little legs still attached at the pelvis. I could not get myself to eat more than a small piece of the white flesh wish tasted something like overcooked fish. I won’t be ordering this at a restaurant anytime soon. We spent the evening making the most of the washing facilities and discounted bar. It was another opportunity for bonding around the pool table and dart board, which resulted in a comparatively quiet night for many, myself included. Whilst some people made the most of each evening with a drink or twenty at the ready, I will admit I could not keep up with this intense regiment and needed my rest day to keep me lively for the stops that were still to come.