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Beginning a Week in Provence: Welcome to Cavaillon

by Ben

sunny 15 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Cavaillon:7th Century Chapel At top of Bluff

Cavaillon:7th Century Chapel At top of Bluff

Unfortunatley for us we could not secure the apartment we booked in Provence unless we agreed to arrive by 11:00 am as this was the only time on the weekend that the agent was available to let us in. This meant we had to get on the road around seven this morning. The kids did great with getting up on time and starting off in the dark before anyone else in the village of Salisgne (where we stayed near Carcassonne) had started to stir.

I had decided the night before not to totally alienate my children (they weren't already alienated by the 7:00 am departure you ask?!) and accept the fact that I would need to take some toll roads rather than require the kids to be out the door by 5:30 am. I was feeling pretty good as we drove down the highway watching the sunrise on a cloudless morning while listening with Hannah to a CBC podcast (Abby was catching up on beauty sleep). That blissful state evaporated for a short time when we came to the end of our second toll road a couple of hours later.

Cavaillon:Catus along the walk up the bluff

Cavaillon:Catus along the walk up the bluff

All the toll booths we have encountered in France are fully automated and on today's journey nearly all of them were exclusively credit card payment. That was not a real concern since I had paid numerous tolls already using my North American cards. I slipped my toll ticket into the machine to see what the damage was. The last 50 kilometers had cost me just over five euros. I slipped in my credit card and it was immediately spit out. It was rejected. I inserted my second card and it was rejected as well. Fortunately, it was early in the morning and no one had slipped in behind me so I thought I would just back up and go to the one automated booth available where I could pay by cash--not a good idea. I backed up a few feet and realized that I needed my ticket for the next booth. I pulled forward again to see if I could retrieve it. The machine was not only not going to give it back, but it wasn't even going to acknowldege that I had even given it a ticket--oh great! Fortunately there is a button you can push by which you can talk to a live operator located somewhere in France. My French was not up to the challenge when someone finally did answer. Hannah leaned over and started to translate for her helpless father. The first question Hannah was asked was where she came from, to which she naturally answered Canada: an answer the attendant was neither expecting or knew what do with (it was quite funny actually). The information she really wanted was regarding where we had entered the toll road.This is where it got a bit complicated. I know we came from Carcassone and had gone through Narbonne, but then we exited our first toll road and travelled some distance before entering the next toll road. I had no recollection of what the originating city or direction was (it could have been any city up to a a couple of hundred kilometers back). The person on the help line kept on firing city names at me to which I kept replying Narbonne. She finally decided we had come from Marsailles which meant a cool 22 euros. At about this time a car pulled up behind us and the agitated driver started yelling that I just needed to put in my ticket and credit card. Meanwhile the online attendant said she would send a real live person to our location. The driver behind us continued to yell at us and despite us motioning for him to try one of the other half a dozen empty booths he stayed hoping his angst would somehow make our credit card machine work.

Cavaillon: Top of Bluff Overlooking Town

Cavaillon: Top of Bluff Overlooking Town

If you need to know, I was no longer at a place of inner harmony. The kids were quite aware of this even though I wasn't congnizant that I was givng them a tutorial in some colourful language that I had stowed away in my deep subconscious for such an occassion. Oh well, my kids have known for quite a while now that the elementary school teacher-librarian persona never fit their dad.

Eventually the driver behind us gave up in disgust, leaving us with one last tirade punctuated by a honk and chirping of tire rubber as he backed out of our toll line. A few minutes later a person did actually show up. We ended up with the same list of questions and a puzzled look to why we would be reluctanct to pay 20 euros. She finally pulled open the toll machine and retrieved our ticket and understood the problem in an instant. I provided the cash (unbenownest to me, I was spending some of the coinage associated with Abby's birthday present--but Abby can speak of that later). It was with great relief that we finally got moving again. It became clear why I had budgeted an hour or so of buffer time to make our 11:00 am rendez-vous.

The rest of the trip was made entertaining by our portable GPS (you may recall our car's build in GPS is on the fritz) which seemed to be suffering from short term memory loss as it would forget to tell us about a roundabout and then mention it a little later, only to stop to recalculate again. Fortunately the beautiful landscape, brillaint blue sky and sunshine more than compensated for the several u-turns required.

Finding our apartment in the small town of Cavaillon was a breeze and Isabelle, the rental agent, was there when we arrived. The apartment was exactly as we had viewed on the Internet--it will be a wonderful home. We are in the centre of the old village and only a few hundred meters from a bluff that abruptly rises 180 meters above the town. After we settled in we walked up the stone steps built in the 15th century to reach the seventh century chapel at the top. The weather was warm and the view fantastic.

Cavaillon:Bluff Overlooking Town

Cavaillon:Bluff Overlooking Town

We picked up some bread on the way home and decided to relax. Since our change of life circumstance over the past several days the kids have developed an affinity for nostalgic activities of earlier years. They came across a French monopoly board and the game brought back memories of playing with their grandpa, so we sat down and played a game (as in the good ole days Hannah won handily--Grandpa taught her well). After dinner we looked through the DVD collection available in our apartment and watched Catch Me If You Can, a movie that the kids had never seen and is one of my favourites.

We were happy to Skype with Muriel this evening even though it meant getting to bed a little late. It was quite a bit later for me, as I had gifts to wrap for Abby's birthday and a whole whack of balloons to blow up and hang in preparation for the next day's twofold celebrations.

A little extra

I had added a little video a few days back about driving the through the Pyrenees that you may have missed. Always look for links in the blog in the form of coloured words. Here is another little clip from that day.

Posted by KZFamily 08:45 Archived in France Tagged provence cavaillon

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I'd paid the 22 euros for the recording of the toll booth incident (come girls, come clean, one of you must have recorded some of it!)

I hope the day has peace in it for all (4) of you.

by Gordon

Thanks for the entertaining read, Ben. I can picture it now! Glad you made you destination. It looks like you chose a wonderful home and what a beautiful location! We are sure enjoying the posts and look forward every day to reading of your adventures. Hope you have had a fun day Abby. I know the others in our family have already sent their best wishes but HAPPY BIRTHDAY! from me as well. It is now your Birthday evening there, and soon the three of you will begin the New Year of 2013, much earlier than we will! To all of you, we wish God's blessings in the New Year as you carry on with your journey. We are thinking, today especially, of Muriel and her family as they say farewell to their father/husband/grandpa, and of you as you do so with them. A day like this just emphasizes the importance of building family memories such as you are doing in GRAND scale right now. We hope you can all be reunited soon, to carry on your trip together. Happy travels! Love, Joanne

by Joanne Koning

12:29 pst 31/12/12
Gosh Ben, had me worried for a moment , thought you had missed the agent. Glad it all worked out though quite sure your girls will chalk this trip and Dad's true language skills into future stories.
So, what was the issue with both credit cards being refused as sometimes it has to do with the connection or server used. Interesting to hear how they provide live support on the Toll roads.
Cheers and hope the birthday fest goes well

by RobBar

Hope you had a great birthday, Abby. We missed celebrating with you this year. As Eric would say, hope you aren't "mind scarred" by your dad's words on the road! Anne and Peter

by adrost

Thanks Ben for giving me the link again to your travel blog. We had inadvertently deleted it so are now catching up a few days at a time. As you know our prayers have been with you all during the difficult time of saying goodbye to Muriel's Dad. Abby happy belated birthday ~ what a celebration and Hannah you are a great sister to have helped make it a special day for Abby. Lynda and I have really enjoyed the content and the daily posts will make great memories for future reminiscing. Loved the candor that you had a temporary non peaceful moment Ben. Uncle Rick can share a few of his own some day (Hannah and Abby be sure to ask me about refueling our car at a Mexican run service station in California)
The video clip of driving the Pyrenees was great!Safe travels

by Rick

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