Published on June 27th, 2011 | by Ann Rickard10
A huge thank you to all of you who contacted me about anxiety AND THE PILLS. Such lovely words you all sent me and you couldn’t possibly know how much I appreciate them all. In case you’re interested, the pills have kicked in and I’m feeling in exceptional health once again.
Now, I promised you travel blogs and you’re going to get travel blogs even though I’ve been in France for almost two weeks now and this is the first time I’ve put fingers to keyboard. Jet lag combined with way too much French wine is a recipe guaranteed to bring on slothfulness. Desole. Desole. (Lovely French word for ‘sorry.’)
So, here we are at the beginning of our fifth culinary tour in the South of France and we’re having a tres French time. We have a wonderful group this year. But we always have wonderful groups. There are eight gorgeous women and one brave man with us here in St. Maximin in the South of France. Then there is Geoffrey, our dedicated sommelier, baggage handler, on-call driver and all-round gentlemanly escort.
Flew here with Emirates, the most divine airline in the world, in my opinion. Sipped Veuve Clicquot in the lounge before we left Brisbane then sipped some more before we took off and then yet more with dinner. Slept soundly all the way to Dubai and arrived at 5am whereupon headed straight into the Emirates Lounge while waiting for the next leg of the journey and immediately began sipping more Veuve. I know, 5am isn’t an appropriate time to sip anything except a cup of tea but I figured it must have been midday in Australia, although to be honest, I didn’t care. The Veuve Clicquot was there by the bucket full and who was I to refuse it?
Potatoes in Paris.
Had one night only in Paris, staying at Hotel Demeure in the Latin Quarter, a delightful boutique hotel with friendly staff, and a sexy red lounge and bar area and one of those Parisian elevators that feels like a tiny broom cupboard. I took the stairs.
Only had time for dinner at Cave La Bourgogne which I remembered from last year because I ate the most delicious potato gratin there.
The French do wonderful gratins: layers and layers of thinly sliced potato swimming in cream, and cheese and butter and onions. Oh god, the cholesterol. But sitting in the little bistro with a pichet (gorgeous French word for ‘carafe’) of red wine in front of me and a fresh salad with simple vinaigrette was my idea of a heavenly welcome to France.
Fast train to French paradise.
Then it was on to the TGV in the morning to head down to the South of France. The TGV is a very fast train that races silently through the countryside at 240 km an hour. It arrives on time to the very minute, and leaves exactly on time.
Getting on the train and finding your seat can become quite the mission if you are not aware of the procedure. Your ticket has a coach number and a seat number on it. But before you get on you must go to an electronic board on the platform which has a cute picture of the train on it, and it shows you where the coaches are. Then it shows you what alphabet letters on the platform your coach will arrive between. You must stand between those letters. For example, if your coach says G and H you look for the G and H on the platform, stand there and your coach will pull up exactly in front of you. Efficient, no?
Then once you’re on the train, struggling with everyone else to get big bags on the racks near the door, you can go looking for your seat number. If you hesitate on the platform the train doors will shut and the train will be gone before you’ve had time to shout: ‘wait for me, wait for me” and throw yourself on the ground in despair.
Once you’re in your seat, it’s all about comfort and relaxation as the glorious French countryside flies past the window. The best thing about the TGV is the bar. So civilised. Bottle of wine and baguettes in front of you and you’re well into a TGV trip to paradise.
I’m telling you all this so you’ll know what to do when you come to France and have occasion to take the TGV. If you don’t know the procedure, it can be a nightmare. You could get on the wrong coach, which could be half a kilometre away from your designated coach. But once you’ve stashed your bags on the rack near the door you entered, there is no way you want to be half a kilometre away from them. You can’t say you never learn anything from me.
Even the toilet doors on the TGV are incredibly fast. You wave your hand in front of a button and the door electronically flashes open at a speed as fast as the train is going. Once you’re in you ABSOLUTELY MUST lock the door as someone else could wave their hand in front of the electronic button outside and voila! the door flashes open again. Geoffrey did this last year when a beautiful and regal black woman, looking like an African Princess, entered the toilet. When Geoffrey waved his hand and the door flashed open to reveal her to the entire carriage, sitting on the throne with her knickers down by her ankles, her regal disposition suffered somewhat. I was mortified. Geoffrey ran away.
Lots of love and French kisses to you,