Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 118. Encore Provence

Well, it didn’t rain, but the cold wind is still with me. Today I went to visit Aix in Provence, a charming city with a Paris complex. The city boasts a Rotonda with a fountain in grand Parisian style, and a big avenue—Cours Mirabeau—which tries to imitate the Champs Elysee but falls short in that it is only five blocks long! However, it has a charming Saturday market, with separate sections for bric-a-brac, delicious looking food, fruits and vegetables, and flowers. Unfortunately it has a shocking lack of toilettes, and I had drank too much coffee, so I ended my visit in haste.

Making “la pipi” in France is difficult; natives might blatantly use a secluded corner, but the tourist has to hunt for the very few public facilities. In my case I finally found the train station, and was even delighted to find that all they wanted from me was a 20 cent piece, only to frustrate myself by not having a 20 cent piece. The only other person in the station was a rather cute girl, to whom I shyly asked her if she could turn two 10 cent pieces into a 20 cent piece. She knew exactly what it was all about, and graciously looked through her portmonnaie. Nope, no 20 cent piece. The other two people I asked didn’t even look before saying “désolé”. Finally another young woman produced the coveted 20 cent piece and I rushed back to the station. I fed my hard-earned coin into the slot and . . . nothing happened! Alas, the toilette was “en panne” and didn’t work. So, doing the pipi dance I had to rush back to the car, reach the outskirts of the city, and finally have two minutes of heaven by the side of a lonely Provencal road.

From Aix I drove aimlessly around the Grand Luberon, passing through quaint villages such as Mirabeau, Beaumont, La Bastide, and Reillane, until eventually I reached the way-out-there town of Vachères. And what would be my surprise when on reaching this last town I found that it had a paleontologic museum! So of course I had to look for it, and of course it was closed. Rats! But this is a small town, and a nice woman saw me looking through the window and asked if I wanted to see the museum. I said I did. No problem, she happened to have the key. So she let me into the museum, which had the most amazing collection of fossil fish, fossil leaves, and fossil insects I had ever seen. It also had a perfect skeleton of a small Oligocene goat, and great samples of Mousterian chert implements and medieval pottery. It turns out that over the Cretaceous of Maubec and Bonnieux there is a thick continental Oligocene unit, and a thick Miocene lacustrine sequence chockfull of fishes, turtles, plant debris, and insects. A veritable paleontological treasure trove!

The last stop of the day was the town of Apt, where 4 pm must be the official time for weddings on Saturday afternoons. There were weddings at every church, and at the Hotel de Ville, and all those wedding goers had to make the maximum possible amount of noise with firecrackers and claxons. Ah, it is heart warming to see how some traditions seem to be universal to all cultures!

1 comment:

erin said...

two minutes! :o)