Over the last 3 years we’ve had a few interesting and at times chaotic trips between Devon and Provence, including Not the most relaxing trip back , but I think it’s fair to say that Andy’s trip today has outstripped all others.
When I left the house at the end of March, we decided to leave the car there as we weren’t sure when we would be able to get down next and leaving the car in an airport car park with no definitive dates seemed to be a difficult process. Whereas previous trips had been easy, thanks to our eldest living at the house and just popping down to Marseille to pick us up, he has moved back to the UK and so we had to look at all other options.
After looking at the TGV, flights to Paris, flights from Heathrow and just about every other option available to us, we plumped for, what seemed to be the easiest option of a flight from Bristol to Marseille and then to use the local buses to get to Apt, before walking to the house from there. On the face of it this would be a simple process as the bus routes are well established with a regular service, allowing Andy to go initially from the airport to Aix for a gentle breakfast, before catching the bus that ambles through the villages between there and Apt, arriving just in time for lunch. Utterly simple……
Or so we thought….
The day started well, catching the well-appointed, comfortable bus from the Airport towards Aix, which goes via the TGV station, arriving in Aix about 35 mins later.
Once there Andy found a cafe, ordered breakfast and started to look forward to the next stage of the journey and getting his first sight of the Luberon villages.
Full of coffee and croissant, he ambled to the bus station and went to buy the ticket for the onward journey, only to be met by the perplexed, slightly confused glance of the lady at the desk, who raised her eyebrow and told him there would be no bus today.
As she chatted to Andy, it became apparent that the one thing we had failed to consider in our ‘meticulous’ planning was that 8th May is a ‘Jour férié’, and that was to prove our undoing.
In France May has 3 public holidays, including 8th May in recognition of VE Day, which meant (of course) that everyone (including the bus drivers) were on holiday and many of the services weren’t running. so time for a quick rethink.
Where to start? A quick search showed a TGV leaving from Aix to Avignon at 1020 then one of just a couple of buses running from Avignon to Apt at 1215, so Andy boarded the next bus, straight back to the TGV station, clearly confusing the driver who had only seen him get off the bus an hour earlier. However, every effort he made to book the 1020 train online was failing, so arriving at the station he went to the ticket desk to buy a ticket, only to be told there was no such train, so he would have to wait until the next one at 1215, meaning he would miss the first connecting bus to Apt and would then have to wait until after 3 for the next.
At this point what else was there to do, but drink coffee and reflect on how much his french has improved, enabling him to sort everything out with the minimum of stress. He just had to wait, hoping the bus (shown to be running at 3) was actually there, otherwise he would have to stay in a budget hotel in Avignon overnight, with the frustration of being so close to home, but still so far away.
Happily the TGV system is efficient and timely, so he caught the 1215 and less than 20 minutes later arrived in Avignon, where more coffee was needed whilst he waited another 2 1/2 hours, hoping that the bus would arrive.
He wandered out to find where the buses go from and found a totally deserted bus station, looking abandoned and windblown under the unseasonal grey skies and almost began to lose hope….. in fact it was at this point that he started to look at whether it would be possible to use one of the Avignon Velopop bikes to ride to the house …. he was clearly starting to get desperate (although deep down part of me would have loved to have seen this)
At 3 he wandered out again to the bus stop, which was still empty and waited, then he was joined by others and just after 3 a single bus pulled up, changed its sign to Apt Gare Routiere and everyone piled on, including an incredibly relieved Andy, who sank into the seat, sat back and happily watched the scenery change as they pootled out of the city and along the Luberon valley towards Apt.
The skies were far from the bright blue that we had seen in February, when we were last there together and there were clearly squally showers around, but even that didn’t dampen his spirits as the kilometres finally started dropping away and he started to notice the roadside fruit stalls open again, leaves on the vines and cherries starting to turn red on the trees.
It doesn’t matter how we arrive, what the weather is like or how tired we are, these little details and the sight of the Luberon & its villages always makes us smile and warms our heart.
Once in Apt it was a 4km walk along the Veloroute Du Calavon and up through the woodland to the house. It was clear that there has been rain over the last month, with the verges lush and full of irises….
But just so beautiful, as always.
So 6 hours later than planned, after a bit of a detour Andy finally unlocked the front door and lit the fire, opening a bottle of beer bought last time we were there from an Artisan Brewery based in Brantes, La Geante De Provence whilst looking to see what food is in the house (as the shops are shut too)
It certainly wasn’t the most relaxing trip back, but at least he’s there now and can finally collapse and just enjoy being there again.
I suppose looking at the positives of the experience, we’ve found that there are good bus routes that we can use to get back to the house, should we decide to leave the car there again ……
…. but perhaps next time we do it we’ll take a closer look at the calendar and just double check those public holiday dates!