New Year’s Travel from East Devon to Provence

As I start to write this, it’s 9.30am and I’m sitting at Bristol Airport with Andy, waiting for an already slightly delayed flight to Lyon. That will be the third stage in today’s travel plans which, all being well, will see us back home in Provence tonight.

5.40am at the bus stop in Exeter, at the start of the day’s travelling

So far this morning, our youngest joined us on a hideously early start to drive us into Exeter, where we caught the Falcon Bus to bring us to the airport. Once we arrive in Lyon, we have a tight turn around to get to the TGV station in time for our train to Avignon. In fact, as I type this, Andy is starting to look at the alternatives, should we be delayed any longer than is already projected!

Hey ho, I suppose it wouldn’t be a travelling day without a bit of added stress!

Anyway, back to life, whilst we wait and if I’m honest, it feels as if I’ve been away from Provence for months, rather than a few weeks. But it’s been the most lovely Christmas and New Year, with our youngest at our new little place in East Devon, snuggled under the thatch listening to the wind roaring outside, and hearing the church bells mark the passing hours as we worked our way through a few jigsaws, during the long evenings

One of the many evening jigsaws

Whilst the weather may not have been suited to us doing much cycling, we have worn the soles down on our walking boots, covering miles along the South West Coast Path and Otter Estuary Trails, which give us wonderful circular walks from the cottage, allowing us to walk to Sidmouth for coffee….

Cake stop on the walk back from Sidmouth

Or across to Exmouth via Budleigh Salterton and back along the cycle trail…

Walking back into the village after a long hike to Exmouth

It really is a beautiful corner of England and a great location for us, when we’re back in the UK, although I have to admit that any sea swimming will have to wait for summer …. I’m really not that hardy!

I’ll need blue skies and summer to swim here

Today though, we’re heading back down to The Luberon on yet another mad-cap travel day and will look forward to catching up with our eldest and his girlfriend, when we finally arrive and can settle back into our comfortably quiet, Provençal life

Last year saw so many hairpins in the road of life that we really feel we could do with a few months of travelling along a boring, flat path, with just the occasional gentle bend to keep us on our toes. If anyone had suggested, this time last year, that by December we would own a cottage in East Devon, have our youngest son training as an electrician and our eldest son resident & working full-time in France, I would have told them they were as mad as a box of frogs. Throw in both Andy and I having had operations in France, a couple of additional trips to Urgences and unexpectedly having to buy a new car, then I would have done everything possible to stop time and pause life until the chaos was over.

A peaceful end to the year in East Devon

But they say what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger and although I dream of a slightly quieter year, I am so happy with the way everything has sorted itself out and am looking forward to shuttling our life again, getting used to these chaotic travel days and finding even more new ways to get between countries, using as much public transport as we can.

If everything goes to plan and the delay doesn’t get in the way, we will make the 2.37 TGV from the airport to Avignon then catch the bus to take us to Apt, enjoying the sights of the valley as we go. If it doesn’t go to plan then it’s looking as if the best option will be to pass 2 hrs at the airport before catching a train to Nines and then change for another to Avignon centre, but at least we have options…

Happily we’re easily pleased and our excitement knows no bounds as it’s now 1422, we’re at the station, waiting for the train which is due to depart at 1437 and we’ve even managed to buy something to eat…

We made it and have food

It has to be said we have the getting off the plane dash to the passport control off to a fine art now ..it reminds me of the images from my childhood of the first day of the New Year Sales, and we find ourselves almost waiting for the starting pistol to sound, setting us off on a fast walk that would probably see us getting qualifying times for the Olympics. Today though it wasn’t necessary, as the plane was quiet and we were straight off and through passport checks before we really had a chance to draw breath.

So we have made it to the station (an easy 5 minute walk from the Terminal) just in time for the platform to be announced and can now take a moment to celebrate that it’s all gone well (so far)

Waiting to board for Avignon

Happily the TGV for the 50 minute trip to Avignon was on time and we’re now in our seats hurtling south through the french countryside, feeling able to look at the bus timetable for the final stage of the journey through the valley back to Apt.

If all goes well (and I’m now feeling slightly confident that it will) we should be able to catch the bus that leaves 10 mins after our train arrives and then we can finally relax and enjoy the feeling of being home, especially now that friends have offered to give us a lift back up the hill, which saves us having to interrupt our eldest at work, for the car keys.

Last update for the day … My early confidence was rather misplaced and we made it to the bus with just 3 minutes to spare, after the TGV seemed to go on half power as we started banking around to Avignon … If we were going to catch the bus, it was going to be by the skin of our teeth, so time was of the essence …

All I could hear, as I almost jogged down the slope to the bus stops behind the station, was Andy calling ‘Don’t fall over!’ …. I do have a bit of history, so can’t really expect anything else! But my over-enthusiasm didn’t trip me up for once and I managed to stay upright, so no early visits to Urgences required …

So here we are, sitting on the bus that will take us all the way back to Apt for the total cost of 2€10 each … An absolute bargain and we can finally relax and enjoy watching the valley unravel before us.

Made it, by the skin of our teeth!

We should get back to Apt at 1715 and will be opening our front door in Provence almost exactly 11 hours after closing our front door in Devon.

It’s been a long day and we certainly feel as if we have travelled. The connections and changes in modes of transport adding to the sense of being on a journey, rather than just moving places from A to B. Of course, I appreciate that on a trip like this there are lots of moments when it can all go wrong, especially when (like today) the connection times are relatively short, but there is an excitement, or is it more of an anxiety, that comes with it.

To be honest, we feel quite seasoned with it now, but this is the first time we’ve used this Bristol to Lyon flight and with the TGV connection to Avignon, it makes it really easy (and cheap too), in fact the most expensive part of the trip was the bus fare from Exeter to the airport this morning.

There are, of course, lots of other options to get to The Luberon without having to drive, many more covered in this post Car free holidays in The Luberon

So we’re just about home and can now start to settle into 2023 and everything it will throw our way. We have hopes and dreams for lots of things in the coming 12 months, from doing a bit of decorating to cycling from Devon to Provence in September. Who knows how much we will achieve and what twists and turns may happen on the way, but if today is anything to go by, I am hopeful that perhaps more will fall into place than will fall apart. We’ll just have to wait and see….

First Sunrise of the New Year, watched by eldest & his girlfriend at Gordes

Let’s simply say we’re keeping everything crossed!


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