Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tiny Dancer

David and Tony in Avignon

The best holidays are those you take with the people you are close. The second best - and it's not too far off - are those where you make new friends. We have been lucky to have had both kinds in the past few years.

This trip we met Tony and David, two great guys whose only noticeable fault seems to be that they come from New Zealand. (OK, that's a cheap shot and I really should get over the whole Kiwi thing I have. Only, I jist kent seem to.)

There was a terrible moment prior to getting to know them. After all, being the only English speakers the four of us were going to be locked into one another for a full week. Not quite Best Friends Forever, but a week can seem like forever with the wrong people.

Fortunately, the fact of the matter is quite different. These guys are genuinely interesting and David in particular can ramp up the humour from zero to 60 in seconds. I guess that is one of the best benchmarks for new friends - how much do they make us laugh.

David has a show biz background, although he and Tony seem to make most of their livelihood by running a travel wholesaler. Nonetheless, being an extra in Peter Jackson's King Kong definitely qualifies you, even if it would have been more impressive to have had the makeup that went into Lord of the Rings.

Because of their travel business, these guys have done a massive number of river cruises (it's their company's specialization). The other night he told this story.

When river boats pull up to a dock and there is no more space, they park side by side and gangways are put down between the boats so passengers from the further boats walk through the other boats to get to land.

One of the effects of this is that you also end up with the windows of passenger rooms only a few feet from windows on the other ship. And not everyone seems to realize this proximity.

David was an a cruise, docked in this way, when he and several fellow passengers couldn't help but notice that a woman in her 70's was only a few feet away in her cabin. Clad only in her underwear, she must have had the music cranked up because she was rocking away in full view of those on the other ship who, needless to say, had little concern for privacy or modesty. I agree, how could you not watch?

At some point she sensed that there may be something on the other side of her window and bopped over to have a look out. But the glare of the lights meant that she couldn't see that there were several pairs of eyes staring right back at her. So back she went to the music.

After that illuminating lesson you would think LK and I would have learned, but yesterday afternoon as she came out of the shower wrapped in a towel (and therefore quite modest), I caught someone on the next boat looking down into our room before quickly drawing their curtains shut.

At least LK wasn't dancing.

Great ceiling in Papal Palace, Avignon
We are heading back to Lyon now and leaving the boat tomorrow. We had an interesting visit to Avignon, the city where the popes lived for about 70 years back in the 1300s. The papal palace remains, but it's empty and you really have to use your imagination to picture what it must have been like in its heyday.

We toured the Pont du Gard yesterday, the largest Roman aqueduct still standing. The bridge was built about 2,000 years ago and is still standing. Every time we see Roman artefacts, it is impressive to think that they could build such strong, massive structures that pass the test of time.

After the Pont du Gard we went to the city of Uzes, which was a nice stroll. It had a leaning tower that looked a lot like Pisa's and a very interesting castle. LK also found the shops interesting, especially once she learned that "Soldes" is the French word for "Sale". I myself was pleased to discover a shop selling macaroons with foie gras and truffles. That is just about decadent enough to keep me happy for a long time.

1st Century bridge and aqueduct, Pont du Gard
Last night we started to walk around Arles, where Vincent Van Gogh lived, but it was horribly hot (we're quite far south now) and most of the places to visit were closed by the time we docked. So back to the ship where the bar was open and the drinks were cold.

We both agree that it's time to head home. We've had a ball on this journey, but the Very High Bed looms (and I even ironed the sheets the morning we left so it would be perfect!). Paris tomorrow night, then Singapore Air south.

Nope, not Pisa. This tower is in Uzes


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