Saturday, April 24, 2010

Provence: Day Four - Part 2

Tuesday afternoon and night, April 13

Having eaten SO many pastries (seriously, do the French not know how good they are?), we skipped lunch whilst circling the walled center of the town of Avignon an hour or so away from Rousillon.  But before that, I have to share how excited I was to see an Office Depot in Avignon on our way to the center.  We also had our first sighting of French gypsies begging in traffic, and man dressed as a large donkey advertising for Dominoe's Pizza along the street.

Once parked, our first significant discovery was an actual Irish Pub, and not just any, a genuine O'Neill's.  We like our Irish Pubs and always seek them out when traveling.  We' had no luck thus far on this trip, until Avignon.  So thrilled were we, that we went ahead and stopped for an afternoon beer before we got to the looking around part.  I love cider so very much.

Avignon was the biggest town on the trip so far, and  kind of reminded me of Lucca, Italy - walled, charming, lots of shopping and cafes, lots of younger people roaming around.  We visited the Palace of the Popes there, a large, beautiful church complete with gardens and street accordion player.  We enjoyed the view from the gardens set high on the hill, along with cotton candy because we're cool.  In the garden was an ice cream establishment by a pond of ducks, a place where children could ride these cute little horse and buggy bicycles, and lots of space for daydreaming and enjoying the weather between the statues.  

We walked, we window-shopped, we took some pictures.  Then it was time to do a little people watching.

To the left, a view from the garden looking back toward the plaza in front of the church.

Below right, view from the garden of the bridge over the river.

Below, view from the plaza.

Fountain statue in the pond by the ice cream place in the garden.

The accordion player.

To better equip ourselves for such people watching, we found one of the many plazas of Avignon where people meet up to hang out, and grabbed a table outside a bar before dinner.  As we talked over our drinks, we noticed how the crowd of people around us had separated into observably different groups.  It kind of reminded us of high school.

Directly beside us sat a rowdy group playing UNO over beer and cigarettes, laughing and kissing hellos to various people passing by, either on their way across to another table or into the bar for a refill or toilet stop.  A narrow strip of road separated our sidewalk tables from the central square packed with tables, packed with people, and everyone enjoyed a guy practicing jumps and tricks on his bike for a while.  Back and forth he rode, turning on a wheel and hopping curbs to small bursts of applause.  A child approached and the performer leaned down to hear the child's voice, then smiled and signed a napkin.  His autograph.  It was obvious he was no street performer, but a local who felt perfectly comfortable inviting one of the guys sitting near us to show off his skills, as well.  The lesser skilled guy rode the bicycle back and forth a couple of times, barely lifting the tires from the asphalt, but bowing to applause, all the same.  It was like everyone around us knew each other.

Chris and I started paying closer attention to the varying groups clustered together and tried to identify them with our best, clique terminology.  This is what we saw:

The wanderers, who travel with dirty duffel bags and dogs, third, fourth, and fifth-hand clothes and a hardness about them, and who you tend to see doing a little asking and a little street performing for enough money to get by and move on.

The pierced, tattooed, loud folks (next to us), sporting the one straight-laced looking blonde with pearl earrings, who obviously comes attached to one of the guys in the circle.  The bad boy boyfriend, maybe.

The skinheads.  Seriously, with the word, "oi" tattooed on the side of one guy's neck.

The posh girls with over sized sunglasses and designer handbags.  (Who exchanged sneers with our neighbors as they entered the bar.)

The pseudo-bad-ass with the manly motorcycle (scooter), hanging outside the slightly rougher-looking bar next door, glowing with cockiness near the skinheads.

And then, of course, there were the bohemians with their dreadlocks, the hipsters with their thick-rimmed glasses and trendy hats, and the older dudes.  They're the ones who attend highschool parties in their 30s in an attempt to keep that young, fresh feeling by hanging out and trying to hook up, making everyone else feel uncomfortable.  And we can't forget the small band of children racing about between and hovering over neighboring tables to get a glimpse of some homemade artwork.

We must've overlook the artsy group with fluffy scarves and fabric flowers tied in their hair.

The geeky couple in a sea of people.

Hip-hoppers with backwards hats, pants hanging off their rears and lots of bling.

Girls who look like they're vacationing from Connecticut.

And then the regular people who don't subscribe to cliquish labels, and I would imagine, have friends in all the groups and float between them.

And how could I forget the street musicians winding their way through the maze of tables to entertain for a nominal token of appreciation.  Check, please.

Dinner, sadly, was a disappointment this particular evening, although we did finally get to try foi gras.  Ducky.

Being the day of the most pavement-pounding activity, I clocked in 19,363 steps.  Good day.

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