Thursday, July 31, 2008

There and back

I'd just like to make it quite clear that the TGV was brilliant, highly recommended, the seats were great, the view was gorgeous, and altogether considerably better than Luton airport and Easyjet.

Here's the downside. Ben had his beloved Opinel knife confiscated at St Pancras, I left my favourite jumper on the Eurostar, and getting on to the TGV at Lille I hurt my back lifting my vastly heavy bag. Heavy doses of ibuprofen, French muscle relaxant and Ricard are gradually improving things though.

The worst bit was running through Avignon TGV station with 10 minutes to get the Arles bus (the TGV was running a bit late). I didn't realise until we arrived that none of my texts had reached Sam due to a problem with the French Vodafone network, but fortunately he called while we were on the bus, met us at Arles station and we got a taxi to the gorgeous mooring across the river.

We spent a lovely day in Arles with me limping very slowly around the cathedral, the Arenes (Roman arena) and the Roman baths. In the evening we met Harry and Liz, and their dog Zigmundo - Harry and Liz have been taking great care of Sam during his sojourn in Port St Louis. We saw the Van Gogh bridge (below) and had a slightly dodgy meal.

This morning we couldn't leave Arles until we'd paid our canal toll, so it's been 40km in full heat to Avignon where we are now, moored almost under the Rochers des Dom but sadly even closer to the ring road. It is 34deg C down below, so please excuse me if I still sound a bit heated.

The Rhone was quite amazingly empty; until we reached Avignon we probably saw no more than 15 peniches (barges), two hotel boats, half a dozen pleasure boats of various shapes and sizes, a dredger and one very large lock. I expected it to be more like the Rhine, but certainly not yet. Progress was a bit slow in the lower reaches where at some points we were making only about 2.6 knots against the current - above the first big lock progress was a lot better. We are hoping to reach Viviers tomorrow, a longer run but hopefully a much earlier start.

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