Zach and I packed pretty much everything Wednesday evening, trying to get everything as ready as possible for an early morning departure. We hoped to leave the house as close to 8am as reasonably feasable. After feedings, packing up the car, a few last-minute diaper changes, and a gas stop, we were on the road by 9:30 which I must say I'm pretty proud of. Donovan did well enough in the car, I sat in the back with him most of the way. With stops (and a little bit of traffic) we made the 3.5 hr drive in about 5.5hrs, which also doesn't seem too bad. It's a shame that D isn't magically lulled to sleep by the car like he used to (and also that he now refuses to take a pacifier for further calming) but all things considered he did pretty well in the car. I must say, French road stops, while not nearly as numerous as US ones, can be pretty nice. We stopped for lunch at a place that had horrible food, but great shaded grassy picnic areas.
So we arrived and parked, and as we were unloading the car at the public garage Zach realized he didn't have the address of the B&B where we were staying. He knew it was on the main square in front of the Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace), so it should be easy enough to find, right? Well, it wasn't so obvious. We woulda found it on our own eventually, but D was not in a great mood and so I was glad I'd reminded Zach to write down the phone number at least so we were able to call and get some help with finding the place. (I adore my husband, even if he isn't always so great with those "detail" things)
The B&B was adorable. It's run by a grandma-type so we had no worries about having D with us, and she was very nice and interesting to talk to. There was a Brit named Garth staying in the room next to ours, we talked to him for a while that first day and he and Zach wound up spending some time together here and there throughout the weekend. The place is called A l'Ombre du Palais, and sure enough it's right by the Palais des Papes with a fantastic view from the terrace (and an even better one from the rooftop).
View from the B&B's terrace
The palace was built in the 1300s and was home to 6 Popes. It's pretty darn impressive, though at the same time I couldn't help think of the gross decadence and, well, couldn't the popes have done better things with all that money? I know I shouldn't be surprised, I mean look at all the incredibly overly ornate Catholic churches around the world, but I guess it just doesn't seem very Christian (or at least not very Christ-like) to hoard so much wealth and use it for yourself. But I guess that's just me.
On our way to dinner Friday night-- didn't want him in the stroller over the cobblestone-y parts when he was so nice and asleep!
So Thursday afternoon we hung out at the B&B for a while, talking with Garth and Sabine (the woman who ran it) and some of the other guests, then went off in search of dinner. I was nervous as to how this was gonna go with D. Luckily Avignon does seem to be an incredibly child-friendly town (there were strollers EVERYWHERE) and there were a series of restaurants at one of the squares that had outdoor seating to accomodate strollers. Donovan either slept, ate, or sat with us throughout the meal, occasionally needing Zach or I to get up and walk around with him in the stroller to help calm him down (or help him to sleep).
I will say that, after walking the stroller through those cobblestoned streets, I see why European strollers cost so much more. I'll be very impressed if it lasts past this first year, it goes through some serious abuse here. (On the other hand D seemed to almost like riding over the cobblestones, I imagine it felt like having his own massage chair...)
Friday we had breakfast at the B&B, then got off on a (somewhat late) start exploring Avignon and its pedestrian areas. Unfortunately I can't say I was terribly impressed... it wasn't bad, it's just the areas we wound up walking around weren't that fabulous. After a couple hours we came back to our room to let D have a decent nap, then eventually made our way back out again to check out the gardens by the palace, which were beautiful. Unfortunately D was starting to get cranky again so we didn't make it too far. After another trip back to the hotel for a 2nd rest, we went back to that square for dinner. It was nice having places that were so child-friendly, though I must say I was kinda disappointed by both our dinners. Friday night I was done with my dinner by the time they even brought out Zach's appetizer. Ah well.
The famed Pont d'Avignon, about which there is a French childrens' song.
Saturday evening there was a wine festival out in front of the palace. Zach had spent a bit of time there earlier in the day, and we stopped by again in the evening on our way back from dinner. They had music (a barbershop-style 12 person band), lots of wines (of course), and a booth with juice and jams made from figs. We came home with a jar of fig and nut jam. =)
Sunday morning there was another festival in the same place, this time selling pottery. I fell in love with several pieces, though I only bought one or 2 and took pictures of the rest. =) While I was looking around Zach made friends with another dad, a German guy with his 6 month old daughter (they were very impressed with Donovan, who at 3 months was the same size, if not bigger, than their little girl) and when I walked back up to him and saw the 2 guys holding their babies, strollers sitting next to them, well, it was pretty darn adorable.
After having lunch at a bistrot right next to the palace, which I really wish we'd found earlier b/c the food there was INCREDIBLE, we packed up and headed out toward the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct about 30km away. Zach had to laugh at me, as for some reason I'd had the incredibly naive idea that we'd just drive up to the bridge and get out and take pictures, and that'd be it-- as opposed to the tourist-trap-esque quality of the entrance, complete with gift shops and a movie theatre. Still, it was pretty cool to see a 2,000yr old structure. Hopefully D appreciates these pictures when he's older. =)
Family photo op.
(I know, I need to get him a little sun hat... or at least one that fits. We kept him in the shade most of the time, I promise!)
It was about 4pm by the time we started our drive home, and this time we made it back in about 4-4.5 hrs. And other than a diaper blow-out (which we had to change in the car backseat, and miraculously didn't get on his carseat at all), and some crying here and there when D was having trouble falling asleep, the drive back was fairly uneventful. We made it back, D ate like a maniac (poor thing had been hungry the last 20 mins of the drive but we'd been so close to home I hadn't wanted to stop) and after being up for a little longer he conked out... and slept for NINE HOURS. Which I'm totally counting as a complete fluke, the result of being so worn out from the previous few days' activities. It would be FABULOUS if he decided to repeat that again tonight, but, um, I'm trying really hard not to expect it at all.
See the full set of pictures here.