Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cooling Off, Winding Down

It was our last full day in France, and we were at a quandary: there were two things we wanted to do, but they were in opposite directions.

We had already missed some opportunities in our trip. In Paris, I wanted to visit Montmartre at night to take some street photography, but because our days were so full, I was always tired and my feet were always killing me, and all I wanted to do was to get to bed.

In the Loire Valley, we really could have taken another day to visit one more château and to tour the beautiful town of Blois, which we drove to on our way to Chambord. And in Beynac, while I really enjoyed the view of the castle, high above our camp site, I never made the climb up the town's narrow, steep streets to the top, to enjoy the view from the castle's ramparts.

While in Provence, we knew we weren't going to get to Monte Carlo, nor would we see some of the parks within Les Alpilles.

Clearly, we'll have to go back.

On our last day, there was one thing that I wanted to do and it was non-negotiable. The kids, who, for the most part, had followed our lead and had made no decisions since we left Paris, wanted to see something, and it was also not negotiable.

So we did both.

Our first stop: the Roman aqueduct bridge that spans the Gardon River and leads to Nimes, Pont du Gard. And, because the kids desperately wanted to swim, this site would give them that opportunity.

The great thing about this UNESCO World Heritage Site is that it's free. What really sucks is that parking costs 18 € to park.

And that's non-negotiable, unless you want to walk for kilometres to get to the aqueduct.

The weather was hot but the water was cool, and we all dipped our feet in. While I was focused on taking pictures, the girls changed into swim suits and swam a little in the Gardon. But what two of them really wanted to do was to jump off the rocks and into the river, with the Pont du Gard above them.

Cooling off accomplished, photos shot, travelling through history achieved, it was time to fulfil the wishes of the kids. And so we headed south, to the Mediterranean.

Tucked in a tiny bay between Marseille and Toulon, accessed by driving up a steep hillside and then weaving down winding roads, this seaside town has a sprawling beach and a quaint harbour. With the sun coming low towards the horizon, the rust-toned cliffs cast a warm glow. The water cast a bright blue, and though the peak of sunbathing had passed, the beach was still crammed with die-hard sun worshippers.

We set up our blankets and the girls went for their second swim of the day. I took more photos, being careful not to look like a pervert with the topless bathers (although, while taking a photo of my kids, a woman kept moving in the frame behind them: rather than miss my girls, I took the shot—don't ask me to share).

Our evening, back in Salon-de-Provence, was a late one. A great dinner with friends, where we used up as many leftovers as we could and then packed our bags. Our time in Provence went quickly. We wished we had more time to be with our friends, but at the same time I knew it was time to go home. Our vacation was winding down.

Tomorrow, I will end my telling of my family vacation to France.

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