Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Au revoir

A field of red poppies and a fitting way to end our sty in Provence. We have seen bright red poppies lining the roads but a field of red has escaped us until now. This is the last photo op for now as we head for our afternoon train from Avignon to Geneva. 

Armed with our last crunchy baguette and with the last few fresh cherries, we drive through a thoroughly modern town of Apt. Rick Steve calls it a market town. It is actually a town of big box discount retailers. Seeing this town answers my question from yesterday. It makes me realize that local rural life in this area of Provence is changing with people moving to towns like Apt and adopting a very different lifestyle. The infusion of big box stores, malls and fast food joints is changing habits and diet. Slowly, the culture in these small villages is there for tourists' sake and resides in gift shops and cafes that serve food with no  resemblance to what we as tourists hope to find. Fortunately, the history has been preserved as have many of the old buildings, though many are not museums but have commercial signs on them.  Gradually, town life resembles life in any western town.  We see this in China and other countries where neon signs and high rises define the landscape. Lessons here, visit while you can, to those countries that are open.  Time passes quickly and seems to be changing our world at an increasingly more rapid pace.  The France we visited 20 years ago is far different from the France of today.  Every visit to China amazes us with the level of modernity, even in the most remote rural villages. Global mobility results in diversity and homogeneity, and often diminishing cultural traditions.  Apt could very well be Champaign Illinois with only language being the distinguishing factor.  

What has struck me is that few young adults throughout our travels in France, speak English.  These are people working in some facet of the tourism industry, be it food service, gift shops, hotels, information booths etc.  It is astonishing to me that their educational system has not mandated English language learning for growth opportunities in our increasingly global world. 

We return our Europcar in Avignon, and Ray is relieved that he has not been photographed and given any tickets- there were a few questionable flashes at stop lights when he ended up too far forward. Our tgv high speed train from Avignon is smooth and comfortable.  A family was tilting in our seats, so we took empty ones in first class. I managed to communicate this to the ticket agent who let us stay. the scenery becomes more and more rugged and mountainous as we approach Geneva. A young man gets on in Lyon with a bike.  He has been biking from Spain to Lyon in 5 days. 

Our little adventure begins when the train stops at the city center.  The ticket says our final stop is the airport.  A friendly Swiss guy tells us we have to catch the airport train.  He shows us how to find the correct track.  Arriving at the station, we walk to the airport and wait for the Ibis Hotel shuttle bus.  About 20 minutes later we are on our way, only to arrive and be told that we are t the wrong Ibis! 
The budget Ibis I had booked is further own the street, a 20 minute walk away!  The room has a bunk bed over a double bed and a little toilet room separate from the shower room, which we have seen more than once here.  It is not for the claustrophobic!



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