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Thoughts of a wandering soul The "IT WAS TIME" Trip!

Travel to Arles...

FRANCE | Tuesday, 11 December 2012 | Views [374]

The next morning (30 Nov), I check out and there's a different concierge at the front desk.

As she prepares my bill, she asks if I've had any breakfast. No, I reply. Then I think to expand and in French I say no, I have not eaten. She giggles and tells me I sound like her daughter. Before I can ask how old her daughter is, she tells me - three! Then she mimics her daughter, and I guess it KIND of sounds like what I said. She tells me it's very cute. Great...

I then make my way to Gare de Lyon to catch the train to Arles. I get there an hour early 'cause I think there's check in or something involved but I'm sadly mistaken.

I sit and wait and chat to the guy next to me who's just come back from spending a month in Peru with his dad and his dad's wife.

Hmm...I wonder at the wording. I keep checking to see which platform my train will arrive at but no indication. It tells you about 5mins before the train is due to leave which platform it will depart from and there's a mad rush of people trying to make it onto the train.

I sit in my seat next to the window, after having deposited my big back pack on the rack at the end of the carriage and settled in, waiting for the train to start. And it did...backwards! What the? Oh no! I normally try and sit forwards 'cause I did get terrible headaches going backwards, but for the past year, going backwards on trams has been fine. Maybe this would be too, and I was being unnecessarily paranoid.

I did notice a spare seat facing forwards, but before I could figure out if it was okay to sit in it, the guy in front of me went and plopped himself in it. Doh! As the train got faster, I felt the beginnings of a big headache. In fact, it was fast turning into nausea and I thought I've got to move before I throw up on the lady next to me.

I stood up and saw another empty forward seat at the end of the carriage. I made my way over and sat down. I felt a little better but not much. It was time for sleep! I snoozed for a little while, curled up in this single seat before I woke up and realised the double seater next to me was now empty. I moved across and lay down, but that didn't work so well 'cause my head was below the level of my shoulders and it started the nausea again. Gah! It's so disappointing when your body lets you down like this.

Finally the train pulled into Arles, and Gael, my friend who I was staying with there, had messaged to say he would pick me up from the station. That was sweet.

As I waited, I wondered if he had changed much from the ONE time I'd met him! Or would it be as painful as finding Adrian? Within a few minutes I saw a guy walk up to the station doors. It was Gael, and he looked exactly the same! Phew!

Hi! He took my bag and we went to his car. As I went to the left side, so did he.

What the? Oh that's right! They have right hand drive in Europe!

We were going to the office first as he still had a bit of work to do, was that okay? Absolutely! I was plenty used to hanging out in offices. Plus I had the chance to continue with my writing on his laptop, which had a QWERTY keyboard.

I met his brother just as we pulled up in the office car park. Exchanged hellos after which his brother leaned in for the "bisous" - the French way of greeting by kissing on either side of the face. Ah yes, that's right.

I leaned in and we did one kiss, two kisses, and I leaned back. His brother seemed surprised, as he was still leaning. Oops, had I missed something?

In the south, they kiss three times Gael explained. Oh! Right. I leaned back in for the third kiss. Good, everyone was happy again.

I met his dad, and his dad's partner, and her dog - a kind of jack russell looking dog.

His name is Honeybell, Gael told me.

Really? That's so sweet, if a little unusual for a male dog.

I sat and typed, while Gael went on with his work.

After a while, the dog came to find me again.

"Hi Honeybell!" I said.

"His name is Honeybell. Like Honeybell Lecter" Gael informed me.

Umm...then I realised - oh Hannibal! That made more sense, but was much less sweet!

After Gael was done, we got in the car and he said he was going to pick up some clothes from his dad's house where he was currently staying because we would be staying somewhere else.

Oh, where? It's a surprise.

Oh, okay.

We arrived at his dad's house, a lovely place and immediately I was greeted by Hannibal and what looked like a massive black wolf!

His name is Cliff, Gael's stepmum explained, but it's short for Heathcliff, you know?

Oh, from Wuthering Heights? Exactly.

Okay. And then the most beautiful silver cat slinked up with very distinct markings on its back - a Bengal cat!

I'd never even seen one in real life. It was stunning!

His name is Grisboy.

Gris...grey...greyboy? Yes.

Okay. I wander into the lounge where there's a sofa and a daybed kind of thing, and I'm about to sit when I notice another cat! A little black one with what looks like one blind eye. That's Rita, she's very old. Uh huh! Any other animals about the place? No?

Gael came in holding Grisboy and then put him down on the sofa. I went to pick him up, but just then Hannibel came snapping up trying to bite him, so what does Grisboy do? Bite me to put him down!

Ouch!! I think he might have bit all the way through my finger!

Oh no, the bone got in the way - lucky me.

I drop him, and my finger is definitely bleeding. Doh. I grab a tissue and try and stem it.

Am I okay? Yeah, I'm fine. I'm sure I will be. I think I'm glad I got that tetanus shot. We stay for a while until Gael gets his stuff together an then it's time to make tracks.

We're back in the car and I ask, so where are we going?

For a moment I think he's not going to tell me.

We're going to stay on a boat.

What IS it with the universe and putting me on boats???

Umm...a boat?

He must have heard the doubt in my voice 'cause he says, don't worry, it's a big boat, you won't feel the water moving or anything.

We drive along the dark roads at about twice the marked speed limit which is just brilliant and when I comment he just remarks that the car handles it well! Ha! He's a very good driver as well.

We finally get to the marina and the entire place is filled with boats! Some in the water, some out.

So your boat is IN the water? Yes, he confirms.

We finally pull up to a boat. I don't know much about boats, but it doesn't look that big to me. Admittedly, I can only see the back of it, and it is dark. He jumps on and lowers the little gangplank.

Just my luck I slip and fall into the water. Thankfully no such thing happens.

We drop off everything in the room that we walk into. There's a big TV on one side and kind of sofas on either side of a big round table.

Oh, this is nice. But it's quite cold.

Gael disappears into the next room - the kitchen, which is off a kind of little hallway and stocks the fridge with about six bottles of champagne and some cans of coke.

Apparently, his brother and his brother's girlfriend are coming by tomorrow as well as a group of friends in the evening. Right!

He pulls out a bottle that's already chilled. Do you want some champagne?

Umm...on an empty stomach? I've had one croissant the entire day and lost a pint of blood from a cat bite. I don't really drink at the best of times and all I want is some water but I don't see any and don't want to be difficult.

Sure. He pours two glasses. Sante - to your health! I take a sip. It's not that bad :p

We continue to chat as he lights some candles. These serve a dual purpose.

One, so he can light his cigarettes, and two, so we can warm our hands 'cause it's still freezing here.

As I mention this, Gael heads off somewhere and comes back to tell me that at least the rooms are warm. Rooms?

Oh yeah, let me show you around. There's a set of stairs that go downstairs out of the "lounge". There are two bedrooms at the bottom. Uh huh!

Then we come back up and go down another set of stairs next to the kitchen, also off the hall and there are another two bedrooms.

Then we come back up , and there's yet another bedroom opposite the stairs with a bunkbed. All with their own ensuites. Goodness! This wasn't a boat! This was like a full on house that sailed! Amazing!

As we chatted, he would pour a little bit of champagne in my glass before refilling his.

You really don't have to do that 'cause you know I won't be able to finish it. But it's only polite he told me.

Hmm...I would clearly need to start refilling his glass.

Am I hungry, he asked?

Oh goodness, am I ever!

His stepmum had packed us dinner. Oh wait, is there anything I don't eat?

Umm...no not really, what is for dinner?

It's called Guardian de Taureau. It's bull.

Bull? Did he mean like a male cow?

No, bull. Umm...I wonder how I feel about that.

But right now I'm too hungry and determined to make the most of it.

He heats it all up, and puts rice on my plate and spoons on this stew like dish.

He's about to put what I think is marrow on my plate, when I stop him.

Oh, you've to try these, they are mushrooms. Oh, okay then.

I cut the pieces of meat and they taste surprisingly good. The texture is like really firm beef, but not tough.

The stew was not sweet at all as I was expecting. The red wine was still quite present and especially so in the mushrooms. There were also olives and carrots and it was quite delicious.

This was followed by a collection of mini desserts. Mille Feuille, lemon meringue, a kind of tiramisu and a couple of other little creamy slices.

It was unbelievable! How did people here stay so thin eating like this??

Finally it was sleeping time. Gael had brought a whole stack of linen and blankets and put them ALL on the bed. Given how cold I was feeling I didn't find this overkill at all.

I also found a bottle of water which I drank most of thankfully and it was a relief to go to sleep, after what had been a very long day!

Tags: arles, boat, cat, dog

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