Travels With a Blue Backpack

I am heading for Orange, in France, for a couple of days, and as an experiment am taking the train rather than driving. Well of course the Solo lady Traveller got to the train station in Bedarieux 35 minutes early, which is ridiculous at 5.50 on a January morning when it is 4 degrees C.  Good old Radio Nostalgie (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Hello Mrs Robinson, Rivers of Babylon….) is playing as I sit in the car in the dark and gently misty carpark.

I remember a friend telling me, when I was at university, about a little old white-haired lady of 60 or so (!) that he saw getting of the plane with a backpack at Easter Island. I have ever since had the romantic notion of being that irresponsible old lady with a backpack getting off at Easter Island. I have a very nice blue suede bag, not exactly a backpack but near enough. I am working up to Easter Island. The 6.19 train from Bedarieux to Beziers is actually a coach, apparently because it is too early for train drivers. Because it is technically a train, we have to pass by various village train stations. It is very dark, a little wet, a great big luxury coach, weeny little roads and bridges lined closely with huge plane trees. I am sitting at the very front with nothing between me and the road except a huge window; it is a bit like being at IMAX theatre. But with hard objects whizzing by inches away. Have moved from window seat to aisle seat. We are a cheery bunch on the 6.19. The bus driver has a diamante clasp in her hair and is going on holiday on Wednesday. She drives that bus as though it is on tracks, just a born driver. The seat is pneumatic, and bounces smoothly up and down as we negotiate bridges and level crossings.The woman across from me, doing her makeup, has recently been to Elba. She is going to Magalas. We do a detour to drop her off; no-one minds. Still dark of course when we get to Beziers. All the Christmas lights are still up, tiny white lights forming snowflakes and curlicues and arch, so pretty. I get on the (real) train and, looking for a seat, am met with a look of pure venom from the young woman in the window seat, a look guaranteed to fend off anyone wanting to sit in that seat….. except of course a lady of mature years with a very nice line in blue suede backpacks. She starts to do her makeup and when I wake up exactly 30 minutes later, she is still doing it (I am not making this up!)  but she is working on the lip gloss so guess she is nearly finished. **************** I have one hour in Avignon before my train to Orange. Not long enough to do much but will take a quick walk. This whole area of France is positively littered with Roman coliseums, arches, viaducts, roads, potteries, factories, towns and so on. I wonder what we build this century will still be IN USE in two thousand years? (I can’t work out the grammar for that sentence). On my walk I saw a wonderful pink Combi van driven by a couple just too young to have caught the sixties, painted with flowers in yellow and white, and with tinsel wrapped around the windscreen wipers and grille. It had very long black eyelashes on the headlights. I felt a wave of solidarity. I bet they have backpacks. **************** Well. That worked, in a way. Had time to walk into town past the extraordinary ramparts which look almost  new, wander around a IMG_0419big church, take a selfie, find an Irish pub with a good toilet            (language ability is inversely proportional to bladder contents), whip into Monoprix and buy a lightweight top ( I foolishly did not bring enough lightweight clothes for this sultry weather!) and get back to the train station with 10 minutes to spare. And hmmmm. The train is running late, by an unknown amount. Could be 3/4, could be an hour, wait here and watch for advice. The joys of travel. Those of us who are seasoned backpackers just shrug and order a coffee. **************** Feel free to ignore this nonsense and pretend you have read the rest. there will be no embarrassing cross-examination. I am entertaining myself in the pub, while waiting a total of two and a half hours for the train. **************** After a whole lot of ridiculousness re the train, I got to Orange and finally reached the pretty little hotel at 12.10pm. The reception shuts from 12 until 4. Sigh. So a slow lunch is called for, and then I will wander around the Roman theatre (unless it is closed). Thank goodness I only have… you know… a backpack! A really pretty little restaurant only 10 metres from the hotel, in a lovely tiny square completely covered by a huge tree, welcomes me with cries of sympathy and a very simple lettuce salad with nice balsamic dressing and particularly good bread, followed by some sort of veal rissoles with spaghetti. Couldn’t care less, am very comfy. A jug of wine, an iPad, and no-one singing beside me in the wilderness. Pretty darn good. I will do all the humming/singing that is required. What a pretty town. Spent quite a long time in the Theatre Antique d’Orange, a Roman theatre built about 100AD, sort of soaking-it-up in the sun method, not the busybody-poking-into-every-corner mode of tourism. Nice and sunny, and basically no-one else there to bother.I see that they are having several operas in the theatre in the summer, reputedly one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world, including Otello with Roberto Alagna, which I will try to come to; it should be magical.   Next morning I climb up several hundred irregular steep stone steps which wind up behind the theatre between houses and then through forest to the Parc St-Eutrope. There are no handrails, but pleasantly, no other people sharing the slightly misty parkland. The park has spectacular views down into the theatre and over the town, and vestigial ruins of an old castle which was probably connected to the Dutch house of Nassau and Orange, which controlled the area for quite a lengthy time. Quite apart from other interesting sights (the Roman arch, and a museum which has the largest Roman map ever found - a whopping 7.5 x 6 metres carved into marble - I have a sudden vision of trying to get it into the glove box) the streets are quite delightful, with charming squares and shops. I wandered the streets for some hours in the evening, streets and fountains and buildings festooned with swathes of tiny white lights which make it look like a snow wonderland, and cobbled streets and lanes winding through fascinating shops. At night the streets and lanes are full of polite cats threading their way quietly but purposefully through the squares . How could the trip home be anything but an anti-climax. The trains ran on time, I made all my connections, and was home in Herepian in time to light the open fire in the kitchen and draw up the armchair with a glass of good red wine.
Like this?
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on Google+