A week in the south of France

There are times when being cheerful and funny is not funny or appropriate.  One such time was 2 weeks ago, when the ambulance I called at 4:15am for Anthony arrived.  Anthony calmy woke me up saying “I need you to get up”.  Did I miss the 5:30am alarm clock for our day trip to Calais with my mum? No, it was much earlier and Anthony is writhing in agony.  Not his heart this time I hasten to add.  But what?  He tries to vomit when he never ever vomits.  His body is trying to expel something.  The pain on his side is relentless.  So once again, as he likes to joke, I call the ambulance.  By the time the ambulance arrives, the pain has subsided somewhat, he is dressed, can walk and I am ready to accompany him.  The paramedics are surprised to see him walk.  So Anthony jokes that whenever I call 000 or 999, the operator says they recognise me as a regular caller, do I want ambulance or helicopter?  Shut up Anthony I tell him, annoyed, then immediately feeling guilty as I know how much pain he is in really but he is putting a brave snd cheerful face.  Many basic tests and prodding later, and the pain now bearable, the ambulance leaves us behind having told us they suspected kidney stones and if the pain came back, to drive to the hospital emergency department and wait to be seen.  Over the next few days, the pain came and went, gradually in lesser intensity and I can happily report that he has had no pain whatsoever for about 10 days.

So we spend a week holed up at my sister’s home, waiting and dreading for the pain to return then both nursing a bad cold and cough at the same time.  We recover in time for our week in the south of France.  But this was not about touring in Provence but something completely different.  A retreat if you will.

A number of our kind followers and friends have often asked us when we were going to write a book.  We never thought our sedate travels would be of interest to the wider public but after so many questions and much encouragement, we have thought well, maybe. Maybe we could inspire others.   I recently read that a very well known writer and motorcycle traveller, Ted Simon, was opening up his home to aspiring writers and artists.  Ted is very well known amongst overland travellers and especially motorcycle travellers, mostly through his first book, Jupiter’s Travels which narrates Ted’s four-year journey through 126,000 km across 45 countries on a Triumph Tiger 100 500 cc motorcycle from 1973 to 1977. His book was first published in English in 1979 and I first heard about him and his book from fellow travellers in our hotel in Karthoum in 1982. An opportunity to get feedback from a successful writer who has inspired thousands of travellers over 49 years?! Inespéré!! 

We had met Ted in the US a few years ago and had had a few discussions with him.   I had read many travel books including his of course, read a book on how to write a book, spent quite some time thinking about our potential book and knew the blog would be useful for reference but that was it.  After about 18 months, I finally worked out a structure, and the first chapter.  Time to get some honest and early feedback.

We organised to visit Ted and stay in his 5 bedroom home in Aspiran, a tiny village in the south of France.   It was great to see him again, exchange stories and experiences – such a generous and kind man.

Well, I wanted brutally honest feedback and it was brutal!! The book structure and concept was sound he told me but I had better learn to write because how I wrote was bad!  Brutal but exactly what I needed.  Ted explained what was wrong and it all made sense. I went back to my first chapter and proceeded to work on it.  What Ted said was correct of course, I could see it clearly now.  I gave him examples of what I changed and it seems I have understood.  It doesn’t mean I will manage to achieve what is required, but I have been given some invaluable pointers.  I have always believed Anthony writes better than me anyway so we’ll see what happens now…  

Anne with Ted Simon in Aspiran

Aspiran, France

Walking outside Aspiran, France

While in the Provence area, we could not resist visiting a few historical and beauty spots on the way from and to Marseilles. It is amazing how much one can see, how much history and stunning places one can see when one travels slowly.  Medieval villages, roman bridges and viaducts, 12th century abbeys.  3 Unesco sites in one day!!   We could spend months in that region alone!

Camargue horses

Arles Coliseum

Arles obelisque and town hall

Frank Gehry’s aluminium Luma tower, Arles

Parc des Atelier with Frank Gehry’s aluminium Luma tower, Arles

Roman necropolis Alyscamps, Arles, France

Roman Pont du Diable outside St-Guilhelm-le-Désert

View from Pont du Diable

The back of Gellone Abbey, St-Guilhelm-le-Désert

Medieval St-Guilhelm-Le-Desert, France

Benedictine Gellone Abbey, St-Guilhelm-Le-Désert, France

Medieval St-Guilhelm-Le-Désert, France

A thistle, the shepherd’s barometer in the south of France

1st century Roman Pont du Gard, France

Pont du Gard, France

View from the Pont du Gard towards Nîmes

Gordes, Provence

12th century Cictercian Sénanque abbey, France

Sénanque abbey, France

Village des Bories, 18th century shepherds’s stone huts, Gordes

Borie stone hut, Gordes

On the way to Ted’s, we stopped in Arles and met up with one of my brother’s ex-girlfriends.  We had been in correspondence ever since his death so it was special to finally meet in person.  She and her husband even decided to stay at the hotel we were staying so that we could spend more time together.  Very special… Alan would be so happy…

Finally meeting Eve

-Anne