Friday, May 31, 2013


The Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls d’Emporda is a nearby nature reserve, much of it marshlands, where 338 species of birds have been sighted (not by me!), and 82 species regularly nest.  I began going there in the winter not so much for birding, but to take a walk out in nature on paths where there are no cars.  The birds are a plus.  The entire reserve, 4721 hectares (11,665 acres) includes 9 towns or villages, cropland, and a nature preserve.

When I went for my walk last weekend, I didn’t consider the fact that it’s spring and there would be far more people than on my previous walks.  I also didn’t consider that spring is when birds nest and that I might see them en famille.  Although the experienced birder might have seen many different types of nesting birds on that walk, I saw only the biggest – the white storks.  You couldn’t really miss them.

Now that it’s spring and there are more visitors, you have to pay to park on weekends.  On the other hand, now that there are more visitors, there are also guided tours every Sunday at 10:30.  For more information on the park, see . 

Snow in the Pyrenees in the last weekend of May

Mom?  Dad?

Baby peekaboo

More baby

Who's this?

Not just birds

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Around Avignon

One of the many things I like about Avignon is that it is a hub from which you can easily visit many interesting towns and villages.  On this last trip I took Avi for my usual walk across the Rhone River to visit Villeneuve-les-Avignon.  On another day we took the train to Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue to see their famous outdoor market.  If there had been more days we would have also gone to Arles where Vincent van Gogh once lived, Carpentras where the oldest functioning synagogue in France is located, Orange, a town rich in Roman relics, Chateauneuf-du-Pape with its vineyards, and on and on.

There are few things as good for my spirit as a walk across the Rhone River to Villeneuve-les-Avignon.  The views along the walk are splendid.  Behind you looms the Pope’s Palace, upriver is the truncated Pont St-Bénezet of nursery song fame, and floating by are any number of boats and barges.
Once you get to Villeneuve you’re in a country village.  We happened to come on Armistice Day when tiny Villeneuve was having their commemoration.  There are some pretty views of the river and a river trail (that I have yet to explore), 14th-century Fort St-André, the Abbaye St-André gardens, Tour Phillippe le Bel, the Carthusian monastery Chartreuse du Val de Bénédiction, the village itself, which is very pretty, and a decidedly atmospheric riverside café – a guinguette -- where we had our lunch.  
Tour Phillippe le Bel
Fort St-André
Abbaye St-André gardens
(door to WC!)

A village house

Lunch at La Guinguette du Vieux Moulin

Renoir's guinguette
 Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, called by some a mini Venice, is as famous for its antique and brocante dealers as it is for the canals that once powered the silk industry and paper mills.  Shopping at the market is a pleasure.  There are more antique shops in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue than you could shake a stick at, making it a treasure hunter’s delight… even if you don’t buy anything.  I didn't buy any antiques and the hell with fruit and veg.  I bought some fabulous nougat -- both the traditional and the lavender, yum!

One stand at the market was selling ingenious purses made of cork.  We admired them and eventually moved on.  Then Avi went back but shooed me away.  From a short distance I could see what he was doing – buying one of the purses I had admired.  He knew that I knew and I knew that he knew that I knew, etc.  One of us mumbled something about Christmas but it was never mentioned again.  The day he left, when I was getting ready for bed, I found it tucked under my pillow.  Pretty ingenious, and very thoughtful.

One afternoon I ducked into the Musée Angladon to see an exhibit of photos from 1900-1925.  I love seeing old photos and getting a feel for how people dressed, what they did, how life looked. 


Friday, May 17, 2013

Avignon Revisited

While Avi was here visiting, having never been to France, we went to Avignon.  The city was as engaging as ever, good for walking, good for eating, good for taking photos.  I managed to fit in my usual walk across the Rhone River to Villeneuve-les-Avignon and the requisite short stroll along the rue des Teinturiers – my favorite nook in the city -- where the 19th century dye works used to be and where you can still find some of the old waterwheels that ran the industry, nestled in among the huge plane trees.  We also visited some nearby villages, but more about that another time.

The French have the reputation of being unfriendly, but I have not found that to be true.  After my trip to France last year I wrote a post about the café where I had my coffee and croissant each morning and the friendly barista who worked there.  I went back to see him (and have a coffee and croissant) on my latest visit.  He didn’t remember me at first, but it didn’t take long before he did.  He was as friendly as before and this time I managed to take his photo.  Voila!  Meet Bruno from the Tapenade Cafe.

Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)
approaching from the rear
Palais des Papes
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Across the way is the bistro Ginette & Marcel
a great place for a snack
No Michelin stars, just homey atmosphere
and home cooking
Most people were snacking outdoors
Breakfast at the Hotel Colbert
City ramparts
Rue des Teinturiers
Photos of France are not complete without