Our painting came in today. Well, yesterday actually, but I had to pick it up at the post office today. It looks awesome except that the frame is a little damaged. I think that we'll probably just get a new frame for it.
It was a very nice surprise that our Sales Advisor picked us up from the airport. The flight home was thankfully uneventful; although the experience sucked thanks to the ancient plane on which we flew.
We did get through customs and baggage claim in record time back in ATL. I was quite shocked at the speed with which we moved through the arrivals process.
Hopefully we'll get our painting from Annecy soon. Oh, and the car, too.
Finally!!! The pilot says we are a go for our hot air balloon flight. Now, I have a moderate fear of heights that I discovered at the top of the Eiffel Tower back in 2000, so I was a little concerned that I might have issues in the basket once we got to altitude. Anyway, we were up before dawn and headed to the field where there were about 10 or so other folks who were all going flying with us. After signing all of the requisite release forms and so forth, we caravaned to a different field where the weather was to have been more amenable to sight seeing. I think this plan backfired, though, since it was pretty foggy at our final launch field. Watching the balloon fill up was pretty cool. When they lit off the actual burner to make the balloon stand up, it was like watching a jet engine on afterburner; the jet of flame was at least 10 feet long.
We crammed about 10 people into the basket and lifted off. It didn't feel like we were ascending, though, it felt more like the earth was descending away from us. It was very wierd and cool at the same time. We ascended through about 500 feet of fog before breaking free. Once we were at our "cruising" altitude, the visibility downward was poor, but outward the air was very clear. We could see rain showers all over. Awesome. There was almost no wind, and by the time the pilot started descending, we had only traversed over about 2km of ground. We landed in a very muddy field and everyone (especially the more girty among us) got pretty dirty. We had our requisite champagne toast; got our certificates; and went back to the mas to pack and load up.
On the drive back to Nice we experienced the hardest rain of the entire trip. It was coming down in torrents and we could realistically only see about 50 feet in front of the car. By the time we got to Nice, though, the weather was clear and the temps were awesome. We checked into a very no-frills place near the airport and the girls went over to the shopping center next door while Adam and I got the car cleaned up and dropped off at the shipping agent's office. The girl at the counter, while not pretty in the classical sense, exuded a sultry hotness like Linda Fiorentino in "Jade."
We all took the bus to the Promenade des Anglais; played in the rocks on the beach; and strolled through the "Vieux Nice" area; which was nothing really to write home about. Nice is a tourist town through and through and even the old quaint parts are blatantly touristy. We had dinner at a kebab stand (I had been jonesing for a kebap the whole trip) and was very disappointed. It was nothing like the kebaps I had last year up in Alsace. I was really hoping that with all of the North African and Mediterranean influence here that they would have been better. No such luck.
We have an early flight to Paris tomorrow, then across the pond back to the good old U.S. and A.
I have to say that this trip has been less than memorable; mainly because the weather was so influential in choosing our activities. It rained some part of every day that we were here and the weather kept us from doing some of the things that we were really looking forward to.
We do love travelling with our friends, though, and that part of the trip was very enjoyable.
We trekked back to St. Remy this morning to hit the shops. I think that Angela has been pretty disappointed so far this trip that she hasn't been able to really "get her shop on" but there's really nothing I can do about that. It's not like we haven't found a ton of shops.
Before that, however, we went to the architectural site of the ancient city of Glanum. It was very impressive, but there really wasn't anything left intact with the exception of a couple columns. The two sort of marquee items of interest (a mausoleum and an arch) were covered in scaffolding and thus were not easily appreciated. After a not so subtle hint from the girls that they were "through with ruins," we headed back to St. Remy for some lunch and to see what sort of trinkets we could find. We had some yummy Croque Monsieurs for lunch, but Angela was noticeably disappointed at the relative lack of shopping.
The drive down to Les Baux was pretty easy. Les Baux is a very small, pedestrian-only, town that deserved way more time than we allowed it. There is a ruined castle towards which Adam and I went like moths to a flame, and the girls meandered through the small streets looking for ways to spend money. The castle ruins were very exensive, and we got there just in time to watch them shoot a trebuchet. Turns out that I volunteered Adam and me to help cock and load the weapon, so our tour of the castle ruins were really cut short. Good God it was hard work to get that thing ready to shoot! It took 4 pretty strapping guys to crank the armature down to put it in a position where the projectile could be loaded into the sling. The results were very rewarding, though, as we got to see the ball sail downrange about 300 yards before exploding on the rocks.
We left Les Baux just as the rain started. We committed to our hosts that we would join them for a sort of happy hour back at the mas, but traffic was so bad that we were about 30 minutes late. We still had a great time chatting it up with the other guests (a couple from Bruge, Belgium) and our hosts. We had dinner at a somewhat fancy place called L'Arome in the small town of Bonnieux. Hopefully tomorrow we will finally get to take our balloon ride. The pilot said to meet at 6am. Tomorrow is also our last full day in Europe. We will have to pack up and head back to Nice to drop the car off.
This morning was a disaster. We got to the balloon field at the appointed time (6:30am) and there was one other gentleman there. We waited for about 45 minutes wondering where the hell was the balloon. We got wise and called the balloon pilot and were informed that our flight this morning had been cancelled due to high winds. Awesome. Admittedly, the clouds were motoring across the sky, but the surface winds were actually quite calm, so I'm not real sure why they had to cancel. They had left a message on my cell phone, but I had turned my phone off overnight. Our french compatriot was very confused about the whole situation and I finally gave him our cell phone so he could get the word straight from the horse's mouth. He was understandably dejected, but what are you gonna do?
Heidi, our trusty steed, was way low on gas, so we plugged in the nearest gas station into the NAV system. It took us to the lovely town of Roussillon where the station was closed until 8:30am. We decided to park in one of the lots and while Adam and Carlisle tried to get a cat nap, Angela and I walked around taking pictures of the very colorful buildings. Roussillon is notable for the huge vein of Ochre that runs right underneath it and so all of the buildings were these beautiful rich shades of red, orange, and yellow. Of course, in the French tradition, opening times are just suggestions and not to be taken seriously. I was afraid of not having enough gas to get to the next closest station (in Apt), but we weren't really having any fun sitting in the truck waiting for this station to open. Turns out we did have enough to get to Apt (just barely) and were able to fill up. It was at this point that we all had the craving for an Egg McMuffin, and we had passed a McD's on the way to the gas station. Unfortunately, this particular McD's didn't open until 10:30, and didn't serve breakfast. Plan B was to pick up something from the LeClerc next door and eat brunch back at the mas. This turned out pretty well and we all retired for a quick nap.
Our afternoon was way more enjoyable. We trekked west to the Pont du Gard, a 2000 year old, almost completely in tact, Roman aqueduct spanning the Gard river. It was just spectacular; moreso than even the Collosseum in Rome. We had an awesome lunch of sweet and savory crepes. After having our fill of crepes, we headed to Arles, site of a very well preserved Roman ampitheater. Arles was really nice. The ampitheater is still used for bullfighting and concerts, which is pretty cool. It is remarkably well preserved and is undergoing an extensive cleaning and restoration process to return it to its classical glory. There were several very nice galleries and other shops, but Angela couldn't bring herself to buy anything.
We ate dinner in St. Remy. By the time we got there, nothing was open but restaurants, so we didn't really do much more than eat. It really started raining hard during dinner, but even though we were eating outside, we stayed pretty much dry thanks to the awnings.
No Balloon flight tomorrow; but Friday is looking good.