Sunday 4 September 2016
Arrival in Avignon!
So, I've set off on my second year abroad! If you didn't know I was doing one, I've outlined my reasons for it in a post for Third Year Abroad. It wasn't an easy decision but I definitely feel it's the right one.
Yesterday morning I travelled to Birmingham Airport. It was the first time I'd been there and I was interested to see what it would be like. It was quite comfortable, and refreshingly easy to navigate. The staff were very pleasant.
Unfortunately I encountered some rude passengers, but luckily none of them turned out to be on my flight. There was also a weird game for kids that involved jumping up and swatting huge mosquito-like creatures on a screen. I nearly jumped every time I saw them out of the corner of my eye!
There were a lot of empty seats on the plane, which gave us some breathing space. I listened to music on my mp3 player, stumbling upon Outbound Plane by Nanci Griffith, which seemed very appropriate!
Then there was a nice moment when Here You Come Again by Dolly Parton came on, just as France appeared below us. I keep coming back here, and every time it's beautiful. I can never stay away for too long.
The first two thirds of the flight were wonderfully uneventful. However, when we supposedly had ten minutes till landing, the plane started circling the same area and doing a lot of tilting and lurching about.
People were getting worried, and we were told the captain would make an announcement but he never did. It was pretty scary.
Finally the runway came into sight. Usually I dread the moment when a plane bumps against the ground on landing, but this time I was desperately waiting for it. When the bump came, I think everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
Avignon Airport is tiny - airports in the south of France often are in my experience, but this was barely a room. I quite liked it. My two trunks were the first to appear on the carousel. A woman complimented me on that - I guess I just got lucky!
Although, the fact that they stayed together may be linked to the fact that my mother had threaded the same brightly coloured ribbon onto both to help me identify them as mine.
Outside the airport there were some cabs, and when I and a couple discovered we were going to roughly the same place, we decided to share one.
Despite the massive delay in my flight I managed to reach my accommodation in time to check in - I arrived at the time on the dot. It felt like a strange kind of fate, though I would rather not have gone through that plane experience!
I had barely got the key to my new apartment when I realised I had to run if I wanted to do any shopping. My local shop is a Casino, just like when I was in Perpignan. Don't worry, there are no card tables or slot machines, just lots of food and toiletries and odd comics.
As I stepped inside and smelt that familiar Casino smell, I felt for the first time like I was really back in France. None of the products had changed; I grabbed the same old yogurts and the same old microwave galettes and the same old Saint-Paulin, my favourite French cheese.
I also got ingredients for nachos, and on getting back I made myself some as a first-night treat. I then got a message from Eleanor, the other Manchester student currently in Avignon, asking to meet up. I found her in town and she showed me around.
It was dark by then and the narrow streets were like a labyrinth. I don't know if I'll ever totally learn my way around! But Avignon seems really lovely. We went to an ice-cream shop where I got a raspberry sorbet drink. It was gloriously cold, just what I needed in the twenty-seven degree heat.
The best part of the night was when we sat in the square in front of the Palais des Papes, the Palace of the Popes. The stars were really clear, people were playing guitars and there was a great atmosphere.
I was sad to see that the elephant sculpture that used to stand in front of the Palace seemed to be gone - I was really looking forward to seeing it. Ah, well.
Overall, it was an eventful first day and night - tiring but memorable. Watch this space for my further adventures in Avignon! Hopefully I'll have a really fun semester here.
Thanks for reading,