Sunday, August 2, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime-Day 6 and 7

Packed and waiting for the bus
 Our stay in St. Affrique was done. As much as we loved the town and its people we were looking forward to spending the night in a real hotel with real amenities like AIR CONDITIONING! Sleeping in the stifling heat was difficult for many of our group and we all were getting a bit peevish.

But not one of us would have passed up the villages that we saw or the people that we met. We were all of one mind---don't EVER forget this feeling. Our singing had gotten better and better and we knew that the love of the people in those villages would get us through our upcoming competition in Florence.

But next on our agenda was a travel day to Marseille. It was hot and getting hotter when we stopped at an Auto Grille for a lunch break. The place was mobbed and we had been told that we didn't have a lot of time. So, off to the WC (first mission, of course) then to battle the lines and the confusing logistics of an overcrowded Auto Grille! And all to the sound of millions of cicadas! It was an amazing sound and it surrounded the place. They were hiding in the trees but I managed to get a picture of one. (The best picture was taken by Dana Fiore)
Can you see him/her/it? That's a cicada.
Back on the bus. I didn't take any pictures because I was sorta snoozing. We got to our hotel, breathed a sigh of relief that the air conditioning worked, grabbed our uniforms and headed out for the 9pm concert in Marseille.

And this is when things got interesting. The bus driver got lost and stuck in a corner that he couldn't make.

Turns out that he had been given directions by his company which is in Spain. And no one there had been to Marseille. The off-highway streets are generally typical European streets. They are narrow. Very narrow. And some, as a result, are one way streets. And some have parking restrictions because they are narrow and one way. And sometimes the locals ignore those restrictions.

So...we are traveling down a street  that comes to an end. The driver must turn left. There is a car parked on our left side that is nosed in very close to the steel pylon that marks the corner. Yes, that pylon is permanently attached to the roadway. There is a matching pylon (or three) on each corner with a vehicle pulled as close as possible to each pylon.

This arrangement makes it very difficult for a bus to turn a tight corner. And he gets to about a quarters width away from one of the cars before he advises us that he can't make it (expletive deleted).

So he starts backing up. A bystander begins to help direct him when the bus jolts to a stop. A woman has driven up behind us and won't back up. She tries to park on the side of the bus. The bus driver exits and the next thing I know he is yelling at the woman who is yelling back. I am not sure what languages were being used but I not sure any were needed.

The upshot was that the woman gave the bus driver her keys and HE parked her car, gave her back the keys, got in the bus and backed up over 3 blocks to the traffic circle where he had turned off. The bystander stopped the traffic in the circle, bus driver backs into the circle and off we go. (the way we came).

Apparently, the bystander told him how to get to the Basilica St. Barnebe where we were suppose to eat and then sing. I say apparently because we did get there. 
Basilica St. Barnebe

Basilica St. Barnebe
 At this point we are still very much in love with the French people. Within a few minutes of our arrival we were still very much in love with the French people of the villages of Averyon. The city was full of city people. Imagine that.

They finally opened the doors to let us into a dressing area and then herded us to another building for our "dinner". We had to move the tables and chairs out onto the patio. We were given bottled water (a good thing) and a mozzarella and tomato sandwich in a bag. Only one of our gluten-free people got a meal. No one from the festival ate with us. When we were done we had to put the chairs and tables back where they had been.

It was not a warm, fuzzy moment.

But the church was grand and there was a large audience. We figured we could wow them, too.

After the first song we got applause from all but two women who were sitting in the front row. No reaction. Nothing.

Same with song after song. Until we did "Oh, Magnum Mysterium" One of the women wiped a tear away. But still neither clapped.

By the end of the concert we really didn't care about the two women as everyone else was responding. Then we sang our last song and they CLAPPED! A LOT! We were told that it was a cultural thing. I am not sure what that was but they sure joined in the standing ovation. I'll take that! 
Wine-down and Mary Kaye with her heart
 It was back to the AIR CONDITIONED hotel for a bit of relaxation. We call it wine-down. The rules are very simple. If you have wine, bring it. If you have food, bring it. A lot of Roquefort cheese was eaten on this night. Somebody had to finish it. Right?
John grabs some cheese while Victoria and Bob finish some wine...
 Just for full disclosure.... when we got back from Marselle that night and before the wine down began.....I hit the pool. Yeah, it was well after 10 (probably midnight) but I was very hot and I needed a swim. The Kid jumped in after me and it was WONDERFUL. And I must also thank all of my fellow singers who kept me supplied with mineral water. They were incredibly thoughtful. No one made a big deal out of my sobriety which I appreciated more than any of them know.

The next day took us through another area of Marseille on our way to La Farlede. We actually made a sighting of the Mediterranean Sea!  

 And came to a temporary halt in Toulon.
Toulon Harbor

The girls of Toulon
 We ate and shopped and looked around....
The boy of Toulon
And then went for a boat tour of the harbor. The boat had the smallest bathroom I had ever seen. And that includes the bathroom at the "hotel" in St. Affrique!
Turn in the proper direction BEFORE you close the door!

The boys admiring the aircraft carrier (unless that was a French person sunbathing)

Aircraft carrier

Andy getting rays
 The tour lasted for an hour or so. It seemed a bit longer as it was hot and the guide kept a running commentary on the French. I don't know what all we saw but it was pretty.

Waiting for the bus

 Our next stop was La Farlede where we were to share the program with a French choir. They turned out to be a local church choir. While they were not use to performing on a stage, when they were off stage they sang like angels.
Choir of La Farlede
 Our performance was a bit different here. The room was an all purpose kind of room with a stage. The stage was small and we couldn't fit everyone up there so we encircled the chairs and sang in the round. The crowd loved us. But we didn't sing the full program.

So, we stood in the foyer area as the audience was exiting by us. We do this often to thank people for coming. But on this night the audience came out clapping for more songs. So we started up with Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho. It is one of our favorites because it is so fun to sing. We sang a couple of more before we quit. The audience was incredibly responsive and we really felt welcomed.

That was followed by dinner. It started with the usual pizza, sliced meats and cheeses etc. We thought it was done when they came out with individual plates of fish with pesto. OMG!!!! I could have eaten three of them. Lots of water and lots of wine.

And then the singing began. We sang to them and they sang to us and we sang together. It was an amazing night.
Singing to us

VAE at dinner
When it was all over they followed us to the bus and loudly wished us well. Incredible.

No comments:

Post a Comment