We took the famous "Catalan Talgo" from Barcelona Station up to Valence, dining divinely (but astonishingly expensively, as we later discovered; we wondered if they should feel remorse, but abandoned that as an idea fairly rapidly ...) as we passed through the Camargue. We'd booked a Valence hotel from Barça, and it turned out to be simple, but delightful because we made friends with Madame Sophie, the wife of the patron.
Having done a deal with Monsieur and with Madame Sophie to be able to do our washing in exchange for some English translating, we hired a car and Went Out Into The South Of France. We were blithe and carefree: we didn't realise our danger, and were unaware of the imminent loss of our hearts ...
In the gallery are our favourite images of France; we travelled through the départements of Drôme and Gard with joy, regretting almost without exception our inability to be anywhere *longer*. And as you see, the weather was almost exclusively superb, even though it was by then early December. But it wouldn't have mattered to us if it were snowing incessantly; we had fallen in love with Europe !
We were here to spend the time we had planned to spend in a different part of France, later; the sudden itinerary change to include Hamburg meant we had to find somewhere en route, and stay for a specific number of days. The happy choice of Valence had been made solely for its location on the train line !
We spent a night at «La Porte Monségur» in Crest, where the meal was *sensational* !, and eventually saw frost: but snow, it appeared, was out of the question. (This restaurant, btw, is listed in the Guide Michelin, and its crossed knife-&-fork doesn't do it anything like sufficient justice !)
Valence is an absolutely lovely town. Well -- it has a 'new' part that's not lovely *at all*, but so do most of the towns in Europe; you must simply pay them no attention ! Our traverse between the Hotel Park and our favourite little eating-place («Chez Fanfan»; we wittily devised a phrase to ask him -- 'Bonjour, Fanfan; comment vont les enfants ?' -- but fortunately for him,never found The Right Moment !) is an indication of the beauty of that overlooked place.
We savoured each place of beauty with a kind of ultimate joy, that we were able to find in spite of there being no expectation of ever returning (and about which we were resolutely philosophical) ...