Tarascon and the deadly Tarasque; We invade a knitting circle... or something; Avignon to Lyon; The last two beds at the top of a big hill

We had two possibilities for day-trips from Avignon: the town of Tarascon, famous for its legendary dragon, or a village called Fontaine-de-Vaucluse which had a nice spring. The trains worked better to Tarascon and we thought that Fontaine-de-Vaucluse’s spring couldn’t possibly compare to Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia, so Tarascon it was. After throwing the bags in a storage locker at the train station which probably cost more than a hostel night in India, we wound up in Tarascon around midday.

Tarascon’s quite pretty and compact, with a nice historical quarter. We were, without exaggeration, the only tourists we saw. We looked around a bit helplessly until we spotted a sign for what we thought was a tourist office - it said AVF (Accueil des Villes Fran├žaises) after all, up on the second floor of a building. The door was closed and when I opened it a crack and peeked through there were only a lot of coats hanging on pegs. I was going to sneak back down the stairs and find the real tourist office, but Sheryl threw open the door and strode boldly in. The room was full of round little old French ladies grinning at us. None of them spoke any English so Sheryl got off lightly after her invasion and threw me to the wolves. I think we’d interrupted their knitting circle or something, but they thought we were hilarious and gave us directions to a map of the town. They had to have an argument among themselves first though, and then the victor siezed my arm and walked me out to the balcony to point out directions to the castle. The whole thing was really funny in an embarrassing way. The old lady who had lost the argument turned out to be correct about the map, by the way.

The Tarasque was supposedly a medieval dragon with six bear’s legs, a turtle’s shell and the face of a bitter old man. It terrorized the countryside - eating livestock and people, until it was tamed by some saint or other. She led it back to the town where, naturally, the people stoned it to death. I’m not sure what lesson we’re meant to take away from this, tbut there’s a big ugly statue ofthe monster by the castle, and we saw two giant puppets that are carried in the annual Tarasque Parade, so I suppose the townspeople are still really, really sorry about the misunderstanding.

The castle at Tarascon is really something, though - a gigantic square-towered pile of stone with a bridge and a moat. It’s the first castle I’ve seen here in Europe that looks like the mental image I had of a castle when I was little and reading books about King Arthur and Robin Hood.

From Tarascon we caught the train back to Avignon, collected our bags, and went on to Lyons. By the time we arrived there it was dark. We took the metro to the only hostel in town, not sure if they had space for us. It was yet another HI hostel - HI seems to have a monopoly in France - so we weren’t expecting much. It was on the top of a giant hill, too, which was no fun. After walking for twenty minutes uphill we seriously hoped we wouldn’t have to walk back down. There was a nice cat near the top of the hill, though, and I took that for a good sign. If in doubt, follow the cats. This one didn’t lead us astray, and we got the last two beds in the place. It was a fine hostel, actually - the more so (and a great surprise to us) for being an HI hostel. Its only drawbacks were segregated dorms (sigh) and a bitchy bartender in the adjoining bar. If those were our only complaints after showing up unannounced and unreserved, I think we’re doing all right.


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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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