Love Actually

Once again, it’s a beautiful day in Avignon, so even though our bags our heavy as we leave the hotel, it’s a nice walk. Steve and I are going back to La Pause Gormande for breakfast before walking to the train station and heading to Paris.

I can’t believe how well I packed for this trip. And by well I mean light. Twenty days and only my little suitcase carry-on, plus a small duffel bag. Not to mention, all the different weather. Cool in New York, cold and brisk in London, warm and sunny and even hot in Avignon. And only three pairs of shoes – my black Converse, which really go with everything, my New Balance sneakers, and my little black bootie heels.

Speaking of shoes, I wasn’t impressed by the fashion in London, but here in Avignon I can’t stop staring in the shop windows. So many cute clothes and shoes. I spot an especially cute pair of heels on our walk to breakfast.

At the cafe, we order two lattes, a croissant, and a ham and cheese omelette, plus sausage and butter on a roll. The French use butter the way we use cheese, so we figure we’ll give it a shot. The croissant is delectable and the omelette is out of this world. Truly. So simple yet so delicious. Local and fresh ingredients really make all the difference. We decide to save the sausage and butter for the train ride.

As we’re eating, Aurelie walks by with a small group of people – she’s doing another tour. We immediately say hi and exchange pleasantries. She is so freaking sweet. We took her recommendation last night for dinner at Le Petit Prince and tell her all about it. We loved it.

Aurelie continues on with the group. Steve and I sit and enjoy the weather in the little courtyard and reflect on how much we love Avignon. Such a charming little city, we really enjoyed our stay. Sans the hotel experience. Lesson learned – when traveling in unfamiliar territory, do not book a 2-star hotel, regardless of how good the reviews are.

And now it’s time to go. Which way do we go? There’s like six different ways out of here. Steve wants to go back the way we came, but I’m sure there must be a more direct line to the train station. While we’re debating, a man yells over, in his thick French accent, “Are you lost?” Uh, oui, yes. “Are you American?” Oui. This very friendly French man who loves America walks over to help us. He asks where we’re from and we tell him. I like how he repeats it back to us. “North Car-oh-leena.”

He directs us to the train station – away from both directions that Steve and I were looking. It looks like he’s just pointing at a wall, but as we approach, we realize that it’s actually an alleyway and we can walk through. It’s like a secret walkway.

We’re back on track and know our way when we pass by the shoes again. This time I comment. Those are cute shoes. We keep walking but Steve asks, “Do you want to try them on?” I hesitate. No, we don’t have time. “Yes we do. You just have to be quick.” No, it’s OK. “How much were they?” I don’t know. We walk back and check. They’re on sale!

OK fine, twist my arm, Steve and I quickly enter the store. A woman greets us – Yvonne. I ask her if she speaks English. Nope. OK, no problem. I point to the shoes displayed in the window. She grabs it and I try to tell her my size, but French sizes are different so I have no idea. We don’t have time for this. Thankfully, I have my New Balance kicks on. I pull one off and we look under the tongue together. Yvonne nods, then disappears down down a flight of steps while I take a seat and wait.

Steve stands near the entryway with our bags and calls over. “Babe. If you like them, you have to make a decision right away.” I nod. Right. Don’t shop like I normally shop. Got it.

An older couple peruses the shoes between us and the man chuckles as he looks over at Steve. “Got a train to catch?” Looks like we’ve got another American couple in Avignon. Steve chats with the man while I focus on the task at hand. Yvonne has returned with the shoes. She very slowly – or maybe it just feels slow – takes both out of the box and undoes the straps for me. I put them on as fast as I can and stand.

Oh my God, they’re so cute. But they’re a touch too big. I look at the size. 37. Immediately, my French numbers kick into gear. Trente-six, s’il vous plait. Yvonne nods and walks back down the stairs. It’s amazing how much French I can muster up when it comes to shopping in a time crunch.

Steve doesn’t seem as relaxed as he did before. Let’s get moving. Yvonne returns and I quickly put one on. She tries to hand me the other one but I tell her it’s OK. They fit. I love them. I’ll take them. She takes the shoes, and Steve and I meet her at the checkout counter.

Yvonne ever so slowly boxes up the shoes. Now she takes one out, displays it to us. She knows that neither of us speak French, so she shows us something for the bottom of the shoe, to prevent slipping. Steve and I look at each other. Uh, how much? Six euros. Sure, fine. But Yvonne doesn’t throw them in the box for us. She’s looking for the right size that will fit my shoes. She finds the right size. Now, she unwraps it and applies it to the bottom of the shoes.

Why is she doing everything so slow?? We have a train to catch, lady.

Finally, they’re stuck on. But wait. Yvonne holds up a small bottle and pumps out some kind of lotion, holds up a shoe and demonstrates – it’s to protect the shoe.

You have got to be kidding me. Steve and I are Alan Rickman in Love Actually, and Yvonne is Mr. Bean. I can’t help but laugh. This is absolutely absurd. Steve and I give a resounding, No. Can we pay now please??

We’re finally out of there and running down the street. Panicked, as we get when we’re traveling and running a little late. I can’t even keep up with Steve. And there are so many people walking. And I’m sweating so much. Finally, we make it to the station. We only have about… 40 minutes until our train. Thank God we just sprinted here!

I’m really regretting our mad dash here, as I’m dripping with sweat and uncomfortable, but Steve is glad. He will always err on the safe side. I’m like that, too, but Jesus, I can’t even catch my breath.

Relieved that we made it with plenty of time to spare, Steve asks me if the shoes were worth it. I smile. They were totally worth it.

Not only did I get an adorable pair of shoes from France, I got them from Avignon. How cool is that?

Of course, once we reach Paris, we’ll see them in about seven shop windows for the same sale price we found them in Avignon. I could’ve gotten them without all the stress, but surely, that wouldn’t have made for a good story.

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