Five stars, three forks, Avignon

Ashish and I left Hyéres on Friday for our “road trip” back to Belgium and when I say “road trip” I mean “fucking hell-drive.” We headed for Gent via Grenoble and Strasbourg. This is not the route I’d suggest to get to Belgium from the Riviera. In fact, it is a route I’d suggest if I were planning revenge on someone for something unspeakable and the end point was utterly unimportant.

I should mention that we were traveling with a GPS guidance device. A lady with an English accent impatiently ordering us hither and tither without regard to my stress level.

It was a full 4 hours to Grenoble on the freeway but to, you know, make it endless we added a little stop about half way. In Avignon we had decided (in advance) to eat at La Mirande, a five-star hotel/restaurant, (3 forks in the Michelin guide) just outside the Papal Palace. (To prolong the trip, after lunch we also threw in a cruise through the hideously dull palace itself, it’s obvious why the popes fled back to Rome, if you ask me) But first, after exiting the highway for La Mirande, we spent a good deal of unpleasant time driving through Avignon looking for a place to park while the English lady barked orders incessantly since the streets change and turn nearly every 4 feet in the tiny walled area of the city. Basically, Avignon was built before the advent of the motorized vehicle and even a small one, such as the one I attempted to navigate through the city, is too big to be there.

Probably not unexpectedly, I was not the only person attempting this. In fact, about 4 thousand other people, who hadn’t been informed about the navigation problem either, were also making their way through a town about the size of a football field with a papal palace in it. Jane, the name of the GPS lady, was clearly not hip to this info either. Eventually we had to park outside the city walls and even finding parking there was nearly impossible. By then it was already past noon which is the time for which we had made our reservations. I am not good with tardiness, my own or anyone else’s. I wasn’t that good after the 2 hours of driving as it was. And here we were, late, outside the walls of the city and not a clue where we were in relation to the restaurant and had minus 5 minutes to get to there, did I mention five-stars? One is not late for that.

Actually, one can do whatever one goddam wants when one is about to pay 150 euros (for both of us, I’m not insane) for lunch. It didn’t occur to me in the heat of the panic to get to the restaurant that in a city the size of a football field it really wouldn’t take all that long to get there and while we didn’t have Jane bellowing instructions to our destination, we did have Apple or Google or some damn thing and a lit up blue path on an iPhone (remind me how we got anywhere before) and although we arrived a little late, it turned out the restaurant didn’t even open until 12:30. They told us to sit down and cool our heels. In a French sort of way.

The menu had 2 choices. Black cod or lamb. That’s all. They brought us a little mussel with a borage flower on it as an amuse bouche and then rabbit ravioli (also decorated with a borage flower as well as some suspiciously tasteless foam) as an appetizer. The lamb was very good and followed by a strawberry thing. I don’t know what you’d call it. When it approached in the hands of the Provençally-attired waitress I thought for sure it was some damn salmon thing. But it wasn’t.

It was all great. Really, really good. And worth the 150 euros. But not the drive.