Provence Part Une: Minerve, Pont du Gard, Arles, Saintes-Maries, Les Baux, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Roussillon, & Gordes

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September 11th 2009
Published: November 14th 2009
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Day 15 (Friday, September 11, 2009)

Prior to leaving Carcassonne, I was hoping to be able to obtain some exterior shots of the fortress from a distance. We found a bridge from which we had a perfect viewpoint; however, the sun was shining on the opposite side of the structure, so I was unable to take any decent photos. Had I known of this bridge the night before, I would have definitely taken the time to walk to it.

From Carcassonne, we headed to a small town called Minerve. This village is placed spectacularly within a wide canyon and is famous for once being a hide-out for a group of Cathars back in 1210. After photographing Minerve from an overlook, we parked the car in the nearby pay lot and then walked through town for a bit. Like so many other small villages in France, this one was very pleasant to wander through and photograph.

From Minerve, we began the long drive into Provence. After about two hours, we stopped at the Pont du Gard, which is a Roman aqueduct. This amazing structure is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list and was used by the Romans to supply water to the town of Nimes, one of the largest cities in Europe during Roman times. The aqueduct had three levels that originally spanned about 1100 feet; now it is approximately 800 feet long. Amazingly enough, this structure was built without the use of any mortar sometime around the year 19 BC or during the middle of the first century A.D, depending on which historian you ask. Regardless of when it was built, it is truly amazing to think that the bridge has been in existence for nearly 2,000 years.

For obvious reasons, the Pont du Gard reminded us immediately of the Aqueduct of Segovia, Spain. I would have to say that the placement of the aqueduct in Segovia is more visually interesting than the Pont du Gard due to the fact that it is literally situated in the middle of the city. However, in terms of the aqueduct itself, I found the Pont du Gard to be much more beautiful and photogenic than the one in Segovia due to its dramatic setting in the canyon; there are no other buildings or any sort of other structure detracting from its presence. After walking across the actual bridge, we continued walking on a path in the opposite direction of the Pont du Gard until we were far enough back to obtain some great vantage points of the aqueduct. The thing that impressed me most about visiting this site was that it was completely free; we were only required to pay for parking, and if we had chosen, to tour the museum.

From Pont du Gard, we had yet another long drive, this time to Avignon, which is one of the larger cities in Provence. After parking the car in a lot just outside the medieval walls, we walked towards the old section of town. The city was lively and buzzing, with lots of tourists and locals out walking along the tree-lined streets. Much of the city immediately reminded me of Paris due to its elegant air of sophistication, many shady cafes, and lots of clothing boutiques, both large and small. While it definitely wasn’t the most gorgeous city I had ever walked through, there was a certain energy that was quite captivating and enjoyable to experience.

Our first stop within the city was the Palace of the Popes. A lot of people may not realize this, but for a period of time from 1309 to 1377, Avignon was home to the Vatican, a move which forever changed the city. The Palace of the Popes was home to the administrative center of the Vatican, with enough room to house more than 500 people. While I toured the largest surviving Gothic palace in all of Europe, Mike waited outside for me. To be honest, with the exception of the massively sized rooms which were astonishing on their own accord, the interior of the palace was not overly impressive. Due to its many uses over the centuries, including a barracks for 1800 soldiers during Napoleon’s time, none of the original furnishings remained, so the rooms were very barren.

After finishing at the Palace of the Popes, we continued walking through town until we reached the St. Benezet Bridge. Originally, this famous bridge once spanned the length of the Rhône River between Avignon and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. It has been estimated that the bridge was built sometime between 1171 and 1185. Unfortunately, a massive flood occurred in 1668 which washed away about half of the bridge. Since then, additional arches of the bridge have collapsed, leaving only four arches. The bridge became famous during the mid-19th century, when a song titled "Sur le pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon") became popular.

When I had bought my entrance ticket at the Palace of the Popes, I had purchased a combination ticket, which also provided entrance to the bridge. While walking across the remnants of a once formally larger bridge was mildly interesting, I found more enjoyment taking photos of the bridge from a distance. Afterward, we began the long walk back to the car, stopping along the way at a grocery store in order to purchase some items for dinner.

Finally, we drove onwards to Arles, which was to be our home base for the next three nights. As we approached the old town, we noticed that nearly every entrance point to the city was blocked off by barricades. Not sure of what was going on nor what we should do, we drove as far south as we could, in hopes that some of the streets further away would allow cars to pass through. Unfortunately, none of them did, so we eventually had to pull up alongside some of the security officials and inform them that we had a hotel reservation. The first official directed us to a different area which required us to turn around. Once we reached that other access point, we were allowed in after we showed the the paperwork for our hotel reservation.

When we finally made it to the hotel, we learned that the weekend that we were visiting on just so happened to be the same weekend of the massive Feria du Riz festival, thus the reason why no cars were allowed to come into town. When we checked in at Hotel Regence, the hotelier immediately asked for our credit card, informing me that he had attempted to charge my card earlier that morning with no avail. He looked somewhat irritated and explained that it was a very busy weekend and was unsure as to whether or not we were going to come (i.e. he was thinking of releasing our rooms to someone else). I personally found it very strange that he was attempting to charge for the room prior to our arrival and that he wasn't sure if we were going to come or not. I would have thought that confirming your reservation several days prior was good enough! I’ve stayed in many hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other accommodations all across the North America and Europe, and I have never once had an accommodation charged beforehand. Anyway, a little strange and peculiar, but no harm done. We walked up to our small but charming room, and then relaxed for the rest of the evening. It had been quite hot out that day (around 85-90) so we were both very exhausted.

Day 16 (Saturday, September 12, 2009)

We awoke to yet another sunny day in France, although I was unfortunately not in the best mood. I had received more than eight hours of sleep, but I felt like absolute crap. I had felt a head cold coming on in the days prior, so it must have hit me the night before. I had neither desire nor motivation to get myself out of bed, so Mike had to help me out. We got up so late that we even ended up missing breakfast, although I could have cared less. Most of the day’s events were planned in Arles, so driving would be kept to a minimum.

As we began walking towards the historic core from the hotel, we heard a lot of noise and commotion going on nearby, which we assumed could be due to the Feria du Riz festival. Apparently, part of the festival involved bullfighting, which I was just absolutely thrilled about. We soon realized that we were very close to the start of the bull run, where the bulls were kept in massive containers to be let out and run through the barricaded streets. Even with all of its historical and cultural significance, I am not (nor will I ever be) a fan of bullfighting, so I wanted nothing to do with this event. Mike on the other hand, was quite interested and insistent on watching the bulls be let free from the containers and run through the street.

As I reluctantly waited with him behind the barricades, I looked all around me and saw thousands of people lined up, with excitement beaming from their face in anticipation of seeing the bulls. There were many young teenage boys who were flaunting their stuff, pumping their fists up in the air or strutting around as a sign of their machismo. While we waited, we saw the containers thrash around every once in a while; I’m sure this occurred because the bulls were absolutely terrified and confused as to what was going on around them.

After waiting for at least 15 minutes, I told Mike that we had waited long enough and should get going, especially since we had already had a late start to our day. Sure enough, about two minutes into our walk, they let the first bull out. You could hear the screams throughout the crowds, so we walked over to an opening in the barricades to watch the commotion. As soon as I heard from Mike that he saw that a bull was running around in circles and had fallen down, slipping on the concrete as the young boys chased him, I walked away. I just couldn’t watch or listen to the inhumane treatment of the animal. Killing the bull in the stadium was bad enough, but taunting it beforehand was far beyond anything I could comprehend.

As we walked through the streets of Arles, I continued to think about the bull, actually becoming quite upset. I was very disappointed that we happened to be in Arles during the entire three day festival during which two bull fights occur each day. Not only did I have to see all of the festivities relating to the bullfights which I detest so much, but we also had to contend with the huge crowds that came to the city as a result of the festival.

From the crowded streets near the Roman Arena, we headed to boulevard des Lices for Arles Saturday Market, which is known as being one of the best markets in all of Provence. As we approached the market from a distance, we could see that it stretched in either direction as far as our eyes could see; the term huge doesn’t even being to describe its size. Feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin, we headed directly to the food stalls, since that is what we generally enjoying seeing at markets. The number of merchants and stalls was unbelievable; there literally had to have been hundreds, and that is no exaggeration. We’ve been to some fairly large markets in our life, but the one in Arles definitely surpassed them all by a landslide!

Aside from the common stalls of vegetables and fruits, there were cheese, olive, oil, bread, wine, spice, paella, roast chicken, meat, and fish vendors, just to name a few. As soon as I saw one of the roast chicken vendors with the glorious pomme de terres (potatoes) roasting in the pan below, I knew we had to buy some. We had purchased some roast chicken and potatoes back in Honfleur two weeks prior, and we had been craving that same food ever since. We didn’t purchase any chicken though, since we weren’t hungry enough to eat the whole thing. On the other hand, we of course bought a large amount of the pomme de terres to munch on, which were quite delicious, although not as much so as the ones in Honfleur had been.

After spending a great deal of time at the market, we walked over to the Musee de l’Arles et de la Provence Antiques (Ancient History Museum). This museum provides very detailed information on the Roman history of the town, which was made an important port city during the reign of Julius Caesar. While Mike waited in the lobby area, I toured the museum, which was spread out over only one floor of the building. The museum contained many models of Arles' Roman sights and also had a great deal of Roman sarcophagi. Unfortunately, none of the displays had English descriptions, so I had a difficult time being able to fully absorb all of the information. I did however immensely enjoy the very detailed models which needed no descriptions to make sense. Apparently, I had read that the museum sometimes offers English tours (none on the day I visited) so I would recommend taking one of those if possible in order to more fully appreciate all of the displays at the museum.

Next, we walked through the very hot air to Republic Square, where we had hoped to tour St. Trophime Church. Unfortunately, the church was closed until later that afternoon at 15:00. As a result, we had to turn around and visit the next sight on our list, which was the nearby Forum Square. This square was named in honor of the Roman Forum which once stood there. Sadly, the only remnants from the Roman period are two columns from the upper story of the entry to the Forum which are located on the corner of a hotel that sits within the square. The square is now filled with at least a half-dozen cafes that cover nearly every square inch, not allowing much room for walking.

From Forum Square, we walked to the Classical Theater (Theatre Antique), which I had planned on visiting. Upon our arrival however, I noticed that the entrance fee was a steep 6 Euro per person, when it had only been listed as 3 Euro in the guidebook. For a sight that wasn’t highly recommended to see to begin with, I took a pass, especially since I was able to see most of the theater when I peeked through the fence.

Next, we walked to the Arlaten Folk Museum (Musee Arlaten/Museon Arlaten). This museum is home to thousands of different items from Provencal culture, including clothing, furniture, religious items, and paintings. During our visit, the museum was undergoing a large renovation, so only a small area of the museum was open to visitors. As a result, the entrance fee had been temporarily reduced to 1 Euro per person, so both Mike and I elected to go inside. Unfortunately, without any English descriptions nor an English handout (which they were out of at the time) it was difficult to understand many of the objects we were looking at. However, I did enjoy the huge two dioramas, one of which depicted a traditional Christmas scene from 1860 and the other which showed a new mother receiving symbolic gifts for the recent birth of her baby in 1888. Once the renovation has been completed, I would definitely recommend a visit to this museum.

Afterward, we walked to Fondation Van Gogh. As I had not done a lot of research on this museum prior to visiting it, I assumed that due to its obvious title that it held the paintings of Van Gogh. Unfortunately, after arriving at the museum, I soon figured out that this was not the case. After paying the entrance fee, I discovered that the museum was home to contemporary works by artists who were influenced by Van Gogh. Some of the works were interpretations of his masterpieces, while others were pieces that were created as a result of being influenced by the master. While some of the paintings were interesting, I was overall disappointed as I had wanted to see some of Van Gogh’s paintings. I later read that although Van Gogh painted his most famous works in Arles, none of his origina; paintings are on display within the city; quite strange.

After my disappointing experience at the museum, we left, crossed the street, and took photos of the exterior of the Roman Arena. We learned that the arena was not open for regular visits that day as there was multiple festivities taking place within. Only those with tickets to the bullfight were allowed in, so viewing it from the exterior had to suffice. The two-tiered Roman Amphitheater has 120 arches which surround an oval arena and bleachers that were once capable of seating 20,000 people at one time! Originally, chariot races were the most common event that occurred within the arena, but nowadays, bullfighting, as well as a few plays, are the top draws. The arena dates back to the first century AD and is in remarkably good condition, given its age. If you want to tour the interior part of the arena, make sure your visit doesn't coincide with a summer festival as there is a good possibility that it will be closed off to visitors.

After yet another disappointing experience, we walked back over to St. Trophime Church as it was finally open. This former cathedral was built between the 12th century and the 15th century and is a great example of Romanesque architecture. The sculptures over the portal door were absolutely stunning, with amazing and intricate attention to detail, which I really enjoyed photographing. Sadly, the very dull interior of the church was about as interesting as most other churches in Europe; there definitely wasn't anything that made it unique or different, which was a surprise, given its detailed facade.

Overall, our initial impressions of Arles were not the best. Although there were a decent number of pretty pastel-colored buildings, most were in need of lots of repair or were dirty. Many of the streets had trash blowing around or just had an all-around grimy appearance. The city did not at all resemble the tidy and orderly towns and villages we had seen throughout France up until that point of our trip, so it was almost a shock to our systems. At times, it felt more as if we were walking through Italy (colorful architecture and carefree attitudes) or Spain (bullfighting, paella was sold everywhere, late dinner meals). I'm sure that the festival could take part of the blame for this, but the city felt very chaotic and uncomfortable to walk around in. Needless to say, I was immediately disappointed that we had chosen Arles as our home base for three nights. It definitely wasn't the provincial feel I had been hoping for!

On a positive note, it was immediately evident to us that Arles was the true definition of a melting pot or crossroads of cultures. At the market specifically, we encountered people from all over the world, including Morocco, West Africa, Asia, etc. This was a huge difference from the majority Caucasian world we had seen in other areas of France.

After we had seen the main sights of Arles, we were in hurry to get out in order to get away from the crazy crowds. As a result, we drove south of the city to an area called the Camargue, which is largest river delta in Western Europe. Basically, this area is filled with wide plains that contain lagoons and marshland, and is home to thousands of birds including flamingos. We decided to stop off in the small town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which is the capital of the Camargue. Although this city has a tiny population of 2500 during most of the year, this number swells to greater than 50,000 during the summer months when its filled with French tourists soaking up the sun along its beaches. The city was only mildly interesting to visit, but it was definitely filled with lots of French tourists, and had somewhat decent beaches. As it typical with most beach towns, there was lots of shopping and restaurant options to choose from. We ended up stopping at a soap shop and purchased several soaps that had been made in Marseille as souvenirs for our friends and family.

On the way back to Arles, we ran into some traffic as there was a loose horse on the road. Once the traffic had cleared up, we noticed that we were passing quite a bit of Ferrari going in the opposite direction of us. We quickly realized that there must have been some sort of Ferrari caravan going on with a club as many of the drivers had Ferrari jackets on; it was quite the sight to see 50 plus Ferrari fly by us!

When we finally arrived back at the hotel, I was absolutely exhausted from sickness. We had planned on going out to eat immediately, but a nearby pizzeria that we had wanted to have dinner at didn't even open until 19:00. I was very irritated as I was in dire need of food, so we stopped in at a boulangerie to grab some pastries and then headed back to hotel. We left for a second time at 19:15.

After arriving at the restaurant, we both commented to one another how we found it strange that although the restaurant was called a "pizzeria", there was actually very little pizza on the menu. I ordered a cheese pizza while Mike had a cheese and ham pizza plus a glass of sangria. The pizza tasted decent, but definitely not the best we've had in Europe, although it was much better than the other crap we had eaten in France up until that point.

Day 17 (Sunday, September 13, 2009)

Today, the plan was to spend the entire day out in the countryside, visiting several hill towns in the Luberon area of Provence.

Our first stop was the town of Les Baux-de-Provence, which is one of the most visited villages in all of France. As a result of its massive popularity with visitors, we decided to visit it first thing in the morning in order to avoid all of the people. After we arrived and parked the car, we began walking toward the city gate. As we did, we saw a very cute white cat that was snuggling with a city worker. Since it looked so friendly, I really wanted to pet it, but since someone else was already doing so, I thought it would be strange for me to do the same. As we began walking up the cobbled lanes, a chilly wind began to blow through, which felt downright frigid. I asked Mike if he could go to grab my jacket while I waited in the sun in an attempt to warm myself up.

As I waited, I noticed that the white cat was finally by itself, so naturally, I made a beeline for him. It appeared as though he was a kitten as he was quite small. As soon as I began to pet him, he immediately began purring. Since he looked so friendly, I decided to go ahead and pick him up so that we could sit together in a sunnier area. Luckily for me, he was a very relaxed cat, so there were no cat scratches that resulted from picking him up. While I waited for Mike, the white kitty and I spent some very friendly moments together, with him nudging my chin, asking for more pets. When Mike finally reached us, he started cracking up, knowing that I can never resist receiving love from any cat. We continued to sit with the cat for quite awhile, as I had a difficult time pulling myself away from him. Since we were at the half-way mark of our trip, I was really beginning to miss our own cats, so being able to pet any cat was a huge help to my withdrawals. Mike was finally able to reluctantly pull me away from the little guy after about 15 minutes.

We walked up through the very small town until we reached the entrance to Château des Baux. During the tenth century, the château was originally built into, out of, and on top of a massive piece of rock on the highest part of Les Baux.

The 15th century was a time of prosperity for the village and its château during the time when the barons of the Masons des Comtes de Provence were in power. Later, ownership of the château changed hands to the kings of France. Unfortunately, the townspeople of Les Baux did not always agree with the French king, and the relationship the town had formed with the Huguenots eventually pissed off Cardinal Richelieu enough that he decided in 1633 to destroy the castle. What was left from the destruction is now open for visitors to tour.

Mike opted not to visit the ruins while I went ahead and walked inside. The entrance fee was a bit more than I thought it should be (7.70 Euro) but I went ahead and paid it, hoping it would be very interesting. The entrance ticket included the use of a free audio guide, which was nice. As I walked through the ruined bits and pieces of the castle, I tried to imagine the thousands of people that hundreds of years ago once lived within the walls. I listened to the first few stops on the audio guide before becoming rather bored. Instead, what I enjoyed more was the amazing views from atop the citadel of the surrounding canyon, lit up beautifully by the sunlight.

Afterward, I met up with a very bored Mike, and we headed out of town. During the time span of one hour since we had first arrived, the village had changed from quiet and peaceful to loud and chaotic, with literally thousands of visitors clogging its very narrow arteries. I was very glad that we had arrived prior to all of the tour buses.

Our second stop of the day was to the city of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which some have called the Venice of Provence due to its setting upon the Sorgue River. Although the town has no “real sights” to see, its true beauty can be found wandering through its pleasant streets and enjoying its many mossy waterwheels, which still continue to turn.

Luckily for us, the day we planned to visit just so happened to occur on the same day of the town’s very popular market. After parking our car in a free lot, we walked for about five minutes until we reached the town. While we knew that there was a market going on, we had no idea of its massive size. The town is definitely not a large one, but literally every major street was covered with vendors. It was even larger than the market in Sarlat, which was quite surprising for a city of its size. It was not however, bigger than the one in Arles, but then again, I’d like to find another market anywhere else in France that surpasses that one! We walked through the food stalls for just a few minutes, picking up some pomme des terres to munch on. Since we had wandered through so many food stalls the day prior in Arles, we instead decided to walk through some of the clothing and other retail stalls, which were selling every imaginable thing you could think of. Once we were finished, we walked back to the car and then enjoyed our roasted potatoes, which had some sort of delicious seasoning mix of spices from Provence.

Afterward, we headed towards our third stop of the day, which was the gorgeous hilltop town of Roussillon. I had read that Roussillon was a photographer’s dream town, so I was quite excited for our visit. Upon our arrival, we immediately saw that the small town was inundated with visitors, so we figured and hoped it would be as beautiful as the guidebooks had indicated. Sure enough, they were all correct.

As we walked into town, I was blown away by its amazing beauty. Rick Steves' France Guidebook compared Roussillon to Santa Fe, and I wholeheartedly agreed with that comparison. The town was filled with the most stunning orange and red hued buildings that all appeared to be in meticulous condition. A few of the exterior buildings had been painted colors that I would describe as a pastel rainbow; some of these colorful buildings were standing together side by side, and made it almost impossible for me to stop taking photos. This town was exactly what I was hoping to see in Provence; charming, gorgeous, and full of unique character with the hint of rosemary and lavender wafting through the air.

As we walked back to the car, I remembered that I had also wanted to visit the famous orange-hued ochre cliffs, which were used to produce most of the ochre for Europe up until WWII. Ochre is derived from naturally tinted clay that contains mineral oxides. While Mike went to pay the parking fee, I sat in the car, looking at the guidebook in an attempt to figure out how to reach the cliffs. Just as I thought I figured it out, Mike came running over to the car and told me to shut the door immediately. I was extremely confused at his level of urgency until he explained that the ticket machine wasn’t working, so a woman was standing over at the exit gate, holding up the barricade to let the cars go through. If she had not done this, we all would have been stuck since it was required to place a paid ticket into the machine, which would cause the barricade to open and thus allow the car to pass through. Without a working machine, we all would have been stuck. Just as we began driving out of the lot, a police officer came zooming up into the chaos. I was panicked that we would receive a ticket for not paying, but he didn’t stop us or any of the other cars who were driving out without paying. Instead, he headed straight up to the machine in what I assume was an attempt to fix it. Looking at the guidebook, I instructed Mike to turn right out of the parking lot in order to head to the cliffs, but he was unable to do so.

Instead, we headed to yet another small village, this one called Gordes. I had read that Gordes was one of the most popular visited towns in the Luberon. However, when we arrived, we saw only a few tourists and a town that was much less photogenic than the other two towns we had visited that day. After paying three Euro to park, we made our way down into town. While it was filled with many well-cared for buildings, it lacked a certain quality that the other villages we had visited had, especially Roussillon. We walked through town for about 15 minutes and then headed back to the car. While in the car, I did a little more research about the cliffs in Roussillon, and figured out that we had actually only been a few hundred yards away from the entrance to the cliffs. Feeling quite disappointed, we decided to go back to Roussillon to visit the cliffs, but first had one more stop to make.

That next stop was Abbey Notre-Dame de Senanque, which is a peaceful abbey situated in the most serene and photogenic setting. In fact, when the beautiful lavender fields are in bloom, this abbey is one of the most photographed sights in all of Provence, and I could see why immediately upon our arrival. Although the area directly in front of the abbey was filled with dozens of people (in other words, lots of noise), it emanated a very strong sense of peace and calmness. However, much to my huge disappointment, the sun was shining on the opposite side of the abbey, so I was unable to attain the type of photos I had been hoping for. Those who want to get great shots of the abbey will need to make sure to do so in the early morning hours when the sun is shinning brightly against its front facade.

Afterward, we finally headed back to Roussillon in order to visit the Ochre Cliffs. We parked in the same lot again, assuming that we would have to pay for our second visit since the machine should have been fixed by that point; well, it wasn’t, so we scored another round of freebie parking! From the parking lot, we walked slightly uphill for about five minutes until we reached the gate to the entrance to the park. Right before we were going to pay, I realized that I didn’t have my larger lens on me, and that I would probably end up needing it once we got inside the park. So, being the awesome husband that he is, Mike walked back to the car to grab the lens while I waited. By the time Mike got back, a HUGE tour group had gotten in line in front of us; I mean, there were at least 60 people, no joke. Yet another reason why I absolutely detest tour groups; the crowds are ridiculous and unbearable, especially when you are the unlucky ones standing behind the group. So, with no other choice, we got in line behind the tour group, wasting probably at least ten minutes of our time.

We paid 2.50 Euro each to enter and then began walking down the brightly orange-colored path that appeared to be dirt but had the texture of sand. The vibrancy of color found in the ochre was unbelievable; it reminded me very much of the red rock in Sedona, except that the stone here in Roussillon was much more varied, ranging from yellow to a dark red. As we walked along the paths, we came along countless children who had obviously been playing with and sitting in the orange dirt; they had orange streak marks everywhere on their clothes and body. I hoped for their parent’s sake that the orange stuff washed out easily of their clothes; otherwise, they would probably have a hell of a time getting it out.

From the cliffs, we headed out of Roussillon , and drove to our final village called Lacoste. We got slightly lost while trying to find the small town, but once we finally arrived, we pretty much turned straight around. While the village looked quite charming and beautiful, the sun was shining in the opposite direction, so none of my photos would have turned out very well. I find it humorous that I determine whether or not a place is worthy of my visit strictly based on the positioning of the sun. And anyway, by this point in our trip, we had visited so many other small village towns that we were starting to get burned out as they were all blending together, with only a few exceptions, such as Roussillon.

From Lacoste, we began the one hour drive back in Arles. I was hoping upon our arrival around 20:00 that most of the crowds from the festival would be gone and that the streets that were formally blocked off would all be open again; wrong. All was the same as when we had left Arles 10.5 hours prior. After quickly going back to our hotel room to freshen up, we headed right out in order to find a place to eat for dinner. With the amount of people that were still out in the city, I knew that we would have a difficult time finding a place to eat, which I happened to be in no mood for. In addition to the irritating crowds, I also realized that we would have to contend with the lack of menu options, since almost every single restaurant had a special “Feria” (festival) menu, allowing them to charge much higher prices than on any other normal day. We immediately headed over to Forum Square as we knew there were a ton of restaurant options in the area. Unfortunately, as we approached the square, we could hear the very loud and belligerent people. Not surprising, many of the restaurants were filled with patrons. Given the noisy and party-like atmosphere, and that almost all of the restaurants were situated outdoors (i.e. lots of smoking) we turned right around. After our very long and hot day of sightseeing, we wanted a much more peaceful environment.

Next, we headed to the area surrounding the Roman arena, where we had seen several restaurants the day prior. Unfortunately, only about half of those same restaurants were open, so our options weren’t plentiful. After reviewing the menus at most of the restaurants, we decided upon a crepe place. As we sat down at an outdoor table, I became even more excited with our decision when I saw that they had cherry clafoutis for dessert, one of my favorites. However, my excitement was quickly taken away when the waitress indicated that they did not serve food to the outside tables (WHY NOT?) and that the tables inside of the restaurant were completely full. UGH! Time for plan number three!

Since I was beyond frustrated at this point, and since my hypoglycemia was kicking into full gear, we just settled on a place called Grille, which was located opposite of the Roman forum. Although I understand and can read a decent amount of French, I was able to distinguish very little of the menu. Unfortunately, when I asked the waitress in French if she knew the English translation, it was apparent that she spoke even less English than I did French. Thankfully, I was able to discern that there was beef (bouef) on the menu. so we each ordered a plate. When our steaks arrived, they were surrounded on the plate by lots of delicious French fries and an interesting medley of grilled vegetables, most of which were indistinguishable. The steaks were decent, although they were too expensive for the quality (14 and 16 Euro respectively) but, what can you expect on a festival weekend? We also ended up splitting the profiteroles for dessert, which were moderately delicious. We walked away spending nearly 40 Euro (60 USD) on a dinner that was much too overpriced. Quite irritating and disappointing, but I didn't care too much because I was quite looking forward to leaving Arles the following morning.

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