Marseille, Arles, Avignon in Southern France 9 and 10 Aug 2013


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Europe » France » Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur » Arles
August 11th 2013
Published: May 5th 2014
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Tom outside the Avignon Fortress
Marseille, Arles, Avignon in Southern France 9 and 10 Aug 2013

After driving towards Marseille (pronounced Marsay) just before lunch, we hit the bumper to bumper traffic of the French Riviera in summer holidays again. We crawled along but finally got to the motorway and the traffic started to flow again. We knew Marseille was a big city and didn’t have a detailed map of it. When we arrived we drove around and around to try to find a suitable park. There were plenty of under-cover parks but we are just over 3 m high so they are not suitable.

We drove through the waterfront area where it was absolutely packed with people. There were wall-to-walk restaurants, multiple tour groups being lead by tour guides holding up an umbrella or tassel on a stick so that their group know where to go.

We took a few photos as we drove around and as we were getting nowhere except hot and frustrated, we set the GPS for Arles (pronounced Arlay).

It was good to get out onto the open road. As it was about 6.00pm we decided to find a campsite and ‘call it a day’. We found
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An amazing Arena for bull fights etc
a place 10 minutes outside Arles which was shady, reasonably basic but clean with good shower facilities.

The next morning we heard a car beeping its horn and realized it was a bread van telling all the folk that their fresh bread was available. The bread is beautiful here and has been throughout Europe.

After breakfast we drove for 10 minutes to the outskirts of Arles and found it was Market Day (Saturday) and again, packed with people. The main street was closed for the market stalls. We found a park and got on our bikes and rode for only 10 minutes into where the markets were. This was on the perimeter of the Old Town, mainly built by the Romans…and what an amazing old town we found.

Other than the usual narrow streets, there was a Theatre which is still used for performances and an Amphitheatre which was incredible. In the middle of the Amphitheatre, there was a white horse going through its drill. I saw a poster advertising a show with horses and as the poster was in French the only word I understood was Vienna, so we guessed that the Viennese Spanish Riding School
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Outside the Arena
was putting on a performance in Arles.

There has been a major restoration program on the main buildings of the old city and so they were very impressive. We climbed up one of the tower for a spectacular view of the city and the river winding its way between the buildings. A walk around the markets and bought some beautiful olive bread roll for lunch – yum!

We then drove north to Avignon. Massive ramparts enclose this fascinating town. Again we found a park just outside the city wall and rode our bikes into the main square which was skirted by the Palais de Papes and the 13th Century Musee de Petit Palais, once the Archbishop of Avignon’s residents. We visited these buildings as well as the Town gates and walked on the ramparts as well as the Roman bridge (Pont de Benes).

The city had a wonderful ‘feel’ to it, with people milling around the squares, wandering through the narrow streets, dining in the street restaurants etc. We spoke to an English couple who had been there for a couple of days and was on a river cruise down the Rhone River. This was another reason
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The new Pope of Avignon
why there were so many people as there were 4 river boats moored in the town.

The couple told us about the Avignon Pass which we got from the Tourist Information Centre for free. The 1st tourist attraction you visit you pay full price but then each other attraction is heavily discounted by using the card.

We were nearly going to stay in the town but had planned to be at least near Nimes for the night so we rode our bikes back to the camper and headed for Nimes.

On the way about 13 kms SW we stopped to visit the best Roman Aqueduct in Europe, the Pont de Gard. It was massive, and I must say, the Romans were incredible engineers. We have been amazed so many times by seeing what they built. There was a museum on site as well which told the story of how extensive the water system was, and that it was fed from a large spring.

Tom and I decided to look at different sections of the aqueduct and to meet at a certain spot after we had finished. For some reason, we missed each other and didn’t find each other for 45 minutes. What was going to be a short visit ended up being an hour!!!

After a ‘relief hug’ we were on our way to Nimes. We found a lovely Camping site 4 kms outside Nimes (which is another largish city) called Camping Domaine de la Bastide. We arrives at 7.30pm which is later than usual. It takes us about 5 minutes to set up camp and sit down to chat about the day over a cold beer. Beautiful!! So we didn’t have dinner until 8.00pm. However, with the microwave, it doesn’t take long to get a meal ready.


Additional photos below
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Palace of the Popes
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Saint Benezet bridge


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