Arles


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Published: May 15th 2015
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This morning we had to pack up our bags again and continue on our way. We are going to miss Le Moulin des Pinchinats and our hosts Anne and Jean-Fraçois! This morning Anne served us dessert again for breakfast this time a delicious rhubarb and strawberry crumble. Bernie followed that with some muesli and yoghurt. I had upended my yoghurt onto my crumble to make sure that I ate my probiotics ... and could justify following up my breakfast dessert with a chocolate croissant. I will absolutely, positively not share an entree with Bernie at tonight for dinner!

Since we travelled along the southern outskirts of Arles yesterday we thought that today's journey into Arles would be trouble-free I mean - we did a dry run yesterday, right?? Well, you would think so. We have been coping with the whole toll-paying 'thing' for the last few days and have not experienced any difficulty. Yesterday, when we exited the tollway just before Arles we proceeded through the toll gates without any trouble at all.

Bloody hell, this morning the ticket reader at the Arles end kept spitting our ticket back at us and displaying something in French. OK, press the button with the Union Jack beside it, WTF - the machine has decided that our ticket, that we just pulled out of the machine at the Aix end of the tollway, is unreadable. Shit, now what do we do with impatient drivers in the queue behind us starting to beep their horns? Press the red button for HELP ... waiting, waiting, waiting for help with car horns beeping behind us. Finally, a French voice comes over the intercom. When we respond 'Hello' she switches to English, thank goodness. 'What is the problem?' 'The machine says our ticket is unreadable' 'Where have to come from?' 'Aix-en-Provence' 'Where?' More slowly ... 'Aix - en - Provence' 'Please put you ticket in again' And ... voila! the machine now sucked our ticket in, calculated our fare, debited our Travelex card and, most importantly, raised the boom gate so that we could escape the displeasure of the drivers behind us!!

Next blip, Bernie asks if I have the Arles map to find a parking area for us. What? I didn't know that we even HAD an Arles map with that level of detail on it. Bernie has the Sat-Nav set for Arles so we just go with her instructions right to the centre of Arles and, Hallelujah, there is a parking garage right there so we pull into the driveway. Of course, it was too easy to be true. The van in front of the car in front of us is trying to reverse out. Is the car park full? Is the van over the height limit for the car park? Who knows, but the driver in front of us is reversing aggressively and we have no-where to back back to because behind us is the oncoming traffic. Aaargh, as soon as there is a small gap we reverse out and continue along until we can find a spot to pullover and get the map out.

Going from bad to worse, the first opportunity there is to pull up is just along the road from a hitchhiker who, when we pull over, naturally thinks she has secured a lift. No, no, sorry, no, NO, we haven't stopped to pick you up. I think she may have called us bad things in French, but finally she went back to her hitchhiking spot!

Right, let's go back over the river to park, it might be quieter on the other side of the river? After another slight hiccup - we couldn't find the first parking area we went in search of - we finally had the Mercedes parked. Thank goodness for that. Even better, in a free parking spot!

The map showed that there are some 'panoramic viewpoints' on this side of the river so we thought we'd check them out before walking across the bridge to the centre of town. Wouldn't you know it, the ENTIRE riverfront opposite is lined with rusty old steel sheets to create a dyke in which they can perform restoration works along the riverfront. So Arles' beautiful riverfront visage was not very beautiful at the moment!

We proceeded across the river to Les Thermes de Constantin (The baths of Constantine) because, according to the map we picked up at Le Moulin des Pinchinats, we could purchase a multi-access pass at the Tourism Office or at any of the monuments or museums included in the pass. We are certainly on a roll today because it turns out that we have an out-of-date map and the new map says that only the Tourism Office sells these passes. So we paid our €3.00/each to visit the Roman Baths. It really doesn't seem to matter how much preparation you do - things change all the time and it's only when you actually arrive in a place that you find out how it's all really going to be.

So, of course, our next stop was the Tourism Office where Bernie was elbowed in the back by a clumsy guy who at least had the decency to apologise. It must've been a pretty good jab in the back because the usually stoic Bernie complained quite a bit about how much it hurt. At this point we are not feeling the love for Arles!

Finally, with a Pass Liberté each in hand we could get on with our sightseeing. Well right after we found the conveniences adjacent to the Hotel de Ville that is. Eeeuuw, not very nice at all. You would think that the WCs right beside the town hall would be well maintained, but these were smelly and there was no toilet paper ... which is why it is a good idea to always have tissues with you!

We bought a baguette for lunch and found a seat in the Place de la Republique to eat it. After lunch we headed underground to the Cryptoportico or underground forum. The cryptoportico of Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates from the 1st century BC when it was built as a foundation for the forum. The above ground area that was once the Roman Forum now houses the Chapel of the Jesuit College and the City Hall. Three double, parallel tunnels arranged in the form of a U are supported by fifty piers. It wasn't quite as beautiful as the underground cistern in Istanbul, but it was quite atmospheric.

Back above ground we visited L'église de Saint-Trophime and then traipsed all the way around the back to find the cloisters only to find that the entrance indicated on the map is currently closed due to restoration works. We had to walk back around into the Place de la Republic and enter through a courtyard that was hosting some sort of rally or music festival. Very strange indeed visiting the cloisters to the accompaniment of loud rock music being played outside! Hopefully we managed to take a few reasonable photos despite the scaffolding that is in place at the moment due to the restorations.

Our next stop was Le Théâtre antique, a Roman theatre that was able to seat 10,000 people built at the end of the 1st century BC. Just a couple of streets away we visited L'Amphithéâtre an arena capable of seating 21,000 spectators that was built around 90AD. Oh dear, it is only as I look at the map again as I write this that I realise that the blue dotted line on the Arles map marks the famous route of the St Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. I suppose we should have at least walked to The Alyscamps that seems to be the start of the pilgrims walk!

Our next destination was Avignon where we will spend two nights. We set the new destination into the SatNav and we were off. As it seems that we are destined to end up driving the wrong way at least once every trip to a country that drives on the 'wrong' side of the road, we got that out of the way this afternoon. Oops, no harm done thank goodness!! We had a Frenchman shake his head at us, but no head on collision so we got away with it. When the SatNav said turn immediately left we thought she meant it, but she really meant for us to turn left about 100 metres further along!

The rest of our trip to Avignon was blessedly incident-free. In fact we arrived right at the gate of our B&B without any drama whatsoever. We were a bit worried about how we would go because the B&B is situated on an island in the middle of the Rhône which sounded like it could be rather complicated to reach. Arriving from the Villaneuve (West) side of the Rhône it was actually very easy.

We checked in and asked about finding a supermarket and a laundromat. Tatiana gave us directions to the supermarket across the river in the old part of town and very generously said that we could use her washing machine. We put a load of clothes on and walked to the supermarket while the washing was going. Back at the B&B we were able to hang our washing on the line in Tatiana's large back yard. After hanging the washing we checked out the fish/turtle pond and the chicken coop/rabbit hutch at the back of the yard. The fish pond sounded like it had a resident frog with a very loud croak. We hoped that it wasn't going to keep us awake overnight!

I worked on the travel diary for a bit while Bernie popped out to take some twilight photos of Pont Saint-Bénezet - well, the four arches of the mediaeval bridge that are still standing anyway. By the time the sun had set it was rather late so we hurried back across into the old city hoping that we wouldn't be too late to find some dinner. Tonight we dined at a restaurant that was rated highly on Trip Advisor. We didn't share an entree BUT we had a dessert each!! Bernie wanted to try the cheeses and I couldn't resist sampling the dessert of the day which was a spiced pineapple dish. When are we ever going to start cutting down on the amount that we are eating?!

Steps for the day 19,943 (13.58 km)


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16th May 2015

More Great photos.
Really loved your panorama of Le Théâtre antique - great shot. Very sadly tonight I heard on the news that IS are closing in around the historic Roman city of Palmyra [Eastern Syrian desert]. There is enormous fear in the antiquities world that IS will destroy the ancient ruins [where I enjoyed a sunrise camel tour on my own in 2009]. What can be done to stop this death league? Please stay safe you two. Caroline
16th May 2015

You have had some amazing adventures ...
I am very envious of some of the places that you have seen that are inaccessible to travelers now due to IS. It is so sad that these radicals are robbing the moderate Muslims and the rest of the world of some truly amazing treasures. Thanks for being such an avid follower, it is so lovely to receive messages from home. 💜 T.

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