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Published: September 20th 2019
Our brief stop in France. Unfortunately our experience will colour my ‘mood' of our short 2 day stay in the country but alas, with such a large trip there surely has to be a bump in the road! We left San Sebastian quite early, and caught a bus (I must say the bus station located underneath the train station is much bigger) to Biarritz airport in France – an hour away. Biarritz is in French Basque country, and the airport was quite big for a small regional airport. Our destination was Marseille, where our plan was to train to Avignon and make it our base to visit ‘Les Carriers de Lumiers', an old limestone quarry in Les Beax de Provence that has art exhibitions where they project art images on the walls along with composed music - this year's theme was Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'. That was the plan. So we had a smooth flight to Marseille – the flight itself was breathtaking a we flew low enough to clearly see the French countryside. We then caught a shuttle bus from the airport then a train to Avignon to make our base for the next days adventures (it was an adventure
alright but not what we expected!)
Avignon is a pretty little town in the Provence region, cute little shops and restaurants dot the small city centre. We had a dinner of ‘Tartine', an open sandwich and walked around the town past the towering ‘Palais des Papes', the pope's palace was the seat of Western Christianity in the 14th century. The seat of the papacy returned to Rome in 1377 but this prompted a schism whereby two antipopes made Avignon their home until 1403. We also found an old-time Ferris wheel which we took a ride on and enjoyed the night views.
The next day we took a train to Arles, which is only 15km from Les Beax and we thought we could catch a taxi there (ha!). We missed out on booking a tour, or the €40pp train+van ticket. Well the trains were 1.5hrs apart, so that should have been our first warning sign. When we got to Arles, no taxi's were in sight even at the train station so we walked to the tourist information and asked then to call a taxi, and we waited at the taxi rank (in front of a vacant cab mind you)
for 45 minutes and no taxi showed up. We were really fed up at this point and figured if taxi's are rarer than hen's teeth in Arles imagine Les Beax! We decided to catch a train back to Avignon, at least we would have done something with our day as Arles is a tiny place and way too overpriced. The next train was 2 hours away!!! Despite Avignon being the next station, trains run every two hours!! So we decided to have lunch in Arles...... and that's where things started to go further downhill – a below average stew, steak with soggy chips, a carafe of wine and water €58!!! We were absolutely fuming and resolved never to go back to Arles again. Once back in Avignon, we licked our wounds and went out for dinner at one of the many restaurants in front of the pope's palace. The moral of the story? If travelling in France, particularly outside the big cities either hire a car or pay for tours – you absolutely CANNOT rely in public transport or taxi's. In hindsight, we could have spent more time in San Sebastian. Well, to every high in travel, there are low
points and Avignon/Arles definitely was it. Would I travel to France again? Yes I would but I will be more prepared and don't take things like public transport for granted!
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