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Published: September 13th 2015
22 August - 30th
Sadly, we say au revoir to Jean-Noel and Marie and once more take the Peage West. Ensues La Redonne, our last stop in France, is in a calanque to the west of Marseilles. It's a winner and the house has four bedrooms, unfortunately we are staying there on our own. The view from the terrace is outstanding!
The Roman amphitheater in Orange is our first destination, and I'm impressed; it's in amazing condition and they still hold concerts there. The acoustics are supposedly as fine as you will get and having a couple of dogs bark at each other seems to bear this out. I think David Gilmore (PinkFloyd) will be playing there in Sept or Oct.
On to Avignon, and the Palais du Papes. We had been to this town in the past and were not very impressed; however today we find it less odorous than the last time we visited. A tour on the Petit Train takes us around the relevant historical landmarks including the pont and then it starts to rain. And boy, does it rain. We end up taking refuge under an awning for the best
part of an hour while it buckets down.
A full day out in its own rite, a visit to Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Camargue (a flat swampy area to the west of Marseilles known for its wildlife) is on my list of things to see. This town is the host of a Gypsy festival in honor of the Black Madonna each May. The town is reminiscent of a Spanish or Mexican village with a variety of tourist restaurants all doing Paella. I take up the challenge, while Caroline eats pork. The Camargue is also known for its horses and wild black bulls and we troll the roads through the wetlands looking for the same - horses yes, but no black bulls, other than in a fenced paddock close to town.
Marseilles by train is the only way to go. No parking problems and the train from our calangue into the Gare St Jean is easy. There's the ubiquitous hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city which we take, however we sit glued to our seats for the entire duration. The old city of Marseilles was largely destroyed by the Nazis, and
ironically also bombed by the allies in World War II, so a lot of the building is from the 1940-50 era. The harbor is very picturesque, lots of yachts, fishing boats and tourist boats that will take you out the the island with Chauteau D'If, made famous in Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo. I don't try to emulate my previous trip to Marseilles by trying to find a good bouillabaisse, although I do spy the restaurant on the harbor side that I had my last bad experience. I leave bouillabaisse restaurants to the locals who know where to eat. And after returning to New Zealand, I decided I could do just as well or probably better, so I've become a dab hand at creating a seafood stew by myself.....
Arles we had visited earlier in the week to buy tickets to the death free bull baiting, however it was the wrong day, so we decide to go back on the Friday. Arles has its own Colosseum, and the city is famous because it played a major role n the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. It also has some nice restaurants, and we will always stop for
a good restaurant.
Anyway, we return to Arles on Friday, 28 Aug and take our seats in the Roman Arena. Approximately, ten young men dressed in white (razeteurs) are presented to the crowd. This is Courses Camarguaises and the objective is for these young men to remove a cockade (knot of ribbons) tied between the horns of a bull. The razeteur's only way to get away from the bull is to vault over the boards whenever the bull charges. These guys are incredible athletes, however with ten young men rushing every-which-way it tends to keep the bull somewhat confused and often its charging is less than focused. However, when one gets close enough to rip the cockade away, he is very much in the bull's sights and makes an acrobatic leap across the barricade. I'm glad we saw the spectacle, also very pleased that the animal is not hurt, but in one instance the bull obviously just wanted to be somewhere else and stopped participating.
Saturday - Down time enjoying the view from the veranda and reading my book
Sunday, 30 August - Up, up and away to Athens, Greece.
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