May 7, 2016
Today, we made progress on the croissant front…After a typical French breakfast of the best fresh croissants and stong coffee au lait, we hit the road and headed to Arles to spend the day.
First stop: Le Market. On Wednesday and Saturdays, the city center is pretty much grid locked with cars, pedestians and strollers and wandering is the main path of travel. I don’t know how many vendors bring in their merchandise but it is truely impressive how organized the throngs of people and cars seem to navigate through the gridless layout of the city. The freshness and variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and the availability of anything else you can imagine of the nonedible variety (hats, bags, belts, tee shirts…you get the idea) is a bargain hunters paradise. We, of course, were just eye shopping (except for new chappo that Terry found to buy) but the experience of being in Arles on the prime market day was amazing.
From the market, we walked a relatively short distance to see a Roman era amphitheatre built in the first century that has served as a fortress during the middle ages, a town of 200 homes (built within the amphitheatre) and various other civic purposes over nearly 1000 years. As with most structures of that periord, it has seen multiple periods of destruction and restoration beginning in 1825 and continues on to today. As with most Roman amphitheatres, it was built for one type of sport with the most appeal at the time involving armed combatants (animal and human) fighting and dieing to the pleasure of the 20,000 spectators. This type of entertainment/sport was put to a hault in 404 AD when the Christians moved into the area and put a halt to it. Although the sports of that time are not what we would consider entertaining today, at least in my mind, today the facility serves as home to bull fighting (of the non-deadly kind…we think.) and other cultural events for the community.
As we left Arles, we decided to take an unscheduled stop at a 10th century Abbaye de Montmajour which was originally home to an early christian order of monks. Without going into all the long details of change in ownership, dismantalling and reconstruction over hundreds of years, the Abbaye today is a monument to life and culture of midevil life. Pilaging has take away all of the art and much of the original stone structure but there is plenty to experience. It has also served as the set for a few movies, one of which is Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter.
Finally, our quest home to St. Remy de Provence took us by a hill town called Les Baux-de-Provence…and we were thirsty. By this time, we all were on pure adrenaline as we climbed and climbed and climbed up to the city entrance from the location on the road where we and several hundred (maybe thousand) other curiosity seekers had to park and make our way into the village. The climb was very much worth it. The views of the surrounding areas are spectacular and the town offers many cultural and shopping opportunities if your inclined. We took in the Marc Chagall exhibit at the Musee Yves-Brayer gallerie and felt culturally refreshed. A quick walk back (downhill) to the car and 20 minute drive back to St. Remy de Provence brought an end to our touring for the day but we had energy to fire up the grill at the house, open several bottles of local Provencial wine and relax in our little white house in the country. Its starting to feel like HOME!
Tomorrow: We’ll see what is in store for us as we take off to see the Pont de Gard (an old Roman aqueduct) and a day hunting for the essense of Van Gogh in St. Remy de Provence.