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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 5
Europe 2003
Paris, London, Provence


David and Carol 2003 
Day 6
Paris / Provence
We woke at 5 am in order to pack for the trip to Arles and Provence. We checked out, jotted some nice words in the hotel's hospitality book, and waited in the cool early morning air for the taxi to Gare de Lyon. We enjoyed our stay at Hotel St. Jacques - a pleasant, small, quaint hotel in a terrific location in the 5th arrondisment. We would have slept better without the constant street noise, but all in all we are glad we stayed there and would recommend it. It was recommended to us by our friends Mike and Annette Sechrest.
At 6:15 am the taxi arrived and we literally flew through Paris to the train station at Gare de Lyon. The cab was equipped with an impressive and accurate GPS system. We boarded the "bullet" train almost immediately and settled in for the 3 ½ hour cruise to the south of France.
Train to Arles
Carol snoozes on the train to Arles
The train began its journey at exactly the prescribed moment, and soon we were speeding through the lush, green, fertile farmland south of Paris. The panorama of quaint French villages filled the windows as the orange sun rose through the mist to the east. Beautiful stone farmhouses, barns and churches peppered the fields and woods, and small picture-postcard villages seemed frozen in a time past.
As we wove our way southward, I began to notice many vineyards. I saw one of two castles as well. The warm early morning sun coaxed the mist from the fields. In the midst of all this antiquity we passed two French nuclear power plants.
We began to see more waterways - rivers, lakes and canals. We have passed vertically through the heart of France in less than four hours.
We arrived at picturesque Arles at 10:45 am and picked up our Renault rental car from Avis. I have never seen a car like this and it's a good thing I remember how to drive a car with manual transmission. But the most interesting car trivia is that there is no key like we are used to - there is a credit-card sized device that locks/unlocks and starts the car. You slide it into a slot in the car, push the "start" button and voila! Instant car!
Our poor little Renault...
We immediately proceeded to get lost. Even though Arles is small, the streets are very tiny and wind around in all different directions. But getting lost in Europe is one of our favorite things to do anyway, so we did a bit of impromptu sightseeing and then Carol got her navigational bearings and we soon found ourselves at Le Calendal, a lovely, quaint, old establishment nestled between the ruins of a Roman theater and a Roman arena. The back of the hotel surrounds an inviting, pastoral, serene garden. The tiny streets nearby are lined with shops and restaurants.
Entrance to Le Calendal
We were famished after the 4-hour train ride, so we decided on a nearby restaurant, L'Escaladou, and chose their specialty - fish soup with large croutons, garlic (you rub the garlic on the croutons,) a delicious garlic aioli and shredded cheese. It was wonderfully different, unique, garlicky and tasty.
Enjoying the specialty at L'Escaladou
Carol and pal
We wandered back towards the hotel to rest, and passing through the lobby we noticed free Internet access for guests. I knew I must have a ton of mail so I jumped on to get caught up. I had over 1300 messages, most of which were spam. I sent a hello message to Dan and Chris - no small feat since the computer was a MAC (I'm used to PCs,) the keys on the keyboard were everywhere except where they were supposed to be, and many keys were French characters. But I managed to persevere and hopefully Chris and Dan received a not entirely undecipherable message.
The delightful, breezy window in our room at Le Calendal
We took a nap at 3 pm and fell asleep to the sounds of a fountain and the wind rustling the leaves on the trees outside our window. We were impressed with this hotel, which was recommended to us by our friends David and Jill Bash.
After a pleasant 2-hour nap we walked up and down the tiny streets of Arles, passing many Roman ruins and abandoned cathedrals. After the buzz of Paris, Arles is downright sleepy.
Roman ruins
Roman ruins
Typical Arles windows
Vine-covered streetlight
Lovley window in Arles
Church in Arles
The "flavor" here is a mixture of French and Spanish, and at times the Spanish seems to be more prevalent, although French is the spoken language. There are noticeably more Americans here.
We stopped at a café and enjoyed a rest. The air in Arles is cooler than Paris and we enjoyed the shade. We then strolled a bit farther and came upon an art exhibit in an ancient church, then walked a bit more up tiny alleys until we came to an inviting restaurant with French/Moroccan menu - Restaurant L'Amandier. I had couscous with chicken and Carol had salad with goat cheese, and then trout with almonds. A foursome of older English folks came by examining the menu and Carol engaged them in conversation about the local restaurants. We talk to everyone and anyone. It is one of the most pleasurable aspects of traveling. We split a crème caramel for dessert.
A quiet dinner in Arles
Dinner was fabulous, The couscous was excellent, the chicken tasty and tender, and Carol's trout was very fresh and delicious. The wine that accompanied the fish was from a local winery and was the perfect compliment. The night was cool and the crowds sparse, so we took our time and had a very relaxing evening at our private table "pour deux."
We decided to get to sleep early tonight since our room overlooked the peaceful, quiet courtyard of the hotel, so by 10 pm we were sound asleep. It was so nice not to be blasted by the street noise as was the case in Paris. We slept well.

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