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


David and Carol 2003 
Day 7
The night air coming in through our open window was magnificent. It was difficult to get out of bed in the morning, but Provence was waiting (more specifically the Saturday market in Arles,) so we rose, showered and dressed and prepared to venture out for the day.
We enjoyed a wonderful petite dejeuner in the solitude of the pastoral, verdant courtyard below our room. Breakfast consisted of parma ham, cheeses, pineapple, croissants, many varieties of jams (the fig jam was incredible,) juices and coffee. Carol pointed me to the hard boiled eggs and when I cracked it open at our table only to find that it was not hardboiled, all she could say was "oops..."
We love this hotel. It is so serene and peaceful after the electricity that is Paris. We feel relaxed and in the slow lane. The facility is clean and its setting at the top of old Arles between two ancient Roman ruins is ideal. The serenity of the courtyard outside our window is almost indescribable and so very welcome. I actually could have slept all day.
A few steps down the hill from the hotel and across the small park that Van Gogh wrote letters to his brother (Theo) about, the Saturday Arles market stretches as far as the eye can see in all directions. We walked and shopped until we literally nearly dropped. We plan on driving out into the countryside of Provence/Cote d'Azur so we bought baguettes, olives, sausages and pistachios. Then we decided to sit in a café for some world-class prime people-watching. Carol is in her element. I know she could spend the rest of her life here.
Clever garlic plates at the open market in Arles
Many kinds of soap at the market in Arles
Veggies at the Arles market
Shopping for grapes at the Arles market
Carol enjoying the Arles market
Olives at the Arles market
Spices at the Arles market
After a couple of hours at the market, we jumped into the car and headed southwest to the Camargue region, a salty, marshy, flat area along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Our friend, Jerome, a desk clerk at the hotel, told us about this drive. We stopped at the ocean and had olives, cheese and bread, then drove back northeast past Arles and wound our way down some serpentine country lanes until we came to the ruins of an old Roman aqueduct.
David at the ruins of an ancient aquaduct
Ancient Roman aquaduct near Arles
Backtracking, we stopped at the Abbey de Montmajor, an ancient stone abbey built in medieval times. We rested until the mosquitoes decided I was tastier than steak tartare.
Abbey de Montmajor near Arles
Back to the hotel for an hour's rest, then out again into the late afternoon to savor another section of Arles - Place du Forum, a lively ancient square with several cafes and higher-class shops. On the way out of the hotel we stopped to chat with Jerome, who earlier in the day had kindly taken the time to draw us a map to Plage de Beauduc via le Sambuc and Salin de Giraud - a pleasant journey, but the road from Salin de Giraud to Beauduc was so rough that we lost a hubcap. I should have seen it coming, since all along the way from Giraud I kept seeing hubcaps. I didn't realize we had lost ours until we arrived back at the hotel or I would have stopped to pick one up as a replacement. As we got closer to the Sea, the road narrowed as if mimicking the scene in The African Queen where Humphrey Bogart must get out and pull the boat... We kept hearing the awful sound of tree branches scratching paint on the car like fingernails on a blackboard. I am VERY glad that we opted for the extra insurance at Avis - something we seldom do. We thanked Jerome for his kind assistance, and I snapped a photo of him with Carol. Like most of the French folks we have come in contact with, Jerome was very kind, generous and patient. But I wish I had taken a photo of the shiny red Renault when we turned it back in at Avis. The woman at the counter commented that it was a marvelous thing that we had purchased the extra insurance. I was embarrassed since we always try to take care of rental cars, etc. The shiny little Renault wasn't shiny any more, and probably never would be again…
Jerome and Carol
At the Place du Forum we sat at Le Café la Nuit and had beers while we watched the people coming out to enjoy the evening. I noticed beautiful, young, twin girls serving the patrons, so we asked them if I could take their picture. They gladly posed and asked if I would mail a copy to the café which we certain will. Their names were Nadia and Fadia Renal.
Twins Nadia and Fadia Renal
Lovers in Arles
Sitting in the square, we took a photo of two young lovers at the table beside us, then two "Hells Angels" from Switzerland buzzed into the square and got everyone's attention. A Harley Davidson ridden by a leather-clad, yellow-bandana-wearing fellow is not a sight often seen in these parts, I think. I walked up to the gent and asked if he minded if I took a picture of him on his bike. He replied "But of course." We chatted for a while and he told me he was from Switzerland and that he paid "a king's ransom" for the bike but that I would be surprised at how many Harleys there are in Europe. I thanked him profusely and he rode off with a gorgeous dark-haired beauty on the back of his bike. His exit made a bigger impression than his entrance, which was impressive.
The Hells Angels take over Arles (just kidding)
The sun had set, and our stomachs told us it was time to eat, so we wandered around a bit until El Paellador, close to our hotel, caught our eye. We sat outside and ordered, naturally, paella and sangria. We are very close to Spain, and the Spanish (and Italian,) influences are evident. In fact, the winding streets of Arles remind us quite a bit of Firenze.
The paella was superb and the sangria was the perfect complement. But the most enjoyable aspect of dinner was this: we sit 10 yards from walls of a Roman Coliseum that are 2000 years old, eating delicious, "different" food, and listening as around us a young French family is enjoying a night out with their kids, and next to us an older German couple is engaged in lively conversation over dinner just like we are. We love the "flavors" of the planet, and this is never more obvious than when one travels. We are so very fortunate, and we wish that more people were able to experience the planet like we do. It will only be when people recognize the "sameness" that we all share, instead of the differences, that we will be able to truly cohabitate this incredible garden that is our Earth.
Our German friends
Dinner was an amazing adventure. The German couple sitting next to us seemed so charming that I leaned over and asked the woman if she spoke English. She replied that she spoke German, French, English and Italian. That broke the ice, and we spent the next hour comparing notes with them. They were well-traveled and very intelligent, sharp, witty and humorous, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. They gave us several tips on sights to see in Provence. After thanking them and snapping their photo we bid them farewell and strolled back towards the Place du Forum. On the way we heard a loudspeaker and could tell that a large crowd was nearby, and after reaching the street that the market was held on earlier in the day, we saw a parade in progress and several hundred people lining both sides of the street. We never did find out what the parade was in celebration of, but the several floats and many children on them, and the fun the crowd was having, all brought smiles to our faces.
We then wandered through the tiny, labyrinthine streets of Arles, coming upon charming, cozy cafes in little hidden intimate corners, some buzzing with live music and some dimly candle-lit, quiet and romantic.
Jazz band
As much as we wanted the day to last forever, it was time for bed, since we plan to tour more of Provence tomorrow, getting an early start. It was time for dreams of the great days we have had.

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