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


David and Carol 2003 
Day 9
Provence / Paris
We both slept well and long. We leave Arles this morning to spend two more days in Paris before finishing this chapter of Our Magnificent Journey with 5 days in London.
It is cooler this morning, and a bit overcast. We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Provence, and we are certain that we will return.
Our hotel in Arles, the Hotel Calendal, was fabulous. It is situated at the top of the highest hill in Arles, very close to the remains of an ancient Roman coliseum and an ancient Roman theatre. Our room actually consisted of two rooms, one on the ground level which contained the bathroom and a sitting room with bunk beds, and a loft up on the second floor which held the bedroom - Carol called it our Tree House because the large French window, which opened out over the courtyard, was at tree level, and looking out from the bed, the view was one of green, shady leaves, branches and vines. The cool air coming in the open window, and the serenity of the quiet, still, pastoral courtyard, was well worth the more-than-reasonable rate, and we highly recommend the Hotel Calendal to anyone traveling to Arles. We will miss this delightful place.
Carol looking out our hotel window at Le Calendal
The terrace at Le Calendal
Carol on the terrace at Le Calendal
The staff was hard-working, pleasant and very accommodating and helpful; the hotel was spic-and-span clean, and the food was excellent. Plus, they offer high-speed Internet access gratis to guests. The name of the hotel - "Calendal" - is taken from an ancient Provencal legend of a poor anchovy fisherman, Calendal, who fell in love with a beautiful blond woman named Esterelle, who lived in a cave. She fell in love with Calendal but, alas, she was already married to a man she hated, who was evil. Calendal challenged the husband, a highwayman, to a fight, but Calendal was tricked and caught from behind by surprise and thrown into a dark cell. He managed to escape and reunited with Estrelle, but her husband set the forest on fire. Just when they thought they would die, they heard the fisherman of the nearby villages of Cassis fighting the fire. Estrelle's husband was crushed by a burning tree, and the poor fisherman, Calendal, was welcomed as a hero. He married his lovely Estrelle and they lived happily ever after.
Just kidding - our Renault was not quite this bad when we returned it...
We have filled the wonderful but "used" Renault with gas (or so we thought - when we returned the car to Avis the woman showed us that it wasn't full.) I am SO glad we opted for the extra insurance. The car was brand new when we first rented it, and we have unintentionally trashed it. It is full of dings and scratches, not all of which were introduced by us, but are there nonetheless. A hub cap is missing, there are long white horizontal scratches from the narrow lanes on the way to Beauduc, plus there is the dent from Pont du Gard. I do not recommend the drive to Beauduc to the faint of heart. I am not unhappy that we did make the trip to the ocean, but we would not do it again. The woman at Avis, when we returned the car, told us it was "tres bien" that we bought the insurance.
After returning the car at the train station, we walked back towards Arles and sat at a café and ordered coffee. Then, suddenly, it began to rain, so we ran under the awning. This change in weather is actually welcome, especially after hearing from Mary last night that it was 100 in Tucson yesterday. Plus, it has, until today, been bright, sunny and warm for the past week.
Singin in the rain
Arles' sister cities
We are sad to leave Arles. We have thoroughly enjoyed our three days here and we know in our hearts that we will return to this charming, lovely, ancient village in the heart of Provence.
As I write these words, it is raining like a sumbitch, and there is much thunder and lightning. We are cozy inside a café near the ancient Roman wall of Arles. The smell of the rain and the cool air are heavenly. Carol disappeared into a Monoprix dept. store for 15 minutes. She never misses a "shopportunity."
We have walked through the downpour to the train station and are waiting for the express train back to Paris. As I sit here watching the rain, I look at our two small overnight bags and two backpacks and I am once again reminded of how terrific my wife is. I can claim absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for the almost magical efficiency with which we travel. On the plane from Houston to Paris, someone exclaimed "You are spending two weeks in Europe and that's all you are taking???" Carol has this process organized down to the amount of shampoo to take. She studies how much we use in a two week period at home, then she packs just enough. I tell her she should give classes in how to travel "light" in Europe. We never have to check bags on flights, and consequently do not have to wait at baggage claim. We freely and easily navigate the narrow alleys and wide boulevards with only two bags each, one of which is on wheels. I recognize that I am so very fortunate to live with a woman who is not only gorgeous, but is part travel-agent and master packer as well.
The Goddess of Packing
She was clever enough to stage our trip so that tiny Arles came between the two giants of Paris and London. As usual, she has researched and planned this trip to the nth degree. She should write a book - she could give so many smart travel tips.
We relaxed under an awning at the train station and met the mother-and-daughter team of Susan and Julie from San Francisco, who had stayed in our hotel in Arles. We enjoyed chatting with them and comparing travel notes. Then, like clockwork, the train appeared, and within minutes we were aboard and the train was pulling out of the station. The French trains, like the Swiss, run on time, almost to the second.
Susan and Julie
We wound our way through the misty, drizzly, Provencal countryside. A half-hour north of Avignon we realized we were hungry, so Carol pulled out a bag of sliced, smoked meats, cheese and cookies she had just purchased at the Monoprix, and along with the delicious salted pistachios we had purchased at the Saturday Arles market, we proceeded to enjoy a tasty picnic on the train. We both have long been enamored of the European trains, and this is a real treat for us. The trains are clean, comfortable, smooth and relaxing, and, for the most part, on time. We stopped in Avignon, Montelimar, Valence and Lyon Sainte-Exupery.
Observation: Every second of every day of one's life contains the gift of adventure. Cherish it...
The train passed by many quaint villages and hamlets, very sleepy and picturesque. Lots of farmlands, woods and streams.
The French countryside
In the French countryside
We had a bit of excitement on the train - the conductor found a young stowaway hiding in one of the toilettes - apparently he had no ticket and had tried to avoid having to pay for one. But he was found out because people needed to use the bathroom and he would simply not come out. The conductor was roused and the culprit was escorted to another part of the train presumably to make reparations.
The villages, for the most part, contain old brown stone farmhouses with red tiled roofs. There is the omnipresent main church whose steeple can be seen rising high above the other buildings. The fields are well-tended, well-manicured, and dotted with lazy cows and horses. We feel like we are in a dream, or in an old movie. I see in the woods French knights in shiny silver armor seeking dragons so that the villagers can sleep safe in their hamlets.
In the French countryside
The train pulled into Gare de Lyon on Paris' east side at 4:00 pm. We waited for a short while in the taxi queue and shortly found ourselves in the midst of some of the worst traffic we've seen anywhere. Not only are we in the sea of 5:00 traffic, but this is a special "fresh air" day, when many streets are closed to all motor vehicles, added to which there was an accident near the train station. But the taxi driver was a pleasant Vietnamese of Parisian birth and he kept us amused as we had several near-death experiences around the Place de Bastille.
He found our hotel, the Axial Beauborg, a renovated building on the Rue du Temple in the Marais area. The elevator was even smaller than the one at our first hotel, the St. Jacques, and we wondered if there could possibly be even smaller ones somewhere. Even though my partner, Chris has been losing weight on the South Beach diet, I think he would not fit with a suitcase. The hotel is wonderful though - clean, modern bathroom and antique wooden beams in the ceiling. We are at the corner of Rue du Temple and Rue de la Verrerie, a lively corner with a lot of activity (and probably a lot of street noise.) We checked the windows and they are very noise-proof, and there is air-conditioning although I don't think we will need it. It is sunny and cool in Paris. The rains from Provence did not follow us all the way. It does not matter how many times we enter this city, we are always so excited to arrive and so sad to leave. Its magic worked its way under our skin and into our hearts many years ago.
Hotel Axial Beaubourg
Notice the old wooden beams on the ceiling
Bathroom at the Axial Beaubourg
After acclimating to our new environment, we dressed and headed out into the gaiety that the Marais has in recent years become known for.
On the streets of the Marais
We sat at a nearby café (the same café we sat at four years ago) and sipped wine and beer as we watched the tides of humanity ebb and flow in four different directions. Soon a guitar/violin duo set up and performed Django Reinhardt/Stefan Grappelli tunes. It became windy and chilly as the sun set so we walked back to the hotel to grab our jackets and scarves.
David and Carol 2003
We were beginning to get hungry and Carol wanted to try a famous restaurant whose specialty was oysters, so we walked about 45 minutes north through the Marais until we came to Chez Jenny near the Place de la Republique. We sat in the ritzy, snooty place (we could tell immediately that the waiters and maitre'd had labeled us "Les Barbarians Americaines,") and ordered the oyster special. We sat by the street and I took out the camera to get a picture of Carol eating these very expensive oysters ($70 US dollars for 2 dozen oysters and ½ bottle of Reisling wine.) I set the camera on the table and within seconds two 12-year old street urchins got literally in our faces, begging for money and waving magazines for sale under our noses. I could tell right away something fishy was up, and when I glanced at the table, our camera was gone. I immediately lifted up the magazines of the kid closest to me and sure enough, our camera was in his hand. He got red-faced and began to stammer as I retrieved our camera AND his magazines, which I laid on the table. I looked him in the eye and said "these magazines are MINE now." They ran off with their tails between their legs, and no doubt they eventually found some less-aware sucker.
Chez Jenny
Carol enjoying the oysters at Chez Jenny
We enjoyed the oysters, and the wine was a perfect accompaniment, but I would not recommend Chez Jenny. It was very expensive, which we would not have minded too much about, but the attitude of the staff left a bad taste in our mouth. The staff of the restaurant saw the entire camera incident and did or said absolutely nothing. We paid the "l'addition" (bill,) and walked southwest to Place des Vosages, then over to Rue St. Antoine, where we found a cozy (actually it was bit chilly since we sat outside) Italian restaurant called Ristorante Carusa, near Place du Marche, where we had a very nice lunch several days ago.
Enjoying the Paris evening
My spaghetti alla vongole was just what I was craving and Carol's rigatoni with tuna in a light cream sauce was delicious. We kidded around with the waiter in bits from Italian, French, Portuguese, English and Spanish, then said "Grazie - molto bene," and walked west through ancient Marais until we came to the Jewish quarter. I took a photo of some pro-Israeli graffiti and we strolled past a couple of falafel restaurants and one or two Kosher sushi restaurants. This area was decimated in World War II and it is nice to see it so lively tonight.
We kept heading west, stopping for a moment at Les Halles, which brought back memories of our 1999 trip, then found the hotel and fell into bed, planning tomorrow's activities, until we drifted off to sleep as Paris buzzed in the slight drizzle and cool evening air below us.

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