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Provence: Day 4

July 18, 2013
Cheese at the market in Arles.

Cheese at the market in Arles.

A trip to Arles, a beautiful ancient city, known for its open-air market, two great Roman theatres (the Classical and the Arena), and one of Van Gogh’s most productive (read: manic) periods.

Given its proximity to Marseilles, there is now a considerable North African and Islamic presence in Arles. As a result, many of the vendors hailed from the other side of the Mediterranean, and some of the market offerings included Halal meats and a wide array of hijab choices. In addition, there were countless samples of fresh fruit (primarily melon), delicious pistachio nougat cut from a loaf about the size of an SUV, and many scrumptious cheeses to be sampled. And sampled again. And again.

After the market, we decided to take Rick Steves’ walking tour through Van Gogh’s Arles. We visited many of the locations of some of his most famous paintings, learned about his desperate loneliness, and his explosions of rage. We lunched at the famous Café la Nuit, a famous setting for a Van Gogh painting and where he famously argued with Paul Gauguin. Van Gogh became so enraged he chased Gauguin down the streets of Arles brandishing a razor. Later that evening, Van Gogh would use the razor to cut off his ear lobe and present it to Rachel, his favorite at a local brothel, insisting she “treasure this precious object.” Our lunch was far less dramatic.

Later that afternoon, we drove down to the Camargue, a beautiful nature reserve known for wild bulls, wild boars, and…pink flamingos. I had never associated pink flamingos with France before, but there were hundreds of them. We stopped along the road at one point to climb into a hide to get a good look at the birds and to take photographs. It was wonderfully peaceful, but then another couple showed up. They quietly took photographs, and then a third couple arrived. They too were unobtrusive and respectful. A few moments later, two busses packed with tourists spilled open and attempted to squeeze themselves into the hide that was maybe 10 x 4 feet. Were they going for some sort of record? It was at that point we retreated, and decided to move on.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucy Simard permalink
    July 18, 2013 8:12 pm

    The last few posts sounded like the Lyman itinerary on one of my 24 trips many moons ago! Sweet memories. Speak Memory! (Thank you, Nabokov!) I am so thrilled for you and Val and am living this trip through your descriptions. Each day when I head for the computer, I ask myself: “where are the happy travelers today?” Thanks for sharing this! xoxo

  2. July 28, 2013 9:04 pm

    You are welcome. We had another advantage–not in charge of twenty teenagers. Bless you for doing that!

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