Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Cycling in the Loire

The journey continues and now it is a week since I left Orleans on the bike. Today it has turned bitterly cold though so I am glad to be hiding in an Internet cafe! The French are wondering where their summer has gone. I was in danger of running out of sunblock a few weeks ago: and now I am very thankful I packed so many warm clothes in my paniers; and especially my windproof jacket that I had very little wear out of in my first month of travel!
I spent several days based at the campsite in Chateauneuf-sur-Loire and it is a campsite I would heartily recommend to anyone travelling in this area. It is run by some very friendly people and is very clean. My tent-site right on the riverbanks was just superb and I loved sitting there just watching the river.
The day after my last posting I took a daytrip to Sully-sur-Loire. Didn't realise the "fairytale" Chateau was closed for renovations until 2007! But it was good to go 20km without any baggage on the bike anyhow. Called back into the Benedictine Abbey on the return journey, just in time to hear them singing Gregorian Chant for the midday Mass.
Saturday evening was the most superb sunset. From the campsite you just looked straight down the river to see it. Magic.
Sunday morning I woke to rain and decided to stay put and have a rest day. As it happened, it did fine up later. Monday morning I woke to even heavier rain! By 11am it had stopped though so I decided to take a punt and pull up the tent. Luckily I struck it fine on the next leg.
Monday then was a journey to La Ferte St Aubin. I was really pleased with the route I managed to work out using the 1cm: 1km map. The last section of my route (on a white road on the map) took me downhill through lovely forest. France still has big wild areas left with plenty of trees and this I love. It was just over 36km on this route, but the bike is so good it felt like less.
Being Monday, the shops in La Ferte St Aubin were all closed. In NZ we think the shops need to be open all the time but in many places in Europe they are not! in fact it can be tricky cycling to get meals as restaurants only open for lunch and dinner at certain hours. They might serve drinks in between, but not food.
Tuesday I rode to Beaugency, about 26km. Another lovely campsite beside the river. These municipal campsites are incredibly good value. For a tent and one adult I have only paid 4 to 5 Euros a night so far. There is a small charge per day for a car, but not for a "velo". Last night in the camping ground I met up with a German family, also here to cycle in the Loire, though with less time. It was good to share notes. And good to discover someone else who had assumed there would be an open camping ground in Orleans only to find there wasn't! I have since discovered that if I am back this way, the Paris train passes through Beaugency (and Blois and a few other places) so I don't need to return via Orleans in any case.
OK time to brave the cold outside again!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

St Benoit, fete and haircut

A bit to report here but I will start with the haircut. Those of you who have travelled a bit will identify with the rarity of getting a haircut. My hair was starting to look like a bad hair day everyday. I trimmed the fringe and that made it look worse! Today I went into one of the Chateauneuf salons and was given a lovely haircut. Yeah!
Yesterday was the feast of Ascension, a public holiday in France and a special "jour de Loire" fete here in Chateauneuf. Yesterday in the early evening a whole lot of traditional boats arrived at the quay, and then a French folk group entertained with traditional marriner's songs. Lots of people listened appreciatively. Later in the evening the boats processed up the river as a "Hellios" creature went by land complete with acrobats and some incredibly skilled people on sort of bouncy pogo sticks that they used as easily as legs! The music accompanying this creature was a composition worth listening to just for its own sake. My favourite bit of the whole evening though was when the fireworks display happened. It was magnifique!
This morning I woke to another grey day but it was time to get out on the "velo". I headed out to St Benoit sur Loire, about 11km on the cycle computer from the camping ground. Lovely views of the Loire as I got closer. Had a large cup of hot chocolate before visiting the monastery church. This church holds the actual relics of St Benedict in a crypt that the whole church has been built around. It was mainly Romanesque, just moving into Gothic, but a harmonious whole.
En route back I stopped at Germigny des Pres where the church also has interesting features. I stopped in the village for lunch before heading back to town and my haircut. I hope I don't hear you all groaning about the relaxation of my days! Console yourselves with the thought that I might be packing up the tent in pouring rain in the morning!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Today I started cycling "for real" and finally got out of Orleans! Luckily I went to the cycle shop to get the seat adjusted and to get the cycle computer reset as I mucked it up! - and the lady there told me about the cycle routes on the other side of the Loire so I didn't need to take a busy road. Great to take the cycle route to clear the city, though it was a bit removed from villages and lonely in places so I will take small roads for preference.
It was a 30km ride from Orleans and I have to admit it was wind-assisted! I have an awful feeling though that the wind may blow upstream as its prevailing direction so I will have some headwinds before long!
I am in a superb camping ground here in Chateauneuf-sur-Loire, right on the banks of the river. I was made incredibly welcome on arrival, I think especially so as I had arrived by bike! A New Zealand passport also impressed a bit. My tent looks out straight onto the Loire. I have taken a few photos of "as seen from my bedroom" and added the tent view to the collection! It is so nice here in the camping ground that I will use this as a base for a few day trips without luggage on the bike! Tomorrow is a public holiday here for the feast of the Ascension and it looks like there are a few things happening here in town.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In Orleans

Back in Orleans and ready to go!
After the stormy weather of the last few days I decided it was better to take the train again to get to Orleans rather than take several days getting to the Loire. The ride of 13km or so back to the RER station of Saint Rémy les Chevreuse was lovely. More downhills than up this time, and I suspect I had a tail wind, and the scenery was just as beautiful. It was great to see how well the bike handled fully laden, which had been my biggest concern. Bit more traffic on the road between 8 and 9 but all of it very courteous. Had help from a "real" cyclist to get onto the train with the bike: he was off for ten days of long, steep riding! But I fully intend to keep mine as relaxed as possible! This train compartment was much better fitted out for bikes than the one I hit last week.

The "relaxation" hit a hitch this afternoon when I unexpectedly found that the camping ground 3km from town by the river does not open until 1 July! Am able to stay in the cheap hotel I was in last week though, so that is good: they have an enclosed courtyard. Tomorrow I will move onto a village ground that did open in April!

Not sure when you will get the next entry as I don't how how much rural Internet access I will come across. Until then....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

ready to go... and nervous!

Well, I am ready to go cycling. Friday I returned to Orleans by train, collected the bike and returned to Bonnelles, outside Paris, by train and RER. Getting on and off the train was a bit tricky as the bike had to be manouevred up three carriage steps, into a normal compartment that the seats had been taken out of. However, it was soon evident that I had lots of young men who sprang to my aid so that was very appreciated. Getting on the RER was easy once I had managed the steps in the stations.
Then came my first real ride, of 13km from Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse. This route was marked in green for scenic on my map and it really was. The bike, a Gitane lady's Mississippi, handled beautifully, except for the seat sliding down a bit which I think I have now solved. I have to admit I walked up a few of the hills at the beginning of this ride. I took some quieter roads where I could and passed crops etc, everything I had imagined the countryside would be. Everything they say about French motorists is true: they really do take great care around cyclists. I was given plenty of room, and if there might have been oncoming traffic, the cars waited patiently to pass.
Yesterday I went for a ride of about 35km in the area near my friend's place, which lies right on the edge of the Haute Valle de Chevreuse. Excellent ride, past crops and villages.
The wind has been an issue in the last few days though! A bit windy on the Friday I came here, and you could see threatening storm clouds but I stayed dry. Friday night though it really blew and the ground next morning was carpeted with leaves, twigs and some bigger branches. It looked like the weather had eased a bit but this morning the wind came back. All I can say is that if it is windy tomorrow, I hope it is a tail wind!
I have to admit to being quite nervous about starting and have lost sleep about everything that could possibly go wrong. I think it will take me three days to get to the Loire and will be happier then as I know it will be flat and there are plenty of camping grounds used to cyclists. It will be also good to work out some day trips from one base and travel without baggage! I don't have special light cyclists clothing in my paniers!
Not sure how often I will get to the Internet on the Loire villages and camping grounds, so it might be a while for an update!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Getting organised!

Well, I am nearly half organised! I am opposite a bus stop waiting for a bus to where my friend lives, in a more rural area on the outskirts of Paris. And the Internet happened to be in a wee shop here.
Today I am taking my large backpack to my friend's. Tomorrow I am getting up very early to return to Orleans to get the bike. All going well with the timing I can take it on one of the trains you can take bikes on to Paris; then I will be early enough to get it on the RER during the allowed non-rush hour hours....; then I only have about ten km to bike to my friend's. This is better than the other plan that meant I was going to have to bike 30 km in an unknown rural area starting just after 5pm.
Next few days I will enjoy seeing my friend again and before long I will be organised and off on some proper cycling. What to take and what to leave out of the paniers! The advernture is about to begin. May the summer weather be kind and the punctures be non-existent on my new Gitane touring bike!

reality hits

Had my bicycle paniers in the bedroom with me last night. And like with all new endeavours, I had some anxious lack of sleep. What if I get a puncture in the middle of nowhere? A:My experience of the French so far is definitely that someone would help me. I don't know where the camping grounds are. A; Tourist Office is very good and gave me several pamphlets today. Is there a train I can take so I don't need to go all the way to Monique's on my first ride? A: Yes a friendly railway man confirmed. Doesn't leave until late afternoon but should make 30 km ride well before dark. And so it goes. Easy to forget how privileged I am that I can buy a brand new bike and tent and do this. And how I am not tending to tired or teenaged children etc.
However, this evening when I ring Monique I should find out how to get to her place and can hopefully get there tomorrow. Then maybe back here Friday to collect the bike and paniers and take them a large part of the way by train. Will be good to get that first ride under my belt!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bicycle, paniers, tent, all bought

Went shopping this morning. First stop, looking for a touring bike. Lovely young man in the first shop I tried, very patient with my poor French. Bought then and there. He gave me directions to a place to look for a tent: Decathlon is a big French sports chain store. It was about 3km walk, nothing when you have been tramping around as a tourist for a few months. Bought and headed home. Then got horribly lost. But, I also came across a Good Samaritan today. I hadn't even realised I had taken the wrong turning. Then it started raining, and I was carrying some bike paniers and the tent I had just bought. I was already quite drenched when a Good Samaritan stepped up. She stopped her car over the crossing I had just made, looking still confused, and offered me a lift. Turned out she was on her way back to work (after one of these lovely long French lunchhours) and she brought me all the way back into town near by hotel, completely out of her way. Merci, merci.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


OK OK so I maligned the weather in Cahors and it proved to me the next day that it really could be a "sunny southern backwater".
I left the Internet place in the rain on Saturday morning and returned to the hostel to change. Many hostels would have a "lock-out" for cleaning at lunchtime but the Cahors hostel is more relaxed. It is full of pilgrims walking the St Jacques French section from Le Puy en Velay to St Jean Pied du Port. ( No map here - excuse spelling svp!) Actually the hostel is so full of pilgrims you end up almost feeling guilty you are not when you have to proclaim you are a mere tourist!
Anyhow, I changed into dry jeans - a risky business as I only have two pairs! But there was finally some blue sky so decided to proceed with my previous plan of heading to the village of Puy L'Eveque by bus through a section of the Lot Valley. Beautiful bus trip. I love the landscapes in this area and would even like to return in the summer when I have built up more cycling stamina and strength. But I imagine that in the summer this area would be a bit like Queenstown in summer: hot and heaving with tourists.
Puy L'Eveque is a pretty village and was well worth the trip. But the highlight for me was actually finding some new (smaller) jeans and some bermudas ready for cycling. There were only a handful of shops open in the village but one sold clothes in all sizes. And what is even more amazing: they had a sewing machine on the counter and trimmed them and hemmed them to fit for no charge!!!!!
Sunday I took the walking tour of Cahors I had abandoned the morning before, then went to Mass in the Cathedral. I next went to check out when the boat tours on the Lot left but it was more than two hours. So I walked across the Pont Valentre. This time I went right over the road, and by accident found where the St Jacques walk continued. It even had a plaque with the more than 1000 km to Compostella marked. So I started on it, steeply uphill at first where the steps climbed up the cliff away from the Lot. But at a cross, one km away, got a wonderful view back to the historic bridge. Then walked for a few more kilometres through superbly beautiful countryside. But it got really warm....; so headed back to town, bought a boqt trip ticket for 4.30 pm, then sheltered under a tree for a while on the riverbank. The boat trip went through a Lock which was interesting.
And now I am in Orleans. Have the addresses from the Tourist Office of three bike shops I will check out in the morning. Voilà. The next phase begins!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Il pleut sans cesse

Cahors is an absolutely gorgeous place and I love it. Wonderful old buildings all over the place and scenery that is the wilder part of Fracne, not the tame part. But this morning it is raining hard and at 11.30 I am hiding in an internet cafe. Hmm need to change my jeans but don't want both pairs wet. Funny thing my guidebook says this is a "sunny southern backwater". But all the locals were well dressed in raincoats and with sturdy umbrellas at the wonderful Saturday morning market outside the Cathedral.
I was going to catch the bus to a pretty village in the Lot Valley just after 1pm, but maybe that has become something to do tomorrow.....

Rivers ... and Cahors

The theme seems to have been rivers lately. Lourdes was encircled by the River Gave. Bergerac had the Dordogne, and now I am in Cahors with the River Lot. (And the journey from Bordeaux to Montauban today passed alongside the Garronne... sorry spelling not right but no map with me.)
I love Cahors absolutely. Sarlat was your very beautiful tourist medieval town, but it was almost too pristine for me. Cahors is more surprising and it is set more in the wilds. The river encircles the town and the Pont Valentré is really stunning. It is pedestrianised and cobbled and you can quite imagine horses and carts going over it. There is a huge cliff up behind the town.
There are lots of "real" walkers here who carry tents and bedrolls. I was a little embarrassed when the lovely young woman in the hostel included me in that class as I was carrying a big backpack: I am very strategic and carry mine as little as possible. Cheap hotels over the road from the railway station are my ideal.
Spending the weekend in Cahors. Will walk the town more properly in the morning with a walking map. Then will take the SNCF bus to another picturesque village for the afternoon. Sunday I hope to do the tourist bit and take a boat trip on the river under the bridge and through a proper lock. (Saw the boat go through the lock this afternoon while I was on the bridge.) Meanwhile all these "real" walkers are out on the proper walking trails, but I don't want to do them on my own. Monday I am heading up to Orleans to begin looking for a bike: the nights may still be cool but summer is coming.
I was lucky to get into this hostel. It has lots of reservations from proper walkers. And it is in a historic old convent which has some real character. So reserve if you are coming here!

Friday, May 12, 2006


This morning I was up early to take the train to Sarlat for the day. Train left 7.30ish, and the trip was gorgeous: full of the kind of 'coffee table' book images you see of the Dordogne. We crossed the river several times. Going this early had special treasures: it was frosty as we moved inland and fog began to hang over and around the river.
Sarlat is apparently crowded in the summer. It is full of varied medieval buildings. I got a good wee map from the Tourist Office that helped me go on a walking tour of all the main places. Then relaxed in the lunchtime sun in the public garden and wrote a few postcards.
Tomorrow I move on to Cahors, then will move up to the Loire to begin the process of getting a bike. It is warm in the days here now but still quite chilly in the night. But soon I hope camping weather will be here!
For those who have been faithful blog readers at home...... don't worry when my blogging becomes less frequent. Cycling will take me to more rural France I think. A new adventure. Hope I like it, day after day!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Wearing freshly laundered clothes I set out from the hotel for the Notre Dame Square and the Wednesday markets. Bought some delicious fresh strawberries and a few apples which I later enjoyed while walking alongside the Dordogne River. The market had lots of fresh produce and flowers. Some stalls were quite large and others were quite small, having maybe just a few boxes of asparagus and a few potatoes, grown on a local farm.
I wandered in the old town for a while, which had a few interesting part-timbered buildings I hadn't seen in the south of France before. Then I took off for a walk along the Dordogne River. Gorgeous sunny day, maybe about 21C or so and just the slightest of breezes. My walk took me past some rowers, then a military area, then a dam. Then it all became narrower and reminded me a little of the Bridle Track in PN, just narrower. But instead of a golf course beside me, I was passing fields of crops, then some very flash houses which may have been for holidays. I wondered if the Stronges filled such a place! It seemed like the track might be one of these old European tracks that have been in use for centuries. But maybe that was fond imagination! I followed the track until a man ahead of me left it with his three gorgeous dogs: it seemed a bit unpeopled after that for my safety. So I returned to town. And bought train tickets for tomorrow for Sarlat (aller et retour) then Cahors on Friday. Heaps more to see in this region but you really need a vehicle. Next week will head to Orleans and may have a bike purchased before too long!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On to Bergerac

Last night the day's rain had stopped in time for my last Mariale procession. As I was waiting for it to start I spotted a banner arriving that said "Christchurch New Zealand" so I gate-crashed their party: they were quite happy to have me join them.
It was a chilly night outside, but this morning the mountains were very clear and I watched the sunlight on them from my bedroom window. After I left the hotel I had a spare 15 minutes before I needed to go to the Gare as well so I sat on a bench and looked at the mountain view. Lourdes certainly has a beautiful setting.
This morning I travelled onto the Dordogne region, to the town of Bergerac. The train passed by the sanctuary of Lourdes first so I saw places I knew. Then we kept close to the River Gave for quite some time. The mountains were clear in the distance. Gradually we left them and came to the flat areas closer to Bordeaux.
I had two hours between trains so headed across from the station to a restaurant where I had their menu du jour. I think I could quite get used to this French "sit down and relax- it's lunchtime"- lark. Maybe I can try to introduce it to New Zealand schools, still finishing at 3 of course!
I arrived at Bergerac mid-afternoon and took a room in a hotel over the road from the station: less carrying of the pack that way!
I then failed completely to head into the old town area. I had more mundane things on my mind: it has been 13 days since my two changes of clothes last encountered a laundromat! By the time I threw in a little "getting quite lost" episode it was too late for anything but a brief walk to the old town. Proper exploration awaits tomorrow.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lourdes Mariale procession

The thing that I have enjoyed the most about being at Lourdes, apart from sitting by the river and watching the world pass by, is taking part in the Mariale procession. This starts at 9pm, with a multilingual introduction over the loudspeakers. The procession sets off, and each night there is a rosary said, interspersed with singing along the way, often with parts in Latin that everyone can sing. The whole rosary is multilingual, led through the loudspeakers. The languages vary a little each night, depending on which countries have pilgrimage groups there. People generally only reply when the prayer is said in their own language. Most people are holding lit candles, and there are also spectators also holding candles. At the back it can take 2-3 decades to actually start moving and then you move around the whole processional esplanade. You can see people down the other side, the procession is very long. It is hard to know why, but I find that each evening after I have taken part in this procession I have felt an incredible peace afterwards. It is a very beautiful calm thing to be part of.

Lourdes Kiwi Day

Yesterday turned out to be a very special day. I went to the huge International Mass for Sunday in the underground basilica which was packed. It was very beautifully done, eg four different priests read the gospel in four different languages, plus they had some other languages scrolling by on the big screen.
The end of the Mass arrived and people were dispersing when I noticed what looked like a New Zealand flag on somebody's backpack. Sure enough, a young man from Hamilton, B, so we chatted as we left. Turned out B was meeting a priest and I ended up meeting him too. The invitation was soon made to join them for lunch. We bought baguettes etc and sat on a park bench, eating and chatting. Great convo in Kiwi anglais.
A bit later in the afternoon I met up with B again and we went to the Blessed Sacrament procession and Benediction together. He then went to a last Mass before leaving Lourdes and I joined him later for little things like buying food, and he bought little water bottles that he then filled, before a last visit to the Grotto to place a prayer petition.
It was a very special day on my travels, full of Kiwi talk! Thanks guys!

Friday, May 05, 2006


Well, surprise, surprise, here I am in a very Catholic place - Lourdes! I had a lovely train trip here with good views through the windows. At Toulouse the landscape changed from vineyards to hills with trees on them, as well as rural sights like cows and calves.

I was expecting it to be cooler in Lourdes, but it was the warmest day yet and I wished I had my skirt on for the first time! ( My friend in Paris says it has been warm there too and she has been out cycling a bit.)

I do have a story from my youth about coming to Lourdes. Almost unbelievable but true. I had left a friend's place in Germany with my train pass, aiming for Brussels. For some reason when I got to Brussels I took an aversion to it and hopped on a train for Paris. I then arrived in Paris at midnight and realised I had been pretty silly as I had no intention of looking for a bed then! So I hopped on the next train out which was to Toulouse. I sat up all night hardly sleeping in the train seat and we got to Toulouse at 7am and I felt grotty so I looked for the next train out. It was to Lourdes. I arrived there on a grey morning with hardly anyone about, wandered around for a few hours with my pack on then left!

Anyhow, this time I arrived soon after 2pm on a very sunny warm day with gorgeous views of the Pyrenees. I quickly found a simple hotel near the station and they gave me a mountain view room, impressed by my New Zealand passport I am sure. Interestingly, this two star room was nowhere near as nice as my no star room in Arles, but with a view to die for I am very happy!

Being a very slack Catholic I wasn't sure how I would find being in Lourdes. But amazingly I am relaxing into it quite well. The complex is far bigger than I remembered with different churches and chapels all over the place. I found it a bit overwhelming at first, especially as so many people are in huge pilgrimage groups from dioceses, especially French ones, and they all seem to know what they are about.
I was nearly ready to leave when I realised a procession was about to begin (5pm). These big pilgrimage groups all walk along to the huge underground church. The sick and disabled go first in each group, with those who are pushing their carriages. Most of the sick are elderly. There was also a group of disabled children. The priests come later in the procession with the Blessed Sacrament. After about half an hour, they have Benediction in the church. You would think a slack Catholic like myself would find this all too much. But there is something special about the atmosphere of this place where so many are caring for so many others.

I returned to my hotel room for the evening with its mountain view, and this morning went to the 9am English speakers Mass. People from just about every continent in the chapel. Had a brief talk with a priest from the US afterwards outside in the sunshine which I appreciated.

Spent the rest of the morning just cruising and people-watching and sitting by the river watching it flow by. I could relax and enjoy this pace for a few days! Had lunch with the French for a change. Maybe half the reason the French are healthy is just that they stop for two hours and have a relaxing time in the middle of the day!

Ok time to go. Stay well as the winter approaches in New Zealand!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Today I took the train for a 20 minute trip to Sète. I was quickly immersed in a real live port city. Straight outside the railway station was the first of many canals I was to see, mostly filled with pleasure yachts. Not sure where to go, I wandered my way into and through the shopping area, following the Tourist Office signs. Once there I bought a map and found out I was really close to the Old Port. This had the smell of fish about it, with lots of fishing boats in port. There were also small boats being overhauled.
I had reached the Mediterranean ocean and waves were slapping against the rocks. Boats leave from here for Morocco I think, but it was the first overcast day I have had here in the south, so you couldn't see Africa.
I used my map to work out the best route uphill to Mont St Clair, where they had told me in the Tourist Office you got a great view on a clear day. I guess I knew it would be steeply uphill from the look of it, but the presence of some 'Stations of the Cross' bus stops made it even more clear: they don't tend to put these places on the flat has been my experience in Europe! It was a bit of a climb but views do always look better after a climb. It was very cloudy - heavy rain is forecast- but it was still a great sight. Must be magic on a clear day!
There was also a small pilgrimage church at the top: Notre Dame de Salette.
I headed downhill and back to Montpellier. Few more places on my list for here before I leave in the morning!
Some very French things seen in Montpellier:
- The huge bouquets left on May Day at a memorial for the Armenian massacre victims in 1915.
- memorial plaques to people like archeologists and poets, not just sports legends.
- Inspiring quotes from someone on a monument to them.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May 1 Montpellier

I guess the news is that in Europe they still know how to have a holiday in ways we have forgotten in New Zealand. Basically, for May 1, everything is closed. You don't go shopping as your leisure activity. The people running the tourist office and the museum and even the tram get the day off too. The only places open pretty much are cafes and a few other food places; flower places as it seems traditional to give little bouquets; and strangely enough, Internet cafes!
I knew everything would be closed today but I guess I was expecting more activity to watch on the streets, but they are quieter than yesterday! I have seen a couple of very short political marches, that would have to be minority affairs. There are a few buskers in the central square but less people sitting sunning themselves at all the cafe tables there. Looks like most people left town for the day.
I have had a good wander in the quiet streets anyhow and the central historic part of Montpellier is certainly an attractive place to walk. Nearly all pedestrianised so very safe walking. Montpellier was on the wrong end of the Wars of Religion and got largely destroyed. But there was plenty of wealth here and large residences and monuments were soon erected again. One place I enjoyed this morning was at the top of the hill where in a garden setting there was a bit of a 'fake' Pont du Gard and a good view over the city. Lots of fountains here too, and you find them in little squares all over the place, looking beautiful with the sun on them.
As there was little else to do, I even watched some beach volleyball in the central square. Might go back there now and see more of those strong young men in action!

Monday, May 01, 2006

From Arles to Montpellier

Yesterday afternoon when I got back from the Camargue I just took a wander in Arles to see what I could see, and the answer was lots in the Square by the Hotel de Ville. There was a Provencal display in the nearby hall for the holiday weekend, and some traditional dancers in costume, and musicians with traditional instruments accompanying them did their thing in the square. Then there were two weddings. The first one the people were of North African origin and the cars were all tooting loudly. The bride wore white with a big train but was well covered right up the neck etc. The next bride had to wait outside until the first one had finished, getting photos etc taken. She also wore white and had a long train, but had much lower cut front and back. The nearby church had white roses organised on all the front pews and altar and potentially this was the bride's next stop. (Though I guess there might have been yet another bride if I had hung around.)
This morning I set aside to do the van Gogh walk I got from the Tourist Office. The Mistral was blowing especially coldly so I had my windstopper jacket firmly zipped up! The walk really showed the variety of things that Vincent chose to paint; and in each case you could still some some part of the old scene in the modern setting. I am not a great painting connoisseur, but Vincent always somehow inspires me.
I took a quick look around the Arlatan Museum. Good time to go at the end of my trip as I recognised the various aspects of traditional clothing and belief etc I had seen in actual life in my days in the area.
Then I arrived in the City Hall Square again, drawn there by the sound of a flautist playing. I rested there in a bit of sun until it was time to make tracks for the Gare and my trip to Montpellier.
Montpellier is a real student city and the sun was shining warmly without the Mistral so my jacket is off! Staying in a hostel in a renovated old building. Liked the privacy of the wee friendly hotel I was in in Arles, but it will be good to have some more company now my cold is firmly on its last legs (finally!)
Catch you later. Time to explore a bit more before Montpellier cools off for the evening.