16 Days in France (Days 4 & 5)

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[Avignon, by night (in case you didn’t notice the time of day).]

Avignon to Arles to Avignon

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[Let’s get re-acquainted with Avignon – we’re beginning from Avignon Centre, middle bottom on the above map, and live and in person below.]

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[Morning the next day, off our balcony, the Avignon Centre train stop.  We initially thought this is where the TGV would tumble us off so we could have walked to the hotel.]

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[Reetz was delighted to discover she had a place to change into her Superwoman costume.  We were out and about on our own for breakfast before boarding our cruise ship in the afternoon.]

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[Remember that church I said we’d re-visit?]

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[The Avignon main drag as seen from the church courtyard.]

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[How we usually saw Reetz.]

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[Then you push this button over here and your garage door in Indiana opens.]

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[I believe these are internationally known as flowers.]

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[I dearly love these trees.  They line many a city street in these environs providing a perfect canopy (which is why they were planted thusly).  They are called plane trees and are close relatives (first cousins, I believe) to our sycamores.  In fact, I called them sycamores when I first saw them and was politely corrected.]

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[The Biddies are onboard!  The Viking Hermod would be our home on the Rhone River for the next week.  Do they look like they’re having fun yet?]

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[Avignon from the top of our boat.]

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[Our fellow travelers have arrived.  Here Reetz shares the rooftop “study room” with Kathy.  Kathy and Bert did a Seine River cruise the previous week (figuring as long as you’re making the effort to fly all the way to Europe, you may as well do two cruises) and took this opportunity to hang out some laundry in the sun.]

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[White wine spritzer, s’il vous plait?]

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[I’m ready to sail!]

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[Looking forward . . .]

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[Looking aft.  All this stuff had to be taken down once we started moving or we couldn’t make it under some bridges.]

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[The Super and the Captain (sounds like a movie title).  He didn’t speak English (how dare he?), so we usually just greeted him with a nod and a timid smile.  🙂 ]

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[Our first meal together as a team.  Go, team!]

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[Remember when I said we’d re-visit here (I think I did?)]

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[There was a full moon.]

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[It was after dinner and a few of us we’re feeling giddy enough for a spin on ye olde Ferris Wheel.  It provided opportunities for some nice shots of the city at night.]

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[And away we go!  The companion to the photo at the top of the page.]

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[Bill and Elizabeth are enjoying the ride.  As good a time as any to remind folks that I introduced Bill and Anne to each other, and on this trip they celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary.  I was best man (well, there wasn’t a test or anything) but little did I recall that this very same Elizabeth, then 5 years old, was the flower girl at the wedding.  🙂 ]

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[More on this partial bridge later . . . ]

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[Our boat]

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[For artsy sake.]

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[Then it was off for a night on the town – the super, Reetz, and I were now full-fledged tour guides from our already day and a half in the city.]

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[The girls are back in town!]

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[The Theatre – I know that because that’s what it says at the top of the building.]

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[We dare not pass for we were aware this would be on the scheduled tour in two days.]

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[Lovely evening scene, n’est-ce pas?]

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[Avignon and Arles are on the western edge of Provence, i.e., SE France.  It can get hot here, as it did on our trip.  For most of the river cruise, the temperature was 37C, which translates nicely to 98.6F!  We were advised to wear appropriate protection . . . so I did.]

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[Sunrise over the Rhone.  We’re on the way to Tarascon, the drop off point for Arles.]

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[Ho-hum, just more antiquity along the river.]

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[Tarascon, everybody off and to the buses!]

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[Now in Arles, the super holds up the ‘lollipop” identifying our group.  Arles, BTW, is two syllables and is pronounced “R-leh.”  I would have pronounced it like something like a guttural utterance by pirate.]

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[When arriving at a new place, first discover the local pizzeria.  Just to the right of this pizzeria, as I recall, was where Van Gogh’s little yellow house was located.]

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[And now we’re off to the ancient city.]

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[The ancient city (well, that’s what we were off to).]

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[The not so ancient city just inside the ancient city walls.  I believe this is where commerce takes place.]

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[Merely identified as a religious mosaic memorial.]

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[Onward, Group 3C! ]

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[Heading down the narrow city streets in search of antiquity.]

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[Antiquity, dead ahead!]

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[Ivy League?]

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[The Roman arena, with a seating capacity of 20,000 in its day.]

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[And the commercial (i.e., tourist) area that circles its right side.]

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[The super climbing the steps to the arena as we look back upon the street upon which we came.]

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[Our tour guide . . . now so long ago, I’ve forgotten her name.]

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[She parked us in the arena for a complete Arles history lesson.  I can say that our tour guides during our European adventures have been uniformly excellent and well informed on their subject matter.]

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[The arena . . . it may not be Spain, but they hold bullfights here.]

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[Advertising the Golden Ribbon, an annual event for almost 100 years, somewhat like the running of the bulls in Spain.]

Seems like a good place to note that Vincent Van Gogh loved Arles (remember that while we pronounce the “Gogh” part as “go,” on the continent they pronounce it like they just swallowed a bug).  In 1888, he wrote to his brother Theo, “Nature here is extraordinarily beautiful . . . I can’t match its beauty in my painting, but I take so much in that I can let myself go without restraint.”

Seems like a good place to note that Don McLean’s song “Vincent” was of course about Van Gogh.  And with just this song and “American Pie” McLean, in my opinion (I’m old and deserve one), must be considered one of the all-time great singer/song writers:

“Vincent” by Don McLean:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wrNFDxCRzU

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[Moving on around the backside of the arena.]

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[Theatre Antiquity becomes the stage for modern music and theatre productions.]

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[The city square with city hall (remember Hotel de Ville?) at the far end.]

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[But first, a rest stop.]

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[As a reporter, I was asleep at the switch here.  A young man in a white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up, stepped out on the “pope’s” balcony above.  Our guide told us he was the town’s mayor, a very popular Communist.  I shouted up, “Monsieur Mayor!”  He waved to us, we waved back, then he went back in before I could get a photo.  He’s probably popular because this was on a weekend and he was in his office working.]

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[Where’s Wally the Beerman?]

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[We sure could use a cold one!]

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[Remindful of the columns in the cisterns of Istanbull.]

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[Big doors]

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[3C is now inside – city hall, I believe, but don’t hold me to that.]

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[People are looking up because our guide is giving us the story about the ceiling  . . . ]

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[So unique in fact that modern-day architects don’t understand how it was done?]

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[Moving on to the town’s commercial square . . . or restaurant row.]

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[When I noticed the statue on the left, my first thought was Beauregard T. Beauregard?]

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[He’s actually Frederic Mistral . . .]

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[A writer and lexicographer . . . and now overseer of fine dining!]

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[Nice little neighborhood.]

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[Reetz fires up the iPad as we head back to the buses along the river.]

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[Back “home” to Avignon.]

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[Our Ferris Wheel is in the distance.]

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[The Avignon bridge . . . several more photos and story to follow.]

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[Meanwhile, back at the ranch, getting ready to PAR-TAY!!]

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The Avignon Bridge provided strategic importance to the city in medieval times as it was the only bridge that crossed the Rhone between Marseille and Lyon, or for a distance of 200 miles.  Early bridges collapsed from the force of the Rhone, and the four stone arches left from an original 22 were built in the 14th century.  It was decided to no longer maintain this bridge because it was too costly.  Nevertheless, there is a nursery rhyme song about the bridge that even members of our party knew . . . and here it is:

Sur le Pont d’Avignon:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJKfxtYAt0s

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[They somehow did a terrific job dealing with the three guys on the trip:  Standing, l-r, the super, Reetz, Sharon, Kay, and Elizabeth; sitting, Kathy and Anne.]

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[One last glimpse into the night . . .]

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[Bill readies for action . . .]

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[The super readies for action . . . so LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL . . . ]

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[The woman on the left is Cornelia.  She was in charge of everything we did.  She is from Austria and speaks fluent French and English . . . we assume also German.  I do not comprehend how the mind can think and speak in multiple languages.  Anyway, Cornelia was really put to the test on this trip (upcoming), having to arrange new things on a moment’s notice as the set tour events were overcome by . . . well, other events.  We thought she did a terrific job in trying circumstances.]

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[OK, to the general readership, most of the following pictures will be for our group as we continued to shake our respective booties to the best of our abilities.]

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[Since when did I start to look like my brothers?]

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[I had no idea they were so good looking?  [Editor’s note:  “Good looking” in this instance is a synonym for “old.”]  And who is that metro check who appears to be hanging around with me?]

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[In a former life, Kathy was a lawyer for the West Virginia Supreme Court.  Now, like the rest of us, she’s just looking for a good time!  🙂  (For the locals, tell me that the woman in the black dress behind Kathy isn’t Annie O’Flynn??)]

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[Luggage?  LUGGAGE? . . .]

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[I don’t need no stinking luggage!!]

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[These photos may be useful someday should the participants ever have to throw themselves on the mercy of the court.]

We now end this evening of frivolity with actual moving pictures of the event.  Please keep in mind that all have been around log enough to have actually known a genuine hippie:

Dancin’, yeah:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RN_R2pGCXs&list=UUDt6CCFM-8cxXEwOQhEwkiA

Husbands think we should know where everything is – like the uterus is a tracking device.  He asks me, “Roseanne, do we have any Chee-tos left?”  Like he can’t go over to that sofa cushion and lift it himself.  ~  Roseanne Barr

Up next:  Avignon . . . again.

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