Jul 1, 2012

Provance, France May 2012

This was my 3rd trip with my AWBS friends.  We visited the region of Provence in France.  Our agenda included Aix, Arles, Le Baux, St Remy, Cassis, Avignon & Nimes.

Day 1 - We drove directly from the airport to Aix-en-Provence.  We did a guided walking tour, a little shopping (there was a market on the main street) & then had lunch (a quick gelato).  It’s a quaint place – with fountains & outdoor cafes.  Cezanne was born in Aix – there was a statue of him in the center of town.    Next we headed to Arles; we stayed at the Jules Cesar Hotel.  At one time it was a convent; our room was located in the cloister.  The rooms were clean & it’s in a good location.  We had dinner at the hotel restaurant – it was okay, they didn’t have mint tea L
Day 2 - We started with a tour of Arles – stopped at the Coliseum (which is still used today for bull fights); an old Roman theatre (which they still use); Eglise St Trophim – 1st we toured the old cloister, which was really cool - the pillars told a story.  Then we toured the church, which was a little creepy & dark.  They had an actual skull & bones and they also had lots of carved skull & bones.  We stopped by L’ Espace - the hospital Van Gogh was taken to after he cut off his ear (this is where he painted the courtyard of the hospital).   We also stopped by Café Van Gogh (where he painted the yellow café).  Then we drove to Les Baux – a dramatic fortress site (one of the 3 wise men, King Balthazar is claimed to have come from here).  I love Les Baux & would have liked to have spent more time here – I would definitely go back.  We toured the castle ruins – which are amazing! They had a catapult demonstration (with water balloons) – which was fun.  The views were breathtaking.  There were lots of shops; I found some really great pottery.  We had gelato again for lunch!  From here we stopped at St. Remy where we toured the psychiatric hospital that Van Gogh spent some time in.  We saw his room (very small & ugly with bars on the windows.  A disturbing & dark portrait of himself hung on his wall – he was a very disturbed person).  You could see the poppies he painted out his window.  The gardens were beautiful!  After a long day, we went back to Arles just in time for our 8:00 pm dinner reservation at  La Fee Gourmande. The restaurant is small & decorated with fairies but the food was very good!  My friend got a big bull steak – I tried it but wasn’t impressed. 

Day 3 – We spent a little time at the farmers market outside our hotel.  Then we drive to Nimes – to visit another Coliseum (which they still use for bull fights) & Maison Carree (one of the best preserved Roman Temples in the region).  From there we drove to Pont Du Gard (an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge).  This is beautiful & worth the stop – we hiked to the top for some great pictures!  Off again, we drove to Avignon to see Pont St Benezet (a famous bridge that people used to sing & dance under).  We sang – cheesy I know but we did.  We also toured the Palais du Papes (a medieval gothic palace the Popes used to live in).  Normally it’s empty but they were having a flower show while we were there – so there were roses everywhere & crazy dresses made of roses.  We had lunch (pizza) at a little outdoor café where it was warm & sunny.  After another long day we headed back to Arles to make our 8:00 pm dinner reservations at Chez Caro – the restaurant is small, the service & food are good.
Day 4 – We are supposed to drive to Cassis (a small picturesque fishing port) & take a boat cruise but the weather wasn’t cooperating – so instead we stopped at E Bodin winery (outside of Cassis) & did a wine tasting.  We met the owner & tasted lots of different wines.  I don’t love wine but it was fun to taste them & then spit it into a bucket!  Finally, we drove down to Cassis – did a quick walking tour & grabbed a sandwich before heading to the airport.  Cassis is very small but beautiful – it could be a set from a movie.  

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