Got our first good night’s sleep last night, both because we are now fully adjusted to the 6 hour time difference and because our room is nicely air conditioned. I woke up at 6 when the ship started moving. Looking out the window, I saw the scenery go by and decided I wanted to experience that first hand. So I got up an hour and 45 minutes before the alarm (I am certain that is a first!), showered and went out onto the side deck to watch the shore go by. We went from Avignon to Arles in just about 3 hours.
I brought the Dell Mini out with me and soon discovered that Andrea was still awake back at Penn State. So we had an early morning/late evening Facebook chat. Thrilled me more than her, I am sure.
After breakfast, we were onto the bus for an optional excursion to Baux and the St. Remy sanitarium. We had just arrived at Baux and were getting instructions for where we were going and when to get off, when the police told the bus it couldn’t stop. We had wandered into the middle of the Tour de France. The ship had been told the tour would be there in the afternoon so we were safe to visit in the morning. Turns out that wasn’t true. So we drove down the hill a little and got out to take pictures of people waiting for the Tour. It was fascinating to see, RVs, cars, motorcycles, all lining this country road.
So with a quick change of plans, Viking decided to take us to the village of St. Remy, that normally we would not have seen. Quaint little town, the highlights of which were the birthplace of Nostradamus and the town church. I bought a baguette (I could live on them throughout France, 85 Euro cents for bread better than we can get anywhere) and a bottle of bordeaux.
We then went to the sanitarium. Much to do about Van Gogh of course. It is still a working mental health hospital for women. Reproductions of Van Gogh’s paintings were placed around the grounds, showing the inspiration for the paintings. Fascinating to look at the ordinary olive trees, then see how Van Gogh painted them. Lots of good pictures, and beautiful grounds.
We bussed back to the ship for lunch, then Ellen and I decided to do Arles on our own. We were not more than a few blocks from the ship when we came upon a circle that was preparing for the Tour de France to come through. It was again interesting to see the preparation, the people, the colors. Official vehicles came racing by every few minutes, making us think that the cyclists would come by soon. Then vans would come by and stop. The driver would get out and sell souveniers. How cheesy, right? We bought a 20 Euro bag that included a hat, a t-shirt and other Tour memorabilia. We waited an hour, but were running out of time to see the rest of Arles. Later we were told that the cyclists came by real fast and then we were gone. Would have been nice to say we had seen the Tour, but it would have been nothing more than checking an experience off.
Arles has a Roman coliseum that still houses bull fights (which were going on today). We walked around the coliseum, then visited the church and the town square. Better than a bunch of cyclists, I have to agree.
Back at the ship, we attended a brief presentation on Provence, then had dinner. Sat with 2 new couples tonight, managed to make conversation despite being a good 25-28 years younger than our dinner guests. The ship was offering accordion music and singing and dancing when we approached Avignon, but we decided we would pass up that fun for a seat on the outside of the ship watching the world go by.