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Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Journey West to see Les Baux de Provence, Arles, Avignon, Gordes and Digne les Bains

Les Baux de Provence, Arles, Avignon and Digne les Bains
Les Baux de Provence village
Question :  Wayne and MA! How come you decided to go to the village of Les Baux de Provence?  Answer:  It is listed in almost every “Beautiful Villages of Provence” book that there is.  So off we went, also on to the old Roman town of Arles, overnighting in the city of Avignon where we saw the Palace of the Pope, seat of the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th Century.  

Next day we went on to Gordes, also a beautiful village.  I photographed it two years ago from the road but this time we went on in. We also wanted to go to Rousillion, another beautiful village in the book but it was market day and we could not find a place to park.  Instead, we drove to Digne les Bains.  That’s a mouthful so I just call it “Ding”.  

This all started out last Wednesday for two days. With Nola on board, the three of us set out, starting on the Auto Route A-8.  A few kilometers out of Nice we came to a large toll booth and got our toll road ticket which we would insert at the exit toll booth and pay the indicated fee.

View from Les Baux

We have a regular favorite road stop on the A-8 with a restaurant, WiFi, store, and bakery so we rolled in there, also buying sandwiches for later.

We found our exit to Les Baux and drove up to the pay station.  I put the ticket in the machine which told me I owed 11 Euros but it wouldn't take cash or any of our credit cards, even though we had previously used Amex successfully! Very frustrating when you have a line of French drivers behind you! I finally had to push the help button and an attendant came over.  We paid cash and he let us out.  
Arles Amphi-theater 

From the highway, Les Baux de Provence looks like a rock outcropping on a hill. It is actually built right into the rocks with a chateau at the of the hill.  The village has been rebuilt with many different shops and art galleries.   We walked around window shopping before lunch and then found a great outdoor cafe. Just like on ships, we usually don't miss meals!

From there we went on to Arles and later on to Avignon where we would spend the night.

Arles has an interesting history.  It was a major 1st Century Roman city large enough for it’s own Amphitheater, which looks much like the Coliseum in Rome. It held 20,000 spectators who witnessed gladiator fights, chariot races and eventually Christians being put to death.  Today, it’s used for bullfighting with young men attempting to remove a ring from a bull’s horn instead of killing it with sword or spear. Arles is also famous as the home to Vincent Van Gogh in 1888.  It is where he painted some of his most memorable paintings, The Starry Night and The Sower.

At the amphitheater we found one of these little “tourists” trains that takes you around the city for an hour.  It was just about right for us so we all paid our fare and took the tour. 

Van Gogh's painting on left and how it looks today.
The guide showed us where Van Gogh painted the Café at Night.  He said that Van Gogh’s house the German bombs destroyed it in WW2.   

Main street in Avignon

From Arles, the GPS took us right to the hotel in Avignon that MA had booked the day before through Hotels.Com.  Parking was no problem but looking at the place from the outside gave me a moment's pause; it didn't look too inviting. Anyhow we checked inside, the owner showed us our room and there we discovered a beautiful inside garden.  MA had picked another winner!  The room was clean, beds comfortable, breakfast 8 Euros. She nailed it! She does this on Hotels.Com and reads all the reviews before deciding on places to stay. Works every time. She also writes reviews for them!

Palace of the Popes: Avignon 1309-1375
We waited for the sun to go down there in Avignon and then headed out toward Palace of the Popes which is lit up beautifully at night.   It is huge and has beautiful Roman-Renaissance.architecture.   
It was cold and windy that night, so we ooh'd and awe'd for a while and then started back to our little hotel.  Nola paid for our parking and gave me the paid ticket to insert at the exit so the barrier b would open.  Except in our case! Nothing happened!  I backed up and tried another lane.  Nothing! Finally MA got out of the car, gave the bar a little push, and voila, off we went!     I had her get back in the car and we got out of there before anyone noticed.  I’m wondering how many times is this going to happen to us on this trip.We drove back to the hotel and had our sandwiches for supper.

Bastion and Wall around Avignon

Entrance to Palace of the Popes

Village of Gordes, bathed in early morning light.

Next morning we drove on to  Gordes, a village that sits on top of a hill with a gorgeous view of the Vacluse valley below.  It was cold and windy here too, so Nola and MA went shopping and had some coffee while I walked around and took some photos.  

Just pronounce it, "ding" and you'll be ok
We elected to drive to Digne les Bains, “ding” for short.  It was a long drive there but we made it at about 2:30, just as the cafes and restaurants were closing for lunch. We walked about a block down and a kindly cafe owner said he would serve us lunch as long as grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with fries and salad were OK. After lunch we hit the road for Vence, driving through the mountains of the lower French Alps and through the city of Grasse. On the way we came upon a field of sunflowers that were still upright and beautiful as ever. I just had to stop and take a few pics. All in all we had a great trip and are ready for another adventure!

I found a large sunflower field still in bloom!

A French Bakery - Boulangerie- visited daily by residents

Entrance to Vence, the Old Town 

                                        Our apartment is located in Vence.

Typical French Fruit Veggie Market

Standard mode of transportation in France

Entrance to the village of LeBroc

Provence ceramics, very colorful

A street in Vence

Bar sur Loup

Typical of a Provence church bell tower with exposed wrought iron frame 

Every village has a fountain, usually flowing with cold water.
Just down the road from us is St Paul de Vence

1 comment:

  1. Dear, nice you like our village... About parking we regulary complain about this ! Next year they will change the access and payment fee !!! :)


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