Saturday, May 30, 2009



Today is our day to see what Provence has to offer. Breakfast at the Abbaye is ridiculously expensive at €33 ($46.10US) each for a European breakfast of cold cuts, coffee and breads. That is not for us after our experience last night in the same restaurant. The GPS says there is a McDonald’s in the town but when we get there, it is closed and the tables and chairs are stacked. We guess the rich foods of Provence put them out of business. We start out without breakfast and ultimately skip the meal.

We decide to shoot for a nice brunch at Arles, along the Rhone River.

When we get there, the GPS leads us right into the center of town and it is a market day! We carefully negotiate the horrendous traffic and escape the city.

We set the GPS for back roads and that takes us through Beaucaire. It is on the Rhone with many canals running through it. We stop on one of the canalsand have lunch under the shade of the Chestnut trees at a nice bistro. We also look at the local 12th century castle, Chateau Royale, along with the remnants of the city wall. This is definitely not a tourist town but is very pleasant to visit.

Now we head for Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct and UNESCO World Heritage Site.The Romans, according to our guidebook, considered this the best testimony to the greatness of their empire, and at 160 feet it was the highest bridge they ever built. It has three tiers and would be impressive even if built today! Surprisingly, it costs just €5 ($7US) to park but this is also your ticket into the sight.

From Pont du Gard we drive on to Avignon, making a roadside stop to buy fresh cherries from a farmer’s stand. A kilo costs €5. We set the GPS for the Palis des Papes, The Palace of the Popes, and find underground parking easily. The parking garage exit opens onto the plaza in front of the palace. Crossing this busy pedestrian area, we buy our tickets at €8 each and take a self-guided tour. Pope Clement V moved the papal court to Avignon in 1309 and it remained here until 1377, during which time his successors transformed the modest Episcopal building he found into the present magnificent palace. We also see the Pont St-Benezet, built in 1171. It had 22 archs when built but most were destroyed in the floods of 1668. The little Chapelle St-Nicolas sits on top of one of the arches.

From here, we look for St. Remy de Provence, a quaint little village with a nice square, but Carolyn could not interest Dick in stopping for a glass of wine…it was too early for the restaurants to be open. So we drive on through the Alpillies Hills looking for another famous little hiptop town and stumble on a stunning view of Les Baux de Provence.It is only accessible on foot and by now, we are tired and hungry so we head back to Salon de Provence. We park in a city garage and walk around but do not find anything for dinner that appeals to us. Instead, we pick up a pizza emporteur (pizza to go) and take it back to our quarters at the Abbaye and enjoy it along with some wine and the fruit we bought earlier while we watch the evening sky show its colors.

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