East of Arles

Today we took a little exploration drive east of Arles. Our first stop was Les Baux de Provence, one of France’s “perched villages”. You can see from this photo taken from across the valley how they came to be known as “perched”.


I confess that we didn’t make it all the way to that topmost fortress, having spent way too much time wandering through the little lanes like this one.


From Les Baux we continued east to Saint Remy, where we meandered the streets
for a while, discovering that the cicada is quite an object of focus in this region. It is considered the bringer of good fortune, and its summertime chirping is a source of joy to the inhabitants of the region. And all my childhood I just thought its discarded shell was good for scaring girls. This display was hanging outside a little boutique; the larges cicada on the rack is about a foot long.


We stopped at a randomly chosen cafe for an afternoon snack and I noticed the Hotel Gounod on the nearby street corner. That name means only one thing to me, since the Gounod Sanctus was probably the first piece of classical sacred music I ever heard.  But I just assumed there might be other Gounod families, maybe in the hotel business. But as it happens, this is in fact the hotel that the composer Gounod occupied when he composed his opera Mireille in 1863. At that time it was the Hotel Villa Verte, and was later renamed to capitalize on his fame. The French seem to have invented the idea of advertising the fact that “so and so slept here.”


We contined on to our final stop, Aix-En-Provence. Along the way we passed through miles of tree-lined country roads like this. In case the trees seem a little tilted, that’s not entirely camera perspective. We’re in mistral country. The mistral is a wind that must be experienced to believe. Here’s a great article about it.


In Aix, we parked and made our way through lovely clean lanes like this


to the wide boulevard Cours Mirabeau, which is home to some of the old roman fountains that Aix is famous for. Who knows how long this moss has been growing here?


Across the street from our chosen dinner spot were these two guys, holding up the balcony, but with cushioning towels on their heads.


The restaurant itself was named Les Deux Garçons (The Two Guys).  I was hoping it would be sort of an homage to their neighbors pictured above, but no.  It seems two guys bought it in 1840 and named it after themselves.  It became one of the centers for artistic and literary companionship.  Among others, the artist Paul Cezanne and the writer Emile Zola idled away many hours here, having attended school together in the neighborhood.  As Anita and I were reading the list of names of luminaries who met here, I found myself saying “I’ve read him, I’ve seen his art, I’ve heard his music, I’ve seen his films…”  And finally, after a nice squid dinner, we feasted on a hot fudge sundae.  Life is good.


Tomorrow, the tallest water pipe you ever saw and the land of bluejeans.

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