Sunday, October 13, 2013

France: The End

Finally, 3 months after our trip I've finished editing all the photos!  (I took about 3,000 total.)

Provence photos are here.
Nice photos are here.

And here's a taste:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More France: The Camargue

On Bastille Day, we went to the Camargue, the area just south of Arles.  It's the largest river delta in Europe, with the two arms of the Rhone River emptying into the Mediterranean.  It's about 360 square miles of wetland, salt marshes, and brine lagoons from which salt is harvested.  The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds and the brine ponds are home to pink flamingos (we were there at the wrong time of year - only saw a few).  The area is also famous for the Camargue Bull and the Camargue Horse, and some ferocious mosquitoes.  

We drove through the wetlands on crazy bumpy sand roads, and then ended up in the sea-side town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The town has an interesting history.  From Wikipedia:
The three saints Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe, whose relics are the focus of the devotions of pilgrims, are believed to be the women who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb at the resurrection of Jesus. After the Crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Magdalene set sail from Alexandria, Egypt with their uncle Joseph of Arimathea. According to a longstanding French legend, they either sailed to or were cast adrift - either way they arrived off the coast of what is now France, at "a sort of fortress named Oppidum-Râ". The location was known as Notre-Dame-de-Ratis ( becoming Ratis, or boat) (Droit, 1963, 19); the name was later changed to Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, and then in 1838 to Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
The town is a pilgrimage destination for Roma (Gypsies), who gather yearly in the town for a religious festival in honor of Saint Sarah. Dark-skinned Saint Sara is said to have possibly been the Egyptian servant of the three Marys, or by another version a local woman who welcomed them on their arrival.
Our visit coincided with an equestrian festival, with hundreds of horses parading around and doing fancy horse things.  After lunch, Lily took a dip in the Mediterranean, and  then we drove out of the town and rented horses for our own ride through the wetlands.

This area was isolated and stark in a good way.  It felt a lot like southern Spain.

All of the photos are here.

Salt pond.

Wild horse.


Saturday, September 14, 2013


I’m slowly making my way through the trip photos.  Click here for all the photos from Arles.

Arles is in ancient city in Provence.  We arrived here on the evening of July 12, and stayed in a neat hotel wedged between the Roman coliseum and amphitheater.   Our windows overlooked the amphitheater, so we had a free front row seat of concerts on Bastille Day eve.  The hotel also had a free indoor spa pool overlooking the coliseum, which was a wonderful way to end the day (no kids allowed, poor Lily).  The town is less touristy than others, and kind of rough around the edges, but it had a nice feel to it.  Very artsy and edgy – lots of interesting street posters and art.  It was the home of Van Gogh during his most productive period (and where he cut his ear off), and the Gypsy Kings are from Arles.

We stayed here for 3 nights, and were lucky enough to be there for the huge Saturday market.  I went a little nuts with the market photos.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

France: Driving Day

On July 12, we said goodbye to Sarlat and spent most of the day driving from there to Arles, in Provence.  We started out on some smaller roads, and then got on the fast and easy auto routes.

Here's our car, the super cool Renault Megane.  Standard shift - Michael was a master of the traffic circles.  We were a little thrown by this weird French driving rule -  priorité à droite - basically in smaller towns people coming in to your road from the right have the right of way, even at a T intersection.  What??

The drive took about 8 hours, with plenty of stops.  The best stop was at the rest area before the Millau Bridge.

From Wikipedia:

The Millau Viaduct  is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France.  Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast's summit at 343.0 metres (1,125 ft) above the base of the structure.[3][4] It is the 12th highest bridge deck in the world, being 270 metres (890 ft)[1] between the road deck and the ground below.[5] Millau Viaduct is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Montpellier. Construction cost was approximately €400 million. It was formally inaugurated on 14 December 2004, and opened to traffic on 16 December.[6] The bridge has been consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time.[7][8] 

It was pretty cool.  So was the fancy rest stop (throughout France they were pretty impressive, even the food was good).  Here's a view from the window driving across the bridge.

And finally, here's a shot of us getting gasoline (the Megane took diesel but even that was expensive at about $6.60 a gallon).  This was an adventure as French pumps don't take American credit cards, and we had to figure out the routine for paying cash.  I cannot overstate Michael's stress about this.

The rest of the day's not particularly exciting photos are here.