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Mar. 30th, 2017

When I began our trip to France, I had every intention of posting regularly during the trip, to record my thoughts and impressions while they were fresh. That fell by the wayside on the very first day, and while I did manage to post regularly on Facebook, I wasn't able to find (or make) the time to write any more detailed descriptions. Nevertheless, I do want to share more about the trip, so in the category of "better late than never", I'm going to do my best to remember what I wanted to share from the trip.

After arriving late in Frankfurt, we found that we had, indeed, missed our connecting flight onward to Marseilles, as expected. United and Lufthansa rebooked us on a later flight without any issues, but that left us with a long layover. We were all pretty tired from our long, overnight flight from Washington, and so, after getting some food (using the vouchers provided by Lufthansa), we eventually just camped out at our departure gate, with many of us taking naps.

When we were re-booked, the six people in our group were seated in the same row on our Airbus 319 aircraft, three on either side of the aisle. There was some discussion as to who wanted window seats vs. who wanted aisle seats, and somehow I got the impression that I wasn't going to have a window seat, so I packed my camera into my bag for storage in the overhead bin.

When it finally came time to board our flight, we learned that our gate didn't board directly to the aircraft. Instead, we were loaded onto a shuttle bus that seemed to drive us all the way around the terminal before pulling alongside the plane on the tarmac. We climbed the stairs onto the plane, and somehow, I found myself in a window seat. After boarding was complete, we taxied out to the furthest runway for takeoff. Seriously, it almost felt like we were going to drive from Frankfurt to Marseilles!

After takeoff, we climbed back through the clouds, so I didn't get to see any of the mountains as we flew over them. Only as we began our descent into Marseilles did I finally get to see some of the countryside. By now it was late afternoon, and the low angle sunlight was casting a beautiful glow over the landscape below me. And then, suddenly, I saw the Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct over the Gardon River, glowing in the afternoon light in the valley below. Now I was mentally kicking myself for not keeping my camera out, because I could have captured some really beautiful aerial shots of the bridge. It wasn't until after it was far behind us that it occurred to me that I could have used my phone.

Soon afterwards, we passed over the city of Marseilles and flew out over the Mediterranean. The plane banked to the left as we circled over the bay, lining up with the runway, and those of us on the left side of the aircraft were treated to a beautiful view of the city. This time, I used the phone to snap a shot:

After landing, we made our way through immigration and claimed our luggage and set out to find our transportation to Avignon. By the time we found the bus and got our luggage loaded, it was dark, and so we didn't get to see any of the French countryside as we drove to our hotel, just outside the city walls in Avignon. Arriving about eight hours later than we planned, we checked in, grabbed a light supper in the hotel restaurant, and called it a night. Sightseeing would have to wait until morning.

Arles, France

Mar. 30th, 2017 01:46 pm
resqgeek: (Ambulance)
Our itinerary for our first day in France included a guided tour of other towns in the surrounding region, and so, after breakfast, our group gathered in the lobby where we were met by our tour guide and bus driver. There were only nine of us in our group, which gave us plenty of opportunities to ask questions and to have a really intimate experience with the cities we would visit.

As we drove south from Avignon towards Arles, our tour guide, Nadine, kept up a steady dialogue about the history, geography, economy, and culture of the region. We drove through a light fog, that shrouded the fields in a mist, giving the countryside a bit of a mysterious feel to it, but by the time we arrived in Arles, the sun was out and it was becoming a warm day. Our first stop in Arles was the Arena, which was built by the Romans, and remains in use today as a bull fighting venue. Nadine described the events that take place here, including Spanish bull fights at Easter, as well as the local sport, Cocarde d'argent, where contestants try to pluck tassels from the horns/head of the bull.

After leaving the Arena, we wandered through the streets of Arles, where we saw the site of the Roman forum and the cafe captured by van Gogh in his painting "Café Terrace at Night". We also visited the (former) hospital where van Gogh was a frequent patient, with its courtyard garden, also the subject of one of his paintings. Finally, we made our way to the Place de la Republique. We were given an hour to get lunch before meeting back here to continue our tour.

While most of our group set off to find a restaurant, my wife and I continued to explore the city. We discovered the Théâtre Antique Arles, built by the Romans, but still in use today, and just generally enjoyed randomly wandering the streets of the city, taking photos.

Eventually, we made our way back to the Place de la Republique, where we rejoined our group and made our way back to our bus for our ride to our next destination.

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