1st Post Arles, France — Wednesday, May 24 — 2017

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I arrived in Arles yesterday evening and have seen so far only a little bit of the city. What I saw on my walk from the train station here to the hostel and later on a walk from the hostel to a grocery store and back did not impress me. It is a grubby little city with its buildings stained by decades of pollution. It reminds me of the towns and cities in the coal country of Western Pennsylvania where I grew up. However, I’m told there are some old Roman artifacts there that are worth seeing including a Roman coliseum, which is still used as a bullfighting ring.

Also, the first local residents I ran into at the very entrance of the train station struck me as being a couple of real jackasses. I took their pictures. One of them had no compunction about littering the sidewalk, as you can see in the picture below.

I asked the guy in the cowboy hat what the jackasses names were. The one on the right that has just made a mess of things is named Gordon. The other one is named Jerry.

That’s the only picture I have of Arles so far, but I did take some pictures in Girona before I left. The first two are symbols of Catalan nationalism, as opposed to Spanish nationalism, which barely exists. The large banner reading “Freedom is on the way” speak of so-called freedom from what many regard as the oppressive Spanish government. Spain has a democratically-elected government, but you would never know it from talking to many Catalans. I have to admit that I got a bit tired of Catalan independence talk while I was there.

The sign below reads “Catalan Republic” translated into English. I have been told by some of the locals that if you are not a fervent Catalan nationalist, you can have trouble with your neighbors. They are like those Trump supporters who physically attacked people who disagreed with them during the US presidential campaign.

Below is a picture of the old Iron Bridge or Pont de Ferro in Girona, which a nearby sign proclaimed was construction in 1877. It is one of several pedestrian-only bridges that cross the river in the city.

I took the following picture from the railway platform as I was waiting for my train in Girona. It helps explain why Spain is such a clean country. The woman is using a hand mop to clean a railway platform. Typically in Spain, when I would go out walking early Saturday or Sunday morning, I would find the sidewalks littered with cigarette butts. By afternoon, they were gone.

I took three trains from Girona, Spain here to Arles France yesterday. The first train was Spanish and took me to Cebere just on the French side of the border. Although the borders between the European countries are theoretically completely open, increasingly they are not. There was a passport check in Cebere before we could enter the station. The police barely gave my British passport a glance (I am a citizen of both the USA and the UK), but they did scrutinize the passport of a thin, shabbily-dressed black man and that of a woman from Thailand.

The other passengers hurried through the station and to the tracks on the French side of the railway station. Apparently they had trains that left immediately. I had a long wait for my train, and I was left in the station alone. Well, almost alone. the man in the background in the following picture is a railway worker buying himself a cup of coffee from a vending machine. Even the ticket office closed about 15 minutes after I arrived, and after I snapped the selfie, the railway worker took his coffee and left me alone again.

From Cebere, I took a regional train to Montpelier, where I was scheduled to have an hour’s wait for my train to Arles. However, for some reason that I didn’t understand, the train stopped several times, and we waited for something. The conductor did explain the delay on the PA system, but French is the weakest of my languages, and I could understand little of the announcement. I did understand that we would be delayed “a few minutes.” We were delayed almost an hour.

When the train finally arrived in Montpelier, my second train was due to depart in three minutes, and passengers are supposed to be on board three minutes before the train departs. Luckily, my second train was five minutes late in arriving, and I managed to get on board with minutes to spare.

For some reason, this train was crawling with French customs agents. I had my suitcase sniffed by a dog. Then another customs agent came by, shook my suitcase, and asked it it was mine.

This morning, I had breakfast and an interesting conversation  with a Dutchman. Like all Dutch people, his English was perfect.