I only have one week left in Europa. A week from today my plane lands in Phoenix. Time has gone by far too rapidly. I will be back in August for another visit of Spain and Portugal.
Tomorrow I take the train, or actually three trains, to Paris. The first two just get me to the TGV or bullet train station in Avignon, which is not far away. Then the TGV will get me from Southern France to Paris in less than three hours. However, I travel in the afternoon and evening, so there will probably be no blog entry tomorrow. When I get to the hostel in Paris and get checked in, I will probably just want to have a beer and a shower and go to bed.
There were two French women at my breakfast table this morning who are doing the Camino. This hostel was their first stop. By the time they get to Santiago, they will have walked much farther than I did on my Camino, because they are starting from farther away. They planned to hike 25 kilometers or just under 16 miles today carrying their backpacks. I hope they made it.
I left the hostel this morning on foot with no plan in mind. The first thing of interest discovered was s segment of the old city wall and fortifications, shown below. There was a stairway leading up toward the top of the wall, which I climbed. I went through a doorway in the wall itself and found myself just a few blocks from the Coliseum, which I had reached yesterday by a different route. Arles is not a very big city.
After I came back down the stairway and continued my walk, an elderly woman stopped me on the sidewalk. She was probably almost as old as I am. I didn’t understand her first question, so she repeated it in French, “Where are you from?” “The United States,” I answered. “What are you doing here?” “I’m on vacation.” “Are you traveling all alone?” “Yes, all alone.” “And your wife?”
At this point I was getting nervous. There are a lot more elderly women in the world than there are elderly men like me in good health. I hoped she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. I probably should have played it safe and said, “My wife is back at the hotel,” but, I am a poor liar so I answered truthfully, “I don’t have a wife.” With that, she giggled and then turned and walked away. I found the whole encounter quite strange.
A few minutes later I came upon a smaller section of the wall, shown below.
I don’t think most Americans are aware of affection many French have for the United States. Even when the French government opposed the US invasion of Iraq and the second President George Bush demonized the French, the French people reacted with sadness rather than anger. Below is a photo of a memorial that the local French have erected in memory of and in gratitude to two American Air Force pilots who died at Arles in the process of liberating the French from German occupation in World War II. If Many locals in France still celebrate the anniversary of the day the Americans liberated their city. If the picture is too small to read the English at the bottom, you can click on it to enlarge it.
The Rhône River flows through Arles, We are not that far from the Mediterranean, so the river is quite wide at this point. I’m sorry to say that I have not been to the river’s other bank.
It’s hard to believe that the French Communist Party is still alive if not well. It has very few members and zero political influence in this country, unlike Italy, where it is still a force in some municipal governments. The headquarters office in Arles is just a small storefront.
The old Roman amphitheater in Arles is still in use. The steel towersand light array look out of place in this pre-medieval setting, but I suppose that it is a good thing that the theater is still used to provide entertainment to the residents of Arles instead of only standing there as a museum piece.
To close today’s entry, I include the following street scene from the old part of the city. Not only are ancient constructions being admired by tourists like me, some of them are very much a part of the city.