Day 5: Avignon

The key to our hotel room in Arles!

The key to our hotel room in Arles!

We woke up early to check out of our hotel in Arles and get to Avignon with plenty  time to eat breakfast and explore the Palais de Papes as soon as it opened. We only had until my train left at 1:00 PM, so we picked the Palais as our main focus for the few morning hours we would have in Avignon.

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The Palais was much bigger in person than I thought it would be.

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The building itself is basically a giant, empty stone palace. To make it more of a tourist attraction, they have filled it with screens showing little videos explaining the history of each room and its purpose. All of the rooms with intact frescoes were not allowed to be photographed, so most of the photos I have are of empty stone rooms. Still, it was awesome how much of it was original. Some of the wood beams in the ceilings were still there; that’s wood from the 14th century!

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They also have some artifacts relating to the Palais and events that happened inside of it. I thought this was pretty cool.

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“Skull of a man killed by a crossbow bolt.”

There was also a room that only the popes could access where they kept their money under secret stones in the floor. They are now covered in glass, but there’s an empty space in the side and people have thrown in lots of their own money:

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More of the Palais:

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The kitchen:

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It was really difficult to accurately depict what this is, but in the kitchen they have this giant tower that they would build fires under. It was huge!

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The view out one of the windows:

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There were also some rooms housing sculptures and religious art from the time:

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The next rooms were all being used to house a contemporary art exhibition titles “Les Papesses” featuring work from female artists Camille Claudel, Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Jana Sterbak, and Berlinde de Bruyckere. The sculptural pieces were beautifully interwoven within the large, stone palace and spread throughout the rest of our tour until the end. There was also a very excellent documentary featuring Louise Bourgeois that we sat and watched for quite a while.

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere

Camile Claudel

Camile Claudel

One of the largest spaces for the exhibition.

One of the largest spaces for the exhibition.

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Berlinde de Bruyckere

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois

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Kiki Smith

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Unsure…

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After several hours at the Palais, it was time for me to head back to Paris. I had an amazing few days in Provence and I am so glad I had this opportunity! My favorite city by far was Arles. I would love to go back there if I have the chance. I definitely recommend it, though I would like to go back to all the places that I visited!

Day 4: Arles, Part II & Saintes Maries de la Mer

So I actually stopped the last post in the middle of exploring the St. Trophime cloister…

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We then went to the top of the cloister which had a beautiful view of the rooftops and looking down into the center of the cloister.

Arles2_46smal Arles2_47small Arles2_48smallI think I also have a thing for beautiful stained glass. Who wouldn't?!

I think I also have a thing for beautiful stained glass. Who wouldn’t?!

Next, we headed out to get something to eat. This was the first day my stomach felt normal since I arrived in France, but for some reason I was still pretty full from breakfast. So, I just shared with my aunt. Of course, we each still had to get deserts and try them!

Across the street from where we ate.

Across the street from where we ate.The meal I shared with my aunt. So good!!The meal I shared with my aunt. So good!!My desert: a strawberry tarte!My desert: a strawberry tarte!

After lunch we went across the street to the Theatre Antique, the ruins of an ancient Roman theater, where they were having Gladiator reenactments. The introduction was this guy speaking in French for at least a half hour, I assume explaining the history and strategy behind the fights, so we didn’t get any of that. But it was still pretty entertaining!

 I wonder if they have concerts here?I wonder if they have concerts here? The first fight..Arles2_58small Arles2_60small

After the gladiator fight we went over to the Amphitheatre, the restored ruins of a giant arena they now use for bull fighting.Arles2_61small Arles2_63small

Arles2_62small Arles2_64small  Arles2_66smallArles2_67small Arles2_65smallRooftop view from the Amphitheatre.

Rooftop view from the Amphitheatre.

At this point we were pretty tired, but it was still way too early in the day to just go back to our hotel. So, we decided to wander back and then drive somewhere else to give our feet a break.

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On the way, we stopped at a few marked sites where van Gogh had painted. I didn’t photograph any of them because they don’t look the same anymore, but there was one that caught my attention.

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The Trinquetaille Bridge – Arles, November 1888, Oil on canvas

The bridge is modern and the road is paved, but other than that this scene looks almost exactly the same now. Except that the sapling he painted over a century ago is now a giant tree! I thought that was so cool.

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Our hotel in Arles.

After we got back to our hotel and freshened up, we decided to drive down to Saintes Maries de la Mer, the Mediterranean beach capital of Camargue, a wetland region south of Arles.

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We stopped at one of the many horse farms along the way.

They have dog bathrooms everywhere so they don't go on the beach!

They have dog bathrooms everywhere so they don’t go on the beach!

Once we got there, we just started exploring. We decided it was like the French equivalent of the Jersey shore. If I were French, I would definitely go here every summer!

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There is an old church in the center of the city, which you can climb to the top of and stand on the roof to get a magnificent panoramic view of the town. It was a little nerve-wracking, but totally worth it!

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Saying hello to Chris!

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Aunt butt.

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The French people were a little unnerved, too.

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We then stopped to eat at a Brasserie with live Spanish guitar players singing. It was yummy!

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That heart/anchor/cross/bull poker is the symbol for Camargue. I love it! After we ate, it was time to head back to Arles.

A local Patisserie we passed.

A local Patisserie we passed.

The sunset as we were leaving.

The sunset as we were leaving.

Once we got back to Arles, it was time to sleep! We were getting up early the next morning to go to Avignon, which will be my next post!

Day 4: Arles, Part I

Our hotel lobby in the morning.

Our hotel lobby in the morning.IMG_20130822_223915We started the day early with breakfast at the hotel, then headed across the river into town.

Crossing the bridge again.

Crossing the bridge again.Arles2_3smallGraffiti on the bridgeGraffiti on the bridge

We followed our maps and our noses through the streets.

The old buildings are so amazing. It’s crazy to me that these are part of people’s every day lives, and they’re older than most structures in the US!

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There are also a ton of incredible doors.

There are also a ton of incredible doors.

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We then arrived at the Place de la Republique, which joins the Obelisque d’Arles, Arles town hall, Chapelle Sainte-Anne, and St. Trophime.

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Obelisque d’ArlesArles town hall.Arles town hall.Close-up on the fountain.Close-up on the fountain.Close-up of the fountain.Close-up of the fountain.Entrance to St. Trophime.Entrance to St. Trophime.

We then entered St. Trophime, which was absolutely amazing. I think I have a thing for cathedrals, seeing as one of my favorite things I saw in Germany was the Kölner Dom.

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After St. Trophime, we went across the Place to Chapelle Saint-Anne, inside of which was part of the current-running photography festival. This yearly festival turns the entire city into a gallery. Each space features a different photographer. Since we were only there for one day, we decided to just go into this exhibition. It was an excellent show featuring Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain. We also bought some merchandise for the festival; I got two posters.

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The exhibition space.

One of the posters I got.

One of the posters I got.

We then headed outside across the Place again, this time to the St. Trophime Cloister. You have to buy a ticket to see it, but it’s worth it because the proceeds go towards the intense restoration they are currently doing!

This guy was out on the Place playing stereotypical French songs on the accordion for quite a while!

This guy was out on the Place playing stereotypical French songs on the accordion for quite a while!

Passed while entering the cloister.

Passed while entering the cloister.The cloisterThe cloisterArles2_37smallA beautiful stained glass window in the cloister.A beautiful stained glass window in the cloister.Arles2_39smallArles2_41small

Now I realize this is an incredibly long, image-heavy post, but I’m only half way through our day! So, I’m going to split it into two posts. Yeah, it was a really long day. I also didn’t put all of my photos up on here, so I think I’ll put them on Facebook, too! Arles, Part II will be coming soon.

Day 3: Provence

My Wednesday started out not so great. I was awoken by my alarm clock at 5AM after only one hour of sleep. I got ready and tried to force myself to eat, but I felt so sick I could barely force down some cereal. I was running a little behind my intended schedule so I left for the train station on an empty, unhappy stomach.

Paris Gare Lyon

Paris Gare Lyon

I made it there fine with plenty of time before my train track was announced. I spent the entire 4 hour train ride looking out the window, unable to sleep. The French countryside is beautiful and exactly as you imagine it would be. They also have white cows, which I did not know existed!

White cows!

White cows!

Once I arrived at the Avignon station and met up with my Aunt Sue & Chris, we decided to go straight to Arles and save Avignon for Friday morning. On the way, we first stopped at the Pont du Gard. It’s so funny to me that when I learned about this ancient aqueduct in my freshman year art history class, I never imagined I’d actually see it so soon!

Olive trees are everywhere out there!

Olive trees are everywhere out there!

My Aunt & I at the Pont!

My Aunt & I at the Pont!

My Aunt & Chris

My Aunt & Chris

On the bridge.

On the bridge.

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Phone panorama

Phone panorama

It is an amazing structure, but I was more surprised at all there is to do around the Pont. I thought you could just drive up to it and look at it, but there is actually a whole museum and touristy shopping/eating area. More impressive was the large amount of French people who go there to kayak and swim in the water around the it. If I had known, I would have brought my swimming suit! It looked beautiful and clear, and it is also pretty shallow.

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Another favorite surprise was this beautiful building. It is not labelled, and as far as I know is only being used as an outdoor cafe. We got giant bottles of water and Magnums here and ate with a magnificent view. I really want to find out more about this building, it should be put to better use!

My future home

My future home

The cafe

The cafe

Awesome porches

Awesome porches

The cafe view

The cafe view

Next, we went to the nearby town of Uzes. We walked around and looked in some of the charming shops. One shop keeper had spent a year in San Diego and knew English pretty well. He was very interesting to talk to, and I thought some of his opinions of America and its cities were accurate and well said.

Got Nutella?

Got Nutella?

A plant shop in Uzes

A plant shop in Uzes

An adorable ceramic shop in Uzes.

An adorable ceramic shop in Uzes.

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Uzes

Uzes

Uzes

A cool mirrored lamp.

A cool mirrored lamp.

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Items in a shop in Uzes

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Uzes

Finally, it was time to go to Arles. At this point I was completely exhausted and starving. We signed in to our hotel across the river, then crossed the bridge into town for something to eat.

City view from across the river.

City view from across the river.

You can see why painters were so entranced by Provence. Look at the lighting and those colors!

You can see why painters were so entranced by Provence. Look at the lighting and those colors!

The sacred temple of martinis? Also, why is there a stone carving in that tree?

The sacred temple of martinis? Also, why is there a stone carving in that tree?

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I love the colorful shutters.

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A private alley.

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Possibly for the photography festival currently happening?

Possibly for the photography festival currently happening?

We ended up at the Place du Forum, home of the Cafe van Gogh.

Cafe van Gogh, subject of the painting Cafe Terrace at Night.

Cafe van Gogh, subject of the painting Cafe Terrace at Night.

We had a yummy meal at a cafe in the Forum, and then after a long day headed back to our hotel to sleep.

A quick shot of the town across the bridge at night.

A quick shot of the town across the bridge at night.

More of Provence is to come over the weekend!