Monday, July 30, 2012

All Points Circle Back to Nice where our French Trip Began and Ends

In Monaco, reflections of two Grand Dames; side entry to Casino Monte Carlo; gardens at the rear.

Hotel lanai overlooking Place Massena and Fontaine du Soleil; Steve's start of his farewell jog.

I start to feel the days hurrying to end, the breath of departure whispering the countdown of remaining moments. Nice calls us back to rekindle our arrival memory and embrace our return. Not done yet, we make a spontaneous decision to grab a bus and head to Monaco, a serpentine trip along the Mediterranean coastal roadway. The Grand Prix road race leaves its residual memories in the way of chain link fencing, stadium seating and road banners, as visual proof of yesterday's event. No particular agenda, we poke around the few city blocks by its ornate casinos and hotels with its heady personages just to say 'we were there'!

Returning to Nice, dusk sets in. I sit in the small bistro chair on our hotel patio peering out over the expansive Place Massena grounded by the captivating fountain, Fontaine du Soleil with its mythological figures, the perfect exclamation point to this trip, a nod to the final night of one last French dream.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Photos & Narrative:
From the theater of Orange to Van Gogh's Arles


At The Place de la République in the center of Arles, the obelisk points to the Heavens, by the stunning Church St Trophime, a silent acknowledgement of a wedding in progress.

Like a chameleon, the city and commune that is Arles has morphed and transitioned over time, blending with, into, through various societal changes and historical adaptations. Footsteps everywhere, people on the move. Zigzagging, narrow streets in the core of the city, life is in a perpetual hub of activity with a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I'm much more interested in Van Gogh's presence here than in the historical stamp although both intertwine, intersect, and weave seamlessly. Posted signage around the city give the viewer a vantage point of where Van Gogh set his easel as the viewer considers the current day setting in juxtaposition. Flanked by the Rhone River, it's a beautiful setting, easy to meander, and to bump into sights along the way or just sit in a local café and watch the world pass by.

Local color: painted shutters down an alley, placards on a museum exterior, pink and blue play peek-a-boo.

Sunset lighting highlights the interior corridors of the Roman arena and amphitheater while youths play soccer and a kid rests.

Travellers ponder their next move; colorful signage; looking through a restaurant window.

Our hotel terrace; painted wall mural in town; a busy street scene.

A town entry point welcomes with a symbolic plaque; Van Gogh's yellow café at Place de Forum looks almost identical as in 1888; rooftops and flowers.


The Roman theater at Orange, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its intact rear wall continues to impress. Performances are still presented in its ample stadium seating area.

Photos inside Orange theater and a staircase scene.

Photos & Narrative:
The "Rocky Spur" that is Les Baux-de-Provence

Le Château des Baux, fortified castle built in the 10th c.

The Château seen from an upper promintory; view of wild flowers; scenes of the lower town.

Looking down into the valley; the upper area from the edge of the plateau; a reenactment.

Why I can't trust Steve with a camera! The MOST delicious coffee at Café Au Porte Mages.

Steve & Paula pose for photos around Les Baux; Steve tries bull meat... and that's no bull!


Set high atop the Alpilles mountains surrounded by countryside is the ancient and remarkable pinnacle that is Les Baux-de-Provence. Its Provençal name means "rocky spur" and that it is! Remnants of habitation date back to a mind-boggling 6,000 years BC with the site dominated and controlled by different factions over time. Nowadays, it's a splendid rocky summit and plateau comprised of a town with shops in the lower section rising up to a flat plateau and culminating further up to the destroyed castle, its brokenness a powerful testament to the backlash from Cardinal Richelieu's 1632 response to the town's bold Protestant attempt at revolt.

I'd describe Les Baux as 'where Masada meets Petra and a little of SW Native American' landscape thrown in as well, as evidenced by its impressive rock and massive cliffs, white washed in a brilliant sun like a lunar landscape, smoothed surfaces with swiss cheese style holes, deep valleys scraped away below into geometric patterns of vineyards, olive trees and other pastoral/farming concerns. A note of interest: the aluminum ore, Bauxite was discovered here in 1821, its name drawn from this village!

Wandering Les Baux takes an entire day. Exposed, the May sun, although not summer-strong, is fierce upon my skin. Despite this, how can I not rise to the highest point? Go to the medieval reenactment? Meander upon the expansive plateau feeling like a rock climber in a Master Card commercial? Touch the flag pole and gaze into distant Alpilles? Included in our roamings was a splendid aerial tour video of the sights of SE France inside the chapel, visiting the museum, as well as a quick look-see at the photo exhibit of 20th c French photographer Lucien Lorelle. Time to people watch is mandatory as we ate at the picturesque Café Au Porte Mages, later a cool beer at an outdoor umbrella'd pub.

Open topped cistern awaits the next rainfall; small chapel on site.

A flag waves from a high point of the château; the chapel; a local shop entices customers.

Black & White photo display by renown French photographer Lucien Lorelle.

Artful decor outside the small museum; Life among the ruins.

Looking down at the lower village shops from up high; Finding Roman ruins in the outskirts of Les Baux.

Olive grove and local farmhouse flanking Roman aqueduct and mill at an obscure pastoral area in Barbegal (near Les Baux).