Friday, September 17, 2021

France 2021, Day 8, Arles

An early start with chocolate croissants (and chatting with a nice couple from Nashville) before we boarded a bus for Arles. Our tour guide was a cheerful British woman named Shawn who has lived in Nimes for many years and was pleased to hear we had enjoyed our visit. She told us there were three important aspects to Arles: its Roman history, its connection with Vincent Van Gogh, and its recent development as a major modern art hub.
Inside the Arena at Arles

Thursday, September 16, 2021

France 2021, Day 7, to Avignon and the Buri

On Sunday morning we got up early to visit the Nimes cathedral in which David hides in chapter 5 of Madam, Will You Talk? The Nimes nightlife had gone on late but the narrow streets near the Arena were quiet now and just as we reached the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor de Nimes a verger (if they still exist) unlocked it so we were able to go inside. The cathedral is believed to stand on the site of the former temple of Augustus. It is partly Romanesque and partly Gothic in style. St. Castor was a local bishop from Marseilles and Apt (a Provencal town in the Luberon mountains) who started out as a lawyer, proving there's redemption for anyone!
Not the most impressive cathedral from the outside

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

France 2021, Day 6, Nimes (part two)

The afternoon’s trip to Pont du Gard ended well but was nearly a disaster. We found the bus stop described by the tourism official quite easily and bought our train tickets to Avignon for the following day while we were waiting. The bus itself was very hot and full of noisy children but it was only half an hour’s ride. However, when the bus driver said, “Pont du Gard!” and dropped us off, we found ourselves in a town called Remoulins and a trickle of a river that wouldn’t have impressed many Romans (ancient or modern), although there were some families picnicking and wading on this hot Saturday.
My mother is curious about this tree
we keep seeing

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

France 2021, Day 6, Nimes (part one)

We were at the Nimes Tourism Office before it opened at 9 am to seek advice about visiting the Pont du Gard, which is between Nimes and Avignon. It is a majestic feat of ancient Roman engineering – an aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD to carry water from the Alps to the Roman colony of Nemausus, which became known as Nimes. Nimes is also the birthplace of denim: fabrice de Nimes; get it? The tourism expert looked up the bus schedule for us and said told us to go at 1:40 pm and return at 4 pm, marking the bus schedule for us carefully. This sounded like it would work well with our plan to attend Mass at St. Baudile’s at 5:30 (note: if this saint is venerated - or even known - by a large number of Catholics, it is a surprise to me but his story would appeal to my former professor, Gary Francione).
The Maison Carrée

Monday, September 13, 2021

France 2021, Day 5, on the way to Nimes

I knew Friday would be the most stressful day and I am happy to report that we survived and I only became enraged once or twice. Fortunately, the taxi arrived promptly at the hotel door and we didn’t have to walk a kilometer down the hill with our luggage in the rain (my mother was sure her wheeled suitcase would take off with her clinging for dear life – I pointed out this would be one way to arrive quickly). He brought us to Avallon, a town 20 kilometers away on the River Cousin, which some feel could have been the Avalon of King Arthur. There were no knights of the Round Table or anything else at the Gare, which, most unfortunately for us, was closed for renovation.
The Arena in Nimes, which still
hosts bullfights!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

France 2021, Day 4 - Vézelay

My mother had set her heart on visiting Vézelay Abbey, a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay, a remote part of Burgundy. It was built in the 12th century and is now known as the 
Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (Mary Magdalene) (if I had time I would explain to you that she was not a prostitute, as many have implied - that is all spiteful legend, probably started by Apostles who didn't want their all-boy fan club disrupted - but I can’t charge my laptop at this hotel so the so-to-speak clock is ticking). I must have done the search for trains or other transportation 50 times (hoping for different results) and I also emailed the tourist office in Vézelay, which politely told me (in French) their village was lovely but difficult to visit without a car. So not helpful! I was tempted a dozen times to tell my mother we just couldn’t squeeze it into our trip but I finally figured out logistics that would be stressful but might just work if some Good Samaritan would call us a taxi or two. I decided the best time to travel to V
ézelay was between Paris and Provence because after our cruise we will want to take our Covid tests and leave as speedily as possible, even though it is closer to Lyon where our cruise ends. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

France 2021, Day 3

Every day in France should be a chocolate croissant day – and today was! After breakfast, we took advantage of our two-day unlimited Metro pass and headed off to the Musée D’Orsay.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

France 2021, Day 2

France has mandated a Pass Sanitaire (a health pass) to enable access to cultural venues, such as museums, as well as all restaurants and bars, for employees as well as customers (it was smart - now 77% of those eligible are vaccinated). I tried very hard to get these in time for our trip, uploading our documents several times. The requirements kept changing and there were no explanations, only an automatic receipt. Last week I read the government was weeks behind in processing applications and tourists might have to take a Covid test every 72 hours. As there were several cultural destinations planned for our three days in Paris, I decided to test our luck at the Musée D’Orsay, a day in advance of our ticketed visit. The first guard consulted said we could not get in without the Pass but his nicer colleague, when I crept back a few minutes later and waved my vaccine card, said we could just show our documentation. This tracked to online advice I had seen to be polite but persistent, asking for a manager if necessary, and it has worked for us since.  It is startling to be asked by our waiters for our Pass, however, especially when eating outside. but we are glad everyone is taking precautions.