A little sadly we packed up and scrubbed the deck, then handed back the key and were on the way to Arles.

The closer we came to Beziers, the warmer it got. By the time we arrived there the sun was shining and the sky blue. We stopped at Hotel Alma again to collect our sim card, but it hadn’t arrived, so reluctantly we moved to a café on the town square and had coffees and chocolate croissants, soaking up the sun after the cool winds on the upper canal.

On the way to Arles Austin, Eva and I fell fast asleep, so Mario had to drive a sleeping compartment to Arles. We just woke up in time to add to the confusion of trying to find the hotel among tiny, one way lanes of the old city. Had to abandon the car and found Hotel Regence around the corner at the bank of the Rhone and basically adjoining the town wall. A great spot, with free parking in front, helpful receptionist, clean rooms with aircon and about 5 minutes from the Arena and other sites. After a short rest we explored the arena, town square, many very narrow picturesque lanes and found the Place de Forum with its crammed street cafes and had dinner next to the Café La Nuit of van Gogh’s street café painting "Le Café Le Soir". I tried the famous French fish soup (because my brother said I had to) and despite not being a fish lover, it was very tasty.

On the way back we stumbled over the Ancient Amphitheatre, the Hotel de Ville on the Place Rebublique and some other van Gogh’s sites, like the yellow house.


Nice to sleep in a wider bed again, although I almost missed the sound of the bilge pump, creaking of the floor boards at every movement and the way too close noises from the adjoining cabin on the boat.

Not being “real tourists” although we ignored pedestrian lights just like tourists stepping off Manly Beach, we petit-dejeuned in a local hang-out with the best café crème. From there we observed the great spectacle of frenzied French drivers and delivery trucks blocking each other in the intersections of the tiny lanes with exclamations I can’t repeat here.

Today we toured around Arles a little more organized, walked around the cloister, the ancient theatre, the jardin d’eté with the bust of van Gogh and the hospital where he spent some time in. From there the walk lead to the Place de la République with it’s roman obelisk which used to be the center of the Arles Roman Circus and the Romanesque St. Trophime Church and Hotel de Ville.

A short stop at our hotel to pack a picnic lunch of left-overs from the canal trip plus extra water bottles and we were off to Les Baux. We had our lunch on the deserted central car park of Paradou surrounded by shady trees and park benches and managed to polish off the rest of the kilos of cheese we had purchased along the way and which now sit nicely around our hips.

The landscape changed from rural farms and vinyards to limestone hills of cavernous appearances the residual of old quarries (the name Les Baux originates from the bauxite which was mined there) and approached the amazing castle high above the valleys with the adjoining village.

The size and heights become even more astonishing as you breathlessly after climbing the stairs enter the castle ruins. Some rooms, stables, towers are standing quite intact and when you climb into one of the towers or onto the remaining wall you get a birdseye view of most of the Provence. Very goose bumpy to imagine that one of the Lords of Les Baux in 11th century forced unransomed prisoners to jump of the walls. In the 17th century the infamous Cardinal Richelieu on the order of Louis XIII had destroyed most of the castle.

The village is a typical tourist trap with one shop after the other. An exhibition shows photos of Grace Kelly at the time she first met Prince Rainer.  Her visit to Les Baux was an important event to give the area and extra lift. The Monaco Royal family once owned the castle and the chapel is still owned by Prince Albert. 

© Austin Robinson 2019