Sunday, January 13, 2013

Provence, Day Seven - Les Baux, St. Remy and Remaining Flexible

My favorite panda shot. Arles buildings and walls are behind me.
We made sure to vist the Arles Antique Museum before leaving town. It preserves the best of the city's antiquities in a climate controlled environment. This was where the vast collection of Roman statues, mosaics, funeral art, and interestingly, yards of lead pipes that carried water throughout Arles, was on display. It was certainly a highlight for me, filling in the historical gaps of the city's Roman period. 

Getting there was fairly straightforward, following newly marked paths. In fact, paint machinery and stencils stood nearby, as if the work was just completed.

We weaved around vehicle bumpers and a few pedestrians.

The area in the ceiling provided daylight and air for bike path users.
Patty, Michele, and I missed a turn, and because the museum stood near the Rhone River we suddenly found ourselves funneled into a cement enclosed path. Intriguingly, traffic whizzed overhead through a daylight channel. We realized that we were pedaling exclusively on a lower deck bike path, crossing the wide river. The diversion was not without its merit though. Interesting graffiti lined the walls and we rode to the end—just because we could—before doubling back to locate the museum.

Modern aqueducts.
Day six on the bikes proved we were in good physical shape, in tune with each other's riding style, allowing personal space when needed, yet regrouping at crossroads to stick together. We were in the groove.

Leaving Arles by late morning, again we took to the back roads. I was surprised by use of modern aqueducts, the sounds of water evident as we cruised along.

A short while later we stopped to inspect the Roman variety.

The stones went a good distance, and had the undergrowth been less dense, it would be a pleasant walk along its length. No telling how far the aqueduct stretched into the horizon.

Entering Paradou. Photo credit: Patty
Onward through Paradou, then we climbed steadily. It was pretty hot. We gobbled down water, spinning in the granny gears until topping out at Les Baux. This is a popular tourist attraction for those doing the Arles-Avignon circuit. Parking lots were full, but the perks of arriving by bicycle meant we could lock our transportation anywhere.

I think mine's the chocolate one (what else?) Photo credit: Patty
Les Baux is split into two regions: upper uninhabitable ruins and lower quaint and narrow stone streets with gift shops, art galleries, and restaurants. We needed fortification before heading higher. Ice cream cones all around!.

The 50th birthday duo. (one of my favorite vacation photos) Thanks, Michele!
Photo credit: Michele
I admired Patty's tote bag. Who wouldn't?
We walked among the tourist crush, yet I never felt claustrophobic. The wide open sky, the Provencal heat, seemed to absorb sound on the shaded pedestrian streets. In some respects, I felt more comfortable in crowded places, especially if a proprietor rattled in French and I dumbly stared back. This way I observed architecture, paintings, or tourist kitsch without feeling like all eyes were on me.

View of upper uninhabited village.
We paid a fee and grabbed English audio tour devices. It seemed that most people headed off in numerical order so I set out in a different direction for time alone. I have a one hour attention span when it comes to museums and such, so I couldn't possibly endure the entire sequence. I wandered, tuning in when something captured my fancy.

Immediately, I headed high for eastward views. Only a day earlier, we'd skirted the distant white ridge to end the day at Arles.

Looking backward provided views of lower, lively Les Baux. Rock ridge lines extended vast distances west and north. We'd yet to encounter such sweeping views on our adventure. Mesmerizing.

I clambered around the rocks, finding fossils of shells, a pigeon cote, remains of a chapel now supported by  Princess Grace's estate. I waited my turn to climb time-worn narrow stairs that led along the ramparts. The last thing I did was sit in a dark renovated church near the entrance, ostensibly to get relief from the sun. A 10 minute video of Provence's highlights looped, displaying aerial views with simple captions. It was fantastic! I met up with Patty and Michele and recommended they see it.

This last act provided our minds with fodder. Could we extend our riding, detouring some as we headed towards Avignon? Tarascon and Beaucaire Castle were within reasonable distance.

We thought about this as we got back on the bikes and climbed more switchbacks. Most of the auto traffic followed a different route. It was an easy ascent and we stopped briefly on the pine covered summit. I loved the higher climate, the smell, the breeze, weaving around the rocks—actually I wished it would be roller coaster riding from there on—but unexpectedly we coasted for miles, dropping more elevation that I thought possible.

I'm sure Michele was happier, though. She seemed daunted by hills, visibly disappointed. I've got to hand it to her. She might have crawled at a snail's pace, but she always endured and never gave up. Eventually, we found a nice bike path that brought us into St. Remy.

It's a sleepy village, quintessential Provence with central square, cobbled streets. St. Remy is touted as a must-see in guide books and often on guided bike tour itineraries. I couldn't fathom it's appeal—not after visiting Arles and Avignon. Yet, under different circumstances—say a midst a festival—it's charm would surely shine.

Day One - Avignon
Day Two - Fontaine de Vaucluse
Day Three - Gordes, Roussillon, and Oh, Those Hills
Day Four - Saignon, Ingenuity and the Descent into Aix en Provence
Day Five - Aix en Provence to Salon
Day Six - Adventures in Arles
Day Seven - Les Baux, St. Remy
Day Eight - Tarascon Castle
Day Nine - Chateauneuf du Pape and Avignon

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for these fascinating stories and images ,Ms Bikes.I'm really starting to get itchy feet and wonder if the Bullitt would work as a tourer.Keep em coming.


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