|Arles, on the Rhone|
The attendant spoke only French. I spoke none. We struggled to communicate for a moment or two, until a woman, pushing her infant son in a stroller intervened. She was fluent in French and English. From her accent I knew she was American. She acted as translator. I soon held reservations for the next-day train to Barcelona.
Madeleine (kind American ex-patriot) now lived in France where she and her French husband were starting a cooking school. Madeleine and her friend, Emmanuel, the Jewish folk singer, walked me to a nearby hotel where I booked a room, then followed them to Madeleine’s home. There I met Erick (who spoke no English) and beautiful Veronique, Madeleine’s friend. Erick was a chef, trained in the high art of French cuisine. I was treated to a wonderful meal of pasta, tomato salad, bread, cheese, and chocolate. It was a magical travel moment: I broke bread in the home of friendly strangers in a foreign land. We humans surely do have our virtues.
|Emmanuel, Erick, Madeliene, and Veronique|
I thanked them profusely, and then set out to see Arles.
Greeks first established Arles some 600 years before Christ as a little settlement at the confluence of two forks of what men would later call the Rhone River. It was an important point, geographically. They called it Theline. But within 50 years, local nativist sentiments stirred Gauls into kicking out Greek foreigners and grabbing the place for themselves. The Gauls called it Arelate, the name it's had ever since (in one form or another).
Gauls ran the place for quite a while: four hundred years or so. But then the Roman Legions came up from the south. Little dark men in their iron-willed ranks proved too much for undisciplined Gauls. With the Legions came the canal to the Mediterranean and the infrastructure. It's still there today.
|Roman footprint in Arles|
When he made the crossing, Arles faced a decision: join Julius in rebellion or support Pompey and the established Roman power structure.
|Standing on Roman shoulders|
|Recall the day...|
I wandered around the streets, just drinking it all in. I spent a romantic evening in southern France, communing with historical ghosts, walking the streets. I ended up totally lost until I chanced upon a merchant closing shop very late. He eyed me with apprehension as I approached.
"Arles?" I asked, pointing in the direction I believed to be correct.
He smiled. "Arles," he said, pointing in the exact opposite direction.
"Merci," I said, then turned and walked back the way I had come, under the streetlights in the Provençal night.
To be continued...
- Pt. I Amsterdam - Arnhem - Copenhagen
- Pt. II Copenhagen - Oslo
- Pt. III Bergen
- Pt. IV Flam fjord - Goteborg
- Pt. V Stockholm - Gavle - Stockholm
- Pt. VI Berlin
- Pt. VII Prague
- Pt. VIII Budapest
- Pt. IX Vienna
- Pt. X Munich
- Pt. XI Salzberg - Innsbruck
- Pt. XII Venice - Florence
- Pt. XIII Siena
- Pt. XIV Rome
- Pt. XV Naples - Pompeii
- Pt. XVI Cinque Terre - Geneva
- Pt. XVII Avignon
- Pt. XVIII Arles
- Pt. XIX Barcelona
- Pt. XX San Sebastian
- Pt. XXI Bordeaux - St. Lo
- Pt. XXII Paris
- Pt. XXIII Brussels - Waterloo
- Pt. XXIV Brugge
- Pt. XXV Amsterdam at last