Wednesday: Beaune

We left Vichy at about noon and drove to Lyon. There we picked up our daughter who flew from London to go home to the U.S. for the holidays.

The drive was about 2.5 hours, but with pouring rain it took longer. It also took longer because we tried to find a pack-and-ship place so we could send home one big, heavy box so we wouldn’t have to lug it home. We were not successful – the one we found just took prepaid packages – and we may just check it with our luggage. Meanwhile, we were thankful that her flight was on time.

From there (still pouring rain) we drove to Beaune, about two more hours nearer to Paris. We will stay there tonight. So – it was a day in the car, but necessary.

photos; The Christmas tree at Lyon airport; ancient bridges oureside Lyon; the end of the day, in Beaune

Tuesday: Vichy

We had a relaxing Tuesday in Vichy. After a couple of raisin pastries and coffee at a patisserie in the city, we were off to the Hall des Sources. This 1903 building is where the medicinal Vichy water is sourced. The water is said to cure all kinds of ailments and to be good for overall health. There are a few different thermal springs in the city and sourced in the building, but only one of them is accessible to the public. The others are only available with a doctor’s note.

We tried the water. First you have to buy a cup from a machine. It is sort of funny to insert €.25, press a button, and have an empty cup drop out, but that is what happens.

The water is from an ancient-looking faucet and tasted slightly salty, not refreshing. I had read that people fill up bottles there, and they must be forcing themselves to drink the water because really, it was not good.

Next we checked out the old opera house. The building is beautiful and used for all types of performances now. There is nothing scheduled until a dance troupe this weekend.

We had lunch and walked around the park, then went back to where we are staying so that I could attempt to consolidate some of our luggage.

photos: on the doors of the opera house; the Hall des Sources; holiday stars in the park

Monday: Vichy

We drove four hours northwest to Vichy today, a step toward Paris where our car is due back in a week. The massive strikes throughout France leave our exit plans somewhat questionable.

Regardless, we stopped in the town of Vienne, France for a long lunch and then drove on to Vichy – about three hours from Paris. We will spend a few days here and see how things go. The city is busy and nicely lit up for Christmas. We walked around a bit but since it is Monday most stores are closed. We will check them out tomorrow.

photos: Vichy’s entrance to a paet of the city; Vienne, where we stopped for lunch; interesting Julius Caesar chocolate heads being sold in a bakery in Arles this morning.

Sunday: Nimes

We took a side trip from Arles today and drove to Nimes, about a half hour away. Nimes has ancient Roman ruins that are wonderfully preserved and right in the middle of the city.

We visited the Musee des Beaux Arts first, with masterpieces from the 1400s and 1500s, and others from more modern times (1600s to late 1800s). They have a beautiful restored mosaic in the main room, and some interesting sculptures throughout the museum. It was a nice visit.

The amphitheatre was our next stop. It is right in the center of the city and similar to the one in Arles – maybe a little smaller. The arena was used for bullfights, animal fights, and even public executions back in the day and it is still used for bullfights and miscellaneous performances.

We also visited the Carre d’Art, a contemporary art museum which was featuring an exhibit of Peter Friedl’s presentation: Teatro Popular. This exhibit was honoring 18th century Portuguese street performer Dom Roberto. It was an interesting presentation, although the rest of the museum – its very modern permanent collections – were not as appealing especially after seeing the ancient masterpieces earlier.

We ended the day back in Arles and will drive to Vichy in the morning.

photos: a jug from the 1500s at the Museum des Beaux Arts; the Nimes amphitheatre; part of the Peter Friedl exhibit – puppets

Saturday: Arles

Saturday is market day in Arles and the amount of vendors selling everything imaginable is huge. There are baked goods, paella, chicken turning on a rotisserie, and many kinds of fish. Clothing, books, and household supplies are all there, and so are fruits and vegetables. I walked straight down the street for a half hour and still saw more sellers.

I bought a French language Little House on the Prairie and another book that the kind bookseller proudly found for me – a book in English. Not that I needed any more reading material.

We had apple pastries and coffee at the market, then headed to the Arles Archaelogical Museum, where a Roman barge from 50 A.D. was excavated from the Rhone River about 15 years ago. It was hard to believe the boat was found in such great shape although it required three solid years of intense work to preserve and reassemble it.

There was a small Christmas parade through the streets later in the evening, with a horse, bagpipes, Santa, and a snowman who encouraged ne to pose with him and his bear friend.

photos: at the Christmas parade; the Arles-Rhone 3 barge; spices for sale at the market

Friday: Arles

We began to explore the city today, and with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50s, it was a very good day to walk around.

We found a coffee shop near where we are staying and as luck would have it, croissants had just come out of the oven. One of those, plus cappuccino, was the perfect start to Friday.

We walked to Museum Reattu, with art from the 1700s to present day. It had quite a few Picasso sketches and two of his paintings. Most of the more contemporary art was not my favorite: a circle cut in half, an overexposed man’s face, colored rectangles hanging from the ceiling like a middle school art room. But the museum is housed in a very old convent and the building was a treat to walk around.

Next we went to the old Roman amphitheater – actually the ruins of the theater. It is still used for bullfights in April and May, and since it is still generally in its original condition, it was a wonder to see. There were some feral cats sleeping on the stone bleachers, one was walking around and as big as a fox. So I didn’t walk around the entire amphitheater.

photos: a perfect start to the day; gathered paper with glue = not my idea of art; the ancient amphitheater

Thursday: Arles

We left Mantry, France early to drive to Arles. It was only intended as an overnight stop and there was nothing we were interested in seeing there – and didn’t want to wait for shops to open. We had a 4.5 hour drive ahead of us.

It was well below zero Celsius and there was frost all over as we drove south. I tried to assess whether the trucks on the highway were taking part in the strike here today and purposely slowing down – especially as we approached Lyon – or just driving cautiously. It didn’t really matter since there was little traffic on our route. It sounds like Paris is a mess.

We stopped for lunch in Flaviac, a small town on the Rhone River. The staff was so kind to us and I’m sure they rarely have Americans visiting. It was a treat for all of us.

We continued on to Arles and arrived in the late afternoon. After getting settled we checked out the city and will visit some of the many points of interest in the days ahead.

photos: an interesting wall a few miles from Flaviac; the Rhone River in Arles; a pretty area near where we stayed last night in Maltry, France