leaving L’Isle sur la Sorgue – with regrets, with unfinished business – to Arles – featuring J. THE ANTIPRODUCT & Van Gogh’s own pharmacie – to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer & welcome Abrivado

Leaving L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was again difficult, because of course we’d not really got to know our hosts, C. B. and M.-C. R. And we hadn’t really got to know our town, but we spent the morning, until midday, scooting around, over the canals and past the water-wheels, using the internet access at Geco, waiting for Q.’s photos to be printed. For some reason they had not been already. And checking out the small market, produce and clothes, which we’d not expected to find.

C. was due to meet us at midday. We scurried home, having earlier packed and cleared out and cleaned; having also had the mischance of breaking one of those silly under-table glass shelves, part of the outdoor suite, which we’d not actually used, because of the mistral, had only moved in order to clean.

Trepidation, then, that there’d be an additional cost on top of our rental for the breakage. C., when he arrived, was wonderfully understanding. We got to talking. He seemed in no hurry to shoot off. Turned out he is a professional musician, trumpeter and singer. We talked about Rene Char. Also turned out he knew someone who knows Mme Char well and he promised to ask, having not himself heard about the closure of the Rene Char museum.

C.’s saving up to buy a music venue. He said to me, Next time you come, bring a play!

Possibly as far-fetched for me as for him, a rugby fan, coming to NZ for the World Cup.

We visited Arles on the way to our next stop, Les St.es Maries de la Mer. Arles, why? Our guide-book recommended the Fondation Van Gogh, on the Arenes, Arles’s own arena, like Nimes’s. We circled the Arenes. Descended the hill to Hotel de Ville. Saw the extraordinary carved facade of St. Trophime. But the Fondation was not to be found.

Transpired that it had closed. A week before. Is there a wave of closures of sites of cultural interest preceding us?

We took an espresso, and walked through the really charming lanes of Arles, again, down as far at the Rhone, then back. Just really sucking in the atmosphere. Lively. Happy. Not like Carpentras. After having made those notes about Gallic vs. Ligurian culture, more Ligurian. Happier. And better style. Possibly even than Avignon. Lots of young people around. Hanging. Lots of schools and colleges and institutes of higher learning. And bands of students moving in schools like dark fish.

Straight through to St.es Maries de la Mer. Not far. Our first glimpses of flamingos and Camargue grey horses, en masse, since stable after stable offer rides to tourists – a major industry. And the particular architecture of the houses of the gardiens, thatched cabins, with thick mud walls. The latter presumed.

The street whereon our hotel was situated proved impossible to find. Because it was impossible to drive, completely closed, we found after several fraught circuits of the town, for resurfacing.

We walked in, met the man. The man showed us the room. Pokey. We made excuses. He made none for the difficulty of getting in. And did not offer us free parking, but a pay per night of seven euros. Not much, but we felt put out, which he wouldn’t in the least recognise. His first line to us had in fact been, There’s works out the front.


I feel like writing, Typically.

From place to place, hotel to hotel, down the front, and ringing around trying to find a room. Those available were vomit-making in style, if cheap enough – sub 100, the night – or else nausea-inducing in price. Our last port of call, where we have ended up, the Abrivada. A corner room, a carousel out the window. Sunset. And an excellent dinner of local oysters, from L’Etang de Tau, fish caught fresh, a sort of Alfonsino, called a Rouge; and a stew of local beef, a la Gardienne. Accompanying wine, from Arles. Nice sec. The best service we’ve had in France. Young guys but serious about the business.

Q. got the menu enfant, fries and bun-less burger, salad. Haha! he said. Not much salad! Followed by caramel ice-cream.

An altogether different place in so short a time travelling. Inside tonight, because the mistral may have subsided, but the mosquitoes are out.