Posted by: ilanasmith | July 5, 2007

En Provence

I’m not a big fan of crowds.  So little seems worth hundreds or thousands of people consuming availability, driving up prices, impeding passage.  You’ll never see me in Munich in October or in white in Pamplona.
In May and June, Denmark has a series of holidays which, if interpreted liberally, result in a bunch of long weekends more or less in a row.  I tee’d up all-sorts of fun stuff to do.  Sheer embarrassment prevents me from dislosing why I didn’t end up in Barcelona in May as planned, and stupid TechEd in stupid Florida in why I didn’t end up spending a June weekend in Prague, but I did manage to make it to the south of France for a lovely couple of days.  Unbeknownst to me, however, I managed to pick the one weekend where the Cannes Film Festival overlapped with the Monaco Grand Prix, and brought a Nimes feria and some sort of art thing in Aix along for the ride.
Needless to say, when I hit the Marseilles airport, and they’d lost my car reservation and had nothing available for days, things did not look good.  The problem did get fixed though (let’s say “through force of personality”) and I proceeded to belt about Provence and the like.
Beth’s characterization of Marseilles as a ‘terrible crumbling place’ meant I didn’t tarry long in that town.  I shot off to Carcassone to peer at medieval turrets for awhile (has Europe spoiled me that I feel cheated by 150 year old reproductions?), before toddling on back to Arles for the night.  Arles is a great city to wander around.  Some artist once lived there and painted the stuff when he wasn’t chopping off key parts of his own body – it can be fun wandering into a famous painting.
From Arles to Nimes to dodge a feria and peer at a Roman arena, to Pont du Gard to look at other old Roman business, to Avignon to stare at a pope’s palace, and a bridge and curse a catchy tune, through St Tropez and Cannes all along the Cote d’Azur to a night in Nice.  Which is nice enough, and the Salad Nicoise definitely worth it.
From Nice, I ventured into Monaco, missing the race by a day so I got to drive the course in my sporty Kia roller-skate as they packed it up around me.  At that point, my itinerary mostly ran dry, so I spent the day ambling back through Provencal countryside, admiring the grapevines and murderous sky.  My last night I spent in Aix-en-Provence, which seems to be a lovely city with gorgeous tree-lined streets that on a stormy day are a bit gloomy and ominous.  The weird confrontational dude in the street who almost pushed me down didn’t help my impression, though I did buy a great hat.

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