I didn’t realise how much an umbilical cord wifi was until I didn’t have it. Part of the reason to stay in a more expensive place in Arles was the guaranteed supply of ‘connection’, even if it wasn’t of the pilgrim kind. I had made a commitment to blog – this pilgrim walks and works, but I reasoned with myself that I could simply let this go at any time. Having secured this digital service though, I felt a little relieved, and even capable of taking in some of the sites on offer in the afternoon, despite my heat stroke and nagging headache.
I noticed on the Arles map from the Tourist Office, that the pilgrim trail was marked by a dotted line which began at Les Alyscamp (yes, the word is related to Champs Elysees). It was hot walking there, still 36C I’m sure, but the short-term pain was worth it to begin the pilgrimage in the ‘right’ place. In reality it is just a stop on the way, as I could easily be travelling in the opposite direction towards Rome along two different routes. The ‘right’ way is relative, and always personal.
I had learned earlier, that a credential permits one to have reduced admission to certain monuments, so I hopefully asked about it being reduit pour la pelerin. It was free with this little card, so out it came, and voila, I have the most stunning tampon (stamp – if you’re wondering). It was the best one yet. I wondered whether all the ancient UNESCO sites similarly honoured the lowly spiritual seeker. I realised that while I hadn’t actually entered any of the other sites in Arles, in my circular wanderings on my arrival, I had passed by nearly all of them – getting bamboozled by the largest circular one in the centre. Unlike Colleen McCullough, ancient Rome, and Romans are not so much my thing, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t enter.
It is a cemetery of sorts, and I love cemeteries. This one is a double whammy – Roman and early Christian. It has a whole collection of heavy sarcophagi (minus lids), that line the avenue towards the slightly decrepit Saint Honorat’s church. They looked like boats, long relieved of their precious cargo in the Elysian Fields, left sitting high and dry at dock. As a side note, in this church, there were speakers installed and they played abstract, atmospheric music. I found it a really interesting addition to an historic site.
Reading from the information boards at the entrance, I learned about Saint Genest who was an Arlesian martyr buried in the South-East edge of the necropolis where the church stands now. He was a clerk and had refused to sign death sentences during the period of persecutions in the reign of Emporer Dece – what a dude! Van Gogh also immortalised the place with his ‘Les Alyscamps’ painting of the pines.
The route to the chapel at the end of the arcade was lined with pencil pines, a favourite of the cigale (cicada) and the pulsing song, the natural pine-o-clean smell and heat made for sensory overload. I was to find that these creatures are celebrated in this region. When they fill tall trees, the sound is almost deafening, yet the locals proudly display ceramic effigies of this insect on their houses. Leaving the site, I decided to wander along the Compostelle route back to my hostel – conveniently located on it. To top off my visits, I decided to visit L’eglise de Saint-Trophime where I sat for a bit attempting to salve my headache, unsuccessfully. It was a glum church, as many are, and I cried a little with the overwhelment of the day. It is lucky that Ganesha made an appearance in stencil form on my walk back to my hebergement for the evening.