Whole lotta Arles

There’s a whole lotta Arles going on outside, but all I want to do is sleep.

Rhino

Rhino

My day started at 4.30am when I decided I wasn’t going to get any more sleep and instead arose to pack my backpack.  My train from Paris left right on the dot of 6.20 (TGV, in my experence are extremely punctual), and I sped south to Avignon, accompanied by a loud Charlie Hebdo reader. Her friends were trying to shut her up, but her repartie with the cameraman across the isle went on regardless.  I wish I understood French better because I think the conversation would have been entertaining. Getting out of the train, the humidity and heat hit me. The next leg from Avignon to Arles was a little quieter, although the soundtrack was selected by a reggae-loving, dreadlocked, Rasta man.  It felt rather more like a FNQ (far north Queensland) backpackers than southern France, but at least the bus was cool.

I usually wander in ever decreasing circles when I first land in a new town.  Unfortunately my navigation abilities were severely hampered by juggling a map, water and a heavy back-pack. That and the fact that Arles has an arena meant I walked far too far for a hot day, and I was fast getting a headache, as I do on days like these.

"But the bull is not killed like in Spain"

“But the bull is not killed like in Spain”

There are so many things to do in this town.  If history is your thing, you can choose from almost dozens of UNESCO listed sites ranging from the Roman to the Medieval, some both. Of course, you could attend a ‘bull fight’ – the thing to do in this region – apparently. You could wander through the streets checking out the annual Pholographic Exhibition or if you prefer paintings, a whole musee devoted to Van Gogh.  Your other option, as I did, was to just amble around, looking lost, with a heavy backpack taking lots of photos of walls.  Sorry Melbourne, you haven’t got a patch on some of these beauties!

Urban shooter

Urban shooter


This and that

This and that

So after getting my credential – the little passport for the Arles Route which entitles the holder to pilgrim-priced accommodation and some cheaper meals cheaper I thought I was set. I consulted Miam Miam Dodo and the Confraternity of St James guide, and started ringing phone numbers. After 4 attempts, with broken French and still no room for the night, I was starting to get desperate. There was the youth hostel, but it was a fair way out of town, and I didn’t fancy dragging myself avec backpack all that way. My last option, which was just next to the arena was La Maison du Pelerin … et du voyageur.  The last bit, ‘et du vogageur’ was the key.  I was surrounded by people just there for the cheap price. Not one pilgrim in sight. It disappointed me a little.

Where are the pelerin?

Where are the pelerin?

My roommates were friendly, two French women there for the photography, and a woman from Shanghai doing general touring.  If I was a normal European, or tourist, at 7pm, I would have been getting ready to go out. Not this little black duck – I had a shower, and was ready to curl up into a headachy cocoon and sleep forever. I felt somewhat torn, as I would’ve loved to spend time doing any of the activities I’ve listed. I almost felt like I should delay starting by another day, but I remembered one of the values I wanted to cultivate – purposefulness, and decided that I would just have to come back for all the rest Arles had to offer.  Where before I would have tried to see everything I could, even with a headache, maybe it’s time to consider a new way.  An unfolding, slower, ambling rather than marching way perhaps.

 

 

 

Via Tolosana – The Arles Camino Route

Having cut my Camino teeth on the leaf-shaped first stretch of the Via Lemovicensis, starting in Vezelay in 2011, I had always wanted to visit again to take a different route.  With a number of Airbnb and Couchsurfing guests visiting from the south of France, my interest in this area grew. I mean everyone raves about the south of France don’t they?  Up until now the draw to France had always been to the North and Lyon was as far south as I had ventured.

But now, with some interesting endings happening in my career and possibly some stars aligning in a new way, I realise it is now time to go a different way of St James – the stomping-ground of Eleanor, the searching switchbacks of the Tour de France and some of the most dramatic French countryside – home of Van Gogh’s sunflowers.  Last trip was en velo, this trip will be à pied.

Please join me on my travels, click ‘Follow’ to get updates straight to your in box, and I’ll share with you what I discover about myself and one of the Camino roads less travelled.

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