Avignon, Arles and Bastille Day

Trip Start Mar 27, 2010
Trip End Aug 11, 2010

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Flag of France  , Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur,
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

As Nathalie and friends had already visited Avignon we decided that we would head there alone the next day and meet them all in the evening at Manade Blanc. Mum has often sung the song 'Sur le Pont d'Avignon’ to the girls so this one was a ‘must do’ for us (especially as we were so close to this famous city).  Car parking in cities is rather challenging for us and Avignon was no exception!  We finally found a park on the other side of the river and decided to bike over the road bridge to get to the ‘Pont d’Avignon’.  This famous bridge only goes half way across the river (the other half was destroyed).  We took turns to go out onto the bridge so we could watch the bikes (we forgot our locks!).  It was fun to hear the commentary including information on the famous song (which dates back to the 17th century).  Molly wasn’t happy to discover that they actually did not dance on the bridge (it was too narrow) but under it on the sides of the river!!

Our next excitement of the day was when we headed back down to Manade Blanc.  We joined an organised evening at the property which included hopping on a huge trailor towed by a tractor and out onto the property.  Various members of the ‘Blanc’ family then demonstrated how they manage the bulls on horseback rounding them up and controlling them with various manouvres.  It was pretty impressive especially when you see the anger on the bulls faces!  They also showed us where they grow rice and other crops and explained how they rotate the bulls and crops and how they control the irrigation of the fields by a series of channels running from the Rhone River (no wonder there are mosquitos here!).  It was fascinating but very hot and we were all very happy to head inside (yes there was air con!) to have dinner.  Great meal – bull terrine, bull salami, salad, followed by bull casserole and rice (all grown on the farm).  We finished with cheese and ice cream and it was all washed down with some local wines and liqueurs.  We had a great night together and luckily didn’t need to drive as we had set up the camper next to the gite.  We went to sleep (difficult and sticky) to the sound of crickets, frogs and bull bells (like cow bells!)

We decided to spend Bastille Day as the French would.  We headed to a local village in the morning to watch the ‘running of the bulls’ Camague style.  It was basically a street event showing how they herded and controlled bulls with horses.  It was held in the main street of the town with large barriers separating the people from the horses and bulls.  It’s seems to be an opportunity for the local youths to show off their bravado as several of them were inside the barriers trying to touch the bulls, hold their tails and ‘ski’ behind them (scary stuff).  We stayed well behind the barriers!

After a late lunch together outdoors (luckily there was a lovely afternoon breeze) we all headed into Arles to look around the old city and watch the 14th July fireworks over the river.  It was stifling hot as we wandered around the old city passing Arle’s equivalent to the colloseum, an ancient roman theatre, roman baths and other interesting buildings.  Unfortunately our dinner was a bit of a disaster (I think holiday pressure was on) but it passed the time until we headed to the river to secure a space to watch the fireworks.  It was still really sticky and hot but the wait was worthwhile.  Molly was rather exuberant about the display (mostly done from speedboats going up the river).  We thought it was pretty impressive as well (way longer and bigger than the displays we get at home).

The next morning it was sadly time to head away from Camargue and say goodbye to Ann Marie, Hugo and Julianne.  Pierre-Yves, Nathalie and Felix joined us for a visit to the hillside town of Les-Baux-de-Provence followed by lunch at the camper.  We said our farewells – thanks Nathalie and Pierre-Yves for a great and memorable few days – we loved it.  We are looking forward to next time we catch up.

Our next excitement for the day was visiting the nearby ‘Cathedral of Images’.  An old quarry (basically a a massive cave area where large blocks of stone were excavated to build the hillside town hundreds of years ago) has been used to stage the most amazing AV presentation that we have ever seen.  This year the subject is ‘Australia’ and the director spent many year filming images and footage around Australia.  The result is a multi screen presentation with loads of images and moving footage being simultaneously projected on the interior walls and floor of this massive cave (quarry).  The effect is stunning and was all the more moving for us being Australia!  We were all really taken with what had been achieved. 
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Sally Brasell on

So when did you ALL become Australian???

Sue on

Loved hearing about Avignon - should have told you about parking outside the wall. Great to see Nathalie and Pierre Yves and the boys looking so fit.

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