Europe 2012: Day 47 — Arles, Roussillon, Gordes, and the Sunflower Fields of Provence

View when leaving Gordes, France.

Monday, July 23, 2012  

Wake at 9:00am.   It is sunny and breezy in Arles!

Even though our hotel is on the wrong side of the river, it is very quiet.   We like that!  Also, the hotel staff is also very accommodating – they are always happy to call us a taxi when we need one!

Today was have a guided tour planned in the afternoon.   But this morning, we plan to see a couple of other sites in Arles.   One of this sites is the Church of St. Trophime.

We were not able to see the Church on Saturday because it was closed for a wedding.  Today we arrived at the Church around 10am and it was closed for a funeral.   An hour later we returned (after getting a coffee and a croissant at a near café), and we were turned away because the church was too crowded!  Sooo, we waited ten minutes and we were finally allowed to enter.

The first thing I noticed about this church was that it was dark with thick heavy stone pillars supporting the domed roof.   It lacked the “lacy look” of other churches we have seen.   It also had fewer stained glass windows – but the few windows it had made quite an impact.

The doors of the Church of St. Trophim (Arles, France).

Arch above the door of the Church of St. Trophime (Arles, France)

You could spend hours just studying the door of Church of St. Trophime (Arles, France)

My DH says that this guy reminds him of himself. There is a resemblance.

Inside the Church of St. Trophime (Arles, France)

Inside the Church of St. Trophime (Arles, France)

Stained glass windows of the Church of St. Trophime (Arles, France)

After the church, we visited the Arles Cryptoporticus right across the square.    There is not much to say about crypts other than that they are dark and damp, just like these.  The Arles Cryptoporticus date from the 1st century BC.

A dark, damp, and empty place!

Anna looking at walls in the dark.

We bought a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch.   We also attempted to buy some cookies at a small store nearby.   We were able to find the cookies quickly but found ourselves stuck behind two other customers in line at the cashier.   After the cashier rang up the items of the first customer, the customer incredibly realized that she didn’t have enough money and was slowly removing things from her bill.   Once that ordeal was over, the second customer’s credit card did not seem to work.   Being already late to meet our tour, we left the cookies on the counter and rushed out of the store.    We would just have to face the day without cookies.  Unbelievable!

We were five minutes late.  The other four tourists on the tour were not pleased, they were waiting for us with daggers in their eyes.  However, eventually we warmed up to our fellow tourists – an older couple from Australia, and another couple (Gloria and Peter) from Oakland, CA .  Gloria is a gardener and we talked to her quite of bit about growing vegetables.  She and Peter also have a impressive travel history, having been to many strange and wonderful places that I can’t remember right now!   We hope to see them back in California sometime.

Overall, we were disappointed by the tour.   Emily, our tour guide, was nice and had lots of facts about the region of Provence.  However, we like the stories and she had none!   Also, we didn’t see the Lavender Fields due to the small print we overlooked in the brochure – July is harvest season for the Lavender, there are simply are no mature lavender fields to be seen right now.  Here are some pictures from our tour of Roussillon and Gordes:

The town of Roussillon, France.  This was a small town without a lot to see.  However, we did try the Lavender Ice Cream which was very, very good!

Roussillon, France is known for its orange rock. Fortunately, my DH did find a store and finally bought his cookies.  He was a minute late for our tour’s departure but the  cookies (two packs of wafer cookies with a chocolate filling) were worth it!

View from inside the hilltop town of Gordes, France.

View of the tallest tower in Gordes, France.

One of the round towers of the castle in Gordes, France.

However, Emily did stop the mini-bus next to a field of sunflowers – that sort of made up for the lack of Lavender fields.  Many thanks to Gloria for asking!

Sunflowers are a big industry in southern France — they are used to make sunflower oil.

We arrived back in Arles around 7pm.   We went back to our favorite café with the free WiFi and checked our emails.   We were not hungry since we ate two larger sandwiches late in the day.   So we just did a final walk through Arles to take a last look and caught a taxi  back to our hotel on the wrong side of the Rhone.

Arles is a nice city – small enough to get to know in a couple of days and yet large enough to keep you busy.   The people we met here – from hotel manager, to the tourist on the tour, to the guy that speaks eight languages at the corner store – were very nice and made our stay worthwhile.

Quote of the day:  “When are we seeing the Lavender fields?” — Gloria to the tour guide.