Well, I am back from my weekend, and loaded with tales to tell. First of all, apparently I am an idiot, because all day Thursday, I thought it was Friday. So when I woke up, I was sure Saturday was Friday. It wasn’t until I had a “Who’s on First,” type of discussion with my host, Mme. W., did I realize that I was a day behind. So it was time to rush, since it is nearly a three-hour train ride to Arles. I threw a bunch of crap in my backpack and headed off to the train station across the street.


While waiting in line, I realized that while I have my toothbrush, a shirt to wear for Sunday and plenty of film, I forgot pajamas. If I had been staying in a hotel, I would have let it slide, but I couldn’t find a hotel room for under 50 Euros (and even then, not a lot was available). As I am not made of money, I reserved a slot at the Youth Hostel. So pajamas are imperative. I figured if I got through the line quickly enough, I could run back to the apartment and grab my PJs. Alas, it was not meant to be, though the woman at the station fed me a discount on my train tickets, and I saved 15 Euros (which was the price of the Youth Hostel, so it was like getting something for free). From my guidebook reading, I knew there was a Monoprix (kind of like a French Target) by the train station, so I figured I’d hit the soldes and pick up something cheap. Plus, I needed toothpaste anyway. It was a plan.


In the States, everyone feels compelled to tell you every little detail you might possibly need to know, as if you’ve just come from another planet. France is the opposite. They assume you know everything there is to know. I mention this because I nearly got off at the wrong stop, which would have sucked royally. I had to change trains in Valence. In case you’re interested, there are two train stations in Valence: the TGV (huge) and the Valence Ville (kind of shabby). We stopped first at the TGV, and I got off. After a quick looksie, I realized that it wasn’t my station. So I hopped back on quickly. It was a nervous 15 minutes, I can tell you that. Valence is not a huge city – why all the train stations? However, my instinct was right, and I changed trains with no difficulty.


You can buy sandwiches and cappuccino and the like from the guy who pushes the cart through the train. So the guy pushes the cart through our car, and I think to myself, “That guy looks familiar. He almost looks like an actor or something.” Of course, he isn’t really an actor, because he’s selling sandwiches from a cart. But then it hits me: he kind of looks like Hugh Jackman, if Hugh Jackman was a short Frenchman who sold snacks for SNCF. But that cracked me up. I almost bought a sandwich, I thought it was so funny. But like the sandwiches they sell on airplanes, they are ridiculously overpriced.


You’ve seen pictures in magazines, and you’ve seen it in the movies: Provence is a magical, sun-dappled land of quaint building with colorful shutters, fields of sunflowers and quaint local customs. It isn’t a load of crap – Provence is a magical, sun-dappled land of quaint buildings with colorful shutters, fields of sunflowers and quaint local customs. It also averages roughly a billion degrees (not sure if that is Fahrenheit or Celsius), or so it felt as I landed. But I was there, it was time to hit the sights. But first, the Monoprix.


Now it is true that I have not traveled extensively through France, and that the Monoprix in Arles is only the third Monoprix I have visited (one in Paris and one in Grenoble). But I feel safe in claiming that the Monoprix in Arles is the most depressing Monoprix in all of France. First of all – no soldes, which meant I had to pay full price for a nightgown. And then it had that certain, down market K-Mart sort of vibe that gives the Arles Monoprix a sort of defeated air. After picking out a nightgown (pajamas would have cost more) and some toothpaste, I headed off to see the sites.


A little behind schedule because I believed that there were eight days in a week, my plan was to grab some lunch and head off to the tourist office to get a map of the city. I wandered around a bit, looking for a place that wasn’t too expensive, but had something that appealed to me. After wandering around, I chose one of the several restaurants that had open air seating in a square. I plopped down, and decided on a small pizza. I chose one that looked like it didn’t have olives, and waited, guzzling down water like I had been trapped in the Sahara. When the pizza came, it had olives. It turns out that in Provence, everything has olives. And I could have smacked myself, because of course everything has olives in Provence. They grow olives in Provence. And, because I’m game, and I’m in France, I decide to give olives another chance. After all, maybe I don’t like the olives I’ve tried in America. Turns out, I really don’t like olives. So I played picky, and picked them out. I had to pick them out of my dinner, too.


Clearly, I could write a book. But this isn’t a book, it’s a blog. Suffice it to say that I had a great time, got lost 87 times, took roughly 100 pictures, pet stray French cats and slept on what might have been the least comfortable bed in all of France. I saw a whole mess of Roman ruins, a lot of medieval stuff, and a cool museum devoted to all things Provencal.


Incidentally, I found an ear under a café table in Arles. Do you think it belongs to anybody?