Arles Street Market

post1aWe woke up feeling pretty post1crefreshed and had a slow morning taking our time packing since our train to Marseille didn’t depart until 2 in the afternoon. We finally remembered to get a few quick shots of our basic but comfortablepost1b room. We checked out with Eric, glad to see his bright smile and adorable voice, and left our bags with him to pick up later in the day.

post1eSince it was Wednesday morning, market day in Arles, we headed off to wander through, partly for the experience, and partly looking for souvenirs or tasty consumables to have later. There were loads and loads of beautiful fruits and vegetables, and huge variety of cheeses, spices, and olives, all open to the air. The seafood booth was probably one of favorites post1f(and the stinkiest), with whole fish sprawled out ice. I think there was swordfish and some sort of small looking shark, though I’m not sure if that’s actualy what it was.

There was a booth for everything! Several with multiple varieties of nougat, another with many different kinds of nuts, a watch booth, and jewelry booth, a booth with random junk, post1ga scarf booth, and sweater booth, a general clothing booth, an apron booth, a pottery booth, and olive wood booth… seriously, anything you can imagine, they probably had a booth for. It just kept going on for blocks and blocks and blocks. The streets were filled and we occasionally had to push our way through the dense masses of people when there was a particular popular/discounted booth. It was a pretty fun experience and it was nice to be surrounded by crowds of locals for once, rather than the crowds of tourists we had grown familiar with. Many of the “locals” were immigrants of all different ethnic origins, so that only added to the excitement and depth of the atmosphere.post1l

After wandering through for about an hour and a half, we trekked back to the booths that looked most appealing to us and bought our souvenirs. We settled on two aprons (olives on one and cicadas on the other) and two pouches of lavender from one booth, and small olive wood cutting board and risotto paddle from the olive wood booth. Those decisions were difficult, as I wanted everything, but alas, wood is heavy, large, and expensive.

post1dAfter heading to the ATM and Monoprix, we found we were a bit hungry since we had skipped breakfast, so we headed back the same café we had eaten lunch at yesterday. The same girl who took our order the day before took it again today. She was from Austria and was working in Arles over the summer to improve her French. We ordered gazpacho and post1jsandwiches again as well as bubbly water.  Prior to this trip, I never consumed or enjoyed carbonated water, but I found it refreshing on this trip. It somehow cleansed my palate better and seemed to quench my thirst moreso than regular water. We ate out on the patio and enjoyed a relaxing lunch while people watching and taking in the view of the city and its ancient monuments one last time. Then we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags and head to the train station. We were glad to have given ourselves plenty of time to get there, as we got a little lost on the way. The map we were post1husing was a tad confusing, but thankfully we figure it out before we’d gone very far. The train station was quiet and we were easily able to find our seats on the post1ktrain. I had planned to journal on the train, but was too exhausted opted to people watch and enjoy the passing scenery. We could tell we were headed to a much different part of Provence, as there were several Arabic people an women with head coverings aboard the train. I was eager to get to the city and see its diversity myself.

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The Hotel in Avignon

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One of the best decisions we made on this trip (and one of the most important pieces of advice I have for travelers) was getting hotels/apartments that were in central locations and/or close to the sites we were going to spend the majority of our time in. This would apply to both domestic and international travelers, and it makes the world of difference. Seriously. If you’re in a bigger city and have two different sections you’d like to explore, I might also recommend getting two different hotels/apartments and split your stay in half. It is so worth the convenience and the potential extra few dollars.

Some of the bonuses are:post2a

  • If you’re tired and need a break, the hotel is just a short walk a way.
  • If you need a bathroom break and there are no public restrooms nearby, there are no emergencies or accidents
  • You can refill water bottles easily (assuming you’re in a country where tap water is safe to drink) and save lots of money (not tempted to purchase expensive water bottles)post2b
  • If you forget something, it’s not a big deal to go back.
  • If you spill all over yourself, step in a mud puddle, etc. going for a change of clothes is not an inconvenience.
  • You can travel light and don’t have to over prepare and carry around stuff you probably won’t need (because of all the first points)
  • You don’t waste a lot of time commuting
  • You don’t need a car
  • Lots of other points, but I think you get the gist.

post2cSo, after finishing up after our delicious tartine lunch, we headed to the hotel to come up with a plan for the rest of the day. We stayed at Hôtel Mignon, a quiet hotel just a few blocks from the center of town. It was simple and tiny (as most European hotels seem to be), but once again the employees were incredibly sweet, hospitable, and very helpful. We were greeted with a cheerful bon jour every time we entered and bid a bon journée every time we departed. The tiny-ness of the places we stayed in always caught me off guard, but it made sense when I thought of it. These buildings are old, old spaces were much smaller because they had to be. Building was expensive and smaller spaces and tightly knit cities/buildings meant more room for more people plus everything would be closer and more convenient, especially since post2feverything needed to be within walking distance 100+ years ago. I love the quaintness and simplicity of these old towns, though I did find the smallness of this Avignon hotel bathroom somewhat hilarious; the toilet was crammed in the corner and part of the lid had to be cut off so that it would stay propped up. Jesse had planned on doing laundry in the sink at some point on the trip, though he was beginning to see just how impossible that would be (bring lots of undies when traveling!). The showers were also just small squares, less than 3ftx3ft in size. Oddly enough, most of the French bathe but most of the hotels have showers. Another fun fact is the way the floors/levels are labeled in buildings. Our hotel room was on the 2nd floor, which in the USA refers topost2e the first level reached when climbing the stairs (our floors are labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). In much of Europe, however, the ground floor is its own unique floor, and each additional level has a numbered name (Ground, 1, 2, 3, 4). So, our room was, by USA standards, on the 3rd floor and by French standards, the 2nd floor. Anyway, after pouring over the map and guidebook in our cute little room at Hotel Mignon, we headed out to explore the town.