Part of the Papal Palace at Avignon
I wanted to take it easy today - and for the next few days - so I headed downhill from Malaucene. That meant going to Carpentras. Actually, it turned out that I had to climb a bit leaving town and going around the sides of a valley, but then it was an almost 20 km of fairly gentle downhill to Carpentras. Pretty too, although not spectacular. Just a nice ride.
Heading around the valley
Then a nice downhill
Unfortunately, things degenerated after that. Carpentras has rough narrow streets with too much traffic on them. I stopped, at a cafe that had a "We speak English" sign to ask about an inernet cafe. They didn't speak English and wanted to know if I wanted my Cyber Kaffee with milk. I thanked them and rode on towards Avignon, 16 miles further to the southwest. It wasn't down hill anymore, and there was a strong cross/tail wind blowing out of the north. I was riding on an expressway that usually had a great shoulder and, when it was heading south, riding was fast and easy. W hen it was heading east, riding was slower and sometimes it was hard to keep the bike in the bike lane/shoulder. There was also a mile or two of construction in the middle of the ride and several miles of heavy traffic with no shoulder after getting into Avignon.
Once I left the expressway and headed toward the city center, thing were better, but it was still urban riding with a high curb - I dragged my right front bag on it at one point - dangerous! - and lots of traffic. Finally I got into the old city and only had to deal with slow traffic, but still way too much of it.
A church in Avignon, with typical traffic - none of those vehicles are parked
I rode around briefly, then spotted a "Libanise" restaurant. It was just before noon so I was their first customer. Good Taboulli and Falafel, aloung with the usual wine and followed by expresso. A good lunch. Then, with low expectations, I asked about an internet cafe: "Sure, there is one about 50 yards from here - take the first right then the first left." I spent two hours - and 8 Euros - doing email and uploading web pages there. It would have taken an hour, if I hadn't had to deal with lots of problems caused by the French keyboard and a windows crash at a bad time. Anyway with much cursing and muttering, I got it (mostly - a few of the images got truncated) done. Then I played tourist for a hour or so.
There are lots of narrow streets, mostly much more crowded than this one
While I enjoyed riding around looking, dodging vehicles and pedestrians got old quickly. Florence was much more fun to ride in and more interesting to see. So I decided to head south to Arles. I am not sure why Arles, except that it was south and the wind was from the north, and there was something about it, I couldn't remember quite what, that was neat. So I followed some tour buses out of the old town and followed the signs for Arles. I did look at my mapping software before leaving so I knew the route I wanted. Arles was another 22 mile south, but with that strong north wind, It took me less than an hour and a half to reach it. My leg muscles, tired from yesterdays climb, really enjoyed spinning down a flat road with a tailwind at 18 to 20 mph. I stopped once at a pull off to snack and made the mistake of sitting in some cut-hay like material that looked soft but poked right through my riding pants. Ouch.
When I got to Arles it was a long ride in heavy traffic on congested streets to get to the old town, but once there it was neat. After riding at random for a while, I saw a hotel that looked good and stopped. They were full, but referred me to a hotel not far away up a small side street. I had a nice visit with the owner whose Honda Gold Wing was parked out front. He appreciated bicycles but preferred his huge motorcycle. Then I rode up the little street and, 100 yards or so later, turned the corner onto a slightly bigger street and found the hotel. I wasn't impressed, but it would do. My bike is parked in the hotel's courtyard, which is very nice indeed, but my room is small, and things like the soap and toilet paper are of low quality. And the room isn't cheap. So it goes.
After cleaning up - the shower took five minutes to get warm - I headed out to explore. Wow. There is a Roman ampitheater half a block from my hotel! Oh yeah, that is what Arles is famous for! Heh, there is a Roman arena less than a block away in another direction! Nice ruins all over the place! This is more fun than Avignon. Here the ruins are just sort of there - although they use both the arena and the ampitheater - and there are vendors and hotels and restaurants (yes - McDs is only two blocks away} all around. Strangely - maybe we just like Roman Ruins - I've heard far more American English spoken here than in the other parts of France I have been in.
The front entrance to the Ampitheater
The side entrance to the Ampitheater
My room is 50 feet this side of the tower at the right side of this image
And my window looks out onto the tower in the top middle of the image
Setting up for a concert at the Ampitheater
An arch near the back of the Ampitheater
And the Arena located less than a block away
As you can probably tell, I'm impressed and I'm glad I came to Arles. Now I just hope that north wind has died down when I ride back towards northern Provence!
Arles is where Vincent Van Gogh lived