Sunday, July 8, 2007

Genoa - Arles - Boulogne

Train through French Riviera
Belinda and Roman amphitheatre
Chris and posters
Full moon picnic by river
Chris in Vincent's bedroom
Street scene
Card players

After a hot and arduous journey from Nocelle to Genoa, we arrived at 11pm and found the nearest cheap hotel. It was rather seedy, and Genoa looked interesting, but we were back at the station at 8am so didn't see much of it. The train ride around the coast to Nice through the Riviera is very beautiful, we pick up picnic food and red wine for lunch on the train, and continue on to Arles. Hurrah - we are back in France and the trains run on time!
We want to stay put for a while after a mad week of nonstop travel, but arrive in Arles to find it dirty and infested with tourists. Planning to move on, we check back into the train station the next morning - but there is a strike on routes west and delays on routes north (what? this isn't Italy!). Resigned, we explore the town periphery and find a charming hotel near the river, far from the madding tourist crowd. We lunch at the local bar - phew! we are the only tourists in the village!
Good Arles: Picturesque (faded shutters, swallows nesting in terracotta tiled roofs), interesting history, good size for walking, good picnic spots on the Rhone, creative vibe.
Bad Arles: Rubbish, dogshit, tourists, not pedestrian friendly (too many cars, few pedestrian precincts), many galleries closed because their major photographic festival (and Lou Reed in concert) are on NEXT week (Good, says Chris, I've had enough galleries!).
We have fun spotting candidates for the 'Van Gogh Lookalike Convention' (criteria: essential - eccentric and dishevelled air; desirable - beard, hat, red hair, baguette and/or bottle of wine under arm ...). We see plenty! Eating in Arles is not as interesting as hoped (more restaurants = less interesting food?). I have chevre (goat's cheese) with everything - even on pizza! Figs are €2 a kilo at the market! Best meals are picnics by the river, we have a great local wine shop, wine is good and cheap.
After five restful days we relucantly head north to Boulogne sur Mer, a last quick stop before leaving Europe, we are determined to have a good seafood eat-up.

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