I thought today would be a quiet day with little to write about since the bulk of it was spent in transit from Barcelona to Arles. Well, it didn't quite turn out that way and it all kind of started even before I left the hotel.
I left my room with plenty of time to catch the train, however as I went to pay my bill a little bit of an unexpected delay occurred. When the fellow at the desk ran my card through, the credit card machine ran out of paper. No problem, I thought as he goes about taking the old roll of paper out an inserting a new one. However, it quickly became apparent, and he openly admitted later, that he had never replaced the paper in the machine before. What made matters worse was that he had taken the machine apart so quickly that he couldn't remember how it went back together. After watching him fumble with it for at least 10 minutes I offered to help. Even then it took us a while, because I never saw the machine before or what it looked like before he took it apart. After about 20 minutes, we finally figured out how to put the thing back together again. But, there was still the matter of my transaction that was hanging in limbo. Before he could get the machine to reprint the receipts he had to call into some help line which again was not the quickest thing in the world. He did eventually get through, my receipt was printed, and I was on my way. Fortunately, I wasn't far from the metro and the two connecting trains I needed to catch ran at fairly regular intervals that I still managed to get to the train station with enough time for some breakfast before hoping on the train.
On my ride to Arles I had one stop of just over 3 hours in Montpellier. Unlike most people on my train, I decided to venture outside of the Montpellier station for some lunch and to kill some of that three hour wait. By doing so, I realized we were basically right next to the heart of Montpellier. After grabbing a decent lunch not far from the station I took a walk up the main street leaving the station. The street was interesting with plenty of things to look at, then I got to the end and realized there was a big event of some sort going. It was some big French writers event with all kinds of people at the various tents selling books, providing lectures of one sort or another, and so on. I picked up a brochure, but it's all in French and I haven't full deciphered the description of the event.
Anyway, Montpellier seemed like a decent little city with plenty of interesting buildings. Plenty of rail traffic goes through here, including many of the high speed trains. Also, from some information I picked up at the tourist center, it looks like Monpellier is also a destination for language (french) learning trips.
My train to Arles was a bit late getting into Montpellier but that didn't seem to matter much, the last stretch of rail between Monpellier and Arles wasn't that long and the second train was faster than the first. I managed to get my GPS device to work for the whole trip and I even tried it for a while with my laptop (it worked great). The train from Barcelona topped out at around 140 kph. It did hit 160 once, but that was only during a brief down hill stretch. The train from Montpellier went straight up to about 162 kph and stayed there for basically the whole trip other than one short stop in Nimes.
At Arles I was hoping to stop at the tourist info center at the train station before heading off to look for at hotel, but it was closed so I was on my own to look for a hotel with just the Rick Steves' travel information to go by. My first choice for a hotel wasn't far from the train station. About a 10 minute walk. They had a decent rate, but couldn't accommodate me for the full 5 days I wanted to stay, even for just 4 days I would have had to change rooms after the first day. I was still considering this place despite this, but they didn't have an internet connection for my laptop. So, based on a suggestion from this hotel I went around the corner to the next hotel. Their rate was slightly higher, but they do have Wifi access, and compared to all the other rooms I've stayed in so far, this is the best.
After I got settled into my room, I went off for a stroll around the town (this place is small, with only about 35000 people). As I begin my walk I quickly realized there is a whole lot more to this place than I expected (when you get to the pictures below you will know what I mean). After taking in some of the area I headed off to a restaurant which is Rick Steves' favourite. While having dinner I over head a couple at the next table talking and it turns out they where talking about Rick Steves', who just walked in to the next restaurant (doing some research for some of his future works). During dinner all kinds of people were stopping by and getting their pictures taken with Rick, so after I was done my dinner I figured I had to stop by a say hello. After all, I was basically following his material on my trip and figured he would appreciate my feedback, which he did. He was also fascinated with my GPS device.
After chatting with Rick for a while, I went off to take in a few more sites before calling it a day.
Here's some photos from today.
This is long train I took from Barcelona to Montpellier.
The following are scenes along the way to Montpellier.
Here's a few photos from Montpellier and the activities going on there.
This is a garden in Montpellier right next to the train station.
The view from my hotel room in Arles, which shows a portion of the ancient city wall. Probably the best view I've had so far.
The Roman Amphitheatre.
Some views near the Amphitheatre.
My view during dinner.
Yours truly and Rick Steves'.
The Theatre Antique.
Place de la Republique.
As mentioned above, I am in Arles for 5 nights. Only part of that time will be spent site seeing locally. The rest of the time will be spent doing day trips to nearby areas.