Today was hopefully my last day in Arles and it's not that I don't like it here. When I went to the train station earlier today to reserve my seats for the train to La Spezia (in Italy just north of Pisa) I learnt that rail strikes are underway in France. The train to La Spezia did not run today and I won't know until departure time tomorrow whether it will run then. This is kind of crappy because the departure time is just after 5 am. Because it's so early I had to settle up with the hotel today (I'll just the leave key behind when I head out in the morning). If the train doesn't run, I may be stuck here a bit longer and it may be hard to find accommodations. It's a holiday here tomorrow and the start of one of those long weekends the French enjoy, so the hotel I'm in is booked solid for the weekend and the same is likely true for others.
I don't fully understand how the rail strikes work, but I believe it's the case that only certain trains are affected. If that's true and my train doesn't run again tomorrow, I may just have to take a different route to Italy. And, if I can't get a train out of here at all, I may consider other alternatives like a bus, airplane, or car, but I'll cross that bridge when it comes.
Now back to today. I started the day by spending time wandering through the large market that is held in Arles every Wednesday and Saturday morning. The vendors line the very wide side walk outside of the ancient city wall (actually its normally used for parking) from near my hotel to the opposite corner of the city center about a kilometre away. You can find almost everything imaginable at the market (baskets, clothing, shoes, fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, spices, wine, cheap jewelry, watches, and so on) and tons of people.
By the time I got to the end of the market I wasn't far from the Alyscamps, a Roman and early Christian cemetery and the site of the 12th century St Honorat's church, so I stopped in for a visit. The church is a halt on the pilgrimage route to Santigo de Compostela, which I believe is one of the long walks done by Klaus (one of the fellows who rode the train with me to Lisbon).
Alyscamps was about half way to the Van Gogh bridge, so I continued on down there for a look. When I asked my GPS device to show me the route to the bridge, it showed a big detour because of a need to cross a freeway and a river. This made the journey look quite long, then I noticed a railway track that seemed to be a short cut. When I checked out the railway track I noticed it was an abandoned line and another fellow just headed in the direction I needed to go, so I headed that way too. The railway track turned out to be a great shortcut, cutting the distance in half. About half the walk to the bridge was through a residential area, mostly apartments, and the other half was an industrial park.
It wasn't until after I returned from the Van Gogh bridge that I went to the train station and discovered what might be ahead for me tomorrow. So, after that I felt that I may as well take it easy for the rest of the day to ensure I have the energy to tackle whatever tomorrow may bring.
After the train station I went off for a late lunch, stopping to buy a few post cards along the way. I filled out the post cards during lunch. After lunch I headed off to the post office to mail the post cards then checked out a few of the remaining streets in the center of the city that I hadn't yet visited. Late in the afternoon I returned to my hotel for a nap, because tonight will be a short one in order to get to the train station by 5 am.
This morning before heading off to the market, I discarded a bunch of travel brochures and sections of travel books I won't need any more. They're not worth mailing home and they are heavy enough that I don't want to carrying them around for the next 2 months. I did photograph the interesting brochures for future reference, so at least I'll have that.
Here's a few photos from today.
A few photos of the market.
I was surprised to see this guy selling spices in open containers, given how windy it was.
Some folks had fancy trucks or trailers with fold out gear for the event, while many more had make shift tables of one sort or another.
Plastic jugs of wine.
The 12th century St Honorat's church.
The pillars in this building were very over sized, so I couldn't help but wonder of some interesting treasure may be hidden inside.
The bridge made famous by one of Van Gogh's paintings.
In the industrial park near the Van Gogh bridge I came across what appears to be a high wire act practising their show. They were inside a fenced off area so I couldn't go over and find out more details.
My short cut along the abandoned railway line.
A camping area near the train station. It doesn't look like fun to me.
Those Smart cars make this one look small. I didn't catch the name on it as it zoomed by.
That's about it for today. I hope to be reporting to you tomorrow from Italy, but there's no guarantee that will happen. Early this evening I did hear some trains running near Arles, so that may be a good sign for my trip tomorrow.
At dinner tonight a couple at a nearby table asked the waiter if he could turn the TV to CNN at 10:30. Hearing them speak English made me look their way with interest. As I did so the lady noticed me and proceeded to explain they were interested in knowing how there team is making out in hockey. When I asked for more details, she mentioned they were from Edmonton. After I was done with dinner I stopped by their table on the way out and had and long interesting chat with them. They originally flew into Amsterdam, and had just arrived in Arles by train after a 5 day stop in Paris. They were obviously interested in my train journey tomorrow, since they too will need to catch a train out of Arles in a few days. I sure hope things work out for me and them.