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27 June 2009

In the morning drive through the famous lavender fields of the Camargue area to Aigues-Mortes, known for its authentic medieval ramparts. Continue to Cézanne's town of Aix-en-Provence, then on to Nice, the Côte d'Azur's cosmopolitan capital. Upgraded dinner this evening.   [Except for going to Nice, we did none of the things on the schedule today!]

"Ladies and Gentlemen," said Ian. "Recline your seats and get into a mood of convivial propinquity as we continue on toward Nice." (Yes, he really does talk like that.)

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We had left the wonderful Hotel Calendal that morning and taken a "stroll" through the winding, twisting streets to the center of town and the farmer's market. Oh my. Such an experience for all the senses! I could have stood at the spice area alone all day. Mountains of curries, peppers, and spices I've never heard of before. Baskets of lavender blossoms (lavender is VERY big here!). Then to the fruit and vegetable displays (I bought peaches that tasted like real peaches...can't remember the last time that happened!), the cheeses, the meats, the sausages, the clothes, the housewares. The market runs the entire length of the town and Ian had given us 2 hours to wander.

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I went off on my own for awhile and listened to a guy playing an accordion, laughed to see American Indians in headdress performing to a repetitive 12 note "tune" that repeated endlessly. I even was hit up for a donation by the local SPCA and played with a tiny terrier puppy who looked like he was about a month old. He was in a box with 4 tiny kittens next to a cage with two young goats.

After 2 hrs we met Ian again and were taken through the town church, and then through the streets again "just a bit" to the bus, which was about 5 miles away (OK--I exaggerate, slightly) On the way we passed through the Van Gogh walk. I've now photographed the famous cafe he painted and stopped at one of the overlooks, where is posted a picture of the painting and you can look up and see what he saw when he painted it.

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People on this group have been very kind to me and very patient. Not only is the weight a problem, but humidity is about 60% and on a good day, humidity can lay me low without having the Bataan marches to deal with. I try not to be too much of a bother, but sometimes it can't be helped.

After we left Arles, we drove to Les Baux. I didn't know exactly what Les Baux was because I opted out of the tour when I saw it would involve climbing a very steep mountain. What Ian neglected to mention was that there were lots of shops and restaurants en route and that this would be our lunch stop for the day. I sat in the bus with our driver, Thiery, while it got hotter and hotter. Finally Char came down, having decided not to press on to the top, and we found a rock to go sit in the sun, where a cool breeze played.

Les Baux is a fortress at the top of this hill. I took pictures from below, but still don't know why it's there. I will research this when I get home again.   (Wikipedia information is here.)

My wonderful daughter showed up with a pannini for me and a 1.5 liter bottle of water, most of which I drank in one swallow! Char's kids arrived too and we all sat there having a picnic by the side of the road, while the buses and cars rolled by. Kind of fun, in a weird way.

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It was about a 3 hour drive to Nice, and I think most of us napped. I was VERY grateful to Tom for the great battery pack he gave me because I had almost finished my book when the battery of the iTouch signaled that it was almost out. I dug out the recharger and was able to finish the book easily. Thanks again, Tom!

We finally came over a rise and there stretched out before us was the Mediterranian, with a big cruise ship in front of us. We drove down to the coast and Ian showed is the castle near where Renoir lived the last part of his life. He had come to the South of France hoping to help his arthritis, but spent the last years of his life painting with brushes strapped to his hands because his fingers were so affected by the arthritis. I never knew that before.

We drove along the shore, watching the parasailers, the Sega riders (they seem to be all over the place in France and Italy), the sunbathers (didn't see any topless women, though we have been promised they are there) and eventually wended our way through the tiny streets to the hotel.

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Arrival at Hotel Flore was an adventure, as Thiery (the bus driver) had to parallel park on this teeny street with tons of cars, and Ian behind him directing him. He did a beautiful job and we all applauded him when he finished.

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The hotel is nice, upscale, but lacks the charm of Calendal. The staff is not really very helpful, unlike Calendal. I miss Arles!  Our room is comfortable and when you lean out the window there is a view down the busy street all the way to the beach.

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Ian gave us a walking tour to orient us to the town. The rest of the group headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and Ian suggested Jeri and I walk ahead to an intersection "about a minute" from the restaurant, so I wouldn't have to walk the whole distance. I was very grateful.

We sat and people-watched until the group arrived and then went to Brasserie Flo, which used to be a theatre, now converted into a restaurant. They have kept the theatre motif, however. There is a grand drape on the stage, pulled aside to reveal the kitchen staff at work, for example.

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We had a lovely dinner and celebrated Ashley's 16th birthday with creme brulee with a candle in it.

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On the streets there were impromptu tributes to Michael Jackson, with dancers and music. The older folk went to the hotel while the younger stayed around to watch.

I took a Tylenol PM for the first time and managed to sleep most of the night, save for an hour around 3 a.m. when I panicked because I couldn't find my glasses. But I did when I woke up, finally and all is well.

Today we pay a call on the Grimaldis. (They may not be home...) :)


We will be staying for 3 nights at the

Hotel de Flore
2, rue Maccarani

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