Monday, June 15, 2015

Sunday, Sarrians

First thing, the marketplace for proper fruit and veg, hoping the usual morrocan guy will be there with his trailer full of dried fruits and nuts and spices and most especially olives of all sorts and olive oil and tapenade. Ohhh, that's some wonderful black tapenade.
We're going to a different market for a larger selection of fruit & veg, but I can't resist the apricots at this one, and it's a good thing because they are better than the ones later. You just never know. Salad, tomatos, onions, cilantro, melon, lemon, bread... should do us for the week.

Next we are off to the coast, to Saintes Maries de la Mer. Three Saint Marys all at once in a little whitewashed town on the Mediterranean shore, full of tourists even at this early date. We have missed the big annual event by a week - when they take the effigies of the Saint Marys for a walk around town. Also not on today is the parading of the bulls through town. This is the Camargue, famous for its black cattle, and bull (not beef) steaks, white horses to herd them through the marshy flats, and the pink flamingos.

To get to Ste Maries there are just one or two roads, one along the coast and the other heading inland. We're on the inland on, and I imagine in the summer it's really awful: one lane each way, lots of turns so you have to be crazy to pass, and lined with hotels, farmstands, campgrounds, and places to rent horses for a stroll through the high grass. Today it's nice. Hot but not too hot (barely!). Not too many cars on the road. The fields green and lush, the sky cloudless. We see plenty of horses, because they're right on display by the road, waiting for clients. Not a one, much less a herd, running joyfully through the marsh in the sunset as you see in all the postcards. Though it isn't sunset yet, so maybe that explains that. We see some cattle, though, parked in an otherwise deserted show-corral, not making their coal-black way through the green marsh. Poor guys. They look at us like they know we have bull steaks ready for the grill later.
Oh look! Look!

Yes, there are flamingos, and I am not the only one to stalk them. In a month once the summer is in full swing they must be terribly harassed. But they're so pretty. And those other birds, they're pretty too. And closer. If only I had one of those horses...

We take the way back that goes through Arles. Been 11 years since I saw Arles; it hasn't changed much. What's a decade to the millenia-old Roman vestiges? So beautiful in the clear sun. I like Arles, with all its details and its secret alleys and its generous rooftop terraces.

The church (don't ask me which one) is surprisingly rich in detail. All the saints faces, and indeed the saints in full, are still there. The vast majority of churches took a devastating blow during the Revolution, in which the Republican populace rose up against both the monarchy and the church, and destroyed most of the exterior decoration. But here are some. Perhaps a restoration, but the tympans have rarely been restored, sporting instead faceless or headless saints or even empty spaces where they used to be. It's fascinating how each head is different, each an individual not a generic icon, their expressions telling their woes and worries.

This whole region is littered with Roman sites and monuments. Can't dig a well without doing a preventive archeological study (in Clermont too and the whole nation, actually, not just in Provence). Here's another one, a roadside stop on our road home. There's a whole ancient town here to discover, up a path into the wooded hills, but it's late so we'll do that some other time.

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