Was up early and ready to tackle the day so got in the car and headed for Nimes and Arles, two cities not too far away both of which had Roman ruins and museums. Even though I’m up early there is no sense of rush really because I still have almost two weeks left and few other line items on my checklist.
I allow myself the luxury of driving for a while on the highway- again, not because I was in a rush but because it becomes too difficult trying to “connect the dots” along town roads in this part of the country which is very developed and densely populated. I take note of the inter-country peculiarities of the Europeans. While in Italy drivers are rude and see no problem tailgating at triple digit speeds the French in turn are much more courteous. They drive fast but if someone is blocking their way they patiently wait for a loophole. You rarely hear anyone beeping their horn or even high-beaming the guy in front. I haven’t seen a single bumper sticker yet. Somehow I get the impression that slapping on your car a decal like “Don’t like my driving? Dial 1-800-EAT-SHIT” would be gravely inappropriate here.
But then there are some things that don’t add up. Take the rest areas for example. These are called “Aire de this” “Aire du that” and from the outside much resemble the rest areas we have on our interstates. Then you go into the toilets and all similarities end abruptly. France for some reason is quite frankly a barbarian outpost when it comes to public toilets. If you’re lucky enough to find one that you don’t have to pay chances are very high the toilet itself will have no lid and be a filthy mess. On today’s Aire I couldn’t believe that what passed for a bathroom was a stall with a very, very stinky hole in the ground. Had they just put latrines in an outhouse I’d least I’d have the option of sitting down if I could stomach it. With tolls every five minutes’ worth of driving you’d think they’d have enough money to have a more civilized solution.
I got off the highway when I could and spent the rest of the day meandering the coastline. At one point I pulled over and walked on the sand to dip my feet in the ice-cold Mediterranean. Even though it’s mid-March there were a fair number of sunbathers taking advantage of an unusually uncloudy and balmy day. I can imagine how packed this must be in a couple months from now. I beachcomb for a few shells and sand for my Dad's collection then keep going, still at my unrushed pace.
I made it to Arles late in the afternoon just in time to visit their Roman museum which gave me a wallop of photographs and other research material for my next book. There was still enough daytime left to go to the nearby amphitheater but it was impossible to find parking so I gave up that goal, headed out of town and found myself a quiet spot in a field to call it a day.
Had the usual for dinner.