Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arles And The Camargue Nature Reserve

The Avignon hotel at which my parents’ tour group is staying is a Best Western property, a fact that somewhat surprised my parents.

The hotel is perfectly satisfactory. Best Western properties in France are superior to Best Western properties in the U.S.

This morning the tour participants were transported to Arles.

Upon arrival, the first item on the itinerary was a lecture on the subject of Vincent Van Gogh, who had lived for a time in Arles. The lecture, prepared for a general audience and delivered by a so-called art expert, was not as gruesome as my parents had feared.

After the lecture, the tour group was given a guided walking tour of Arles.

Arles, a city of some importance in The Roman Period, is most notable for its Roman ruins. The Roman Amphitheater is considered the most notable structure in Arles, although the Roman Theater is probably of equal historic interest. Both facilities remain in use to this day.

The Roman Amphitheater, in amazing condition, is sizable—its capacity is 20,000 persons—but nowhere near as large as the amphitheaters in Rome, Verona and throughout the Middle East. The amphitheater is home to many events, including bullfights. It had previously been unknown to me that bullfights were legal in France.

The Roman Theater is now a venue for various outdoor theater and music events.

According to my parents, Arles was unremarkable except for its Roman ruins.

After a morning in Arles, the tour group was transported to Camargue and treated to what was billed as an authentic Arlésien lunch at a rustic farmhouse.

After lunch, the tour group was driven through the Camargue Nature Reserve in the company of a so-called nature expert, who lectured incessantly throughout the afternoon on the local flora and fauna as well as the wild horses and wild bulls and wild buffaloes that roam the Camargue reserve. Within the nature reserve, the tour group made several stops: at a rice paddy; at a section of wetlands; at the habitat of a family of flamingos; and at a salt flat, where the group was given an interminable guided tour.

My parents, needless to say, were not riveted by the afternoon. In fact, my parents said they were praying for the nature expert’s microphone to break. At day’s end, my parents said they wished they had remained in Avignon, and visited churches and museums.

However, they had not wanted to miss out on Arles.

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