Tuesday, June 5, 2018

2018-05-27 SMDLM-Paris

This morning we take our leave of SMDLM. Caty will drive us to Arles, so we may catch the bus to Avignon, where we will board the TGV Train to Gard Lyon in Paris. 
Ladies on horses
Up for a good breakfast before our long trip, we note that many of the SMDLM restaurants which were closed during the gypsy fete, are now open. We decide on an open-air place located across the large, central field, where the gypsy Walmart used to be. Not trace of it remains, like it was never there. We buy an expensive omelet and ham plate with the required café du crem.  Waiting for our plates to arrive, we are asked by a lovely French woman, could she join us at our table, as there was nothing else available.  We proceeded to have a great conversation and a lovely breakfast with Helene. Her English was quite good. She informed us that she had been to the states for a conversational vacation and stayed in “Minnesota” for 2 weeks.

Breakfast always has salad
 Helene was quite well traveled and was spending a few days in SMDLM, which she said was only a couple of hours from her home. We were on the main street, closest to the Mediterranean. A low siren began and soon one of the small police wagons was in front of the establishment, clearing the streets. In the distance, we heard the clomping of horses and 2 -3 riders pass us. Next came the unmistakable sound of a stampede. The locals were herding bulls down the middle of the street. Surrounded by many of the white, ubiquitous horses from the area, the bull was swiftly led thru the streets to the bullfighting ring. Then another group and then another. Wow, we picked the best place possible to have breakfast! Plus, I made a new French friend in Helene.

We said our goodbyes to Caty at the Arles bus station with Harvey almost missing the bus because he forgot his lunch in her car! I love bus travel here. It’s not on the highway. The bus goes thru the luscious countryside. One just sits back and admires the landscape and random castles.
First Class on the TGV
Back to where we began our France adventure, there was an hour wait in Avignon for the TGV. We spoke to the woman who Harvey bought shoes from at the mall here, several weeks ago. We all got a grand laugh out of that. She too, was on her way to Paris.
Pianos in every station, free to play
Aboard the TGV with first class tickets and a split of wine, I had the best nap of the trip and was ready to face the challenges of Gard Lyon and traveling the metro to our hotel.
Gard Lyon- Trains to the rest of EU

The trick of course, was to find the Metro within the very large station and procure tickets. Not as easy as it seems. The tickets must be paid for by card, as you cannot use cash in any of the self-dispensary’s. Our debit card would not work because it requires a signature in the EU. While Harvey stood in the very long line at the ticket counter (remember, French Rail strike), I tried my regular credit card and whoopee, I got tickets.
6 stops on the Metro later, we emerged in front of the Grand Palais next to the Champs Elysee at The 8th Arrondissment.

View from the balcony

2 blocks later we were ensconced in our upgraded suite, complete with small balcony with a view of the Seine and the spires of Notre Dame. Residence du Roy.
Such heaven. We both luxuriated in the large shower and went in search of a bistro table, a bottle of wine and a croque monsieur.

Monday, June 4, 2018

2018-05-25 Processional Les Saintes Maries

This home says "Cathy" on it

It was a long Sara day yesterday – in the sun all day. We were up late (for us) and without a doubt dehydrated.  Today we will take it easy, wind down and explore the small town of SMDLM. 

One mosaic of Sara on the street
NO matter how late we stay up it seems we always wake up early. Today is no different. Off to the patisserie which makes the best quiche for breakfast; they also have seating and serve a nice, rich coffee. Today we want to walk along the length of the boardwalk. It spans the town and is not likely to be the mob scene it was yesterday during the Fete.  We intend to pretend that we are here for the sea, sun and surf not, gipsy’s. Town already feels emptier, even though today is the Procession of the Sainte Maries.

SMDLM has a wonderful, sheltered port for all sorts of small water craft. From the port, if you have the right kind of boat, one can head up and sail the Rhone River. This is also where the fishermen bring their daily catch for sale.  We walk along the boardwalk, from one end of town to another, passing the bull ring which sits on the edge of the beach. The towns EMS is located there, as well as the fire department. almost at the very end of town, we turn down a side road that looks like it follows the wetlands that surround SMDLM. We have come across a lane of gypsy trailers camped in the public parking of the town (they are allowed during the Fete this privilege.)

I don’t care so much about the gypsy’s caravans but, I am fascinated with the options for contained cooking and washing modules. There are special small trailers just for the fridge, kitchen and washer. I want one!!!  As we stroll along, many are breaking camp and will be departing this evening and tomorrow. The city administrators are keen on getting them out of town quickly, once the fete is over.
The Guard begins the processional for the Maries
All the homes are painted white here, with colorful shutters all around. We continue to amble and wander thru scenic neighborhoods at the back side of town – the Arles side. Time for another noisette, so onward to La Fontana, where we spent our day yesterday. Café du crem, please.  There are no gypsy’s playing here today and it looks like the café is back to normal. Being a small town, we run into Cathy and Elena who slept in and are of course, still stalking music. We chat and compare notes and then part our separate ways until the afternoon. Before we leave the Procession on Saintes Maries passes us by.
The Banner Guard
I have promised Harvey a nap today. I think I would like one too! We both feel beat up after the last several days of gypsy stalking, staying up late and sleeping on a not so comfortable futon. Sometimes, we feel our age and no amount of caffeine can change our minds (or bodies). One of our new lessons for travel is to listen to our bodies, not everything must be done all the time. To give Harv an optimal nappage, I go out in search of un petite time for myself and for a ceramic Sara to place in a new tile mosaic. I want to replace the one that was sold with the Sebastian house. Not only find her, I find 2 different versions, one which she is portrayed very, very black.
There they are

Later in the evening when I have caught up to Harvey, we stop at a bar near the roundabout for a glass of wine and Tapas. I spot the waiter from the previous day. Small, bent over with curly white hair, we had watched him run all day during the Fete at La Fontana. We buy him a beer. He comes over, introduces himself and sits with us. We never understood his name, even though he spoke pretty good English,  because his teeth were in his pocket. Ha. I will remember him as Marcel. It is truly a small world. Marcel tells us he has lived in SMDLM for 24 years and spends his winters in Chang Mai, Thailand. Hahahahaha. Thai girlfriend. He states he is only 58! Oh, mother of god, he looks 90. Harvey and I are horrified. I expected he was in his seventies, at least. We have a great chat with him until our drinks are gone.

Dinner and Laundry on the porch

Tonight, is a salad and the rest of the roti chicken; eating the rest of what is left in the fridge, as we leave tomorrow. We will meet the girls for a drink and desert, while they eat dinner.

This Paella plate is 3 feet wide

Sunday, June 3, 2018

2018-05-24 Sainte Sara Noir

They say a picture tells a 1000 words. There is no way to describe the scene and the day, therefore:

Men dance and drink
Chica's party all day with their families
Little Chica shoes and Crazy Antonio
Everyone dances. Many dress for the occasion

Audience participation is encouraged

Even the waitress dances - wait for your beer!
The guardians arrive on their horses for the procession
Caty and Elena sit in the sun all day
Kids with guitars join in
The waitress smokes, serves beer and dances
See, I told you. Ole!
The processional has it's own security force
The guardians lead the way. The Church is in the background
Saint Sara Noir arrives, held high above the heads of the crowds
Waiting for the processional at the beach
The guardians waiting for Sara in the water
The Black Sara arrives for the blessing
Sandy, hot, tired and wet. Ready for more!