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Trip Report Provence-based in Arles, May 2013

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There is no sign I am actually going to write a trip report, but I will try to post a few things about my visit to Provence. While I had been to France a number of times in the last twenty years, it had been a long time since I visited Provence. It is as beautiful and charming as I remembered. Perhaps the thing I love best it history is alive and connected to the present. Second best was the gorgeous fields of red poppies.

Who we were: Three ladies of a certain age. My companions were a friend from high school days and my Spanish teacher (happily also a French teacher). Both of them are serious birders.

Where we stayed:
We rented
It is in very good condition and is as described on the website. The rental is located very close to the main highway into Arles, which was just great. We parked and walked while we were in town. When we were ready to explore, we were on the road in minutes. Traffic in all of these little Provencal towns can be hairraising, small tight roadways crowded with skateboarders, walkers, and roaming dogs. Not having to negotiate traffic every time you went out was perfect. Arles is very walkable and we had ready access to bakeries, groceries, wine, etc. The rooftop is small but very nicely laid out. It is an ideal place for a sunset drink or a meal. The house is air condtioned . The bedroom on the third floor has a small toilet which has no door, just a curtain. There are two other toilets in the house on the first and second floors. The basement is a stonewalled recreation room. The owner responded quickly to all our emails and questions. I would recommend it. I also recommend Arles as a base. I was more charmed by St. Remy, but the location of Arles was very hard to beat. We were able to do day trips to the Carmague, Avignon, St. Remy, Les Baux, Aix en Provence (to channel MFK Fisher), and several other small towns. Arles has adequate shopping and lots of interesting buildings and structures. For Van Gogh enthusiasts it was his home for several years and although none of his paintings hang here today, you can still find his inspirations.

I arrived ahead of my companions and stayed at La Calendal. Very helpful staff who speak English well, tiny room with incredible view of gardens and Arena, great location and on site restaurant.

We spent our last night in a triple at NHotel at LYS. Large room, comfortably equipped and very quiet. Great for early flights.

Where we ate (full reviews will be posted on Trip Advisor in a day or so):

Arles: Le Criquet-excellent mussels, sea bass and beef. House wine was thin and tasteless. Tiny place, reserve ahead.
Querida-the leek tart was exceptionally good. We all enjoyed our meals. Desserts were very nicely presented and they offered good vegetarian options.
Soleilis-ice cream shop. Probably the best in Arles, but doesn't hold a candle to two in Avignon. (finding the best ice cream is very important to me)
Grillon-so so spot. Find something else. Just a few doors away is La Maison des Gourmands, very good.
Bistro de Artists- my friends liked their meal and most of the customers seemed to be regulars. My meal was a shrimp dish which was only average.

(Just a note on charges. We found some restaurants included a dessert or an appetizer in the meal, others charged extra. If it is not clear, ask.)

Tarascon; Le Theatre, locally sourced and very well prepared and presented meals. Wonderfully done Carmague rice and beef.

Les Baux-Cabro D'Or. This was an unforgettable experience. The grounds are gorgeous, the restaurant lovely, but the food is the star. We stopped for lunch and had the 56 Euro fixed prixe meal which included two very good glasses of wine, an appetizer, meal and dessert (which happened to be three separate desserts, a strawberry soup with light pastry cookie, a cookie topped with fresh cream and berries, and a pistachio souffle with melted chocolate center). This was a RAVE.

Because we had a great kitchen and ready access to the fresh markets we did have a some meals at the house. Nothing quite like sitting up on the roof as the full moon rises over the Rhone sipping your wonderful wine, eating a thousand different kinds of olives (OK, a bit of exaggeration, but you know what I mean) and the delicious cheeses. We bought our cheese from Aux Delices Du Fromager, 6 Place Antonelle, 13200 Arles. the owner is very helpful.

Chocolate shops worthy of note:

Arles-Riederer (main store in Aix en Provence).
Avignon -Aline Gehant (the chocolatier happened to be handling sales the day we were there. She told us, in an exceedingly charming way, about her work and gave us lots of samples.) The packaging is very pretty and the chocolate is extraordinary. Great gift choice (or so I said while buying enough chocolate to fill my carryon).
St. Remy-Joel Duran

Ice Cream

Lyon-Nardonne. JayG suggested this place and thank heavens he did. The chocolate legois was absolutely fabulous.
Avignon (conveniently located in the same block)- JF Deldon, the best salted carmel ice cream I have ever eaten
Amorino-actually a gelateria but quite outstanding. There was a third option on the same block and it killed me but I had to let it pass. Next time..............

That's it for now, my trip highlights. A tout a l'heure.

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