January 1, 2011

May 30| Aix en Provence to Arles

Traditional costume and dance

The riding from Aix-en-Provence to Arles was very flat and mostly very fun. It is not very far north of the Mediterranean and the land is flat and dry, with hills visible to the north. There were olive trees, and figs next to the road, along with thyme, rosemary, oregano. Everything smelled good. 

The only difficult riding was finding our way through Salon-de-Provence, a fair sized city, where we spent a good amount of time lost. This is where I really learned that while I could ask directions, I couldn’t follow and remember the replies. I might have asked for drawn maps. Our Michelin maps and the French road signs are terrific in the countryside; but the detail isn’t adequate in developed areas.
Detail St. Trophime

From Salon-de-Provence we rode across le Grande Crau to Arles, a flat and stony landscape. I did a double-take when I saw my first irrigated rice fields at the side of the road. Rice used to be a major crop in the area, but cultivation is now dropping off because of inexpensive imports. The D453 into Arles seemed a very old road, lined with huge plane trees, offering welcome shade to the cyclist. This typical French sight, evenly spaced plane trees close to roadways dates from Napoleon. We appreciated it because it was hot.

We stayed two nights in Arles, at the Hotel Ibis. This is a French chain, similar to the US Holiday Inn. It was located outside of town; everything in our budget in the old town was full, even when I called from Avignon. The Ibis staff was very helpful, letting us bring our bikes inside to store them in their unused conference room.

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