Napoleon was at it again today. The Plane trees stretched for at least another eight kilometres on the way out of St. Remy. It’s extraordinary when you think about it: in this one stretch before and after St. Remy there is about 15 kilometres of trees on both sides of the road with a tree every ten metres.

I was packed and ready to leave at 7.30am after what was my worst night’s sleep. It had been hot and my arthritis played up until I gave it a whack with some painkillers. It wasn’t a night for a sleeping bag. I waited around for the bread and croissant order to arrive half an hour later, ate breakfast in the morning sun, and got away from the camping ground around 8.30am. I didn’t get far because I had to stop at a
cyber cafe which I sussed out yesterday evening, to download two documents, fill them in, get them copied, and walk to the post office to send them to Australia. I then stopped at a cafe for a cup of tea by which time it was 10.30am before I got onto the road.

I felt down on energy and it showed in my attitude towards the walk. I didn’t take a single photograph today. The last 15 kilometres into Arles would have had to have been one of the least interesting and difficult of walks I’ve undertaken so far. There was nothing on this stretch to excite my attention. Lots of wheat fields nearly ready
for harvest on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see. There’s a sameness about this type of landscape that doesn’t talk to me. The walk was difficult because it felt dangerous. I’ve walked close to oncoming traffic on countless days in the past two months, but nothing like today. The long straight stretches was an invitation to the traffic to reach high speeds, and with me right on the edge of the bitumen for a lot of the time, it felt very uncomfortable.

Walking towards the centre of Arles around 5.00pm I noticed the temperature was still 31 degrees. After a day like today it’s always pleasing to get into the heart of a
town where there is lots of movement. The constant change of landscape keeps me interested, and you need to be that way to finish off a days walking. I had the name and contact details of a woman who takes in pilgrims. For the past three days I had failed to make contact by telephone. I found her house quite near the heart of the old city, rang the doorbell, but no one answered. I assumed she was away. What a treat it would have been to listen to the many stories she could tell of the travelers who have stayed with her.

Arles is another tourist magnet, but one well worth exploring. I think I’ll delay the start of tomorrow’s walk to have a quick look around. It’s a look that should take days. Arles was once known as “Rome in Gaul”. Of course, it was occupied well before the Romans arrived here at the time of Julius Caesar. First, there were the Celtic tribes and then it became a Greek colony. It was after the Greeks that the Romans took charge when Caesar gave the colony to the veterans of his legions. (The McMahon Government didn’t do that for me and my fellow diggers after Vietnam. Why couldn’t they learn from history?). The city was destroyed by invaders in the Middle Ages but rebuilt during the 12 century. Many of the Roman structures like The Amphitheatre which could hold 20,000 spectators, the Roman Theatre with it’s 10,000 capacity, and the Cryptoportico of the Forum, double U-shaped underground galleries which date to 30 to 20 BC, are still here to see. And finally there’s The Espace Van Gogh, a former hospital in Arles where the famous painter had been a patient. Is there no place in Provence where that man was not hospitalised. The Langois Bridge, painted by Van Gogh in 1888, is located south of Arles. You can see why this city is worth good look around. Unfortunately, I’m in places like Arles for just enough time to wet my appetite and then I have to move on, like I do tomorrow.