On the Bright Side
On our second day to Provence, we set out again bright and early north to Avignon. Here we visited the Papal Palace, where the seat of the Catholic Church was held for a time when it moved from its typical center in Rome. After walking around the palace and some of Avignon, we soon decided to head to Orange, which I had remembered from a previous trip was a more quaint town of the region (we weren't super impressed with Avignon). The main feature of Orange is its Roman theatre, but apart from that it is a cute little pastel colored place, much more laid back and picturesque than the much larger and more commercialized Avignon. We ate lunch in a central square at a trendy little spot then walked around, ducking in boutiques and relived to see the sun after a morning of rain, despite the quickly stifling heat that developed. We were quickly tired and overheated and headed back to the car to head to the next adventure, an attempt to see the infamous wild Camargue horses (a dream of mine since I read about them in some book when I was little).
We set the route on the GPS and headed on our way. In the midst of chatting and blasting cheesy roadtrip tunes courtesy of a Spotify playlist I found, we kept our eyes peeled for a sunflower field. It's peak season and we figured the pictures would be adorable! About an hour or two into the drive, on a busy back road, we spotted a huge sprawling yellow field right to the side of the road! The only problem was where/how to pull over in order to photograph at the field... We drove off at the next turn, a vaguely marked dirt road that just happened to appear as a road on the GPS. Fairly quickly any other signs of traffic disappeared as we ventured into the back country of Provence, passing the occasional farm house or gate indicating signs of other life. The next "road" marked on the GPS was about a mile down the tract and we turned off to more bumpy dirt path, determined to make our way back to the beautiful yellow sunflower field we'd seen. Thankfully, as we rounded another bend and made another right, we found a couple of huge fields complete with sunflowers blooming well above our heads, with the flowers themselves easily bigger than our heads. We snapped a ton of pictures, noticing the bees and bugs here were much more aggressive than those we'd encountered at the lavender fields the day before. After getting the shots we wanted, we packed the car back up and rerouted the GPS, eventually making it back to the main road. About a mile further down that main road and what do we see? Field after field of easily accessible sunflower fields. Our backroad adventure had been unnecessary, but at least it wasn't for naught because we got some great photos and a much more interesting adventure!
So we continued south towards the Mediterranean and reached some traffic around Arles. As we were sitting in traffic lamenting the annoying European drivers, I felt something strange move on my side...in my dress... I immediately grabbed onto it through the fabric, realizing fairly quickly it was fairly large and definitely alive. From that point though I froze, screaming frantically "there's a bee in my dress!" Ashley helped me unbuckle the seatbelt and I hurriedly lifted the dress up and swatted the bug away, where it presumably died somewhere in the car. I'm sure the commotion was a scene straight out of some sitcom, my freaking out holding the strange blob through the dress and Ashley rushing to try to help me whilst navigating the busy traffic of a French street. Sometimes I swear my life is straight out of a comedy, this example just another to add to the list of "ridiculous things that would only ever happen to Emily." (Add bee in my dress to breaking my foot tripping in heels, toting a large television through Bushwick after answering a sketchy Craigslist ad, slipping down the one section of stairs that wasn't even icy in the winter, or any number of general clumsiness that befalls me daily.)
Anyways, after that debacle, we finally made it towards the place on the map the GPS had identified as the Camargue National Park, where the horses were meant to be found. So more on the Camargue horses:
The Camargue wild horses are some of the few wild horses left in the world and said to be one of the oldest breeds in existence today. They roam the marshy land in the south of France, along the coast of the Mediterranean in the Rhône delta. The photos online show beautiful romantic scenes of the majestic white and grey horses galloping through the water...
Well I guess I'd gotten a bit of a skewed notion in my head of what we'd find at the park, somehow thinking there would be a viewing area or even an information booth, at best, where some park official would direct you to where you could spot the horses. Not in France, however. Yes the map labeled the area as a national park, but other than that you'd hardly notice. We drove around miles of near-empty roads, bordered on either side by marsh, feeling more like we were lost in the Everglades than searching for wild horses in southern France... Other than seeing some domesticated horses in small pastures and some cows, we didn't spot any Camargue and we left the "park" disappointed. I'm not sure how the whole ordeal of seeing the wild horses works, but I got the impression it is much more involved than I'd assumed. Even in Yellowstone, there are guides to help you find the elk and bison and bears, but in the backlands of France you're pretty much on your own.
We drove back to Saint-Remy exhausted, but certainly hungry, and decided to try a place I'd spotted the previous evening that looked good. Close to the main street was L'Aile ou la Cuisse Bistrot, a well decorated restaurant where we were seated in the patio area at the back to enjoy the lovely Provençal evening. The food was delicious, by far one of the best meals we had the whole trip. We started with an eggplant appetizer, then both of us decided to try the special of the night, a perfectly seasoned breaded chicken breast over a creamy risotto. The red wine I had was delicious, very dry just the way I like it. And for dessert we each got a sampler plate of a chocolate layer cake, a raspberry tartlet, and a creme brûlée creme puff pastry. I wanted to savor each and every bite, the food was just so good, and the ambience was perfect, with every table full of satisfied patrons chatting away in various languages. Clearly the place was popular and I could see why. I would highly recommend it if you find yourself in the area. After dinner, we went straight back to the hotel and sank into bed, no problem falling right to sleep.