Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Monday, June 09, 2008

France 2008 - Arles, May 15

We decide to wander around Old Arles and just look at things. This is a holiday after all and we don't intend to see or do everything that there is to see and do. While it's not quite a "sit on the beach and read paperbacks" type of holiday, we do want to relax and just BE.
France 2008
(Outside the walls)
Old Arles is distinct from the rest-of-Arles. It was a walled city and remnants of the walls are apparent here and there. It is also surrounded by large, busy, noisy, boulevards which run outside where the walls used to be. We get a map from our hotel that appears to be schematic but which is very accurate and it is impossible to get lost. (They give out these maps at the information centres and everywhere.) It turn out that you can walk across Old Arles in about 15 minutes if you don't stop to look at anything. But we always stopped to look at everything.

We walk to the Place de la Republique where some civil servants (I think they are teachers) are having a demonstration complete with loud speakers, flags, drums and a faux coffin. It makes for an interesting photo shoot for Peter and reminds us of the probability of strikes. I remember Europe in the 70s when any excuse for a strike was used, especially in Italy. Apparently, people are annoyed with Sarkozy's attempts to change the system. We aren't very concerned until we realize that rail travel can be stopped with strikes, but even that worked out for us in the end.

(Along the top of the wall.)
We walk along the bank of the Rhone, on top of huge walls that have very steep and very narrow steps leading down to the water. There are about 40 steps at a 60% angle with no railings and apparently, no traffic, as weeds flourish in the cracks. I am not sure who would use these old steps or why - there are other places with better access to the water, where giant tour boats tie up.

At one point along our walk, we see a second level of walkway, below the main travelled (paved) portion of the wall. It too was paved but there are so many weeds growing through the pavement that it looks grassy now. This reminds us that we have seen no lawns in Old Arles. Looking down at the green walkway, we see more piles of dog poop than you would believe possible. I would not walk there as a person - there was hardly a clear space to put a foot, much less a paw. Some time later, we did see a woman walking a large white dog down there. She took the dog off the leash and let him pick his own way through the mess. I am grateful for the daily street sweepers that pick up all this excrement on the streets where we usually walk, but I wonder if people could be persuaded to pick up after their pets if perhaps they made some advertising showing a famous and otherwise "cool" celebrity picking up dog poop. I wonder.

I saw a bat last night and wondered what they call it in French, so we asked our tres gentile waiter and he said it is called a chauvesouris. Now I just ran that through my translator and it came out "bald person mouse". Hmm. In German it is "fledermaus" or some such spelling. In both languages, the bat is described as a type of mouse, even though we know it is not a rodent.

Then we were looking for the French word for "confused", as we often are on this trip so far. We ask a different waitress at a different restaurant and say in our very Anglo-French, "what is the word for - I don't know what is going on - or, I'm a little bit stupid". She recoiled from the word "stupide" which I'm now thinking must be a real insult. Later we came up with the word "deranger" which is deranged in English and which about sums it up.

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