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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 6 Oct 100 11:19:48 -0700
Subject: Leaving France
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Well, we're back but I have to write this down so I can remember it.
Nimes (pronounced 'Neam')
Before leaving Entrevaux in the morning, we asked some of the people at
the hotel what the best way to get to Nimes was. Always check with the
locals before starting out on another leg of your trip. We were originally
going to take the road back to Nice and then get on the pay road straight
to Nimes. But we had heard there was some road work going on and they
confirmed it. The folks at the hotel said the detour around the work on
the road to Nice would take over an hour so the best way would be to go
back through the mountains to Aix-En-Provence and catch it there. That
seemed like a good plan and the drive was beautiful anyway. So off we went
on another adventure through the mountain roads of France in our little
black rented Mercedes.
The scenery was stunning of course and I discovered something interesting
about the Mercedes. We were about half way to Aix-En-Provence, weaving
through the winding mountain roads when I noticed that the car seemed to
be stuck in third gear, it had taken itself out of drive. This seemed to
be some kind of mountain driving mode but I've never seen a car do this
before. No mater how slow or fast I went, it stayed in third gear. This
wasn't going to work well on the pay road if we ever got there.
So I just let it because actually it was much easier on the mountain roads.
I asked Miki to get out the manual, maybe there was something about this
in there. She pulled a manual out of the glove box and went through it.
All she could find was how to program the radio. I took a quick look and
it was a manual for the radio alright, there was no car manual. OK.....
so everything seemed to be running alright so I just kept moving along in
whatever mode this was until we got to a little town and a stoplight. It
stayed in third while we sat there for a while. Then I shifted to neutral
and back to drive and it switched to drive. I don't know about you, but
cars that are that smart make me nervous.
By the time we got to Aix-En-Provence, it was noon and we thought as soon
as we get on the pay road we'll stop at the first auto stop and have lunch
in the cafeteria. So we're driving through the madhouse traffic, trying
to keep track of the signs and came to a three way intersection with an
arrow pointing right for Nimes. So I managed to get over and turn right.
After a few miles we realized that we were back on the country roads again.
Oops! When you get off the track in France, it's not like America where
you can just turn around and find an onramp. You usually have to find the
next town to find the next entry point. Some good advice for driving in
France.... If you are going through a town and you want to STAY on the pay
road, pay no attention to the signs that point to the place you're actually
going, follow the signs that say 'Toute Directions' (all directions), they
will take you to the pay road.
OK. so we decided to just keep going, it couldn't be too much longer.
Besides, after a few miles we found a great little cafe with great food,
much better than the pay road cafeterias. It took about a half hour longer
than we expected but we finally got to Nimes.
Now this is the place that you all find out that all of the glowing reports
I give about the wonderful country France is to visit are not all just the
gushing reports of a starry-eyed tourist. We finally found a place in
France we did not like! We only decided to go to Nimes to meet and hang
with John Tuck & Ming and Doyle & Selma. When we got to Nimes, we called
Selma's number and they were on the road to Nice, they wouldn't be back
till Friday (we were leaving Wednesday) when John & Ming were coming in.
To start with, the directions in the book to the hotel led us to the center
of town where a series of signs led us in a complete circle. After three
times around the same 5 mile circuit, we decided to follow the signs to
the 'Office De Tourisme' (Tourist Office). Miki went inside while I drove
around the block (there's no parking in Nimes, too many cars). When she
finally came out and I picked her up, she had a map they had marked that
lead us to the hotel. It was right off the pay road where we started.
'The Book' said that the hotel was '2 steps' from the center of town....
maybe if you were the jolly green giant. It turned out to be a 35 minute
walk to the center of town where the coliseum and some of the other ancient
buildings are. And it's not a pretty walk.
Unlike all of the other towns we've been to in France, you don't see the
old limestone buildings, the plazas, the friendly people walking. What
you see is small, dirty concrete houses, rusty iron fences & gates, very
thin or nonexistent sidewalks and many, many cars, parked everywhere. The
pollution is very bad. My lungs and eyes hurt the whole time we were here.
Later I find out that Jean-Claude and Alain won't come to this town because
it's so depressing.
Another very sad aspect of the town of Nimes was their disrespect for their
history, which may be a result of their history. When we got to the
coliseum, we could see that they didn't make any effort to restore the
seats as they were originally built, as had the people of Vaison and the
people of Arles. The people of Nimes had simply covered over the stone
seats with metal grandstands and put in a bull fighting pen. Aside from
the fact that I think bull fighting is just one step above throwing the
Christians to the lions, the coliseum should be respected and restored...
in my never to be humble opinion.
As for the history of this impressive little building, I've included a
picture of it as it is now and a picture of what it was like many years
back. You can see that a small town was built using the arches and the
hallways for rooms, stores and housing. When the Romans saw this was going
on and it had not been authorized by the Roman councils, they sent the
troops in to burn them out. That's why the black soot on the ceiling of
Then there is the Maison Caree. This is one of the best examples of Roman
temple building that has survived the ages. It was filled with statues
and paintings until recently when it was gutted. The facade, a tribute to
the sons of Caesar was removed. The foundations of a town, similar to the
foundations we saw in Vaison was found behind the Maison. Recently they
covered that up with a marble square so they could hold concerts around
That's enough ranting! We were on vacation and we were determined to have
a great time so we decided to do what you do when life hands you lemons....
The price of money in France is so good right now, the deals are incredible.
On our third day there, strangely enough, Miki knew that there was a big
mall in the center of town called La Cupole. All indoor and nothing closes
for lunch. So we took a cab over there and when we walked in, a glow came
over Miki. She became angelic, peaceful and floated two inches off the
floor. Watches, purses, I got two wonderful shirts, perfume.... Needless
to say, our suitcases were heavier coming back than going over. You gotta
do what you gotta do!
Well enough of Nimes. We were glad to get out of there. Back to Nice to
get ready to go home on Friday. We get there Wednesday for two days of
packing and getting stuff in order. In five years of going to France this
way we've learned that you need to plan your escape early.
They had moved the rental car return to another terminal and you can't
trust the bus at 6:00 AM so we decided to return the car a day early. We
got there about 11:00 AM on Thursday and pulled up to the gate. The guy
was in a hurry, as usual. I got out and handed him the contract. He took
it, made a quick walk around the car, got in the car, threw the contract
at me and drove off. So we left, got a cab back to the hotel and went on
our way. Then something started to bother me, something was missing....
I had left my camera in the rental car, behind the seat, along with all of
the pictures. When we got to the hotel, we called Avis and told them the
camera was in the car. They said they went to the car to look and found
nothing. Rather than argue with them, we grabbed a cab and went to the
airport. When we got to Avis we told them who we were and asked them to
find the camera for us. They again told us they had no camera, that we
must be mistaken. We asked to see a manager and the girl at the counter
called somewhere. When she hung up the phone, she told us the manager did
not want to see us. I looked at Miki and saw her go through some kind of
corporal phase change. One second she was the mild mannered Miki of Santa
Cruz, the next second she was Basheba, Queen of the Amazon. She started
speaking very fast French and I assumed that she was saying, 'Say WHAT?',
in a many more choice words. The poor girl at the counter turned pale and
made another call and the manager showed up two minutes later. He took us
over to the car and showed us that the camera was not there. He spoke
English so after three or so tries, got the point across that someone here
had stolen the camera. We asked him if all of the guys from this morning
were here. One had (conveniently) left early. I got the manager's card
and told him that we would be in touch after notifying Avis in the U.S.
We had dinner that night with Mimi, Alain, Soliane, and Jean-Claude. It
was nice and there were no teary good-byes. Jean-Claude insisted on taking
us to the airport in the morning and we finally had to say OK. We managed
to get out of there early and get to bed. We had to get up at 4:00 AM.
Jean-Claude picked us up and took us to the airport in the morning. He
wanted to be the one that said the good-byes to Miki & me. The flight back
was nice, like the flight there. When we finally got home (18 hours later)
there was a message on the machine from Jean-Claude saying Avis had found
the camera, he would be picking it up the next day and sending it back.
It's amazing what Basheba, Queen of the Amazon can do when she puts her
mind to it...
See y'all soon, we hope!
[I've sent the pictures as a JPEG in a separate message with the subject
"Leaving France Pictures" -psl]
© 2000 Peter Langston