Day 56 - Sun May 29 Collioure, to Arles
(Jen) We arrived in Arles at around noon and were a bit caught off-guard by how big it is. Since leaving France we've been hopping from one tiny town to another and Arles seems big, dirty, and a bit unsafe in comparison. It reminded us both of Athens actually - especially because it's chock-full of Roman ruins. It was also stinking hot, about 85 degrees.
Arles and the surrounding towns are home to a more gentle and less gruesome form of bullfights (courses Camarguaises) which we were eager to see. Instead of the bull being killed, he has a ribbon above his forehead laced between his horns. The bullfighter then has 15 minutes to snare the ribbon using a small hand-held hook that's about 4 inches long (so he has to get really close still). Our host found a fight for us in a town 40 minutes away. There are three levels of fighters, novice, better, and professional. I believe our fight featured novices as they were only about 19 years old and out of the 5 or so fights we saw I don't think any of them achieved getting the ribbon. The first 20 minutes or so were quite interesting, after that it became repetitive. There were 7 bullfighters against one bull, and they all wore white. The bull would prance at the ground with his front feet just like you see in cartoons before the charge. I actually didn't know they really did that. The bull fighters would wait for the bull the charge them and then leap up and over the fence to get away from the bull. Some of the bulls would even jump over the fence too and then they would have to be "encouraged" back into the ring.
After the fight we returned to the hotel and relaxed a bit. Chris seems to be coming down with a cold or something again so he's not feeling well. We ventured out for dinner and came away disappointed. They were out of the vegetable soup Chris wanted so he settled for fish soup instead - not very appealing when you are sick. I tried "bull meat" which is supposed to be an area specialty and it tasted like it came from a bull who led a long life of about 15 years, very gamey and horribly tough. The only sight we bothered to see in Arles itself was the Roman Amphitheatre, sort of like the Roman Coliseum in Rome (see pictures). We didn't go inside because it was closed, but they have modern stadium seats inside and use it for bullfights to this day. We've had a healthy dose of Roman ruins on this trip so it didn't take our breath away or anything.
Upon return to our hotel we discovered that it was full of little bugs - sort of like fruit flies. We'd opened the windows for a few minutes earlier in the day and either we hadn't noticed them until it became dark, or the few we did let in earlier somehow multiplied 20 fold over the course of the day. The room was also very hot but it turns out a notice on the door states they charge E2 for air conditioning (not mentioned at check-in of course) and the front desk has to give you a remote ... and the front desk was closed. So, neither Chris nor I got much sleep as you had to hide under a sheet to hide from the bugs (and roast) or be a little less cool and get crawled on. I chose sheet and roast. Chris chose no sheet and scratching all night. Neither of us slept well. One last kicker about this hotel ... they advertise internet access, but turns out they offer one machine in a common area and it's 3E for 15 minutes or 8E for an hour. Ripoff!!