@#$%#!!! Cold Water Shower! I woke up early the following morning. The sitzbank was a pretty good place to sleep. I like a firm mattress, and this one was like a concrete slab. In the shower, I didn’t know how to work the hot water, so I had a rather cold shower. I didn’t really try that hard to get the hot, I just assumed that the ship had run out, because of the excursion leaving at 8:30, and everyone trying to get breakfast before leaving, and a shower before breakfasting. I used some of the soap from the dispenser, and some shampoo from the Nikko hotel, because the ship of course had not provided any.
Since Joyce was not yet up, and we had until 9:00 a.m. to get to breakfast, I took “Elvis, Jesus” up on the deck to read for awhile. I was the only one up there, and I set down in a deck chair facing the shore side, and between reading and watching the shore excursion busses loading and departing, it was a most pleasant hour. The road we had dragged our suitcases acrosse the day before was now bumper-to-bumper at freeway speeds, now. "Too Bad, Pierre! You gotta work and I'm on vacation!" The shore excursion would leave, then the boat would leave for Arles. The shore excursion would rejoin the boat at Arles.
Der Loccch! Heading for Arles, the boat was required to descend in a 25-meter lock. Frau Helga said “Ja, jetzt kommen wir im Schleiss”, or Loccch, as she said it in English. No mater what language it was in, she always made it sound dirty. As Frank the Englishman remarked, “If you’ve seen one lock, you’ve seen them all”. True enough, they were all of identical design, and we would be traveling through 22 of them. Except for today, which was a round trip downriver from Avignon. In the coming days, all the locks would be taking us up, a total of 200 meters in elevation.
Before Frau Helga’s announcement, I thought it was a fueling stop, and then noticed that the pier seemed to be going up, and that the walls of the pier were covered with a dark oily substance. Turns out that we were going down, and the “oily substance” was just the wet walls of the lock.
How the Other Half Cruises the River We arrived at Arles — apparently, pier space is at a premium at Arles, because we had to disembark over the deck of the Cezanne, which was on the same route as our ship. Once we “accidentally” went through the lobby of the Cezanne. It was a much better-appointed ship than MS Arlene. I bet they even had washcloths on board. The railings and trim were all natural wood, the deck was astro-turf color instead of the garish blue-green of our deck, and the ship looked newer.
Van Gogh's Home Town A quick look around Arles in the one hour before dinner, revealed that they had a Monoprix, but because it was Dimanche, Sunday, it was closed. We went through a very old, very heavily fortified gate, and into a village tourist area, with cafes, Tabacs, and merchants with wares in the street. We purchased some post cards, which were priced between 2f and 5f. We wouldn’t find any below 2f until our final day in Paris. This was the city where Vincent Van Gogh lived for many years, home of the famous Cafe painting, home of those trees (poplar? The ones in Starry Night), and the Bedroom. It wasn’t until after dinner that we would be biting each other’s ears off.
We stopped in a newsstand, and bought post cards. I was looking for a London Times to score points with the Boys from England, who said that they were looking for one, but found only Das Bild, a German tabloid, with a very sarcastic front page of Clinton, Monica, and the Middle East. “Hast es alle im Griff?” (Can he handle it all at once?). I was rather hoping that there would be no terrorist reprisals or changes of power in Bubbaville until we got back, mainly because I wanted to see the Clinton Scandal first-hand, rather than the terrorist reprisals. (TEXT NOTE - 1/23/10 - this article was written in 1998 - we got home in plenty of time) We didn’t see the Coliseum on that trip, only because we hadn’t travelled the two blocks it took to get there. We were planning on returning in the afternoon, after lunch. We went back to the ship, and the boys were surprised that we had already been off to town.
At lunch, professor Jack said that he was going on the shore excursion to the Camargue, the delta of the Rhone, which he would have compared to the Mississippi Delta, but he couldn’t remember the name of the Mississippi Delta..
The Other Half - Second Look After lunch, we headed out back through the Cezanne, got yelled at for crossing inside the boat, but we wanted to see it. It was better than ours. MS Arlene was definitely the schlepper boat of the damned. Joyce remembered that the Cezanne cruise cost the same as the Arlene cruise, but the travel agent recommended the MS Arlene, not from first-hand experience, I’m sure.
Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to twitter.com I'm @dimbulb52