The 10:34 to Arles
If logistics was fine art, I could see cutting off an ear in frustration. I knew, for instance, that our arrival in Arles would not leave us in walking distance to the hotel. That was of some relief to Carol, who'd already had enough of rues and cours that looked like scenes from The Battle of Algiers. (I've come across some streets on the Left Bank in Paris that exist only in black and white.)
But from my last trip, I knew that Uber was not an option, and that there was no taxi stand with taxis lined up for a fare, as in the larger cities and towns. I'd pinned my hopes this time on the odd cabbie maybe catching a snooze and hanging out for a clueless American arriving with an address carefully printed on a piece of notepaper.
All those elements were in play, except for the presence of a slumbering hack, as Carol and I walked out of the Arles station, and with Carol unaware of just how dead-end our journey had just become. I pointed to the sign marked TAXI, and we walked over and stood under it. I knew better, but still held out hope that somehow the taxi stand was being scanned and a cab would be dispatched at the first sight of a customer.
Whatever world that might exist on, it's not this one, and I was forced to explain to Carol that I had actually anticipated this, but had no plan B queued up to address it. I had been waiting for Carol’s W.H.I.G.M.I look, and suddenly there it was in full flower. While Carol went back to the station to hunt up an internet connection, I sauntered over to a bus stop to see what I could find out.
A swarm of police had suddenly swooped in out of nowhere and converged en masse into the train station, sending Carol scurrying out and saying she felt safer with me not knowing how to get to the hotel than she did amidst an apparent S.W.A.T operation in progress.
I had managed to learn the difference between the local buses and the ones that ran out of town, and I invited Carol aboard a cute little red ice cream truck known to the locals as the route A bus. The driver was a pleasant enough garden gnome who looked at my handwritten address, smiled and pointed us aboard. I soon realized my note could have said, THIS IS A HOLDUP; YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE, and he would have smiled just as pleasantly and waved us aboard.
It was at the time we were the only passengers left on the bus, and which was now about to enter an on ramp to a divided highway out of town that I reminded Willy Wonka of his promise to drop us near the address I'd shown him. He looked at the note again, and this time he reacted as if it HAD been a holdup note. He stopped the bus in the middle of the street and motioned back toward the middle of town.
Carol started to ask why the driver suddenly let us off in the middle of nowhere, then apparently thought better of it. She fired up her GPS, and then pointed back to where we'd just come from. When GPS put us on a dark, narrow street filled with swarthy blackguard types, she relaxed, knowing we had to be close to the hotel. Our overnight visit to Van Gogh’s final stomping grounds could begin.