A visit to Arles, and my ear is still attached

Trip Start Apr 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 26, 2012

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Arles, France, the beautiful city on the Rhone river that inspired Vincent van Gogh to paint hundreds of works of art, as well as the city he was in when he cut off his ear and gave it to a prostitute...  I'm sure it's the thought that counts.

Arles is a very beautiful city and we spent most of our time just walking around and admiring the views.  Arles has a lot of Roman ruins around the city including a theater (half circle for seating, flat back for a stage) and amphitheater (seating all around, wild beasts in the middle) that are both still in use today for plays, concerts and bull fights.  We visited the Cryptoporticos which are part of the basement of an ancient Roman building that used to house the shops and administrative buildings in the town square.  Another ancient Roman site we went to is the Alyscamps which is the site of an ancient Roman cemetery and today has many empty sarcophagus lining the roadway to an equally creepy church that was added in the year 1,000 AD.  All of the birds hanging around inside didn't help the creepy factor of the church and if anyone is planning to visit here, I would suggest wearing a hat you don't care about.

Oh, and that reminds me, it seems that in Europe, not all bathroom fixtures are created equal.  I can just imagine a team of engineers sitting around at some porcelain fixture factory dividing up the task of designing their latest creation:  "OK Frank, you were designing the base that fits over the hole in the ground right?  I'm working on the tank that holds the water, and ummm...  Hey Frank, wasn't there another person working on that part you sit on??  Oh well, forget that piece, we don't need it anyway."  From what we hear, we should get used to these types of toilets as we may be seeing more of them in the future.

OK, so back to Arles.  My favorite painting is "Cafe terrace at night" and back when we had a house, I had a print of it hanging on the wall.  It was really cool to be able to stand there looking at the actual cafe that is in the painting.  We came across a number of locations that were subjects of van Gogh's paintings including: The banks of the Rhone river, the pathway through the Alyscamps, the Trinquetaille bridge over the Rhone river, the entrance to the public parks and the asylum garden.  We tried to find the house that he lived in and also had in one of his paintings but it was destroyed by a bomb in WWII.

On Saturdays and Wednesdays a traveling market comes to town in Arles and sets up shop.  Dozens of vendors set up tables, vans or trailers selling everything from tools and hardware to household items, clothing, produce, bread, cheese, fish and other foods.  The market probably took up close to a kilometer of walking path along the edge of the old town and was packed with people.  We wandered through it, bought some croissants, strawberries, and cheese for breakfast and checked out the mounds of other things for sale.

We had also hoped to be able to do some wine tasting and maybe tour a winery in the area.  Arles is only about 45 Km from Chateauneuf-du-pape and the Rhone valley but it seems that it's not that easy to actually GET to those areas.  Buses don't run from Arles to either area and private tours are very expensive and limited in where they take you so we are going to head a little further north to Avignon for a few days and see if we have better luck getting transportation to wineries from there.
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Kirsten on

How beautiful! That is fabulous to see the Van Gogh paintings and the photographs of it. And I have to say I love reading your stories, you definitely have a way of putting together a great narrative!

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