After seeing the St-Rémy marché in the morning, our group visited Arles in the afternoon. I had already been to Arles in May 2009 when I was studying abroad in Toulouse through Dickinson. It was nice going back without a group of American college students. I was able to appreciate the town better and I was with people whom I actually cared about–my family and some friends.
The city of Arles is home to some of the finest Roman architecture and monuments in France and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before Vincent Van Gogh ended up in the St-Paul Asylum, he lived in Arles for a year from 1888 to 1889 and was quite busy while he was there–he created over 300 paintings during his stay. Arles sits on the banks of the Rhone river and its reddish-pink rooftops remind me a lot of Toulouse. Arles’s population is around 50,000. It’s not that big, but it’s a decent size for a small Provencal city.
First up on the agenda was the Arles arena aka a Roman amphitheater. Looking somewhat like the Coliseum in Rome, it has been restored and is better preserved. The Romans used it for chariot races and violent hand to hand combat between warriors back in the day. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the inside of the arena became a mini fortress/city until the 19th century when people decided to bring it back to its Roman days glory. Today, the arena is used for bullfighting, concerts, and plays during the summer months.
Some of these pictures were taken the first time I visited Arles. The ones with the super blue sky were taken the second time around (we only had blue sky while we were in Provence, it was kind of ridiculous how awesome the weather was.) I didn’t take as many pictures of Arles the second time so I had to dig around on my hard drive for the study abroad pictures. I never posted them on this blog so even though the pictures are old to me, they’ll be new for you!
And look! Two francaises enjoying Arles! Well… okay. My mother is American and I’m only half French but I tried not dressing like a tourist. I was even wearing the hat I bought at the St-Rémy marché!
We then went to take a look at the Roman theater. A concert was setting up for that night in the theater and I felt so bad for the stagehands. It was so hot that day and they were in direct sunlight. Every chance I got, I kept plopping down on a bench–or in the case of the Roman theater, on some Roman ruins.
The following are more pictures of around the city. As you can see, I was fascinated by the shutters on the buildings. Also of note: the yellow cafe is the same yellow cafe in Van Gogh’s famous painting Cafe Terrace at Night. It is still open today and is appropriately called Cafe Van Gogh. I didn’t actually see the cafe this time around and I didn’t remember where it was so I wasn’t able to show my father and my mom’s friends.
Again the pictures with the brilliant blue sky were taken this past August. As were all the graffiti pictures. I’m not sure what to make of the graffiti in the last picture which says “public showers.” Ah well, I was never very good at interpreting art.
I’m heading down to North Carolina for a dear friend’s wedding for the next couple of days so I hope to update the Provence diaries series sometime next week! Wish me luck in my travels–I’m taking Greyhound for the very first time in my life (not all the way down to North Carolina from New York though–just part of the way)!
Oh and I just found this nice video on Youtube which sums up everything I’ve covered about Arles in this post: its Roman history, Vincent Van Gogh, and the market! Check it out!