Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Avignon and Arles

The TGV trip to Avignon this time was uneventful. We were on time with the short walk across the street to Gare de Lyon. We had seats in a quiet carriage which allowed us to enjoy some reading between glances out the window. The scenery changed as were travelled at 300 kph towards our return to the familiar south of France.

How comfortable is the TGV - such an easy way to travel between regional cities of France.
Why the Australian Government can't get their future vision together
and introduce this form of travel is beyond me!
It's a bit like their procrastination with fibre optic broadband.

Looming to the left of us was the giant of the south, Mount Ventoux and a little further on as we drew close to our destination was the Rhone snaking itself toward Arles.

The TGV slowed to the speed of a normal train as it arrived at Avignon and I was getting excited with the prospect of picking up our leased Citroen C4 from Jose. We met Jose under more stressful conditions in 2006. Jose is a very relaxed person. I would say not much fazes him. He drove us from the station into Avignon to pick up the C4. I filled the tank with Gazol and asked where was the best place to park when we return to spend a day in Avignon, “Why right here at my garage,” said Jose, “We are just opposite the city walls and the entrance.” What a generous man!
We waved goodbye as we left for a night in Arles.

For us, Arles was once again a stopping off point to somewhere else. In 2006 it was the overnight stay for Saint Chinian in the Languedoc, this time a stopover before our week in Saint Remy. Both Saint Remy and Arles claim ownership of Van Gogh.

We stayed a night in Arles at the Hotel Constantin just outside the old historic part of town.
 From the Arles website
The first recorded inhabitation in Arles was by Greek-Phoenicians in the 6th century BC - the town was originally called Theline. In the 1st century BC the region came under the legislation of the Romans. And it was in 102 BC, that Gaius Marius started to construct the Fossae Marianae, a canal that ran parallel to the river Rhône from Arelate (Roman Arles) to the sea. During this period Arles became one of the most prosperous towns in France through its trade as a commercial port.

We stayed at Hotel Constantin on Boulevard Craponne just outside the old town, only a short walk away from the morning market. We selected the hotel mainly due to free parking and the low cost. The hotel served its purpose very well (for one night) and the owners of the hotel were most helpful and assisted us with our bags. They were chatty and charming although the room was a bit like us – tired and a little ruffled around the edges.

The attraction of Arles to us is partly Van Gogh’s history and in particular the eight weeks that Gauguin stayed here with him. I actually preferred Gauguin’s work to Van Gogh’s and he certainly was more successful than Vincent during his own lifetime.

The Roman-Gallo ruins and the slow running Rhone beside Arles make it a must-see town with its small twisting streets. On our previous visit, we'd seen the Roman Amphitheatre and the Arena but decided another look was worth the effort. What we hadn't seen and we just happened to stumbled upon it, was the Museon Arlaten on Rue de la Republique.
It was established in 1896 by Frederick Mistral, Nobel prize winner in 1904. The museum is built around the most amazing remains of a Roman Forum and the main building has rooms displaying the life of the traditional folk people in Provence and specifically in and around Arles.

Statue of Frederick Mistral Nobel Prize Winner 1904 and the man who established Museon Arlaten.

Looking down upon the remains of a Roman Forum within Museon Arlaten.

A better view of the two eras of buildings.
Many of the Roman relics and statues are on display at the Museum.

Believed to be a life size bust of an aging Julius Caesar - it was discovered in the river bed of the Rhone among many other Roman artifacts and is now housed within one of the Arles Museums

Another place that fascinated us was a building no more that 50 metres from our hotel. It was deserted, overgrown with shrubs and trees. The roof was full of holes and it looked like the occasional homeless person may have taken refuge there. We were told that Arles has very little in the way of finances to restore and preserve its many treasures and this building on of those that had been neglected. It sits just outside the old town on Place Jose Reyes which is no more than a car park beside the building.

Just another interesting doorway in the many streets of Arles.

We decided dinner at a restaurant was what we needed and we booked in at the same place where we ate two years ago on Rue Doct Fanton. Back then it was a balmy Provence night and we ate al fresco. This time we ate inside, as it was a little cooler and wet.

Before moving on to Saint Remy de la Provence, Sue needed to stock up on some produce for our stay in the Villa that would be our home for the next week.
After the market it was time for a leisurely drive to Saint Remy less than an hour away. We were looking forward to finding our new home for the next week and also meeting our hosts, Josianne and Louie.

Next Wednesday starts our adventure of a week in Saint Remy.


  1. I like Arles very much. We visited twice. We stayed at "le Calendule". It was very nice, next to the arenas.
    Have you read any books by Alphonse Daudet? A lot of them take place in Provence. He was a very good writer and a friend of Frederic Mistral.
    (I wish they had a high speed train in the US too. I guess it cost too much money).
    It's Christmas eve for you guys, as I am writing this. Have a very merry Christmas.

  2. Thanks Nadege - I'll look up that. Your suggestions are always insightful.
    You also have a great Christmas.


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