June 03, 2013

Afternoon in Arles

Arles, July 2012 - This was the last day of our Burgundy and Provence river cruise with Avalon Waterways. We'd spent the morning in the French countryside touring an olive farm and the hilltop town of Les Baux de Provence. Following lunch on board ship our afternoon was dedicated to a walking tour of Arles.

Tour de la Cavalerie and Arles City Gate

A short distance from the quai, we passed through the city gate and came upon the massive Amédée Pichot Fountain on rue Voltaire.

Amédée Pichot Fountain

Arles has occupied its location on the Rhone River for two thousand years. It was once known as the "Little Rome of Gaul". The Roman Arena, an ancient amphitheatre where gladiator fights were held, is still used today for concerts and bullfights.

Bull Races in Arles

Interior  Corridor of the Arles Arena

The amphitheatre was built in 46 BC and could hold 20,000 spectators.

Arles Arena Floor

Unlike the bloody Spanish bullfights (corrida), in a Provençal course camarguaise the goal is to remove a ribbon from between the horns of the Camargue bulls.

Camargue Bull

The historic centre of Arles has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two columns from an ancient Roman temple still stand in Place du Forum. 

The Roman Columns in Place du Forum

Beneath a plane tree overlooking the square is a statue of Frédéric Mistral, local poet and champion of Provençal culture. In case you're wondering, the mistral wind is not named after Frédéric Mistral. The word means "master".

Statue of Frédéric Mistral, Place du Forum

Vincent Van Gogh also made Arles his home from 1888-1889. Unfortunately none of his paintings remain here, but the Van Gogh Trail markers embedded in the streets point visitors to easels displaying reproductions of his paintings in the locations that inspired them. The local tourist office can provide a map of the sites. Rick Steves' Provence guide book also includes a Van Gogh walking tour.

Van Gogh Trail Marker

Le Cafe la Nuit on Place du Forum appears in Van Gogh's Le Café Le Soir. It has been painted bright yellow to match the image in the painting.

Café la Nuit, Place du Forum

Le Café le Soir, Van Gogh

Following the famous incident in which Van Gogh cut off his ear, he was sent to a hospital which is now the Espace Van Gogh. The courtyard garden is open to visitors.

Courtyard of  Espace Van Gogh

Gift Shop

On Place de la Republique, a large obelisk stands in front of the town hall. At the base of the obelisk is a fountain decorated with lions.

Arles Obelisk, Place de la Republique

Obelisk Fountain

The lion is the symbol of Arles.

The Lion, Symbol of Arles

The medieval streets of central Arles are very narrow, much to the dismay of this driver attempting a tight left turn, but well suited to walking. And the shade offers some respite from the blazing sun.

Narrow Streets of Arles

L'Occitane en Provence

Our local tour guide was very knowledgeable, but by late afternoon the heat had taken its toll and we just couldn't tour any longer. Rather than visit the Church of St. Trophime, we opted for a shady café equipped with fans and a misting system – and the promise of cold drinks.


Arles' proximity to the Via Domitia, the ancient Roman route between Italy and Spain, is reflected not only in the local sport of bullfighting, but also in the fruity pitcher of sangria which we chose to quench our thirst. Somewhat refreshed, we returned along the Quai Lamartine to our ship to prepare for the evening's festivities.

Rooftops of Arles

Quai Lamartine, Arles

In celebration of our last night on board the Avalon Scenery, we shared a toast with our captain and crew in the lounge.

The Captain's Farewell Message

Then we moved to the dining room for an impressive Farewell Gala Dinner.

Trout Fillet on Waldorf Salad

Smoked Duck Breast Salad

Pan Fried Scallop with Green Asparagus

Whole Roasted Veal Loin

Baked Alaska

While we wined and dined, the Avalon Scenery sailed to Port St. Louis at the mouth of the Rhone River.

Wind Turbines on the Rhone River

After dinner, I just happened to step out on deck in time to witness the beautiful Camargue sunset.

Camargue Sunset, Port St. Louis

And in the morning we would be on our way by motor coach to the town of St. Remy de Provence on the next part of our adventure, the Provence Extension to our cruise.

Next:  The Camargue, Delta of the Rhone

Related Posts:

An Olive Farm & Les Baux de Provence
"V" is for Van Gogh

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