Thursday, October 25, 2012



Arles is known for a great many things: among the most intact Roman architecture and ruins in France; one of the best Provençal markets in France; Van Gogh's one-time place of residence where he painted hundreds of masterpieces, and where he cut off his ear; destruction of the Rhone side of the city during WWll by American bombers to roust the occupying  German army ....

We like Arles a lot because of its friendly people, the great outdoor market, the vitality of the city as a thriving urban centre. And Arles has retained its unique character as a major historical site in the south of France. It is just a short drive down along the Rhone River to the famous Camargue delta. 

We drove up here from our Gites in the Camargue, about 40 minutes away, to shop at the Saturday market, and to lose our way in the maze of streets within the old city centre ...

The Cathedral St. Trophime is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture. It was built in the late 11th Century. It is well preserved and it  is so spectacular that it stops you in your tracks. This church is one of the most photographed buildings in Arles. 

The tympanium above the portal depicts Christ seated in majesty, surrounded by symbols of saints. His 12 apostles (once disciples) are seated below. Unable to be seen in this photo are, on the left, a procession of chosen Christians going to heaven; and on the right, the sad procession of sinners cast into hell. So goes the litany, the redundant theme of all Christianity: freak out the masses, blind them with horror so that they may have unquestioned faith, and they will abide and the clerics will have hegemony forever and on ...

In 1365 Charles  lV, was crowned King of Arles here. Arles was the second largest city in Provence at the time. In 1801, its importance was downgraded when the Bishopric moved to Aix-en-Provence.

Arles is a city of art ...

some commissioned and some not. But it is all colourful.

rue Tardeau running down to the arena

Streets in the old city are slightly cancave with stone gutters and hollowed out stone door steps that allow rainwater to flow freely. rue des Arènes is one of these. The step on the right has recently been replaced but the more typical one on the left shows hundreds of years of wear.

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The following Saturday we went to the market in Aix-en-Provence, and to explore a little. This  is another favoured city, much larger than Arles. Aix is a university town, a bustling city with more locals than tourists. Aix is large enough to be able to absorb more tourists than Arles. Arles probably attracts more coach-loads of tourists because of the plethora of Roman ruins there and because of its proximity to the Camargue, in itself a big destination for summer holidayers and for retirees who have nothing but time on their hands.

Aix is a city of fountains. The one below caught my partner's attention. Its cold water is keeping the rosé chilled for customers at the adjacent cafe.

Aix is also known for its hot springs. The fountain of hot water on Cours Mirabeau is called Moussue (moss).

A lovely young woman was caught by my lens as she walked by the fontaine de la place d'Albertas.

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