Wednesday, September 9, 2009

24 Hours in Arlés

Arlés ("arr-ele")...a long history briefly...courtesy of the tourist office...

"Occupied first by Celtic tribes, then by a Greek colony, Arlés became Roman when Julius Caesar gave the colony to the veterans of his legions. That was known as the first Golden Age of Arlés, “Rome in Gaul”. Starting from the earliest days of Christianity, the city became an important religious center. Destroyed and ravaged by invasions during the Middle Ages, Alrles was rebuilt during the 12th century."

24 Hours in Arlés One of the things I really like about small cities in France is the predictability of their layouts: church and post office in the center with a loop surrounding the exterior and a canal or river separating one side from another (sometimes). Last weekend two friends and I took a bus from Aix ("X") to Arlés France for only 2 Euros there and back - yey for student discount. The hour and a half drive through the country was lovely and it was nice to be tourists again! Another thing that is often predictable of many small cities in France is that there is usually a tourist office near the bus drop off. And indeed, the tourist office was our first stop and the people inside were very helpful! In a matter of minutes we decided to stay for the weekend and used their fantastic multi-lingual services to book our evening's dwellings. Post hotel-booking, we headed out to see the small city which was in the throws of celebrating their Roman history with reenactments and costumes galore. That night we saw the reenactment of a Roman gladiator show “Spectacula” in an actual Roman coliseum filled with joustings, chariot races, sword fights, wrestling, captured slaves, robed audience members and the fowl smell of a 4th century plumbing and sewer system – it was very convincing!

After that we headed towards a well known location – Café Van Gogh, where we took pictures of the site made famous by the painter who lived in Arlés, but opted out of sitting for a coffee. Instead we sat for an ice cream across the square!

During our stay we also checked out some ancient catacombs which are currently located under the mayor’s office; ate Provencial cuisine; and waltzed around the Van Gogh gardens. Although brief, it was a splendid trip indeed!

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