Arles and Saint Remy, France

There are few places where one could spend a day in substantial rain and enjoy it. Arles and Saint Remy are two of those destinations.

There are few places where one could spend a day in substantial rain and enjoy it. Arles and Saint Remy are two of those destinations. In spite of poor weather, we left the area virtually “singing in the rain.”

Easter week in Arles

We have friends who rent a house in Provence every year for a week with their immediate family. Until we visited the area recently on our Costa Pacifica cruise, I hadn’t paid much attention. Now, I will.

We docked in Marseilles and motored to Arles. A town center called Republic Square greeted us. It was bordered by the two churches (St. Anne and St. Trophime) plus the Town Hall. In the center is a tall Egyptian obelisk excavated from the area where the former Roman Circus stands.

The Roman Amphitheater, which dates from 90 A.D., is nearby. It is arguably the most striking attraction in Arles. In the fifth century, during the fall of the Roman Empire, the space became a refuge for the Arles population and was transformed into a fortress and housing.

In 1826, there was a push to preserve the amphitheater as a national historical monument and the housing was torn down. The space was then used as an arena for bull races, the first being held in 1830. Sadly, Arles citizens took portions of the original Roman amphitheater to build their own houses outside its walls so parts of it are defaced.

A highlight of our day was seeing the views that inspired Van Gogh. He moved to Arles in 1888 and painted some of his masterpieces there including “The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum at Night” and "The Garden Psychiatric Hospital in Arles” The latter is the sanatorium to which Van Gogh admitted himself after having an argument with Paul Gauguin.

As a result, Van Gogh cut off a part of his ear. Gauguin left town.

The Arles residents were so frightened of Van Gogh that they wanted him moved elsewhere. In 1889, after having painted 300 works in Arles in fifteen months, he moved to a hospital near Saint Remy. While there, he either shot himself or was shot, depending on whom you read. He died two days later.

We, too, moved from Arles to Saint Remy. There we saw the Church of Saint Martin built in 1821 on the site of the original dating from 1122, as well as the birthplace of Nostradamus, the writer famed for his prophecies. There were also some splendid mansions, now used for more practical purposes than one-family living.

In summary, this was one of the most delightful tours we enjoyed while on the Costa Pacifica even though there was substantial rain on our parade. A return to Arles and Saint Remy is in the future for us, perhaps next time imitating our friends and renting a house for the family for a week. We definitely will hope for better weather.

Recommendation

While in Arles, we sat down for a meal, in part to escape the rain. It couldn’t have been better. The Restaurant Plaza La Poillette was small, intimate, friendly and the food excellent. It has many awards to its credit. I would highly recommend it.