While I was in Avignon, I decided to take a day trip to Arles. Arles is best-known for its association with Van Gogh – he lived there for about a year (incidentally right before he had a mental breakdown?), and did many of his most famous paintings there.
As one would expect from the place that inspired so many of Van Gogh’s paintings, the whole city is unspeakably beautiful. I think Arles is the most beautiful place I visited in France.
I walked along and couldn’t help but think of Annie Sloane paints – those wonderful chalk paints to bring a bit of rustic France to our American furniture. Y’all… she looks so much less creative on having to think up colors after visiting Arles! It’s like she just stole colors from Arles, bottled them, and now sells them. I’m impressed with how true to their colors her paints are.
It’s like something straight out of a storybook about Provence – the colors, the winding streets (many of them pedestrian-only), the cafes, the Rhone, and the views in nature. It’s just stunning. I spent most of my day there just walking around and enjoying the city!
I walked about a mile and a half up the Rhone, enjoying the views as they changed from the city of Arles to the early countryside. It’s a city that seems to blend in perfectly with its wider surroundings.
I love the way Arles has “routes” for tourists to follow – they have a few options that help you find the major sites in the city. One of them is the Van Gogh route and will take you to places he painted (and holy crap! They LOOK like the paintings. I know this shouldn’t be mind-blowing, but alas, after all these years since him painting, I was surprised.) They have a historical route as well, taking you to some of the ancient sites.
In ancient times, Arles was a relatively big city – they have the biggest, best-preserved Colosseum from Roman times outside of Rome. I was surprised by how well-intact it is! There were a ton of tour groups around, so I opted not to go in, but I walked around it, and really enjoyed it!
One thing I missed (sadly) in Arles was the history museum – on my way back to Avignon, I learned that they recently built it to house all the artifacts they have after finding a shipwreck from Roman times almost completely intact! I’m sad I didn’t know about that before, but now I have something to go back for!