While we waited for our train at the Orange train station, another train shot through at light speed. Jesse had been standing near the edge of the platform when it flew by and it left him a little traumatized… I think images of him losing balance and toppling over into the train tracks and becoming unidentifiable human remains had flashed through his mind.
Anyway, we got to Arles safely and made the short walk from the train station to the our hotel, Hôtel Régence, where we were greeted by the very kind Eric. He was the sweetest man with a wonderful smile and gentle demeanor. I wish you could bottle up the energy and personalities like perfume and carry them around with you. Then, when you need a boost of joy, glee, goofiness, calmness, etc. you could just open up the correct bottle and take a whiff and experience some of that energy. It would be rather nice, plus who doesn’t want to market their personality? 😉
After getting a local map from Eric, we walk to the Arles History museum that is built at the site of the old Roman race track. Unfortunately, most of it has been buried, save for a few spots of the foundation that were dug up. The museum was very nice though. It was arranged very well and had a nice collection that helped me to understand the history and significance of Arles. I like looking at old stuff and imagining what it was used for, like the giant pot in the picture. I think maybe it was for olive oil, but I can’t remember now. Whatever the purpose, it is one very impressive, very heavy piece of clay. How do you go about making something like that, or firing pottery so huge? I liked that the museums we went to left so many beautiful, historical pieces in the open rather than locked up behind glass and sensors. It makes the experience so much more real. I also wanted to share something I thought was somewhat humorous; there was one wall covered with small engraved stone tablets. I was envying the near perfect “handwriting” and craftsmanship when I glanced over to see one one tile that made me chuckle. I guess bad handwriting has always and will always exist!
After spending a couple hours in the museum, we wandered off to do a reverse walk of our guide book’s tour of the Van Gogh sights. It was enjoyable, but my feet felt like they were going to fall off by the end of it. The locations of these two pictures are the subjects of Garden of the Hospital of Arles and Café Terrace at Night, which might be familiar to some. It was a fun way to explore and get to know the town, as many of these sites were in very hidden, off the beaten path areas. Without a good map, I doubt we would have been able to find a few of them, but I was glad to have gotten a quick rundown of Arles’ layout that quickly. At one point, we passed by a lady stirring a hug skillet of shrimp paella. It looked amazing and the smell reminded me of the Cajun cooking in New Orleans when I had been there years ago. I could definitely tell the Cajun descended from the French.
Arles was a very intriguing city, and one I find I rather prefer in photos. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Arles, but I found it to be a bit touristy; it is overflowing with tacky tourist shops and booths as well as hundreds of tourists flocking in from the cruises ships that stop by for the afternoon. The city is a bit of a maze, like most ancient cities, but it felt a bit grimy and unkempt; most buildings appeared a bit dilapidated and there was dog poop littering the streets. It has a beautiful charm in photos, and I can tell why Van Gogh found great inspiration here ~125 years ago, though much of the charm has been lost due to over commercialization. It would be nice if Arles had more of a vision for their sweet town. I talk to some of the employees in various shops they went to, and most of them had to do their personal shopping in neighboring cities, as everything here is catered towards the tourists. I think the city’seconomy is solely sustained by tourism. Again though, I did enjoy the city, it just wasn’t what I expected. It was pretty cute and full of surpises though, like random posts painted with eyeballs (Jesse enjoyed these) and yarn bombed trees lining one of the main streets. I think Arles does have a lot of hidden treasures, you just have to look a little further to find them and make sure you get off the tourist roads. We passed one lady making a big skillet of shrimp paella; it smelled amazing and brought me back to the days of
After finishing up our walking tour and successfully navigating all the doggie doo-doo piles, we stopped at the Monoprix to get some snacks for dinner: tomatoes, carrots, peaches, plums, what I’m going to call French Goat cheese and paprika cheetos (Belin Croustilles Fromage de Chevre), some other treats we picked up in the junk food aisle, and wine. We also finished off some more of our cheese and jamón sandwiches. Come to think of it, that was quite a feast. We may have been just a wee bit hungry when we went to the grocery store. We did have plenty of leftovers to snack on for the next several days though, if that’s any consolation.
In any case, it was fun and refreshing to eat inside and have a long evening of relaxation. It was our first evening to get back to our hotel before the sun went down and have any time to really just relax and ponder our trip and the things we’d seen. We opted not to set the alarm for the morning too, as we were both completely wiped out and needed some good recovery sleep. That evening was exactly what we needed.