We woke up refreshed and headed out the door to find something for breakfast. Vaguely recalling a little bakery we’d passed during the previous days’ exploration and miraculously found it again. Mmm. There were many delicious pastries housed inside, it was difficult to choose which items we wanted to consume that morning. The employee who assisted us spoke about as much English as we did French, so we had fun gesturing at the different nameless items as well as holding up fingers and using our very limited French to indicate how many of each we wanted. Jesse even held up his index finger to his thumb to indicate that he wanted a small coffee instead of a large! After being helped, we found a seat outside the shop where we could enjoy our food while people watching. The only pastries I know we got were chocolate filled beignets (amazing!), a chocolate croissant, and some macarons (which we saved to have as a snack later). The names of the other pastries were beyond me. Apparently I need to expand my knowledge of baking! It was pleasant outside and quiet since of the tourists were not yet out and about; it made people watching quite relaxing.
After Jesse had sipped down the last of his café, we meandered off to check out the old Roman Arena. It was big and beautiful, though after having seen the Orange theater the previous day, it was less impressive than I had hoped. While the theater in Orange had a modern stage, a few speakers, and a roof to protect it from further deterioration, it still looked close to how I imagined it did in its former glory. This ancient amphitheater of Arles also had a few modern additions, though these were less subtle which made it hard to completely connect with and feel like I was experiencing a piece of history. There were metal bleachers, wooden walls on the floor of the Arena, and advertisements plastered around the structure, which was a little bit disappointing, though understandable considering the Arena is still in use today. Still, it was beautiful and easy to imagine how beautiful it must have been 2000 years ago. With a capacity of 20,000, the energy must have been and intense the excitement wild. It was free, but similar to the theater in Orange, it was set up so that members of different social classes never had to make contact with each other. It was also built with numerous archways and exists so that crowds could quickly exit and fights didn’t break out. Wandering the outer edges of the arena demonstrated some of the most beautiful and majestic points on the arena. After the slow collapse of the Roman Empire, the Arena was not destroyed (unlike the neighboring theater). Instead, it was transformed into a village where 200 homes, a town square and two chapels were fit inside. They filled in to create both homes and a fortified wall. It remained that way for the next 1200-1300 years. It was fascinating to try to picture. I imagine it smelled horrible and that rodents quickly scurried about from one closely packed house to another. I also think there would’ve been an incredible lack of privacy and sounds and rumors would have quickly passed through the village. A few of the medieval structures still remain and we got to climb up to it. I know I would’ve been terrified to live in one of the homes that once neighbored it, as they would’ve been precariously perched upon the top of outer edge. The view was incredible and they would’ve gotten some fresh air, but I’m not sure that would be enough to make it worth it.
It was nice to know that the price of my admission ticket is helping to preserve and restore such a beautiful piece of humanity’s past. I love that humanity is so clever and capable of building such masterpieces, and have been for so long. The restoration process is nearly complete and it looks like a tedious, stressful process. Not only do they have to worry about creating an exact historical replica of the original stone, but they also have to be very careful to keep the structure from collapsing and not to damage anything else during their construction. It must be painstakingly difficult, but such an honor to be part of.
After a bit of exploration, we sat on some stairs in an archway to enjoy our snack of macarons. They. were. amazing. Why do we make such boring sugar cookies when we have these delightful desserts?! They dissolve in your mouth. Mmm. Though, I side with Jesse in that there is a reason macarons are typically very small. The ones we got were too large and thus somewhat sickeningly sweet. A smaller size isdefinitely recommended so that they aren’t quite as overwhelming. After a bit more gaping, we reluctantly exited through the gates and headed across the street to visit the ruins of the neighboring theater of Arles.