In planning this trip, it was like a sort of connect the dots in uncharted territory.
When one is unfamiliar with the land and the train system and lengths of time it takes to get from point a to point b it seems like a giant challenge.
We arrived in Arles where we found our little modest Hotel La Re'gence on the outskirts of the walled town next to the Quai LaMartine.
It was quite exciting that we were in the very town that Van Gogh spent time painting.
Vincent was 35 when he lived here in 1888. It was here where Vincent created some of his most beautiful paintings. He was inspired by the nature and light in this area of France, painting over 200 paintings in just a few months.
We followed in his footsteps and stopped along our daily wanderings in the same spots that inspired him. Our Hotel was situated along the Quai where he had stood and painted one of his famous paintings, 'Starry Night over the Rhone'. The stars are painted as swirling over the town's night scape.
Painter Paul Gauguin joined him upon invitation.
Though troubled, we remember the beautiful place that inspired the paintings we have to remember this great artist.
We had a few days of good weather but soon the rain found us, and we had to spend days with our parapluie opened to protect us from the rain. Actually out for a little jaunt was fun, but it did get old. We would sometimes have to duck into a church and seek refuge in one of the pews until the weather settled down. or sometimes into a bar for a cafe'au lait and cookie or accompanying chocolate!
We spent our days here wandering around every square and plaza exploring every inch of the area looking for the Roman Ruins and the Roman Amphitheatre.
We came upon the Hotel De Ville, once a hot spot in the past, a giant palace that the rich and famous visited for their repose. I imagined myself descending the sweeping staircase to enter the massive lobby. It is now vacant. Accordion music was wafting through the now empty lobby, inviting us to step through the threshold and discover who and where the musician was. It really made for the scene! We were truly in France!
The acoustics were perfect, and as it happened that the musician was a young guy playing for donations in the courtyard next to a fantastic fountain opposite the exit of the Hotel. How lovely the music was and it gave just the ambiance needed for our afternoon's exploration.
We were immersed in French essence!
Our plan for the next day was to take a train ride to Avignon and St. Remy. We had wanted to go see La Baux also, but there was no way that we could get there unless we had a car, which we didn't. During the tourist season there are buses that run to this told about fantastic town, but after a certain date, they no longer take people there by bus. I can't figure that one out!
Also, this day, there was a train strike and the trains were not running. Thank goodness there were people that could direct us to the bus stop, and the bus driver helped immensely in getting us situated. There happened to be five other English speaking people in the same predicament, we all headed to Avignon and then Steve and I took a separate bus to St. Remy to check out the sights there.
In the afternoon, we returned to Avignon. It warrants exploring also, however, we only gave ourselves time to walk down the busy main Ave. towards the Palace of the Popes, and the adjoining park that provides a grand view of the Rohne River and the remaining bridge section left after the bombing from WWII.
Arles has not been kept up as nice as you would imagine it should be... Perhaps it is because the city has invested their Euros in restoration of the Amphitheatre. Through medieval times and until the early 1800's the amphitheatre arches were bricked up and the arena became a fortified town housing 200 humble homes within it's walls. The town's buildings are built right up to the walls of this giant silent monolith that housed Roman entertainment of the past, with only a small road circling the arena and spoke streets reaching out from it into the maze of other streets, perfect for getting lost and just wandering and exploring more.
Tomorrow we will travel to Coullioure, near the border of Spain.