After our decision to end our misadventure in Avignon, we were rewarded with the more charming Arles. On the way there we visited Orange, where a Roman theatre exists with the most intact stage of any left in existence. The theatre once had a tiny village built inside of it that has since been removed! In this part of the world, the ruins are used wherever possible. This stage has been the home for theatre, opera, and rock concerts.
Arles, our new home for three nights, proved to be a lovely choice for us, although it rained so hard when we arrived that we failed to notice the Roman ampitheater right next to the hotel! The next day, when the sun came out and we explored the town, it was QUITE obvious. This ampitheater is used as well, this one for bullfights. I never pictured the French as being bullfighters, but apparently it’s popular in these parts, anyway (yuck).
Eating in Arles has also been a pleasurable experience. We found several little restaurants with a traditional French feel…lovely tablecloths and china, art that often pays tribute to the local bullfighters, and elegant, imaginative meals. We have been brave enough to try the local rose wines, which are far different and better than I expected.
Arles, I realized, has a familiar feel because Van Gogh painted so many scenes from the town. In fact, one can stand at any street corner and imagine replacing the actual buildings and furnishings with his unique brushstrokes.
When Van Gogh lived in Arles, the locals weren’t excited about him. It’s understandable, given his erratic behavior, but the net result is that not a single Van Gogh painting exists in Arles. Undeterred, the locals came up with a unique and exciting idea: to create a tribute museum, where artists would create their own interpretations of Van Gogh paintings, or portraits of the artist. It sounds like an odd idea, but it works really well. I was moved by the art in the museum, all of which was high quality and honored Van Gogh in a special way.
The next day, we drove to Nimes, Uzes, and Pont de Gard for still more Roman ruins. We saw the arena, main temple, and Temple of Diana at Nimes, and we enjoyed a pleasant lunch outside on the main square. Quick factoid: the fabric denim originated in Nimes (de Nimes, or from Nimes).
Anyway, the high point of the afternoon was the Pont de Gard, a huge aqueduct in excellent condition. We finished our day by returning to Arles and yet another awesome meal. By the way, we were told we would be sick of olives by the end of this trip, but last night was the first night we were served any! We have both now had dishes made with olive oil, and the flavor is much richer when tasting fresh, locally made oil. Yum!
We are in our last week of the trip now, high on a hilltop in a town called Menerbes. The view from our apartment is fabulous, and since it’s another nice day we’ve opened up the windows to let the fresh air in. Although we plan a longer trip tomorrow to Cassis on the Mediterranean, we will spend most of our week tooling around the little hilltowns here in the Luberon. There are some wineries we want to visit, and we’re going to seek out those out-of-the-way Michelin-starred restaurants to see what all the fuss is about.
We made another swing by Rousillon to get more pics of the ochre in the hills. I’ll get these up on Facebook as soon as I can. Hopefully this time I captured the rich colors better.