Arles Journals

The Beating Heart of Historic Arles

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A June 2003 trip to Arles by artsnletters

Fountain with head of Hercules Photo, Arles, France More Photos
Quote: Beloved of visitors as varied as Julius Caesar and Vincent Van Gogh, Arles wears its historic heart on its sleeve more than any other place I’ve been, incorporating its Roman and medieval past into its living, breathing present.

The Beating Heart of Historic Arles

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Overview

Place de la République Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
Arles began its existence in the Bronze Age as a Celtic settlement and later became a Greek colony. Known to the Romans as Arelate, in 46 BC the town sided with Julius Caesar (a wise decision, as Caesar was never defeated in a long and illustrious military career) during the siege of Marseille. In reward, the town was granted colonial status. Caesar settled many of his veterans here, and Arles became one of the most important of the Roman colonies. Located along the Via Domitia, the main road between Italy and Spain, and the site of the first bridge across the Rhone River, its strategic importance to the Roman Empire can hardly be overstated.Today, the major monuments from Roman days a...Read More

Hotel du Musée

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Hotel

Hotel du Musée Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
Reasonably priced Hotel du Musée is close to my ideal hotel. Situated in what was formerly a grand private residence built in the 17th and 18th centuries, the hotel is no longer exactly grand, but it is spacious and possessed of that sort of rundown gentility that makes it charming rather than pitiful. It’s located a 5-minute walk from place du Forum, close to all the sights and the river. The entry is a rather stately hallway with a floor of large black and white tiles. The lounge, which also serves as a part-time art gallery, is large and comfy. You’re always welcome to hang out there. The Dubreuils, who run Hotel du Musée, proved frie...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 12, 2004

Hotel du Musée
11 Rue du Grande Prieuré
Arles, France
(04) 9093-8888

Musee de L'Arles Antique (Ancient History Museum)

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Attraction | "Musée de L’Arles Antique (Ancient History Museum)"

Musee de L'Arles Antique (Ancient History Museum) Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
This outstanding museum lays out Arles’ pre- and ancient history in a user-friendly format in an airy, air-conditioned modern building. The museum is a short walk outside the old town. To get there, walk to the river, turn left, and follow the raised walk along the river (dodging the unfortunate leavings of local dogs) until you arrive. One of the first exhibits you’ll encounter are scale models of the city, beginning with the mud huts of the Bronze Age and developing into the full-blown Roman colony with its standard-issue forum, theater, temples, and arena. Many of the landmarks of ancient Arles are the landmarks of modern-day Arles, so the models make immediate sense to the visitor. ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 12, 2004

Musee de L'Arles Antique (Ancient History Museum)
Chemin de Barriol & Ave de la 1'ere Division Fran.
Arles, France

Church of St. Trophime and Cloister

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Attraction | "Eglise St.-Trophime and its cloisters"

Church of St. Trophime and Cloister Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
Eglise St.-Trophime, named after the first bishop of Arles, is sited on Place de la République, a lively square featuring a fountain, centered on a porphyry obelisk, whose water burbles through the mouth of Hercules, identifiable from his lion-skin hood. St.-Trophime was built in the 12th century on the site of an 8th century church, another instance of the Catholic Church’s economy with hallowed ground. The Romanesque church, otherwise gracefully simple in feature, boasts a portal echoing the shape of a triumphal arch with extraordinarily detailed sculpture. The arc above the doors shows Christ accompanied by symbols of the four Gospel authors: Matthew (winged man), Mark (winged lion), Luke (ox),...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 12, 2004

Church of St. Trophime and Cloister
Place De La République
Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône

Roman Ruins

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Attraction | "Roman Arles"

Roman Ruins Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
All centrally located, these Roman ruins are noteworthy: Amphithéâtre, €3. The Roman arena in Arles, built in the first century AD, is the largest still surviving in France. It still sits at the center of town, a marvel of Roman engineering and design, with two levels of arches still mostly intact, despite the history it has seen. It could seat 20,000 people and was designed to empty out within five minutes. It’s a feat no modern sports stadium can match! Once the Roman Empire had crumbled, Arles suffered under repeated invasions; during the medieval period citizens built homes and shops inside the arena and turned it into a fortress, a testament to the difficulty of the time...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 12, 2004

Roman Ruins
Arles
Arles, France

Outdoor Farmers Market & Flea Market

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Attraction | "Outdoor Farmers’ and Flea Market"

Outdoor Farmers Market & Flea Market Photo, Arles, France
Quote:
It’s no secret that I’m a devotee of Provençal farmers’ markets. In 18 days in southern France, I visited six different markets, big and little, not always by design. Each can be counted upon to provide a generous array of the finest fresh food direct from its producers, including cheese, sausages, bread, produce, and flowers. Inevitably, the streets will be choked with the local folk buying their groceries and carrying them away in straw baskets. For a contrast, visit the local Monoprix on place Lamartine. There you’ll find meat and cheese wrapped up in plastic on little Styrofoam trays, shiny linoleum floors, grocery carts, people lined up to hand their money to an anonymous cashier. Can you b...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 12, 2004

Outdoor Farmers Market & Flea Market
Blvd. Emile Combes (Wed.) or Blvd. des Lices (Sat)
Arles, France