The first full day on our own in Provence was Saturday, November 17. It was a bit rainy, but that didn’t really create any problems. However, that was the first day of the Yellow Vest protests in France, and the route to our intended destination of Arles was cut off by a “blocage” at a roundabout just outside the city. (Provence has a surprising number of roundabouts – way more than in Massachusetts!)
The good news was that navigation apps helped us find a way around the blockades, but the bad news was that we had to travel on some very narrow back roads. We were driving this compact-but-not-really-that-small SUV rental:
And we were driving on roads like this:
We did make it in time to catch the Saturday morning market in Arles. The foot traffic was light and there didn’t seem to be a lot of vendors, perhaps due to the protests. The food that was there, though, was beautiful, of course:
Arles has a long history, including being taken over by the Romans in 123 BC, and serving as a colony for one of Julius Caesar’s legions. The center of Arles is at the Place de la Republique, with the Mairie d’Arles (town hall) at the far end, Saint-Trophime church at the right, and a young scooter rider surveying the square’s imposing obelisk.
The exterior of the church is rich in carved detail…
…while the Romanesque-style interior was simple. The wear on the floor is understandable, given that the church was built between the 12th and 15th century.
Much of the art work in the church was somewhat rustic:
As usual, the light coming through the stained glass – even on a rainy day – glowed beautifully, illuminating the statuary inside the church:
You may have noticed that doors and narrow alleys always seem to grab our attention. We thought that this door and its elaborate decor was very special, and the sight lines of the alley draw your eye to the red door in the distance.
Arènes d’Arles – the Arles Amphitheatre was built by the Romans in 90 AD and is used today for plays, concerts, and French-style bull fights. Here are just a few of the many, many photos we took there:
Walking through this ancient structure felt like we were traveling back in time. This video might help give you the same feeling:
One of the reasons that we worked so hard to travel into Arles was that we had late lunch reservations at a Michelin two star restaurant, L’atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel:
As you can see, it was well worth the effort:
It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we finished lunch. It took a lot of darting around through backroads and alleyways in Arles before eventually finding our way back to the narrow farm road we had used earlier in the day to avoid the blockades. After that, it was an uneventful journey on the highway back to Saint-Remy, but that was not the last time we encountered the Yellow Vests on this trip.
Tomorrow: so many attractions near Saint-Remy.