Arles was where we first encountered the Yellow Vests earlier on this trip, but we were still game to return to this lovely town on an included guided tour with Viking. Our bus driver deftly avoided the on-going blockades between our docking location in Tarascon and Arles, and soon dropped us off just outside the ancient city walls. Portions of the wall and its gate remain:
As the tour group made its way to the city center, we passed this lovely fountain, the Fontaine Amédée-Pichot:
We returned to the fabulous Arènes d’Arles along with the Viking group:
(Additional photos of the arena are included in our earlier post from Arles.)
The ancient Arles Roman Theater is located near the arena. The theater had seating for 8,000 and originally had 33 tiers of steps. The theater was later used as a quarry to supply the stone for the city wall.
Here is the backside of the city hall (the front entrance is on the Place de la Republique, along with the Saint-Trophime Cathedral):
Inside the city hall there is a replica of a famous Roman statue known as the Venus of Arles. The original (probably from Italy) dated from the 2nd century AD, and it was discovered in pieces in 1651 by workmen digging a well at the nearby Roman theater mentioned just above. The statue was eventually given to Louis XIV to decorate the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and since the French Revolution has been housed at the Louvre.
You might remember from one of our earlier blog posts that Vincent Van Gogh spent over a year in Arles. Some of the sights that he painted remain recognizable (or have been restored to be more recognizable) 130 years later. One of them is the inspiration for the famous starry nightlife painting, Café Terrace at Night:
Another locale is the hospital courtyard garden that Van Gogh painted while hospitalized, the famous Garden of the Hospital in Arles:
After the guided tour, we returned to the Place du Forum (site of the Café Terrace) for lunch. In warmer times of the year, the Place is completely covered by extensions of the cafes that surround the square. It turned out that we chose wisely in our retreat to the cozy L’Apostrophe cafe (it has the light blue awning on the right hand side of the panorama below). Tracey still cannot stop raving about the bowl of cèpe (mushroom) soup she had that was smothered with piped whipped cream, served with garlicky toast. It was all she could do to bring herself to have dinner that evening back on the ship, which had moved back to Avignon while we toured.
While she might have dozed on the return trip, we first spent time walking around the old town some more, taking in the sights and working off at least a tiny bit of our luscious French cafe lunch:
Next up: the village of Viviers and cruising along the Rhône.