05 June, 2011

Arles – little Rome and van Gough

Arles amphitheatre
The Greeks established Arles which was then taken over by the Romans who made this, the lowest crossing of the Rhone, their “little Rome” not that it is that today but it is a fascinating town.  The amphitheatre is still very much in existence however one side is covered in scaffolding like most of the building in either Rome or Athens.  During the summer there are even bull fights in the arena.  There are many other old stones lying around especially the theatre and the city walls.  The real treasures lie in the museum just out of town.  Mate, no problem, we have wheels!  Off we go after a restful night (no anchor to drag) to see the sights.  Being Sunday entry is free.  What a great place, well set out with models and drawings of the city of Arles during the Roman times.  Some of the sarcophagi were not as large as at Kekova Road Turkey but the amphora were the best we have seen while in the Med.  I can spend hours in these types of museums just looking at how they lived, using lead pipes to run water around the city and the water wheels to mill their corn.
Van Gogh painting
The bridge today
After the Museum we were off out of town on a search for the famous bridge painted by van Gogh which we saw in the Kroller Muller museum in Holland back in the ‘70s.  Fortunately the bridge still stands but the surrounding stone work has changed and the reeds have grown along the bank but close your eyes and you can imagine being back to 1888 along with Vincent painting the canal at port du Bouc along with Gauguin.
Later in the day we walked a route through the city to see The Yellow House, The Shop and the famous The Starry Night looking out over the Rhone.  Again the sites have changed over time but with a copy of the painting in your hand you can be transported back to the 1880s.  The yellow house was destroyed in 1944 but the building along side and the train bridge down the road is still there.  The Bedroom at Arles has gone but we have seen the original painting in Amsterdam.
On the outskirts of town is the Les Alyscamp which is a Roman and Christian cemetery at the junction of the road to Santiago de Compostela and to Rome.  Did those Romans build great freeways to the ends of their empire?  Not that a modern suspension could take the cobble stones.
We returned to Malua and had the obligatory meal in the floating Restaurant/dock we were attached to.  Not that we minded it was one of the best meals we have had.  Local produce cooked in the galley and presented simply and elegantly while Malua was secure along side and we watched the Rhone flow by under a starry night – what bliss.

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