Roman Arena in Arles France
Day 5, September 12
Today we explore Arles France and its Roman ruins plus a drive to Les Baux fortress.
But first our B&B, Mas Guiraud includes breakfast. The usual French stuff (croissant, butter and bread, jam) plus hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese. I’m allergic to wheat so we had called ahead letting them know and they generously provided for me. I was very grateful.
Spent the first part of the day in Arles. The must see in Arles France is Les Arènes, the famous Roman arena where 20,000 people could watch gladiators fight wild animals. It was the largest Roman building in Gaul. 2,000 years old it is considered the largest and best-preserved Roman monument in Provence. It is still in use today for bull fights. Quite impressive.
Next we visited the Théâtre Antique (classical theater). Built by the Romans in the first century BC this theatre once seated 10,000 people. The only original remains are two columns, the rest has been rebuilt and is still used for theatre events. It was fun to sit on a seat and look towards the stage area and imagine how it must have been. This is not a must see but it was included in the ticket price for the Arena and is a few blocks away. The video intro is interesting.
The cathedral is a must see but it hadn't open by 2:30. Enjoying a long lunch I guess. The facade is very intricate but that's all we got.
On to La Place du Forum (Forum Square), a lively town square with many cafes. This is where van Gogh painted Café du Soir. One of the cafés made itself look like the café in the painting.
Next a drive to Les Baux de Provence which sits on a hilltop in the Alpilles Mountains. We walked the medieval streets to the fortress castle ruins. It sits high above the town on a crag. Toured the old (10th century) fortress and grounds. Panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valley. To the south we could see as far as the Camargue. Many places to hike up and around with a helpful audio guide in English (other languages available too)
The mistral was blowing that day (the ferocious wind in the area). It felt as strong as 50 miles an hour. At one point I could not follow Gildas on the climb up the steep steps to the promontory; I was blown against the railing. I hate to miss anything but…
Afterward we explored side streets of the old town.
By now time for dinner, tired and hungry we hadn’t a clue where to eat. I had seen some restaurants through the little town of Fontvieille on our way to Les Baux. We stopped and looked around for possibilities. Not quite 7pm it was hard to see what restaurants were in business (being at 7:30 dinner starts). By chance we stopped in front of a place called L’Oustau Gourmand. The chef was just putting out the sign so we went in. The first customers! Finally we can eat at 7. I was dying for soupe de poisson plus I was very cold from the mistral. It was delicious and warming, then we both had a wonderful fish dish. For dessert Gildas had a plum clafoutis. By now the place was packed. A delicious dinner. Early eating paid off. If we got there later with no reservations …
Drove home and plunked into bed.
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