Visiting Arles

Travel to Arles, one of the most scenic towns in France. The amphitheatre and Roman walls of Arles speak of the Provençal city’s Roman past, but the warm influence of rural tradition is apparent everywhere you look. Van Gogh came to Arles in February 1888 in search of some southern colour and a cheap place to work, and he wrote to his friend Paul Gauguin: ‘Perhaps Arles will disappoint you, if you come here in mistral weather; but you wait. It is only in the long run that the poetry of this place penetrates.’ Today the town has ethno-craft shops, wine bars and designer bistros which have colonised the narrow lanes of the historic centre, and even humble hotels have had designer makeovers. The town is laid-back and low-key, its bright colours inspiring the designs of Christian Lacroix, who was born here. Check out Les Alyscamps: This was the place to be buried in the Middle Ages and was given a boost when St Trophime was laid to rest here. Local dignitaries vied to be buried close to the saint, and the result is an evocative, romantic, poplar-lined avenue of tombs, which encapsulates the town’s unbroken bond with the past. Also see the St Trophine, The town’s cathedral is one of the glories of medieval Provence. Built in the 12th century to house the relics of the bishop-saint, it is famous for its entrance portal, which is a Bible in worked stone, a menagerie of worship. The interior is lofty and austere. Don’t miss the silent, archaic cloisters, with their delicately carved Gothic capitals.

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