Whenever I go to Arles I see something new. It’s one of those places (we all have them) that calls me back a few times a year, and when I don’t go, I miss it. It’s a small town–population just over 50,000–and yet it has so much to discover, and love: fantastic Roman ruins (a theater AND an arena, both still in use); medieval and Renaissance buildings still lived in; lively, opinionated citizens who are fiercely proud of their town; a fine traditional of literary festivals and publishing houses, including one of my favorites, Actes Sud; gypsy music and dancing; and of course, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, who roomed together here, both searching for the perfect Provençal color and light.
Every August we come to spend two days looking at photographs, as Arles has hosted, for 45 years, a photography symposium (Les Rencontres de Arles) and the town loans its galleries, churches, and even apartments to renowned photographers to show their latest work. We ditched our car on the far side of town, knowing we wouldn’t need it, and in doing so discovered a neighborhood called La Roquette.
Two shops in La Roquette, both with vintage store fronts (the first 1960s and the second Art Nouveau):
Gauguin said a lot about his time in Arles with van Gogh, but I love this quote: “Oh yes! He loved yellow did good Vincent…When the two of us were together in Arles, both of us insane, and constantly at war over beautiful colors, I adored red; where could I find a perfect vermilion?”
Perhaps here is a vermilion that Gauguin would like (again, in La Roquette):
A great front door in La Roquette, featuring a bull’s head:
Knowing that we had to check into our hotel and hit the first exhibitions, we dragged ourselves away from La Roquette and found our hotel, Hôtel du Cloître, perfectly situated just around the corner from Arles’ main square. We don’t like to spend a lot on hotels, as we prefer spending our money on eating in good restaurants, so this, at 125 euros a night, was a splurge for us. We weren’t disappointed! Parisian designer India Mahdavi has just refitted this centuries-old building:
It gets its name from the Cloister of St-Trophime, which we could see from our daughter’s room:
Great mixes of old and new, ancient and modern:
I’ll leave you with this final photo, walking out of the hotel to see the photo exhibitions, which I’ll continue in a few days with a second post!