Walking Tour of Arles
It’s getting real, folks. We’re going to be in Arles, France, next month. And it’s been a long time coming… Thus, with no further discussion of the reason why it’s been a long time coming because really, who wants to think about all that nonsense anymore, let’s talk about Arles.
On y va!
- 96 Boulevard Georges Clemenceau: I’m including “Home” on the list of places that we will visit because all of us need to commit the address to memory, or at the very least, write it down somewhere. You’re all going to be walking around Arles lots, and if you get lost, you can always navigate back to the studio. While you’re at it, write down the addresses of where you’re staying as well. There! One less thing to worry about!
- Our actual first stop on our walking tour is L’Auberge Rouge. We’re not going inside- just passing by, but it’s worth noting because each room inside this little B&B is painted to look like a different Van Gogh painting. And it’s on the way from our studio to the next stop, which is…
- The Old Hospital in Arles: This is where Van Gogh spent time after the infamous ear-cutting incident. He would go on to create three paintings during his time here, one of the courtyard we will be walking through, one of the kind Dr. Rey, who cared for him while he was in the hospital, and one of the ward itself filled with patients. Here’s a link to the painting of the courtyard: https://www.worldhistory.org/image/15471/hospital-in-arles-by-van-gogh/
- Our next destination on our walk is going to be the Jardin d’été. This was one of Van Gogh’s favorite spots to relax and paint when the weather was good. It’s just a beautiful urban park with a Roman amphitheatre as its backdrop- you know, run of the mill stuff for us Americans, right? But if you try to look up what he painted here, get ready: He painted these gardens a LOT. And of course, since the amphitheatre is the backdrop of this lovely park, it makes sense that our next destination is…
- The Roman Amphitheater: The amphitheater, or “Les Arenes,” as it is known locally, was built in 90 AD to seat 20,000 people, and it’s still in use today. Concerts are one of those uses- the Arles born Gypsy Kings have performed here- and of course the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) bullfights that still happen in southern France. Apparently, Vincent himself attended many a bullfight, though I’m not entirely sure why he did as it seems like a poor choice for an already rather depressed man- perhaps the colors drew him? “Have seen bullfights in the arenas. The crowd was magnificent, great multicoloured crowds. One on top of the other on 2, three tiers, with the effect of sun and shade and the shadow cast by the immense circle.” Whatever the reasons, the amphitheater is a “must-see”, which is good because it’s also rather a “can’t miss.” It’s immense!
- Rue Voltaire: From the arena, we’ll walk north along Rue Voltaire. It’s just a beautiful little street that looks straight out of a Van Gogh painting, and I recommend taking mental notes of the shops along here because you will want to come back! At the corner of Rue Voltaire and Rue Leon Blum, be looking for Restaurant Carrel- Van Gogh apparently rented a room here just briefly before moving on to the Yellow House.
- And the Yellow House is indeed our next destination on our little excursion! Alas, the house itself was destroyed by bombing during World War II, but there’s a commemorative plaque marking this place that was an important part of Van Gogh’s journey and a part of this prolific period of creativity for him (he did over 200 paintings in 15 months during his time in Arles!) Here’s more information from the VincentVan Gogh.org about the Yellow House: https://www.vincentvangogh.org/the-yellow-house.jsp
- Nuit Étoilée sur le Rhone: Now we’ll circle back by walking along the Rhone River, and pass along the site of another of Van Gogh’s famous paintings- Starry Night on the Rhone, which you can see here. (Though not to be confused with Starry Night, which he also painted while in Arles…, but this one was on the Rhone, you see).
- Musée Réattu: Lest you think that this little excursion is entirely focused on Van Gogh, our next destination is Le Musée Réattu. This is Arles’ fine art museum, and apparently Van Gogh hated it for whatever reason (though most likely jealousy or resentment because he was certainly not being recognized for the extraordinary artist that he was during his lifetime- he only sold one painting!) This is just a teaser, though- we don’t have enough time on this initial, warm-up walking tour to do this place justice, so we will be coming back! Don’t fret!
- Thermes de Constantin: More Romans, less Vincent on our next stop. The Thermes de Constantin are a beautifully preserved example of a Roman public bath from the 4th century. Like the arena, they are also a UNESCO world heritage site (this little city is packed with so many amazing things!*) If time and your jet-lagged bodies allow, we will go inside this treasure.
- Fondation Van Gogh: There are actually only two Van Gogh paintings housed here, so don’t get too excited. This place was created as an educational space to raise people’s awareness of the influence that Van Gogh had on modern artists; for a thorough immersion in Van Gogh’s original work, we’ll have to pop on over to the Netherlands… some other time.
- Les Cryptoportiques: The next to last destination on our jaunt is actually located UNDER our final stop and are perhaps the oldest thing that we’re going to see. These subterranean chambers date back possibly to 46 BC, which is difficult to wrap one’s head around, really.
- La Place du Forum: And as we emerge from the underworld, we will encounter our final destination for the day. You’ll see why this is last- after our walk, we just might need some refreshment and this is a wonderful place for exactly that. It was actually the city center during Roman times, and you’ll see some ancient Roman columns that have been incorporated into an exterior wall of the Nord-Pinus Grand Hotel (don’t you love how the French do that?) It’s also where Café la Nuit is located, which isn’t the original café from the painting but has been recreated to look exactly like it. Depending on time, we may be able to take a moment for un petit verre or un café, plus a little people watching and enjoying some local color!
And from this last “official” stop on our Walking Tour, it’s only a 10 minute walk back to 96 Boulevard Georges Clemenceau, your studio away from home for the next several days.