July 20, 2007


So I left Paris to find some blue sky… and I found it. I have been “off” for more than a week, so today I will compensate with something rather long.

I stayed a few days in Arles, in Provence, situated more or less where the Rhône River splits into two arms, embracing the delta land Camargue, before reaching the Mediterranean. Camargue is administratively actually part of Arles which makes it to the largest French commune, more than seven times the area of Paris, but with a population of some 50.000 only.

The history of Arles is too long to be told here; maybe just a few details. Arles was already a Greek city, became Celtic before being taken by the Romans 123 BC. During the Roman times it became very important and the Western Empire, including Gaul, Spain, Brittany… was governed from here. Later Arles was for a while the capital of a Frankish kingdom, which included Burgundy, parts of the present Switzerland and part of Provence. The Kingdom of Arles became part of France in the 14th century.

It is not easy to build something new in Arles; as soon as you start digging, you run into some Greek, Roman or medieval foundations and you may have to wait for years before possibly getting your permit. Among the Roman landmarks you can find the Amphitheatre, still used for concerts, the Arenas, still used for bullfights, the Constantine Thermae, a necropolis (Alyscamp)… The Church (previously Cathedral) of Saint Trophimus, with its cloister, was newly built when the Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa came to Arles in 1178 to be coronated.

Arles offers some important cultural and artistic activities. Editors like Harmonia Mundi and Actes Sud are based here. Arles is also a photographic centre with the French National School of Photography and exhibitions going on the whole summer. Outdoor concerts in the Amphitheatre or the Arenas are frequent.

Among some famous Arles personalities you may mention Frédéric Mistral (actually from close to Arles, Nobel Prize 1904), Christian Lacroix and Louis Féraud (fashion), Jeanne Calmant (the oldest human being whose age is documented, died in 1997 at the age of 122). It’s also the home of the Gipsy Kings.

However, the reputation of Arles is today perhaps mostly linked to Vincent van Gogh, who here produced some of his most famous paintings during his short stay 1888-89 (when Jeanne Calmant was thirteen). I compared some of his paintings with what you can find today. The Yellow House, where he lived as well as the Trinquetaille Bridge were bombed in 1944. The hospital where he stayed after cutting his ear was still in use until rather recently and the trees, flowers and the pond is still there. The “Langlois Bridge” has been rebuilt… and I replaced van Gogh’s stars by some 14th July fireworks…

During the Easter “feria” there are “corridas” in the Arenas and “encierro” (bull-running) in the streets; Picasso was a frequent visitor to the bull fighting and painted several portraits of “Arlésiennes”, as did already van Gogh.

The real pleasure with Arles is however perhaps just to walk around the streets, take a “pastis” at a bar, visit the Wednesday and Saturday markets…

The Tour de France passed by Arles yesterday.

You can see some of the originals of the above photos on my other blog "Peter - photos".


Anonymous said...

Peter, welcome back! I'm glad you had a good vacation. This is a truly astonishing post, and I plan to look at each photo at work tomorrow. I have an air card now, which is faster than dialup, but it would still take a long time to look at each one. I really love how you showed the paintings and the today same scenes, just brilliant. Wow.

di.di said...

Welcome home! :P

As usual, your pictures are amazing...I love traveling through your lens.

Annie said...

Hi Peter,

What an exciting introduction to Arles and the area, to those who've lived there before and those who live, and I do mean live, there now.

Olivier said...

on voit que tu as dix jours a rattraper, tu vas avoir le prix du plus long article de tous les blogs du monde ;o) je vais en avoir pour une semaine pour traduire tout cela moi ;o).Les photos sont belles, et content de ton retour.

alice said...

Coucou! Je vois que tu travailles même pendant tes vacances! J'adore la petite soeur qui choisit ses abricots. Bonne journée!

Chuckeroon said...

Tks for the super albumn of Arles. I really appreciated this effort. BTW Karl M is well, and has been proposing ideas for his next visit. He'll be away for a couple more weeks.

Welcome back. The rain here is dangerously tropical. Those poor people in Yorkshire have been hit again, and today London "gets it".

GMG said...

Welcome back, Peter, and thanks for this fantastic post. Your "blogger eye" is a great asset, and this post will surely make much more for Arles' promotion than many tourist guides. All aspects are covered and the pictures are beautiful. The parallel between Vincent’s paintings and reality is remarkable.
I'm sorry I can't agree with you with regard to the quality of my post on the same subject. Actually, by the time I was there, I always carried my video camera, so my pictures were just a side complement to the video, so that I could easily show to family and friends; and didn’t have so much time to enter the impressive details of yours.
Well, anyhow, it's great to have you back and with such fantastic posts!

SusuPetal said...

Welcome back, Peter!

Arles seems worth visiting! I just love such places where the history and culture mix with present time.

Fantastic pictures! Makes me want to travel!

When I visited Luxor in the winter, people there also cursed a little of living in the world's biggest outdoor museum -if you dropped something on the ground and began to dig it up, you were likely to find something historically important. Therefor restauration comes always before building something new and this can be a bit of a problem for local people.

Cergie said...

AH oui !
Tu es drôlement bavard ce matin et que de belles photos !
Tu as raison au fond, au rythme où j'y vais je mets pas le dixième de ce que je devrais
La Chine ça m'a tellement déprimée au bout d'un moment que j'ai dû faire que quatre ou cinq messages
Il faut savoir revenir chez soi...

J'apprécie de trouver cette chaude ambiance des marchés de Provence sans la chaleur du soleil sur le crane
Tes montages avec ces deux fonds en contraste offrent une très belle présentation. Un plus, vraiment

J'apprécie aussi, entre autres, les photos de pont levant
Tu t'es rempli la cervelle autant que les yeux à ce que je vois

(PS : Il était comment le p'tit déj à l'hotel ou chez tes amis ?)

hpy said...

Je t'ai toujours connu bavard (au moins par écrit) mais là tu bats ton propre record. Pardon, je suis toujours aussi méchante, mais comme je l'ai peut-être déjà dit, ça devient de la rengaine de toujours te dire que c'est BIEN! Même quand c'est le cas! Bon retour et à demain.

EMNM said...

Welcome Peter!!

Arles! next week I´ll be there

Anonymous said...

This was an amazing post - good reading and the photos very good as well. I liked van Gogh's work beside the photos today. Nice.

Hopefully you have had a restful vacation and still got some money left over for a splendid weekend.

Abraham Lincoln
Brookville Daily Photo

Kate said...

Oh, Peter! Obviously I'm not the only one who is pleased that you are back from your vacation which must have been not only restful but very enjoyable. Your comparative photos are marvelous, and I love the scenes in the marketplace. I too need to come back and surf more slowly and enlarge the photos. Bet you missed the grandkids!!

Kate said...

OOPS! I can't enlarge them; guess I'll have to move more slowly to enjoy each one. PS Have a good week-end.

Mona said...


Wow! this is a treat to the eyes. thank you for posting this! specially the Van Gogh paintings. I just LOVE Van Gogh art! I have the prints all over my house!!

These are such wonderful pictures.I seem to be traveling in Europe with your blog! :)

Really, they have foundations everywhere.Poor natives..That must be hard for them to build indeed!

I am so glad you could get some sun Out there!...Now I know why Sun was Van Gogh's favourite theme!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a good journey in Arles with your post.

Shionge said...

Welcome back my dearest friend and I know you would never failed to bring some lovely pictures & stories to share with us. What a lovely place and what a nice break for you too.

Since Tour De France passes by Arles, did you manage to catch it?

Have a wonderful weekend my friend :D

sonia a. mascaro said...

Hi Peter, welcome back to blogosphere! I'm glad you had a great vacation. As always your post and photos are amazing and interesting! Love so much the photos's comparation with van Gogh paintings! Very creative! You really did a good work here.

I want to thank you for your visiting at my blogs and many nice comments!

Neva said...

Your photos are wonderful....hope you had a great vacation and some lovely weather.

isa said...

Nice to "see" you again, Peter.

Bavard ou pas, Arles demands a large post - it was one of my favorite places to visit.
Your photos are fantastic and capture the colors of Provence. I wish we had the sounds and the aromas as well ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter,

As a Swede living in Paris, just having posted your message about Van Gogh and Arles, you might be interested in two recent historical novels by the internationally-acclaimed American author, Alyson Richman, who has lived in both France and Sweden. The first book is "The Last Van Gogh" (Penguin) and the second book is "Swedish Tango (Simon & Schuster)."

"The Last Van Gogh" provides some very-informative background information and amazing insight concerning how and why, during the last seventy days of his life, Vincent van Gogh was able to produce over seventy incredibly-beautiful final masterpieces. The author traveled to the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise on a number of occasions and meticulously researched the period during which Van Gogh lived there, even interviewing a number of the village’s elders, who knew his last muse, Magaret Gachet, the daughter of the homeopathic doctor who was treating Van Gogh at the time. It's truly an amazing novel, beautifully written and highly recommended. It just came out in paperback a few months ago. (It’s available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.) For anybody who loves Van Gogh’s works, this book should prove unbelievably fascinating. [Incidentally, Ms. Richman is also the author of the highly-reviewed novels “The Mask Carver’s Son” (Bloomsbury – 2000) and, as previously mentioned, “Swedish Tango” (Simon & Schuster – 2004).]

The exciting new information about Van Gogh that Ms. Richman researched and incorporated into her fascinating new novel has already generated considerable interest and enthusiasm in lectures and discussion groups at fine art museums around the USA, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Dayton Museum of Fine Art and, over the months ahead, at the Heckscher Museum of Art (in Huntington, New York) and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.


July 20, 2007

krystyna said...

Welcome back, Peter and thanks for this post and photos. Wonderful!!! I like old architecture, and thanks for the history of Arles.

black feline said...

the photos look just like postcards..beautiful! It's like going on a guided tour by u..there's too much places to consider..where should i start?

Cathrine said...

nydelig sommer du har hatt så langt :-)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant evocation in images of Arles, Peter. The Van Gogh section very good, but I love the markets, the smell of the south

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