I’m back from some good two weeks in Provence, together with family – and meeting some blogger friends. Most of the time I spent in Arles, on which I already made a post on my previous blog, some two years ago, so this may be some kind of repetition. Anyhow...
Arles has a long Greek, Celtic and Roman history and the city has still a number of more or less complete buildings from those but also from medieval times.
The days were hot and it was nice to find some refreshments in the gardens ... and especially in the bars and restaurants.
I did not make use of any of the fully booked hotels. (The statue is of the province’s most famous poet, Frédéric Mistral, Nobel Prize winner 1904.)
Of course the reputation of Arles is to a large extent linked to Vincent van Gogh, who spent some very productive months here 1888-89, joined...
... by Paul Gauguin, who portrayed Vincent.
Picasso was a frequent visitor, especially for watching the bull fighting in the old Roman arena. He offered a large number of paintings and drawings to the city, which you can find in one of the city’s many museums (Musée Réattu), most of them representing Arles ladies (“arlésiennes”). One painting (from 1937, the same year as Guernica, with Lee Miller supposed to be the model) is inspired by van Gogh’s portrait of Madame Ginoux, his landlady.
Another famous lady of Arles is of course the person with the so far longest confirmed lifespan, Jeanette Calmant; she died at the age of 122 in 1997. (She met van Gogh when she was 13.)
Other Arles personalities include fashion designer Louis Féraud and the Gipsy Kings. Another fashion designer, Christian Lacroix, was also born in Arles and there is of course a small Lacroix shop to be found. Actes Sud, an important book publisher, and Harmonia Mundi, a famous label especially for classical music, have their homes in Arles.
Arles pretends to be a European centre for photography with French National School of Photography. This year takes place the 40th Photography Festival, with exhibitions all over the city. It’s a must for all the world’s leading photographers to exhibit here.
Several exhibitions take place at some by the French Railways abandoned workshops; a large area which is under transformation (by Frank Gehry) to an “image city”, planned to be ready latest 2013, when Arles, in cooperation with the close bigger city Mareseille and Aix-en-Provence has been chosen to be European Capital of Culture.
However, what I personally prefer about Arles is just to walk around the old houses and the narrow streets, just feeling the atmosphere.
... and of course the beaches of the Mediterranean are not far away!