A long first day in Arles


Next door to the Van Gogh Café was the Bar Le Tambourin, which turned out to be a “bull fighter” bar. We didn’t spend any time in it today, but as it turned out, we returned the next day.

Arles - bull fighter cafe display

Sports bar, Arles style.

The interesting thing is that in Paris, Van Gogh was a habitué at a cabaret called Le Tambourin where he had exhibited some of his paintings.

Arles - bull fighter cafe matador

Now there is a movie star matador. Doesn't get much more handsome than this.

We decided to head back to the hotel. This time we realized that if we took the street you see in the Café Terrace painting, it would lead us right to our hotel. And sure enough, in minutes we were coming past the amphitheatre to Hotel Le Calendal. We would have a little rest, and then have dinner in the courtyard at the hotel.

Arles - Calendal Hotel Schhh sign

A sign in the stairway leading up to our room. Wonder what the two languages are?

If you go to the south of France, you’ll notice that duck is very popular on the menu. I hadn’t had it yet, so for dinner, that was it. Like so many times when we sat down for dinner or drinks, there was a complete sense of unreality about it. The courtyard of the hotel was sheltered by a large tree which had a little plaque at its base to say that it was over 500 years old. You can’t help think that there’s nothing 500 years old in Toronto. Other trees included palms and flowering trees, with shrubs and flowers at the edges.

Arles - Hotel Le Calendal courtyard

This shot was taken the next morning at breakfast. The ancient tree is at the right.

Arles - church evening

There was some foundation damage to the Notre Dame la Major when a bomb fell nearby during WWII. I'm sure the 13th century construction helped it withstand the shocks.

After dinner we headed out for another walk, this time through the streets and squares that were behind our hotel and the forum. We had seen a church tower and went to explore. Unfortunately, the church was closed for the day, but it way the Notre Dame la Major, built about 1152 on the site of a Roman temple. Apparently, the bell tower has been modified over the years and the statue of the Virgin Mary was placed on top in 1579 (a recent addition as far as Arles is concerned).

Arles - church steeple moon close up

We were being taken care of by the Virgin Mary and a moon that was nearly full.

This is the highest point in Arles, and from the terrace you look out over the clay rooftops of the houses, the forum is on your left and the Alpilles  mountains with Mt. Ventoux in the background. Mt. Ventoux will be familiar to anyone following the Tour de France bicycle race. It’s one of the killer King of the Mountains climbs.

Arles - rooftops

Little laneways run between the houses jammed under the hill.

Arles - streetlight in the laneway

Not too much has changed here over the past few hundred years. Maybe electricity has replaced a gas lamp, but not much more.

We walked through the narrow streets near the church and came upon the walls of a convent that had originally been built in 508 but was then destroyed during the French revolution of 1789. It had since been rebuilt.

Arles - Convent sign year 508

Arles was a centre for emerging Christianity, as the Roman influence and power diminished. But hundreds of years later, it couldn't escape the havoc of the French Revolution. Looking at it today, it's hard to tell how old it is.

Soon we came to a park, running just above the Blvd. des Lices, which we saw was apparently Van Gogh’s Public Garden. There was a plaque at the entranceway and looking at it, it seemed as if this was the place. The fences and gates weren’t quite the same, but who knows, that could have been changed over the last 120 years.

Arles - Van Gogh plaque public garden

Here's the painting. Van Gogh scholars don't think this is the right park.

But checking later in books written by Van Gogh scholars, they place this painting as being one of a series of four paintings that Van Gogh sometimes referred to as the Public Garden or the Lover’s Garden. That garden, which doesn’t exist anymore, was situated near his Yellow House on Place Lamartine. Someone should tell the people of Arles and have the plaque moved.

Arles - public garden

Here's the park. Right park? Hmm, looks like it, but the other one is gone, so who knows?

Anyway, we walked through the park and made our way around to a street that would take us back to our hotel.

Arles - dog in second floor window

We were being watched. Don't you sometimes wonder what the inside of some houses look like? We thought about that walking the ancient streets of Arles.

It had been a long day. After all, we had started the morning in Paris.


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