Entering Roman Arles
With my focus on Van Gogh in Arles, I had given scant attention to the history of the place. But soon, in its quiet unassuming way, that history would impose itself. We had no choice. There is no “new” part of downtown Arles. It’s all old – like Roman and early Christian old – and incredibly charming.
The founding of the town dates to about 800 BC. It was a Phoenician trading post until the Romans took over about 123 BC. As a Roman city, it really came into its own during the reign of Julius Caesar who built it into an important trading and military centre. Under Roman rule, the city reached its peak of influence during the 4th and 5th centuries, when it had a population of over 100,000 (today’s population is about 53,000).
When we walked around the town, the history was right in front of our eyes, a mixture of Roman, Christian and I’m sure Phoenician if we knew what we were looking at. We found a church with the date 534 on it. I find these kind of time-spans mind-boggling. The only thing that I can begin to compare it to in North America is the Mayan culture which started around 2000 BC and flourished between 250 and 900 AD.
Read a quick history of Arles here on Wikipedia.
Check in at Le Calendal was fast, and in minutes we were shown to our room which was a short walk through the interior courtyard restaurant and into the adjoining building. Up a flight of narrow stairs and we were in front of room 33, named Violette. We’d just had room 55 in Paris, now 33 here.
It was a pretty room with a wine-red bedspread, carpet and chairs. Through full-height windows, the room opened up to a little parking area and a side street.
Across the street was a crêperie with a wonderful little patio. Looking at it from the outside, we were under the awning that read Salon de Thé. Perfect!