In Arles, art replaces manufacturing

Walking back from the Alyscamps, we passed these big old factory buildings in a field by some derelict railway tracks. There were men working on the buildings and a few posters announcing some type of art show.

Locomotive factories

There were many of these building shells. The ones where the men were working had new roofs on them. We felt a bit self-conscious there and didn't take pictures of them.

We had to go for a look. Here’s what we found out. These old buildings were at one time factories that built locomotives. Sometime after 1850, the Paris – Lyon – Mediteranée railway company built these massive factories and Arles became known as a heavy engineering and manufacturing centre.

Locomotive factories

There were rows and rows of these shells. These particular ones weren't being renovated, so I guess they'll stay like that for the next 100 years.

So, at the time that Van Gogh and Gauguin were painting in the Alyscamps, there would have been thousands of men at work in these factories. They would have walked past them to get to set up their easels. It would have been busy, noisy, and there would likely have been lots of smoke from the furnaces.

How different it all was now. Quiet. Birds chirping. Like so much manufacturing that just disappears, these buildings were left as ghosts, serving as a faint reminder of the men and machines that had once inhabited them. Somehow fitting that they were next to the ancient cemetery. But, now they had a second chance.

The art show was an annual photography exhibit that takes place in Arles. This would be the 41st year. It seems that it’s outgrown the municipal buildings on the main square and now these galleries would be added. Good for Arles! Here’s another link to a blog post about the photography show. Here’s a great photo library of the photography exhibit. Nice shots!

There was nothing much to see here yet, but in broken English and French we chatted to a couple of the guys while they were on their coffee break.

It was a beautiful hot morning. Poppies were in bloom between the cracked concrete and rocks.

Poppies everywhere

Poppies grew in bunches everywhere, like exotic weeds.

Walking back towards the main part of town, we passed the southern city walls with the portal leading into the centre.

City walls

Imagine the time and effort it took to build walls like this around the whole city. Labour was cheap those days.

We were heading for the Blvd de Lices, which is a busy ring road with restaurants and cafés. It would have been the road just outside the walls. The walls in this stretch had been torn down in the mid-1800’s and these buildings were put up. It was just about time for lunch and we were hungry.

We walked the length of the restaurant strip looking at the menus, trying to decide which one. We settled on one called Waux Hall (funny name, huh?), which was a beautifully restored classic building and found a nice table on the terrace. Check out this Google translated page about Waux Hall.

Marlene lunch Waux Hall

All that walking makes you hungry. Nothing like a nice terrace in the south of France for lunch.

While we were ordering our waiter figured out pretty quickly that we only spoke some French. He spoke English. He wanted to know where we were from. We told him Canada. Ah, he’d been to Canada once too, a few years ago.

And where had he been? How’s this for a story – he was from Arles and met a Canadian girl on vacation. The two struck a friendship. Anyway, one thing led to another, and he was packing a suitcase, going to Canada to be with her. And where did she live? Small town Saskatchewan. So, he saw the Toronto airport, the Regina airport and then lots of rural prairie land. We didn’t get too many details, but suffice it to say, it didn’t work out, and he was back in Arles.

Arles -view from Waux Hall

The view from the Vaux Hall restaurant. Girls hangin' out.

We ordered lunch, which was delicious and planned the rest of our day. We still had to see the hospital where Van Gogh stayed for about a year after the ear incident, the main square, and we hadn’t toured the forum yet.

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