Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 03/03/11
FRAN2005 #29 ARLES to NÎMES
Sunday July 17, 2005
[ Some might comment that an awful lot of detail is included in these diarios. My response is the same as the famous diarist, Charles Haswell, whose book, "Reminiscences of New York by an Octogenarian 1816-1860", is the major reason historians know anything about life in that city 100 years ago.
To read some or all of his book, click the title.
He stated, "I offer no apology for the mention of trivialities." ]
This is a good time to stop and mention someone who was extremely helpful in our trip through France. I have known Jay Standish for many years. He has worked for several companies in the ophthalmic surgery field that I have had cause to deal with. When Jay found out we were going to France, he offered to come and meet me and give me some hints. We sat in Diedrich Coffee shop in Santa Monica for several hours while we poured over his map of France. Jay lived in France for over a year about 10 years ago and he was familiar with the whole country. We marked on the map all the places we should try to see and then he lent me the map and several books. He really went out of his way and we wound up visiting most of the places he recommended. Thanks a lot, Jay, for having made this trip very special.
I woke up at 4:40 AM and then again at 10:00 when I finally got up. I dressed up in my "Sunday rain gear" and went for my run at 10:40. I made it to the Rhône River and ran along the embankment until I got to the bend. I took some spectacular panoramic shots of the bend in the river (see river bend in map at left.) The shot below was taken looking across the river (the yellow area on the map). Van Gogh's view: "Starry Night Over the Rhone" painted in 1888 and now in the Musee d'Orseyin Paris.
This is the view (left) Van Gogh had for his "Starry Night," looking back to the city side where I took the photo above . He was also very fond of this draw bridge (Reginald, right) over the Rhône and painted many pictures of it. He called it Langlois which was the name of the bridge guard. It is surprising that Van Gogh only stayed in Arles from February 1888 until May of 1889 and painted 300 works during this time. I then wended my way to the central plaza to find the church for Mass.
I arrived a little late for the 11:00 Mass at St-Trophime's but still didn't miss the entire Homily in French. The church was quite spectacular even though it wasn't the largest I've seen. Saint Trophime, a disciple of both St-Peter and St-Paul, came here either from Rome or Palestine. He was the cousin of St-Stephen (the first martyr), whose head he preserved after he was killed. He converted many people here in Provence and became the Bishop of Arles.
The first basilica here was dedicated to St-Stephen and destroyed in the 8th Century by the Saracens. They rebuilt it and this cathedral was dedicated on September 29, 1152 to St-Trophime, when they moved his remains here from Les Alyscamps cemetery (see below). The Eglise de St-Trophime is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Provence. The highlight is the 12th century facade which depicts scenes from the Last Judgment and images of saints.
The interior nave is lined with tapestries. A beautiful cloister
(stock photo, above right) is
also on the sight.
It is open daily from 10-12 and 2-7.
After Mass I explored this beautiful church including the sculptures on the tombs and the museum which housed many relics of saints in little gold reliquaries.
I walked outside to hear this group of dancers using tin drums and mariachis making a huge racket in the plaza right outside the door of the church. Below is a photo of the fine artwork of the fountain on the obelisk (above right).
I thought I would list a few places we didn't have time to see but may be of interest for those that plan to visit Arles:
Musée de l'Arles Antique
[Presqu'Ile du Cirque Romain,
+33-(0)4-90-18-8888] is located about a half a mile (15 minute walk) from the center of town. This museum contains a collection of Roman antiquities found in Arles including a marble statue of Emperor Augustus. The museum is considered one of the best of its kind outside of Italy.
2) Les Alyscamps [Rue Pierre-Renaudel, +33-(0)4-90-49-3687] is a Roman necropolis (cemetery) on the south east outskirts of town, a short distance outside the walls of the old town. The name is a corruption of Elisii Campi, or Elysian Fields.
It was one of the most famous necropolises of the ancient world. The cemetery is lined with tombstones and a partly ruined church. People from Arles were buried here for over 1500 years. People from all over Europe were buried here up until they moved St-Trophime's relics to the cathedral. In late 1888, it was used as the subject of several Van Gogh paintings; "Alles de Alyscamps" (below left) and "Falling Leaves in Alyscamps" (below center) as well as Gauguin (below right). To see almost 300 of Van Gogh's works and 200 of Gauguin's click their names.
3) Museon Arlatan (right) [29, rue de la République,
+33-(0)4-90-93-5811] is a folklore museum of Provencal life including crafts, costumes, and everyday household items. The museum was founded by the 1904 Nobel Prize winner Frédéric Mistral (See #28). He used his Nobel Prize money to turn his house into a museum of Occitania culture. Open everyday except Monday from 9-12 and 2-6.
(left) [10 rue du Grand-Prieure,
+33-(0)4-90-49-37-58] is a collection of modern paintings by Jacques Réattu, Théodore Rousseau, André Marchand and, more famously, over 50 Picasso sketches. Open same times as Museon Arlatan.
OTHER ART-RELATED SITES IN PROVENCE
Art Museums | Historical Homes & Studios
> Fondation St-John Perse
8-10, Rue des Allumettes
04 42 25 98 87
> Fondation Vasarely
1, Avenue Marcel Pagnol
04 42 20 01 09
> Musée Atelier Paul Cézanne
9, Avenue Paul Cézanne
04 42 21 06 53
> Musée Granet
Place St-Jean de Malte
04 42 38 14 70
> Musée Paul Arbaud
2, Rue du 4 septembre
04 42 38 38 95
> Pavillon Vendôme
32, Rue Célony
04 42 21 05 78
> Fondation Vincent Van Gogh
24 bis, Rond-point des Arènes
Palais de Luppé
04 90 49 94 04
> Musée Réattu
8-10, Rue des Allumettes
04 42 25 98 87
> Musée Mélik
Château de Cabriès
04 42 22 42 81
> Moulin de Daudet
04 90 54 67 49
> Musée de Région Auguste Chabaud
04 90 90 53 02
> Centre d'Art Contemporain
1, Boulevard Painlevé
04 42 55 17 10
> Moulin Cézanne
04 42 66 90 41
> Musée Yves Brayer
Place François de Hérain
Hôtel des Porcelets
04 90 54 36 99
> Fondation Louis Jou
Grand'rue Frédéric Mistral
04 90 54 34 17
> Museon Frédéric Mistral
11, Avenue Lamartine
04 90 95 74 06
> Centre International de la Poésie
2, Rue de la Charité
Centre de la Vieille Charité
04 91 91 26 45
> Musée Cantini
19, Rue Grignan
04 91 54 77 75
> Musée de la Mode
11, La Canebière
Espace Mode Méditerranée
04 91 56 59 57
> Musée des Beaux Arts
04 91 14 59 30
> Musée Grobet-Labadié
140, Boulevard Longchamp
04 91 62 21 82
> Musée d'Art Contemporain (MAC)
69, Avenue d'Haïfa
04 91 25 01 07
> Musée Ziem
Boulevard du 14 juillet
04 42 80 66 06
Port de Bouc
> Musée Moralès
Avenue des Pins
04 42 06 26 29
> Centre d'art - Présence Van Gogh
8, Rue Estrine
04 90 92 34 72
> Donation Mario Prassinos
Avenue Durand Maillane
Chapelle Notre Dame de Pitié
04 90 92 35 13
> Maison de Nostradamus
04 90 56 64 31
Interesting Story About Aging
Jeanne Louise Calment was born in Arles on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997. That made her 122 years, 164 days old when she passed away - the longest confirmed lifespan ever recorded. Madame Calment officially gave up smoking at 117, but resumed having the occasional puff after her 118th birthday. Well into her hundreds she drank a glass of port before lunch and another before dinner. Madame Calment once said: "I have an enormous will to live and a good appetite, especially for sweets." She married in 1896, but her husband passed away in 1940. When Madame Calment was 90, a lawyer called Andrei-Francois Raffray entered into an annuity contract with her (annual money in return for her flat when she died), which cost him a small fortune due to her longevity. A great quote from Madame Calment is that she "is interested in everything, but not really passionate about anything." The Maison du Lac retirement home where she lived was renamed after her.
At 12:00 I found my way back to the Théâtre Antique and it was open so I had to pay €3 to get in. I walked all the way around the grounds and all the way to the top of the theater steps. The views were very nice. Here is the view from the upper right.
And this is the view from the upper left.
Théâtre Antique is an outdoor Roman style semicircle theater that sat 12,000 people. Emperor Augustus built it at the end of the first century BC. It was later used as a quarry, so much of what you see today is in ruins, but it is still used for outdoor performances. The two Corinthian columns below are called "Deux Veuves."
As I was walking back to the hotel, I noted this city exhibition that looked interesting so I went in to see what it was about. It was small and displayed history, art and models of the city. They were very proud of this "Venus d'Arles."
When I got back to the hotel at 12:45, I walked by the pool near our building and noticed there were three lovely young ladies enjoying the pool and they were topless. I decided this was a good time to take advantage of the pool and have a swim. I swam laps with them and they were very friendly. I finally tired of this and at 1:15 I went upstairs to shower, change and pack up to leave. This wasn't an Accor hotel and they were not very happy about our late checkout. Oh well.
At 1:30 we checked out of the hotel and you can see that the room was large and quite nice even though (and maybe because) we were in the annex building.
They had to go get our car which seemed like it was garaged quite far away. But then we find that we can't park in front to load the bags because cars keep trying to use the street. We finally got some help and got it accomplished. You can see from the photo that we have a very specific pattern to load the car otherwise we couldn't get everything into the trunk. I'm always fighting with the bellmen who have their own idea as to how it should be loaded.
At 1:40 we drove around the complex of streets until we got to the river and found a place to park. From there we walked to the Foundation Van Gogh to see the Picasso exhibit and it was €10 for Marcia but I got in free as a "senior."
The Museum absolutely forbade any photography of any kind but here are a few examples of the Picasso works they had there (above). They also had this special photographic exhibit (below) regarding Picasso that included photos and poetry from his good friend Höfer (borrowed from Musee d'Orsey, Paris) including photos he took of Picasso and his friends relaxing with topless girls.
We finally left and decided to walk back up to the coliseum to see if we could get inside. Marcia didn't want to climb up this big thing so I left her at a cafe nearby and I climbed the hill to the coliseum, entered it and then climbed the bleacher aisles all the way to the top.
Here (below left) is the circular aisle that makes up the wall (and makes it easy to get in and out from your seat) and on the right is the top of the wall.
The inside is huge. They are setting up for a concert of some kind. Below are the panoramic views of Arles from the top of the coliseum.
I came back down from the coliseum and joined Marcia at the café and then we walked around and came across local painters who had their wares out in front of their studios.
These shutters were irresistible to photograph.
We then walked back by the Hôtel Dieu's Espace Van Gogh and went inside to see the famous courtyard of the mental hospital where he painted this famous work. It was a rather strange place, in my opinion, and I didn't care for the kinds of people that were hanging around in there. One corner had an outdoor class of something I didn't understand. We left rather quickly.
We then went by the Eglise des Precheurs on our way back to the car and looking for a place for lunch.
At 3:30 we settled down for lunch at Restaurant Le Voltaire in the hotel of the same name. Marcia had Salade Seguin and I had two plain espressos. A young lady joined us at the long table and we had a wonderful conversation with her. Her name was Jenny O'Shea, an American from Oakland, CA who was here for a visit. We exchanged travel tips. She was very nice and it was great to casually speak to someone in American instead of fighting the French language all the time.
We wended our way back to the river and the car and at 5:30 we left. On our way out of the city we saw the Thermes Constantin (the Baths of Constantine I).
Marcia drove the 20 miles north-northwest from Arles to the ancient city of Nîmes. We are still in the region of France called the Bouches-du-Rhône. The word denim (used to make bluejeans) comes from "de Nîmes" (of Nîmes) because it was first made here for the cowboys that worked on the Camargue. Levi Strauss came here in the 1850s and thought it would make good material for the gold miners so he brought it back to San Francisco. Jeans started here. Interesting, huh?
Nîmes was established by the emperor Augustus as homestead payment to his victorious legions for their defeat of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, hence Nîmes' coat of arms, the palm tree and chained crocodile - and therefore, being the present day home of Lacoste® with its crocodile logo. But, Lacoste says they used it because the French tennis star, Rene Lacoste's nickname was the "crocodile" after someone gave him a crocodile leather briefcase and the crowds started calling him this.
At 6:15, after circling the central park several times, we checked into the Novatel Atria Nîmes Centre #415, [5 Blvd Prague, +33-(0)4-66-76-5656]. The order of quality for the Accor Hotel group in descending order of quality is Sofitel, Mercure, Novatel, ETap, Ibis, Red Roof, Motel 6 and Formula 1. This was our first stay in a Novatel.
Nicola, the man at the desk, couldn't find our reservation. After a long period of research he discovered we were booked as Mr. Kenneth not Mr. Hoffer. This has never happened before in any country we have visited. I guess the word Kenneth is as foreign as the word Hoffer to the French. From now I will make sure that this doesn't happen again. A thing to be careful of when making reservations. Our room was fairly spacious if not over-elegant.
After unloading and unpacking, at 6:30 I went down to the lounge and worked on maps and the itinerary while Marcia got ready. Since we are back to an Accor Hotel, at 7:00 she joined me for our free glasses of champagne in the lounge area before heading out.
At 8:30 we walked down the main street near the park and looked at the options for dinner. We stopped at Au Bureau [24 Blvd Amiral Courbet, +33-46-667-3459] for a drink and I worked on the computer. The first Kilkenny's beer I had was sour and Gérald, our waiter, tasted it and agreed so he brought me a good one. We were sitting right across the street from a big beautiful cathedral called St-Baudile. Au Bureau is a French chain of fairly upscale pub-style restaurants. We've seen them all over but have never eaten in one.
Nicolas, from the hotel, had recommended the "Wine Bar" restaurant which was back in the other direction. So I took my umbrella, because it was sprinkling, and searched for the place and it was tricky because it was quite hidden. When I finally found it, I discovered it was closed for holidays.
At 10:00 we decided that the food looked good here and we were comfortable so Gérald (below right with Marcia) moved us to a table to have dinner.
The beautiful St-Baudile cathedral (above left). Gérald was really a great guy and took very good care of us. We ordered a ½ bottle of Chateau La Roque Pic Saint Loup. I had an appetizer of chicken wings which were pretty good.
Marcia had entrecote (French-style steak) with frites which came with cauliflower gratin and a ratatouille.
For entree, I had magret d'canard (duck breast) with orange sauce and frites and finished with profiteroles for desert. Gérald recommended the Hotel Terriciae [ +33-(0)4-90-97-0670] near the beautiful city of Les Beau which we hope to visit in the north.
It was a decent meal and at 11:50 we headed back to the hotel. Using a different route, we came across this very fancy merry-go-round. It was decorated with nude caryatids and had paintings of places in France.
One of them (above left) looked like it was of the big marketplace in Cannes (above right from Page 15). We strolled back to the hotel and went to bed at 1:30; boy was I tired.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #30
Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
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