When it came time to plan our summer across Europe, the South of France was high on my list. I envisioned planting myself in some Provencial home out in a beautiful field and letting the children roam with the goats and spend long days picking lavender and wildflowers. I didn’t realize that along with beautiful, natural scenery, there are also SO many cool little towns and ancient ruins to explore in the region. We ultimately picked a home-base of Aix en Provence, which was conveniently located to many of the things we wanted to explore. John of course had read up the region thanks to Rick Steves, or “The Ricker” as he affectionately became known in our family. First upon his list of places to see, Arles, France.
While John was reading up on places to visit, I was reading up on places to shop. 😉 There is a little antique fair in Arles that I wanted to visit, so we timed our day trip there to coincide with the Antique Fair. Interacting with the locals in these small towns and at their local fairs is one of my favorite parts of traveling. This was NOT an area crawling with tourists. It was a quaint little place where we were able to get a slice of life in the South of France.
I wish I had had room in my suitcase for SO many of these pretty treasures!
John’s reason for wanting to visit Arles was to see the Coliseum. Provence is home to many of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world. This coliseum in Arles was built in 90AD, only about 10 years after the world famous Collosseum in Rome was built. It was built to host chariot races and brutal battles. It holds 20,000 people and is still functioning today hosting bull-fighting, plays and concerts. It was incredible to see the great condition of this ancient structure.
Walking the streets and narrow alley ways of Arles surrounding the colesium was an interesting experience. Having been to see the ruins in Rome, in the streets of Arles it was easier for me to transport myself back to Roman times and envision Roman soldiers and townspeople roaming these same streets. Unlike Rome, where a huge city has built up around the ruins, the streets around the Arles Colesium felt as though they remained largely unchanged from those days long ago.
Arles would be a run base if you are looking for a smaller city experience in Provence. There are about 50,000 people in the city of Arles, spread out over an area that is the largest in Metropolitan France, so lower density and a slower pace of life. A couple of cute hotels to check out if you are thinking about staying in the area:
Hotel Jules Cesar Arles – right in the heart of the old town tons of history and chaacter
Hotel du Cloitre – A beautiful hotel located on a quiet street in the city center
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