Saturday, February 5, 2011

Arles and Sts Maries-Del-Mar 2-5-2011

Arles - Where Van-Gogh painted some most famous paintings!

The kids LOVED the phone booths-have they ever seen
phone booths before???  Maybe not!
Yup - I really am in France with the family :) This is another
site where Van-Gogh painted, but we aren't sure what he painted

On the streets of Arles

The right side of the Amphitheater-2000 yrs. old

The left side of the Amphitheater

Cool hallway in the Amphitheater

The Arena in the Amphitheater

We put them in but couldn't find the gate!
In the Amphitheater

The Fam from the top of the Amphitheater
From the top of the Amphitheater
That's the Rhone River down there!

Emma at the Roman Antique Theater

The "Two Windows" at the Roman Antique Theater

Cute Flower cart

Having a little lunch in Arles

The Jardin (Garden) in Arles where Vincent Van-Gogh pained this picture

The kids in the Garden

The garden from another angle

Not near the garden - very cute cafe!

Musicians playing spontaneously around Arles, there were
three groups this day

The Mediterranean Seashore at Sts Maries-Del-Mar
in the Carmongue area

The family at the Med. Seashore

There were numerous inlets which created multiple beaches
the sand was very fine and soft and little seashells were
everywhere near the water

The church at Sts. Maries Del Mar

Sts Maries

The "Our Father" ---- In French :)

The boys, waiting on the street in Arles for Emma to fetch
money from the car for ice cream
The white horses that the Carmogue area is famous for

Closer picturs of the white horses

Aren't they pretty??

Saturday morning we woke up and were excited for another day of exploring....well, most of us - Emma was hoping to sleep in past 10:00 (sorry Em!).  Arles is approximately an hour from us so we arrived around 11:30 or 12:00.  We found a parking garage, walked to the Tourist Information center to get a map, check out our route and head off.  We arrived just in time to see the HUGE open air market being taken down! It was fun to see all of the Cheeses, sausages, breads, vegetables, clothes etc... in the market.  One booth caught our attention as soon as we saw it - an artist from the area who painted landscapes with oil paints, she used a brush and a little knife for texture.  The paintings were beautiful and even more special because she could tell us exactly where the scene was from in the area.  She is going to be there again next Saturday so Andy and I might wake up early and go again to browse around the market more.  Her website is:  if you are interested in checking it out --  lavendar fields of Provence, Olive trees and poppies from the area and famous sites are the subjects of most of her work.

From the market area, we walked to the 2000 year old Roman Amphitheater. On the way we saw actual phone booths which were very intriguing for the kids because, as most of you know, we don't see phone booths around too much anymore.   According to the book we have, the amphitheater is one of the best-preserved monuments of Roman Provence.  The arena seats 21,000 people and is still used for bull fighting in the summers.  We loved walking around the amphitheater and finding all of the nooks and cranies that have been created over the years.  As you can see above, we even found a cave for the kids! 

We ultimately made it to the top of the Amphitheater and looked down on the city and the Rhone river.  The Rhone is divided into the Rhone delta or Camargue delta (I've seen it both ways) at Arles and both arms of the Rhone eventually dump into the Mediterranean sea to the south. The view from this vantage point was beautiful, I wish that I could post all of my pictures on the blog but it would take up too much space so most of them will have to go on facebook, in an album (does anyone know how to create an album on a blogpost?? :) )

Our next stop was the Roman Antique Theatre which was once a fortress and today is used for the annual Arles Festival.  The stones from the fortress were used for other buildings in the area and are strewn about like "ruins".  There are two remaining columns intact which are known as "two windows". The kids enjoyed wondering around this area and seeing all of the broken pieces.

The streets of Arles were beautiful and quaint and the people were friendly.  We ate lunch at an outside cafe and I had my first Cappuchino in France - it was delish!  After lunch we found the garden where Vincent Van-Gogh painted one of his famous paintings (see pix above). On the monument that comemorates this picture there is an excerpt from a letter that he wrote to his sister Wilhelmine while sitting and painting the picture -- in April of 1889.  The kids had fun walking around the garden and we enjoyed taking pictures.

The middle of Arles is the town square (at least that's what I call it!) where a large monument is located and around that monument is a beautiful church - Eglise St. Trophine, another building which I wasn't able to identify, some shops and restaurants etc...  When we walked through the square, we found a group of musicians playing lively music while people watched and danced around.  In an area behind the church, another group was playing music (Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"!), and as we continued to walk and find the location of another setting for a Van Gogh painting, we found yet another group playing music - it was a very festive, fun and lively atmosphere and we loved it all!

As I walked through Arles, I couldn't help but think once again how impressively old everything is and how amazingly well maintained it is.  The buildings, the streets, the monuments, the churches - everything and everywhere.  In America, we have little villages around that are old and well maintained but most things are, of course, newer - I love thinking about who walked where we are now walking, who saw what we are seeing, who prayed in the churches that we are visiting and who, of course, drank wine at the little brassaries and restaurants that we are passing.

Funny story ---- at the end of our Arles visit we found our fancy Peugot in the parking garage just fine, getting out of the garage, however, was another story :)  --- In America, at least the parts that we have been in, we drive into a garage, grab a ticket, do our thing, come back to the car, drive to the exit and pay the person in the booth or the machine on the way out.  In France - DIFFERENT STORY!  We kept seeing signs that I thought said "sortie apres payment" (I forget how payment is spelled in french) which, I believe means "exit after payment" however, there was nobody to pay - Andy drove up to the gate, ticket in hand, and stared at the machine, looked at me, we both shrugged and had no idea what to do but hoped that nobody who really wanted to get out of the garage would pull up behind us.  I saw a nice man leaning against a railing so I went and asked "parlez vous anglais???" (smile) - he looked at me and said "uhhhh - non" (bummer). I gestured what we needed to know and he gestured something about upstairs - I said "pay upstairs??" (pointing up) and he said Oui! and then shrugged and said something in French while pointing to an area ahead of where the car was - AH HA!!! A machine!  Put the ticket in, pay the fee, take the ticket out, then drive back to the gate, insert the paid ticket and the gate opens! Walahhhh! We made it - out of the garage and out of Arles with very little difficulty!

Next stop - Les Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer, on the coastline of the Mediterranean. This town was recommended by Mr. and Mrs. Boisson who explained that it is the area where a fortified church marks the legendary arrival by boat of Mary Magdalene, St. Martha and their servant Sara (St. Sara) and the sister of the Virgin Mary in AD 18. Every year in May, gypsies from all over Europe travel here to honor their patron saint - Saint Sara.  Mr. Boisson also told the story (he is a fantastic story teller!) about the font or monument where women who have fertility problems go to pray for help with conception.  A few years after Mr. and Mrs. Boisson's daughter and son in law had their first child, they were ready for a second baby but having a hard time conceiving.  Mr. Boisson, being the good dad, went to Les Stes Maries de la Mer with the intention of going to the font/monument and saying a prayer for his daughter.  As he approached the monument, he tripped over a lose piece of stone and caught himself with both hands on the monument!  Soon thereafter his daughter and son in law conceived their second....and third babies!!  Twins! We loved that story and wanted to go see where it all happened!

We arrived in the beautiful seaside town and immediately saw the gorgeous shoreline of the sea with various intlets that are "carved" out with rocks and stones almost as if groups of people could sit in their own little private beaches in the summertime.  The sand was fine and soft and little seashells were everywhere, it was difficult to not step on them and the kids had fun digging through them to find the best ones.

Eventually we walked to the only steeple that we saw in the town (actually it was the top of a church with three bell towers in a row) - the church was (of course) very old and beautiful and very cool.  There were several memorials to the "Maries" and numerous "Merci" signs from people to the "Maries".  There was also an area memorializing St. Sara and a picture of the women in their boat making their way to the shore. We tried to ask a gentleman if we were in the right spot re: fertility but he didn't undersand.  We still don't know if we were in the right spot and will have to ask Mr. Boisson - I know we will be back there for the beaches so will get another chance to find the monument.

This area that we traveled around is called the Camargue region which is known for the "Guardians" or cowboys who protected the area.  It is also known for white horses, black bulls, and pink flamingoes.  We saw them all during our journeys today - we initially saw a horse here and there, then two, then an entire herd (are groups of horses called herds??") - very cool!  We stopped along the road several times.  I guess we weren't quite as impressed with all of the black bulls that we saw since we didn't stop and take any pictures of them and we had already photographed pink flamingoes.

By the time we got home we were all tired so we uploaded our pictures and relaxed. Andy's boss and her husband invited us to go on a hike tomorrow so we needed to rest up too!


  1. Your pix are great Beth! Can't wait to hear the details!

  2. I love reading your blog. What incredible experiences you are having! The Cafe Van Gogh in your photo is painted in "The Cafe Terrace" one of his famous works painted at night.
    And the blue sky is amazing too.