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A Happy Birthday in Arles

Posted on June 30, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: The Great European Road Trip

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday with a trip to Arles, in which I got to see ancient Roman tombs and other good stuff in a museum followed by Romanesque sculptures on a cathedral. Then we had a nice outdoor dinner back in Aigues-Mortes. Perfect!

Arles was smaller and less crowded than we expected, which was nice. Judging by how many cars we passed going the other way, it seemed that everyone was going to the beach instead! The Museum of Ancient Arles is on the outskirts of town just off the freeway, and has its own free parking lot. It was so empty and dark-looking when we arrived that my heart sank, thinking it was closed for renovations. But hooray, it was open and they allowed photography! We had the place nearly to ourselves and I had such a good time.

After a thorough visit of the museum, we had no trouble finding the city center and parking in a garage close to all the main sights. Arles was worth visiting for the sights, but the town itself was not especially impressive or attractive.

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One of Arles' primary sights is its amphitheater, built around the same time as the Roman Colosseum. It has been recently cleaned (and half of it is still under plastic) and is used for bullfighting and other events.

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The other main attraction in Arles is the Eglise St-Tromphime. It is a fairly small Romanesque church, with lots of sculptures on its west portal and in its large cloister.

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The church is in the corner of a large plaza paved with white stone, which felt like Dante's Inferno on such a hot day. The heat seemed to radiate from all directions. But for those who don't mind wet clothes or wet fur, relief was available in the form of a fountain in the center of the plaza:

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Today we took another nice day trip to a couple sites northeast of Arles. Tomorrow we move on a little further west to Narbonne.