Posted by: vlibrizzi | July 24, 2009

Summer Road Trip: Roamin’ Romans in Arles

Months ago when planning this trip, we wanted to make a quick stop in Provence so that we could hopefully see some lavender in full bloom. Sadly, we found out that the lavender throughout the region was picked about a week or two ago 😦

DSC_1167So instead of lolling through lavender fields in Provence, we’re roamin’ Romans in Arles.

We started our morning by visiting the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh D’Arles.

Van Gogh spent some time in Arles, and it was here that he made the most paintings in a short few months; he painted over 200 paintings during his stay here. Quite a feat! This is also the town where he, in a absinthe stupor, cut off a piece of his ear and gave it to a prostitute. So he was at his creative peak and his mental nadir.

There are no original Van Gogh paintings in Arles; the Foundation is a collection created about 20 years ago of  paintings in tribute to Van Gogh by famous artists from all over the world.




DSC_1166In many cases, the artists painted their versions of a Van Gogh painting. For example, this painting to the left, is one artist’s take on Van Gogh’s famous painting. But, instead of having simply hard, thick brushstrokes like Van Gogh, this artist took Van Gogh’s thick brush stroles and turned each one of them into arms and human outlines in homage to Van Gogh who inspired him and literally gave him a hand, while he was painting.




DSC_1163We also really liked this huge canvas that you can see me standing in front of in the photo to the left. It is a compilation of many of Van Gogh’s famous faces and images put onto one canvas.





DSC_1181But besides the fact that none of his orignal paintings are here, one can see Van Gogh is really everywhere here in Arles.

In addition to the foundation, the town has put up miniature replicas of some of Van Gogh’s paintings he made here of Arles, in front of the location where he painted them.

Here’s C. is standing next to a replica of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night over the Rhone” painting in the exact spot where he painted it.


DSC_1183Here is the place where Van Gogh painted the house he was staying in while in Arles. Sadly, during WWII an American plane accidentally bombed his house…intending instead to hit the bridge near it that crossed the Rhone. So, the house is no longer there, but hey, it’s a small price to pay for liberating France.








DSC_1172And, here’s me, standing in front of the famous Cafe de la Nuit that Van Gogh painted. Apparently, the original color of the cafe was white, but after Van Gogh painted it yellow to reflect the street light, the owners painted it yellow to cash in on tourist photos.







DSC_1169We stopped for a quick salad lunch at a restaurant called Le 16 (creative name, huh?), and then hopped right across the street to have a quick ice cream for dessert at a place called Soleileis.

We each got two scoops of all natural ice cream. We chose to try their flavors that won awards, so I had fig and olive oil ice cream. C. had cinnamon and pear. And, honestly, it was the absolute best ice cream either of us have ever had. And, that’s a big statement to make since we are huge ice cream fans, and if you remember back to our honeymoon three years ago, we had at least one gelato a day in Italy.

But yes, hands down, this was the best ice cream ever. If you have any plans to come to Provence, you must stop in Arles…if only to get to try this stuff!

DSC_1178Later yesterday afternoon, we walked through the Roman section of Arles. We visited the huge Roman Arena/Amphitheatre (which looked a lot to us like a smaller version of the Colloseum in Rome).





DSC_1177And we looked in on the Roman Antique Theatre/Amphitheatre. Unfortunately we could not go in to the Antique Theatre during the day because it was closed. When we asked one of the guards why it was closed, he told usthat they were setting up a concert for tonight.

Then, our ears perked up. A concert, eh? In a 1000 year old Roman Amphitheatre? Hmm….

So, we immediately headed to the booking office and bought tickets for the show. You didn’t need to ask us twice if we wanted to see a concert in the amphitheatre.

After a quick dinner of charcuterie, quiche, and tartines at a cute wine bar called Chez Ariane (and, we have to admit, another stop at Soleileil), we headed over to the 9 pm concert. The 3,000 seat theatre was packed! And the shows were amazing.

We heard two bands. The first was a group called Java which consisted of four men–one rapper, one drummer, one bass player, and an accordian player. Yes, you read that correctly — not exactly a typical mix.  But their music was wonderful and they really got the crowd going!  At one point they even just let the accordion player do a solo, and invited the audience to come on stage to polka!

Then, the main act was a group of six performers called Caravan Palace. They were a jazz group that had a DJ playing dance music along with the jazz. People were dancing in the stands (us included!). It was awesome!


  1. Wife and I will be in Arles this july (’10). thanks for the ice cream tip. I’ll definately try it, although olive oil doesn’t sound too inviting.

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