June 4th, 2015
After bidding adieu to Marseille, we headed west through the Camargue region towards Arles. Rich with Roman ruins and home to Vincent Van Gogh for a spell during what was arguably his most creative and mentally troubled period and the inspiration behind many of his most well-known paintings, including Starry Night.
We hadn’t originally included Arles in our road trip itinerary but a last minute hotel change in order to find a pool to cool down in for the afternoon led us pleasantly off course. After venturing downtown later in the evening in search of dinner and discovering all the Roman ruins, we lamented that we had overlooked Arles and wish we had an extra day to spend exploring its Roman history.
Nonetheless, we made good use of the few hours we had. After offloading the rental car at a parking garage on Boulevard des Lices, we made our way through the Jardin D’Ete, a leafy park space adjacent to the well preserved ruins of a 1st century BC Roman Theater and the venue for a summer outdoor classical jazz concert to be held that night. The theater, when built, could hold up to 10,000 spectators and at least 100 of them were patiently waiting in line for when the entrance gate would open and could claim the best seats for the concert.
We continued winding our way around the theater toward Rond Point des Arenes and the impressively preserved Roman Amphitheater. The arena was built around 90 AD and could hold 21,000 spectators. Unlike the Colosseum, there were no crowds of tourists to block the views and damper the enjoyment.
Overlooking the amphitheater was a string of restaurants with plentiful outdoor seating meant for gazing out onto the illuminated arches and columns and this is where we fixed our intentions for a nice dinner al fresco among centuries old history. We settled into a cozy outdoor table at Restaurant Le Grillon and tucked into an amazing dinner along with a delicious bottle of local Cotes du Rhone wine.
Bellies full, we decided to take a stroll towards the riverfront of the Rhone River, finding a lively square and a string of bars and restaurants along the Rue de L’Ampitheatre and Rue Leon filled with merrymakers enjoying a drink in the still warm summer air.