Saturday, May 31, 2014

Arles

Gusty winds today of up to 25 miles an hour, and along the river, strong enough to make you cautious about not walking too close to the edge. How strange that the winds are only in this area and that the regions we left are now enjoying warm temperatures and clear skies. Such is the way of traveling. . Arles was a key stop on the Roman road from Italy to Spain, an important port city. Vincent Van Gogh settled here in the 1800's. Arles sits alongside the very wide and flat Rhone River with concrete walls on both sides as it flows through the edge of town. Our hotel is just a block away. Parking is tight, the lot is a block away but spaces are along the river wall and up a curb; if you go up the curb too forcefully, you will hit the wall. It's a little difficult to say the least. The Hotel Musee has 28 rooms and the room is spartan but downstairs is a charming courtyard with many garden sitting areas. We are taking note of all these small space gardens in order to create our own French paradise. Breakfast is in this sitting area, baskets of croissants, baguettes and large cups for coffee, a welcome change from the tablespoons of coffee we have had elsewhere.

The Reattu Museum across the alley is housed in the former Grand Priory of the Knights of Malta with  tall ceilings and gargoyles, housing contemporary art. Reattu was a painter from Arles from 16C-18C. He did an extensive study of human anatomy and his detailed drawings of muscle fibers are exhibited with an upper body sculpture, half with muscle fibers exposed. His paintings are exquisitely detailed and I am enthralled by his portraits of women, satin fabrics with lace and embroidery that make you want to reach out and touch. There are two rooms of Picasso drawings and one full color face that holds my attention.  One of the guards eyes me like a hawk, watching me as I take pictures of what must appear to be highly unusual, like the banister, the sunlight on the stairs and the cracking wall. Or maybe she has never seen a Chinese person before? When I am in the courtyard, I see her at the wall looking down at me; I go inside and she is eyeing me through the door. I am on the stairs, and she is at the bottom.  Do I look like an art thief?

The Ancient History Museum has several models of the Roman buildings built in Arles to copy those in Rome. It is informative to see them before venturing outside since many of these buildings have not been left as ruins, but are part of the living city and not easily identifiable. I am astounded by the mosaics that have been reconstructed on the floor display. Tiny mosaic have bee pieced together to form the original pictures, quite a labor intensive task. Outside, the coliseum is in the process of being renovated and stands majestically in the square. It is a difficult building to photograph as the bright sun shines strongly on the cream colored walls. I walk the city photographing alleys and more cracking walls with faded shutters that sit tightly closed, giving the impression of being uninhabited.  I will have a ton of images to review when I return and are becoming more selective in my shots. Usng my tripod forces me to look hard and compose more thoughtfully. 

Dinner is sandwiches from a street vendor. I mistakenly think it is sunday and that restaurants are closing, and quickly purchase chicken baguette sandwiches before returnimg to the hotel, only to discover that it is saturday and the cafes were closing but not the restaurants.



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