We had an early start this morning, as our train to Arles left Nimes at 8:15, so when we arrived 30 minutes later a lot of the town was yet to wake up. Still, by the time we had walked from the station the Roman arena was open and we could wander round it. The arena is still used for bullfights sadly, so essentially, not much has changed in 2,000 years.
It’s amazing to see the original Roman construction under the arches and how talented and clever the workmen were in ancient times. After a few minutes we were joined by a group of noisy French schoolchildren, one of whom I would have cheerfully thrown to a passing lion in the arena. They followed us round for most of the morning…
Next stop was the Roman amphitheatre, though we paused for coffee first. The amphitheatre is not as well preserved as the arena but has a large modern stage for performances. It has brilliant acoustics, in fact you can every shout from a French schoolboy in an orange T shirt. Yes, he avoided the lion….
We’d also chosen to visit Arles because of Luma, an arts site and exhibition space whose main building was designed by one of our favourite architects, Frank Gehry. There are obvious echoes of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, in the use of aluminium and the strange form the building takes. There’s also a huge central atrium, housing a helter skelter as a one way elevator alternate. It’s fun (no we didn’t try it) and the building itself is stunning.
Surprisingly we also ate lunch at Luma, in their Drum Cafe. They served up a wonderful Vietnamese inspired vegetarian lunch with the most outstanding chocolate dessert. It’s probably one of the main reasons I’d return to Arles, yes it was that good.
We slowly trudged back to the station, suffering the effects of humidity and chocolate. There was no sign of the Orange T shirted schoolboy. No doubt he was back home and safely tucked away in the cupboard under the stairs. Our train arrived dead on time and we staggered back to the hotel. Arles is worth a second visit we think, as is Nimes. It’s our last full day here tomorrow and we plan to visit the Roman museum. Provided it isn’t washed away during the night…
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