"Thank you again for making it such an amazing trip. It was so much more than a cooking course - it was a sensory experience of note, with a cultural and history tour included - so much more than what I bargained for."
About Arles & Provence
Arles is a magical city. It attracts us from afar and woos with its many charms. Numerous are the visitors of a weekend or a week, who come back again and again, and then who settle amidst the Roman walls and tiny streets walked by many an artist, musician or poet before they.
Over 3000 years of history reside upon this rocky rise just north of the Mediterranean Sea on the Rhône River. Part of ancient Liguria, the site later became a city, Arlate, named by the Celts as the village amidst the marshes. After the Celts came the Greeks who made good use of this easily accessed inland port. The Greeks were displaced by the Romans and with Caesar's defeat of the Phoenicians at Massalia (current-day Marseille) with the help of nearly 20 battle ships built by the Arlesians, Arles became the Roman capitol of Provincia Romana, with the lands formerly under the dominion of Massalia, Glanum and other former Phoenician supporters now hers. And lo, what a glorious Roman capitol she was!
To this day we have the spectacular Romana Amphitheatre that the locals call, "les Arènes", and just above, the Antique Roman Theatre. To the north of the city is the ancient Via Aurelia, lined with carved stone sarcophagi, in a magical current day park we call the "Alyscamps". To the south of the city lies an 2000 year old race course 500 Meters in length, and beneath the city are the catacombs and passages of the Roman Forum.
But time did not stop with the fall of the Roman empire. Even after the fall of Rome, Arles was yet a stronghold of the Roman Catholic Empire with many a church, a nunnery, cloisters and more within its walls. As time passed, and the middle ages led to the mediaeval period, sculptors came from afar to adorn the magnificent portal to the Saint Trophime cathedral for the many pilgrims following the path to Santiago de Compostella in far off Spain.
Throughout its history, Arles has been a market town. Merchandise from all over the Mediterranean was brought to Arles by boat, and then transferred to horse-drawn barges and distributed throughout Northern Europe. Arles' strategic positioning as the first city on the Rhone River -- safely inland, but easily accessed -- made it the ideal entry to the Northern European markets. Peoples from all over the Mediterranean came to live here, as is the case still today.
And what will greet you when you come to Arles today? Beyond our historical monuments, we have three glorious museums -- with a collection of Picasso drawings housed in the former home of the Knights of Malta when they came to Arles. There are chic cafes bordering our elegant squares -- the Place du Forum and the Place Voltaire, and a number of exquisite boutiques with designer wear for the discerning shopper. Christian Lacroix considers Arles a second home. A displaced Provençal in Paris, he is often here, and his shop is a must-visit destination. Ines de la Fressange may also be enjoying a drink at the bar in the Nord Pinus when we stop by there for cocktails. And let us not neglect the delightful French tradition of pampering. Aromatherapy massage, creative hairdressers, a Moroccan Hammam steam bath and more exist for the visitor as well as the local.
Photography lovers worldwide know of our famous "Rencontres de la Photographies" which brings the photography world to this small Southern town to show their work, celebrate their art and visit with their colleagues. And how many know that the Gypsy Kings are Arles natives? Music is a rich tradition in this town, and the SUDS festival brings artists from all over the globe to sing, dance and celebrate for 7 days of lyrics filling the city's corners and concert halls.
For some personal reminiscences, a blog post on living in Arles.
For additional information, please check out the Arles webpage.