The key to Arles appearantly is the mastery of the French language. Appearantly, because I am lacking it; I do notice that Andreea (who is fluent in French) is mingling with the locals after just one day. One can get along speaking only English, but must pay a high price. Not only are the locals cold and the food stale, but prices are jacked up and service takes longer. One of our more familiar waiters told us that tourism here is worse than any racism, worse than in any big city in France. It helps to keep in mind that this is the city which kicked out Van Gogh after he turned 'wierd'. He was born in Holland but moved to Arles, from which he was driven to the province. Selling one painting during his lifetime (for just enough money for a loaf of bread;) he is now a boasted part of Arles' heritage, his posters and portraits decorate the walls of many hotels and restaurants.

    The city can be quite wonderful, though, in that permanent-afternoon way. The locals are uniquely informal in their dealings and prove quite amiable once one gets to know them. The city seems to keep itself busy; steeped in heritage, summers are filled with holidays celebrating that heritage with adorable traditions. Locals dress up like their 17th century ancestors and relive that glorious days of manual labor like only the French could, dancing with rakes and sickles and parading farm animals around the arena.

    Arles grew out of Roman and Spanish traditions, even as I now wait for a bullfight to begin - in a Roman stadium. Most of the Roman architecture (save for the crypts and baths) is still in use, temporarily reconstructed with wooden benches and metal stands, leaving the antiquated rock formations untouched. Afternoons are beautiful here, as the orange-tainted sun lends the ruins a majestic glow, making them gleem with splendor only rivaled by that seen at their heyday. The people here have French courtesy and Spanish liveliness, but are closed off to the stranger.

The "people here" simply have very limited proficiency in English. In my high school years (something like 5 years ago), I was among the best students in the whole city for English marks, but I was still unable to understand spoken English decently (let alone watching TV shows in English). So, yes, people may be somewhat cold when someone bumps into them speaking a very exotic language, and expecting to be understood at once.

Other than that, the city is a sightseer's dream. Although relatively small (especially by American standards: 50.000 inhbts), it has countless monuments covering virtually any period of European history, from the Romans to the XXth century, including absolute masterpieces of Antique and Medieval architecture. The necropolis of the Alyscamps is among the most important on the continent, and its collection of beautiful sarcophagi is second only to the Vatican's. If you're into Roman history and art, this is the French city that you should visit. The landscapes are gorgeous as well, between rocky hills (Alpilles and Luberon - what most people think of when they say Provence) and the wild plains of Camargue.

The whole region looks like it has been hand-crafted for the pleasure and comfort of mankind. And when you're sitting on the top of a huge Roman amphitheatre, it's easy to forget that this big, peaceful monument has seen the agony of hundreds of christian martyrs.

A touristic map of the city may be found on (together with maps of Paris, Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, etc.). If you understand French, see

This node is essentially a touristic description of the region. In case you're interested in the history of one of the oldest city in Europe, see Arles.

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