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.