Ask a Local: Why Visit Arles?
Much like her decision to follow a good looking French photographer to his native land. The couple were struck by a coup de coeur (love struck) when they spent one fateful night in Arles in 2003. You can read the full story in Heather’s blog post here.
Whether you are a visitor or a long term resident, Arles with its 2000+ years of history as a vibrant economic, social and cultural centre should not be missed. Heather regularly shares her thoughts on living in Provence in her blog Lost in Arles and via her guided walking tours – you can read the full story here.
I asked Heather to share her favourite things about Arles with Perfectly Provence readers:
What is the one thing (or several) that make you want to live there today?
We don’t live in Arles anymore, but rather in a tiny totally off the map village north of there. Our building was sold, so we had to leave, we couldn’t find anything suitable in town and thus made the move. But my heart is still there! It is an incredible place to live. There is always something going on culturally, so it has an incredibly vibrant energy that is missing in the “summer only” expat towns in the Luberon. Plus there is such amazing light, the power of the Rhone River rolling by and living amidst 2000-year old incredible Roman monuments.
How would you describe Arles versus the other “A” cities in Provence (Avignon and Aix)?
Well, first of all, and most importantly, unlike Avignon or Aix, Arles is not in Provence. Arles is in…Arles (let’s not forget that it was its own kingdom for a while) with a far greater link to the harshness of the Camargue than to the douceur or softness of Provence. There is a greater Spanish influence as well as seen in the tauromachie (bull-fighting) and the paella served on special occasions. Christian Lacroix, the imminent designer who was born in Arles, has said that his hometown is baroque farouche – meaning that it is yes very baroque, very colorful but also très olé and very, very proud.
What was your biggest surprise living in Arles?
The biggest surprise was learning to what a degree the old families of Arles are closed off from the rest of us outsiders. I like to tell a story from when I first moved there and had broken the dishwasher. The man who came to fix it was nice – which was surprising since I had been warned that Arlesiennes were private people – so I asked if he was from Arles. His response? “Kind of.” And what I asked what he meant by that he said, “Well, my family has only been in Arles for three generations, while normally in order to say you are from Arles, you have to have been here for five.”
Do you have a favourite coffee shop in Arles?
I am a tea girl, but they have great coffee too: Le Cuisine du Comptoir which is famous for their open-face tartines on Poilane bread. It is a locals’ place on the rue de la Liberté. Everything is homemade.
What is your number one romantic spot in Arles?
On the terrace of our first house in Arles that looked out over the Roman Baths of Constantine on one side and the gardens of the Hotel Arlatan on the other.
Favourite place for a glass of rosé?
Photo credits: All images were provided by and published with the permission of Heather Robinson.