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Visiting Arles for Art While Learning French in Provence

Jeannie and her daughter, Megan, joined Virginie for a wonderful French immersion week in Provence. They stayed in the studio Mas des Pins during their time in the region. Both mother and daughter are art lovers, so Virginie suggested visiting Arles. The text in English and French (written by Virginie’s students) is about their visit to Arles, with its Roman sites and contemporary architecture on the Rhône River.

Visiting Arles

We will give you some information about the city; this way, you will better understand the beauty of the place and its cultural wealth. Arles is where the Rhone delta begins: the river separates the city. This city encompasses a large landmass, making it the largest municipality in metropolitan France. In the North, there are the Alpilles.
To the south, the Camargue extends to a small town called Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. In the east, there’s the Crau.

Arles Place de la Republique

Nous allons vous donner quelques informations sur la ville, de cette manière, vous pourrez mieux comprendre la beauté du lieu et sa richesse culturelle.  Arles est le lieu où commence le delta du Rhône : le fleuve coupe la ville en deux. Cette ville s’étend sur un vaste territoire, ce qui en fait la plus grande commune de France métropolitaine.Au nord d’Arles, il y a les Alpilles. Au sud, il y a la Camargue qui s’étend jusqu’à une petite ville appelée Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. A l’est, il y a le Crau.

Must-See Arles

It’s a city that lives mainly from tourism. And for good reason. It’s a magnificent city which surprised us with its mixture of Roman and Romanesque architecture. There is an amphitheatre, the Alyscamps burial ground and its Saint Honorat church and the Constantine baths. Arles’ heritage is so important that the city is classified among “Cities and Countries of Art and History,” these Roman monuments have been registered on the World Heritage List since 1981. We recommend you buy a pass to visit the different monuments: it’s more economical than paying for entry to each monument. You can buy one at the tourism office, which is at the entrance to the city. Nowadays, monuments such as the amphitheatre still live thanks to events such as the course camarguaises.

Arles Must-See Provence Roman Arena

C’est une ville qui vit principalement grâce au tourisme. Et pour cause. C’est une ville magnifique, qui nous a surprise par son mélange d’architecture romaine et romane, comme l’amphithéâtre, les Alyscamps et son église Saint Honorat et les thermes de Constantin. Son patrimoine est tellement important que la ville est classée “Villes et Pays d’art et d’histoire”, et ces monuments romains et romans sont inscrits sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l’humanité depuis 1981. On vous recommande d’acheter un pass pour visiter les différents monuments : c’est plus économique que de payer son entrée dans chaque monument. On peut en acheter un à l’office de tourisme, qui se trouve à l’entrée de la ville. De nos jours, des monuments tels que l’amphithéâtre revivent grâce à des événements ponctuels, par exemple, des courses camarguaises.

Art in Arles

Arles is also a city full of art. The impressionist Vincent Van Gogh lived in Arles for 15 months, and he painted about 300 paintings there! An impressive museum – the Fondation Van Gogh – is dedicated to his work. It is a must-see. At the entrance, a fountain made of garden hose welcomed us. It’s weird and quite unique: my daughter and I wonder: “but how can someone imagine such a thing?” In this museum, there are 10 works of Van Gogh, 10 works of Picasso, and 10 works of Monticelli (who, despite his name, is French !) exhibited.

There are opportunities for guided tours of the Fondation, but by reading the explanatory panels, we learned a lot. We learn that when we look at Picasso’s painting called “Man’s Head with Straw Hat,” we can see common points with the work of Van Gogh: among others, the colours he used and the straw hat. We laughed when Virginie gave us her opinion on Van Gogh: “What he did, it’s ok. But I hate it. It makes me depressed. “ There’s also another museum – called the Réattu Museum – dedicated to contemporary art. Picasso, who also visited Arles several times, gave them 57 of his drawings.

Arles fondation Van Gogh

L’art en Arles

Arles est aussi une ville d’art. L’impressionniste Vincent Van Gogh a vécu à Arles pendant 15 mois et il y a peint environ 300 peintures ! Un musée impressionnant – qui s’appelle la Fondation Van Gogh – est dédié à son travail. À voir absolument ! A l’entrée, une fontaine faîte en tuyau d’arrosage nous accueille. C’est bizarre, et très original : ma fille et moi nous demandons : “mais comment peut-on imaginer ça ?”Dans ce musée, sont exposées 10 œuvres de Van Gogh, 10 œuvres de Picasso et 10 œuvres de Monticelli (qui, comme son nom ne l’indique pas, est français !).

Espace Van Gogh Arles Explore Provence

Il y a des possibilités de visite guidée de la Fondation, mais en lisant les panneaux explicatifs, on apprend déjà beaucoup de choses. On apprend que quand on regarde le tableau de Picasso appelé “Tête d’homme au chapeau de paille”, on peut remarquer des points communs avec le travail de Van Gogh : entre autres, les tons utilisés et le chapeau de paille. Nous avons bien ri quand Virginie nous a donné son avis sur Van Gogh : « Ce qu’il a fait, c’est ok. Mais je déteste. Ça me déprime. » Il y aussi un autre musée – qui s’appelle le musée Réattu – qui est consacré à l’art contemporain. Picasso, qui a aussi visité Arles plusieurs fois, leur a donné 57 de ses dessins.

Van Gogh’s Café in Arles

After all these visits, we finish the walk by returning to the start. We were delighted to see the café that Van Gogh immortalized in his painting: “The Terrace of the Café Le Soir.” In Arles, you can find a treasure around a street corner. If you like art and history, you shouldn’t miss a tour of this unique Provence city.

Visiting Arles for Art with Virginie

©Virginie Van Der Wees

Après toutes ces visites, nous finissons la promenade en prenant le chemin du retour. Nous sommes ravies de voir le café que Van Gogh a immortalisé dans son tableau: La Terrasse du Café Le Soir. À Arles, on peut trouver un trésor au coin d’une rue. Si vous aimez l’art et l’histoire, il ne faut surtout pas manquer la visite de cette ville unique en Provence.

If you are coming for a French immersion stay in Provence, I really invite you to contact Virginie in Provence. She will be happy to make you discover the different aspects of Provence: landscapes and scents, but also culture and gastronomy while helping you to improve your French.

Si vous venez pour un séjour d’immersion en Provence, je vous invite réellement à contacter Virginie en Provence. Elle se fera un plaisir de vous faire découvrir les différents aspects de la Provence : les paysages et les senteurs, mais aussi la culture, la gastronomie… tout en vous aidant à améliorer votre français.


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Virginie Van Der Wees

Virginie Van Der Wees lives with her young family near the Montagne Sainte Victoire, a short 20-minute drive from Aix-En-Provence. She is a masseuse and a certified French teacher for non-French speakers. Since 2018, Virginie puts together full immersion experiences that include hosting and supporting language learners at their family home.

The Virginie in Provence curriculum allows students to build on their knowledge and move to the next level and beyond – all while enjoying the wonders that Provence has to offer. Suitable for any age group, Virginie offers adapted, tailor-made solutions for clients who are moving to Provence. This program allows them to improve their French and overcome cultural changes. Virginie also provides classic French lessons and cooking lessons (in French) online or at the client’s home.

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