Monday, 21 November 2016

Thursday 17 November – Arles

Where's Colin? He's back at the Municipal Aire in Arles.

What a cultural day we’ve had today! It started early, at 0730, with a pre-recce of the town before anywhere was open. Returning to Colin for second breakfast, a change of parking location was then had. By moving over to the Musee Departmental Arles Antique we didn’t just avoid paying for daytime parking but (more importantly) we left Colin somewhere that felt safer. Handily, the Museum was also our first activity of the day.

A moment after I took this photo of the Hotel de Ville, during our pre-recce, a pigeon fell out of the sky and crash landed in front of me. Seeing the state of it post-impact, I doubt that it saw the day out. Incidentally, the comprehensively wet state of the streets in town had us wondering for a while whether it had rained last night, which seemed unlikely given the clear skies which saw out yesterday and started today. We concluded that the town must have an impressive road-cleaning machine.

The one difference we’ve noticed between France and, say, Spain or the UK, is that where the latter have museums and art galleries with free entry, to date our experience is that similar places in France make a charge. With that in mind, last night we perused the details of the ‘things to see in Arles’ and tried to weigh up, from the guidebook descriptions, whether we would consider them worth the entrance fees stated. The conclusion was that our activity of choice would be the Musee Antique. It was only when I Googled some detail or other about it that I came to find that whereas entry to the museum alone costs €8, it’s possible to buy a ‘Passport’, which allows entry to the Musee Antique, the Musee Reattu and four out of six monuments, for €11. A no-brainer, really, especially considering that two of the other entries would also cost €8 individually; it made it feel like everywhere else was free, and thus worth a look whether it sounded interesting or not.

The Museum was focussed on the Roman history of Arles and, in the main, was moderately interesting (I say from a point of view of having visited a few similar museums in Spain earlier this year), but what made the visit entirely worthwhile was the relatively recent extension which houses a Roman Barge, complete with its cargo, which was discovered in the Rhone (a handful of metres away from where I’m sitting typing this) in Arles in 2009, and subsequently recovered, preserved and put on display.

A 20-minute information film required speed-reading of the subtitles, but was also a highlight.

Emerging back out into the sunshine at half past lunchtime, we improvised a suitable repast, having failed to buy any bread yesterday or this morning, then chose which four of the six ‘monuments’ we wanted to see, before heading off into town.

The Cryptoportiques lie six metres below the town hall and the square on which it sits and formed part of the foundations of the Roman Forum which originally sat on that site. There’s no way we would have paid €3.50 to visit them, but as they were effectively free, we took a look:

Then it was off to the Cloisters of the church next door, which similarly wouldn’t have been worth the €3.50 fee (we saw plenty of similar cloisters in Spain ealier this year), but were interesting enough as a freebie;  moreover, as on our way out we spotted a free exhibition of the artwork of Alan Johnston, which proved a very worthwhile diversion:

Then back past the Theatre Antique we went, adjuding that it wasn’t worth spending one of our four entries on it, as you can pretty well see everything from outside:

So, over to the Amphitheatre we went, which the Rough Guide didn’t think worthy of an internal visit unless it was to attend an event taking place. I beg to differ (although perhaps I would have agreed with them if we had needed to pay €8 entry) and not only was it an interesting visit, particularly trying to work out which bits of the structure were original and which were refurbished (/reconstructed)…

… but the viewing platform up by one of the towers also provided good vistas:

We thought we were then done for today. As the ticket is valid for a month, our plan is to stay in Arles again tonight and to visit the Musee Reattu and Les Alyscamps tomorrow. However, on our way back to Colin we swung by the Church of St Trophine, as the guidebook mentioned that its tapestries were worth a look. As it turned out, the whole place was very much worth a visit, being an absolute tardis compared with its outside appearance and being more stuffed full of relics than any church I’ve ever visited before.

Finally, diverted only by a fine cake shop whose wares we *needed* to sample, we did return to Colin and back to the Aire we have come for the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment