Out in Africa travel blog

are in Arles, "Little Rome of Gaul", once the second richest city in the Roman Empire (Rome being the first).

This city was beloved by Van Gogh, where he was briefly joined by Paul Gaugain. During his stay here from 1888-89, he produced 200 paintings and 100 drawings. Here is where he cut off his ear lobe and spent time in the hospital.

We decided to do a self guided tour of the many Roman ruins found here. We did meet up with one of the tour groups from the boat to get our free entry into the Amphitheater, Les Arenes. It dates to the 1st century AD and could hold 26,000 spectators of public games. It is still used for bull fighting and opera festivals. It looks very similar to the Colosseum in Rome.

We visited the 10,000 seat Theater used for dramatic performances that is a UNESCO site. It is still used for performances today.

We bought a monument pass so we could visit 3 more monuments and 1 museum.

We visited the crytoportico located under the city hall and Jesuit school. It was built in 1st century BC as a foundation for the forum. It is 3 double parallel tunnels forming a "U" and supported by 50 piers. The mason markings indicate it was probably built by the Greeks. Because it is damp it was probably not used to store perishable foods but as a barracks for slaves.

We also went to the Alyscamps, twice as it was closed over the lunch period. This is a processional path lined with antique sarcophagi(some very wide). It was used as a Roman cemetery before being used for the Christian burials of saints and martyrs near the ruins of Church of St. Honoratires. The church was built in the 12th century and served as a stopping point for pilgrimages to Santiago de Composteloin in northern Spain. We actually walked part of this route during our tour and passed the tower and several churches.

We did have lunch in the area that was the forum. Located in this square is the Cafe de Nuit made famous in a Van Gogh painting. As we were wandering around we came across the site where Van Gogh was hospitalized and there is a photo of the painting of the garden that was there.

The center of the city, Place de la Republique, has an obelisk that was the turning point for the chariot races. Across from here is the Cathedral of St. Trophime built during the 11th century.

Another stop was the ruins of the public baths built by Emperor Constantine in 308.

Our final trek of the day was along the river to the museum of Arles antiques with many of the Roman artifacts found in the ruins. There were some amazing carved sarcophagi. Very elaborate carvings.

We finally returned to the boat after 7 hours, exhausted and with aching feet and legs.

We arrived in Avignon, our last port, at 10pm.

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