I wrote the first post this morning before I had a chance to go out and see the city. Since then I’ve been walking around in the hot sun until my legs ache and I am sipping water to recover from the dehydration.
I ran into the three people shown in the following picture this morning. The sign alongside their truck reads “on hunger strike.” It goes on to say that merchants have been forbidden to work in the street for four years.
The guy in the black t-shirt looks almost as chubby as I do, so the hunger strike must have just begun. Also, they may have given up food, but from the amount of cigarette smoke wafting from behind their table, it appears that a hunger strike does not involve giving up tobacco.
Arles seems to be quite the tourist place, especially among the British. I spoke to several Brits on the street today, and I also ran into a number of guided tours in which the guide was speaking English. Arles does have a number of old buildings of interest to the tourist, but they have been allowed to decay and accumulate centuries of soot on their exteriors. Things appear about to change, however. I read a sign today that stated that a huge renovation project is about to begin.
One of the main attractions is the old coliseum. I haven’t been inside yet, but I plan to visit the interior it tomorrow. I overheard a tour guide explain to his group that the coliseum originally had one more story, which is gone now. The tower was not part of the original construction. Also, for a time, the coliseum served as a fortress. Houses were built inside to take advantage of the protection offered by the coliseum’s walls.
Just up a small hill from the coliseum is the church Notre-Dame-de-la-Major. Notre Dame means, of course, Our Lady, and the de la Major part refers to the fact that the church is build on Arles’ highest hill. The church was built in the 12 century on the site of an older Roman temple, and the church was remodeled in the 18th Cenrtury. The church’s bell tower was damaged by bombing in 1944 during the Second World War.
I hope that the city’s plan to renovate its historic landmarks includes removing the grime from the church’s exterior. As shown below, the inside of the church is well preserved. Just as I arrived, a woman who appeared to be a nun opened the church door for visitors. I write “appeared to be a nun,” because so many nuns wear modern dress these days that I don’t always recognize them as members of a religious order.
The following is a street scene in the old part of town. I don’t know what the round building is at the end of the street, but I probably should have taken the time to find out.
I included the picture below for my cycling buddies The sign translates as: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.” The quote is attributed to Albert Einstein. When Albert wrote or said that, he had probably never heard of doing a track stand.
Below the entrance to the Hôtel Dieu or God’s House. However, it was a hospital constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Its most famous patient was the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, who spent about a year in Arles, where he is said to have executed about 300 pictures and drawings. It was also in Arles where he cut off one of his ears. After he did so, this is the hospital he went to for treatment.
I am quite tired after walking around Arles all day in the heat. It’s not quite as hot here as in Phoenix, but given the cool weather when I started the trip, this heat is a sudden shock. The afternoon temperature was in the 90s, which feels fine in the shade, but the sun was beating down mercilessly.