Half an hour or so out of Gare Marseilles- St. Charles and I alight at the small town of ARLES, with a rich Roman and Medieval history and where VINCENT VAN GOGH painted until his death in 1890. It's in the department of Bouches-du-Rhone (mouth of the Rhone) in Provence, and the fine Roman arena and other sites are UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
The light has attracted many painters and later photographers and in the Arena they have bullfights, Provencal style, where the bulls are not slaughtered, but twice a year a Spanish style corridas, in which bulls are killed and preceded by an encierro (bull running through the narrow streets). I walked along the riverside wall besides the Rhone and through the town hall square, Place de la Republique, which has a tall Roman obelisk from the 4th Century.
To the west is the CAMARGUE which I have previously visited with its marshlands,reeds, black bulls, white horses, pink flamingoes and cowboys and gypsies. Don't miss going if you have time.
Back on the train for a 15 minute SNCF trip to AVIGNON where the Ligue 2 club ARLES-AVIGNON play at Parc des Sports www.arlesavignon.net. At the train station you walk into the city through the well preserved ancient walls, that had to have a hole knocked through them when the trains arrived from Paris in 1847. In 2001 the new TGV station was built 2 miles out of town. I fancied a lunch and decided to pop into Boulangerie Marie Blachere at 45 Cours Jean Juares, the main street. 6 Euros got me a gigantic ham and cheese baguette with fresh, crusty bread, a large fruit tart and a drink. I walked to the nearby park for a rest in the shade from the sun, and left the crumbs to the sparrows,
At the next corner I stopped by the useful tourist office for maps and advice and then to cobbled Place de l'Horlage with its many outdoor restaurants in the shadow of the PALAIS DES PAPES, the largest Gothic style Palace in Europe. From 1309 until 1377 seven popes ruled from here instead of Rome after many centuries of invasions and floods on the River Rhone.
Lots of winding streets and sights to see until arriving at the river and the famous bridge, made famous by the children's song SUR LA PONT D'AVIGNON. It is now reduced to 4 short arches due to collapsing during many floods. The grassy banks are a great place to sit, lie down, enjoy a picnic or enjoy the view.
THIS IS PROVENCE.