There are lots of restaurants with outdoor seating around town. There are a few bakeries and many shops in the central walled town along with an opera house most around a lovely park-like town center.
We drove a short way to Arles, the artistic and original Roman town.
This rather large Roman amphitheater was built in the 1st century to seat 20,000. It is used in more recent times for bullfighting, concerts & plays.
We stopped in the large Church of St. Trophime, a Roman Catholic church and former cathedral featuring two large red doors at its entrance. Parts of the courtyard was being restored. We also visited some Romanesque Heritage sites featuring numerous well-preserved Roman ruins, with columns and including yet another expansive amphitheater.
While this two-tiered Roman amphitheater is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, to artists, the history and memorabilia of Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh who lived and painted in Arles from 1888 to 1889 means the most. Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles, which he painted three times and his hundreds other Arles paintings are classics.
While Van Goth didn’t achieve much success during his lifetime, the Dutch painter is now considered one of the most original and loved artist of the Impressionist style. Van Gogh finished over 300 paintings while living in Arles including “Cafe Terrace at Night” and as mentioned earlier, many of his bedroom at Arles. Still operational today and now named Café Van Gogh, is the Café that Van Gogh painted in The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night. For Art lovers it’s a treat to visit the cafe.
We also spend a day in another old Roman outpost town, the lovely Nîmes. We visited its impressive Nîmes Gothic Cathedral.
This 17th-century part Romanesque, part Gothic Catholic church is dedicated to Saint Castor & the Virgin Mary. We also stopped at classic Nîmes University and the park nearby.
It is also known for well-preserved Roman monuments such as the Arena of Nîmes, a double-tiered circa-70 A.D. amphitheater and a Roman temple the Maison Carrée, both around 2,000 years old. Although not very large, Nîmes has a lot of historic sights to visit. All these southwestern French towns we visited were part of the Roman empire and still preserve their rich history for locals and visitors to enjoy.
We also stayed in the lovely and artsy city of Aix-en-Provence on the way to the Côte d’Azur and Saint Tropez.
The main street of Aix-en-Provence is named Cours Mirabeau. It is a wide thoroughfare, planted with double rows of tall trees, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains. It follows the line of the old city wall and divides the town into two distinct sections.
The new town extends to the southwest; the old town, with its narrow, irregular streets and its old 16th-18th century mansions, lies to the north. The boulevard features stores and several restaurants and a modern shopping area near the traffic circle.
As we continued driving south, we stopped for a fantastic wine tasting experience in a Provence vineyard, Chateau des Bertrands, home of hundreds of acres of grapes, and a lovely wine tasting store.
From the Provence area we drove through lush hilly landscapes on the way to the Mediterranean Sea and southern France…
We finally made it to the French Riviera, stopping in St. Tropez on the Mediterranean Sea.
Both the magnificent Mediterranean Sea views from the hilltop, and its Mediterranean Sea beach were just incredibly breathtaking. We enjoyed the hotel’s infinity pool and walked all the way down to the sea down the many steps for an early morning swim. The beach was by La Reserve de la Mala club. Cap-d’Ail was the perfect place to relax for a couple days before continuing on our journey.
® All photos taken by Ray Raposo, Peg Raposo or Richard Smit and Maria Smit.