There are lots of outdoor seating restaurants, pastry shops and shops in the central walled town along with an opera house and 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. We also visited some Romanesque Heritage sites featuring numerous well-preserved Roman ruins, with columns and including an 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 there in 1888-89 means the most. Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles, which he painted three times and many other Arles works are classics.
While he 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 works. 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.
We also stopped in another Roman outpost town, the lovely Nîmes, visiting its impressive Nîmes 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.
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 large, Nîmes has a lot of historic sights to visit. All these southwestern French towns 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 named Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare, planted with double rows of plane-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.
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 Provence we drove through lush hilly landscapes on the way to the sea…
We finally made it to the French Riviera, right on the Mediterranean Sea.
Both the magnificent Mediterranean Sea views from the hilltop, and it’s 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. 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.