How to get to Arles and the Vincent Van Gogh Walking Tour
Marseille to Arles takes around 45 mins. The ter trains of the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur are an efficient and picturesque means of travel. Arles is located in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, department of Bouches-du-Rhône in southern France. Although the Roman and the Romanesque monuments of Arles are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage sites, my interest in Arles was Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s last few years in Arles ,1888- 1889 was a period of his most vibrant artwork . One look down the streets of Arles will show you why Van Gogh was so fascinated with colours during his time here.
Marseille has been named the European Capital of Culture 2013. This has had a remarkable influence on tourism in and around Marseille. Arles has benefited hugely from this. The Arles tourism department is very proactive in promoting local culture and tourism. They have a little red bus (route A, it comes with a map) that takes people from the station in a circuitous route around the major tourist destinations in the city centre.
The central tourist office, located at Clemenceau bus stop by the map, have a set of four do-it-yourself walking tours and a guide brochure with a map for the price of € 1. One of the four tours is the Vincent Van Gogh walk, which takes you down the narrow streets of Arles to all the locations and themes he painted. At this point I should tell you that, none of Van Gogh’s original paintings are there at Arles. To see most of them a visit to Rijks museum and Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is essential. ‘The Bedroomat Arles and the ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’ are at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. You will also find one of the sunflowers (there are quite a few) and a few other paintings at the British museum in London and other museums around the world. The walking tour brochure, very helpfully, lists the locations of the original paintings.
The Vincent Van Gogh walking tour
So, armed with all the brochures, maps and free bus route map we set off on an enlightening discovery of an artist’s life and inspiration. Our first stop by the map was at the former hospital where Van Gogh was admitted after he cut off his ear. It is no known as Espace Van Gogh a centre of some of his masterpieces. The courtyard garden, the object of Van Gogh’s ‘Garden of the Hospital in Arles’, is still similarly designed. The trees are significantly bigger though.
Our next stop was the site of the Cafe Terrace at Night and the Night Cafe. We felt as if we were in a time-lapse film. If the sudden trees and awnings did not intrude we would have remained in a continuous journey into time.
We walked by the Rhone on a sunny day in search of the plaque which marked the site of ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’. We ended up with the broken remnants of the bridge and I couldn’t resist photographing the Sun’s Rays over the Rhone!
The Yellow House that was Van Gogh’s pride and joy was bombed in the air raids of 1944. Later it was demolished because of severe damaged. Today there is a plot of land in the middle of a busy intersection with the plaque marking the site and a few memorials for the pilots who lost their lives in August 1944. We didn’t manage to find out why these pilots have their memorial here.
After the sad discovery of the missing yellow house, the map took us back to the Rhone, this time, in search of the Trinquetaille bridge. The bridge had lost its caged appearance and the scene had acquired a tree.
We continued to stroll the river side, taking in the beauty of it all, when we chanced upon a scene from ancient Rome superimposed on a modern bridge.
Amused by the drama of the moment we followed the gladiators to their arena! Unlike the other paintings in Arles, Van Gogh’s Les Arènes, was done from memory, inspired by a bullfight he had been to with Paul Gauguin.
Wearied by all the walking we decided that the ‘ Entrance to the public gardens at Arles’ should be our last stop. We gave the Langlois bridge and Les Alyscamps a miss as these were a too far out of the city to walk. On reaching the public gardens we were embraced in tranquility. The garden has become a tribute to Van Gogh and also provides a platform to modern sculptors.
We enjoyed every bit of our walking tour and even discovered a short-cut to the train station, right through the centre of town, revisiting some of our much loved stops of the walking tour. As we left Arles a fiery red setting sun bid us farewell. Although sunsets are rather clichéd, I couldn’t resist adding that photograph. As my father once said, ‘there is such a sense of satisfaction in photographing the perfect cliché’!
Disclaimer: All Van Gogh art work used in this post are in the public domain under the Wikimedia Commons License. All other photographs used are under my copyright and cannot be used or shared without my permission.Written by Amrita Dasgupta - Visit my blog for more food and travel stories
I love to travel, discover new things, experience new cultures and then I get back home and experiment with the new food and recipes I discovered on my travels. My blog is about all those life experiences. If you’ve enjoyed this post, keep in touch with Drifting Traveller on Twitter and Facebook or by adding my blog to your RSS feed. Follow my blog with Bloglovin or Networked Blogs! If you really like reading the Drifting Traveller why not share it with people you know who'd like to read it too.