We spent the next morning wandering a bit more around Besançon, checking out the birthplace of Victor Hugo (you can only view it from the outside), as well as The Museum of Time. It was an interesting museum that we essentially stumbled upon while heading back towards our hotel to leave the city. The timing was perfect as they offered free entry on that day, and I wanted to use a restroom. We spent a half hour or so wandering around the museum and enjoyed fantastic views of the city from the top floor where a Foucault pendulum is housed. After our brief tour, we grabbed some lunch at a nearby cafe (where we learned that you seem to need to pay waiters inside the restaurant and not at your table) and then headed back to the hotel.
We arrived in Arles some hours later, unfortunately at night. Arles isn’t a particularly large city, but still, we had no real directions to our hotel so we did a lot of driving around trying to figure out exactly where and how to get to the river as our hotel was essentially on it. Eventually we did find the right road to get us there, and called the hotel owner to tell him we had arrived (we knew we would be a little later than the 10pm check in time, so we had phoned to tell him.) We went up to our room and discovered what I think must be the smallest hotel room in western Europe (I’m sure they probably have smaller ones in Tokyo, but still…it was impressively small.) We struggled to find enough space for all of our stuff and still be able to walk around the bed accessing the bathroom. It was fine for a night, but I think if we had planned an extensive stay it would have felt pretty cramped. We decided to head out and explore the town a little, although at this point it was past 11pm. The town was pretty quiet, with a few bars and restaurants still open but definitely no wild night life (at least not on a Sunday night at this time of year.) Maybe it’s a different story in the high season.
The next morning, we loaded up our things into the car and checked out and then searched for breakfast. We discovered some very tasty fresh brioche from a local bakery, and set off wandering.
The promenade along the river is sort of romantic, and provided inspiration for the artist Vincent Van Gogh (he lived in Arles for some time and painted many of his works here.) We then headed towards the Roman colosseum in town, and snapped a few photos from the outside. As we only had a couple hours to sightsee, we also chose to not go inside the ruins of the Roman amphitheater, either. But I put my camera through the fence and snapped a few photos.
Arles is a nice city to just wander around in. Like in Besançon, there are plenty of narrow, winding streets that you can just enjoy following to see where they take you. I’ve sort of fallen in love with the window shutters and balconies of France and Italy, so I snapped lots of photos of those.
We finished up our tour of the city by grabbing a coffee at the cafe Van Gogh made famous in his painting “Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum.” Well, I should clarify: I had a coffee, and had to beg, bribe and practically threaten the Mr. that he should accompany me while I enjoyed said beverage. He wanted nothing to do with the “tourist trap” cafe, and couldn’t fathom why I would want to have a coffee there. Men. Men who didn’t study art history, actually. Anyway, I’ll be darned if I didn’t hear French voices come from the table next to us; so it wasn’t just us and the Asian tourists! Still, I did find myself getting slightly annoyed with the wait staff that they kept asking me if I wanted to eat. Yes, it was around lunchtime, but it wasn’t like every table was full and people were standing around looking for a free one. I get the pushiness in those circumstances, but not when it’s mostly empty.
After the coffee, I grabbed a veggie sushi pack to go from a little cafe just on the corner of the square (she made it right in front of me, and it was sooo delicious.) We then headed to our car and towards our next destination: Spain!