Holiday Goddess editor Jane de Teliga loves sultry summers in Arles – the town that inspired Van Gogh.
Remember those wonderful pictures of Van Gogh with deep blue night skies filled with vibrating yellow stars, a glowing yellow café or a dark flowing river?
They were all painted in Arles and the pulsating and mysterious air of this French Provencal town, captured in those paintings, still exists today.
What draws me to Arles each summer is the fascinating photography festival, Les Rencontres d’ Arles, where a host of photography exhibitions are shown all over the town in ancient monuments, disused churches and the industrial confines of the old Railway yards. The photography festival provides a trajectory to explore the town, where ancient Roman ruins are sinuously intertwined with classical French architecture, cobbled squares, and winding streets dotted with medieval churches.
Covering a different theme each year and drawn from all over the world, the exhibitions are varied and fascinating. They run the gamut from confronting contemporary photography to 19th century images of Maharajahs or the Mexican Revolution to the fashion photography or tough photojournalism.
If this appeals start planning now; it runs from July to mid September each year. Be warned it can be punishingly hot at times with the searing dry wind typical of Provence blowing across the city.
Take refuge in the cool interior of the Medieval Cathedral of Saint Trophime in the main square and don’t miss the beautiful cloisters just behind the church, with their rows of Saints carved in stone.
Visit the evocative burial ground since Roman times, Les Alyscamps, painted by Gauguin and Van Gogh amongst many. Then circumnavigate the amazingly intact Roman Arena where they still perform bullfights in a strange continuation of gladiatorial combat.
Take an evening drink at the Grand Hotel Nord Pinus where bull fighting posters, Peter Beard collages or Helmut Newton photographs reflect the interests at the heart of Arles. If you are feeling flush why not stay right here or at very chic Hotel Particulier, set in a magnificent old townhouse.
Les Rencontres d’Arles
Grand Hotel Nord Pinus
14 Place du Forum, 13200 Arles
4 rue de la Monnaie, Arles
(Photographs: Jane de Teliga)