Arles
Visit Manade Cavalinni Bull Ranch

Walking tour Staintes Maries
Visit Ornithological Park
Board the MS Camargue
Visit to the Roman Amphitheater and Theater
Visit Roman Museum


All pictures expand when clicked on.

First stop on the schedule today was a visit to the Cavalinni Bull Ranch. 

 We were loaded onto wagons for a trip out into the fields.

These animals are raised to be used in a type of bull fighting particular to the Provencal area, called Provencal Games. 

They decorate the animals with ribbons and buttons and matadors try to get the items off the bull without being gored.

You can watch a short video of this game on You Tube.

 After showing us the cows and how the gauchos can handle them, they played a game of keep away on horseback.

 

We returned to the old barn which has been converted into a restaurant for lunch.

After a short drive we arrive at Saintes Maries de la Mer.  Our guide Laurence leads us off the bus.

According to local legend three biblical Marys arrived here across the Mediterranean Sea - hence the name: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer means "Three Marys of the Sea".

According to legend they were Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary, sister of Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene. This ancient tradition is a problem for the Roman Catholic Church especially the idea that Mary Magdalene, supposedly the wife or concubine of Jesus, arrived with their infant daughter Sara.  This legend may have given rise to the Arthurian literature which originated in this part of France.

The search for the Holy Grail was the greatest quest in the Arthurian legends. The Grail was often called Sangreal, and san greal means "Holy Grail". However, through arrangement of the letter "g", sang real comes to mean, "True Blood".  In this interpretation the Holy Grail is not the cup of Jesus used at the last supper and which was used to collect his blood at the crucifixion, but Sara and her decendants which hold the true blood of Jesus.

 

 

 

The current Church of the Saintes Maries de la Mer was built from the 9th to the 12th century, as a fortress and a refuge.

In the 15th century, someone "discovered" the relics of Mary Jacobé and Mary Salomé, who were said to have arrived there by sea. 

 

 

Somehow the presence of souvenir shops and all the trinkets for sale tend to diminish the ancient mystery of the village.

The next stop was the Pont de Gau Ornithological Park. 

The area south of Arles is known as Camargue The two branches of the Rhone form a marshy river delta in the land between them.

With an area of over 930 km2 (360 sq mi), the Camargue is western Europe's largest river delta. It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes. These are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.

Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland. The central area around the shoreline of the Étang de Vaccarès has been protected as a regional park since 1927, in recognition of its great importance as a haven for wild birds. In 2008, it was incorporated into the larger Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue.

Of course what you see at the ornithological park is birds, lots and lots of birds.

Flamingos are the main attraction of the park as they were here in large numbers scattered in numerous individual flocks.

 There was a good assortment of other birds as well.

Our bus had to get on a ferry to get across the Rhone River to the port where our river boat was docked.
At last we arrive at the MS Camargue which will be home for the next five nights.

Our cabin on the Camargue.  It was a bit small for these types of boats.  We heard later that our voyage was the last for the Camargue which was going into the ship yard for significant renovations.

 

Craig and April relax in the lounge waiting for our welcome from the captain and our first dinner on board the river boat.

The next morning we left the boat and took a bus to Arles. 

Along the way we stopped at a re-creation of the Langlois Bridge that was the subject of four oil paintings, one watercolor and four drawings by Vincent van Gogh. The works were made in 1888 when Van Gogh lived in Arles, in southern France.

After more riding on the bus we arrived outside the medieval gates of Arles.

In Roman times Arles was the terminus of the Rhone estuary so sea going ships could come north on the Rhone as far as the town.  This made Arles a major seaport on the Mediterranean Sea.

After a stroll through the streets of the town we arrive at the Roman Amphitheatre.  The amphitheatre was built around AD 90 and ranks among the great amphitheatres and could hold 20,000 spectators.

The Roman Amphitheater was amazing when you consider when it was built and how it was built.

With the fall of the Empire in the 5th century, the amphitheatre became a shelter for the population and was transformed into a fortress with four towers. The structure encircled more than 200 houses, becoming a real town, with its public square built in the centre of the arena and two chapels, one in the centre of the building, and another one at the base of the west tower.

 

You can climb one of the towers built during this time to get a good view of the city of Arles.

A short walk from the Amphitheater takes you to the Arles Roman Theatre.  It was probably constructed in the late first century BC to early first century AD, during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. 

However, unlike its famous counterpart, which stands in an excellent state of preservation, Arles Roman Theatre has suffered significant deterioration.  The
Arles Roman Theatre was only rediscovered in the nineteenth century.

Many of the statues and other objects once contained in the Arles Roman Theatre are now displayed in museums, including the Arles Archaeological Museum. Its most notable piece, the Venus d' Arles, can now be found in the Louvre in Paris.

While Peggi did some shopping, I walked a mile or so along the river to the Museum of Roman Antiquities.

It was Sunday and as you can see many people were strolling along the river.

This is a very nice museum and worth a visit especially if you are in Arles or on this trip with Road Scholar.  You go to a better Roman museum in Avignon so this may be why this museum is not on the Road Scholar itinerary.

 

The main attraction of the museum is this restored Roman river barge.

The Roman boat which had been on the bed of the Rhone for nearly 2000 years was pieced back together, carefully preserved with resin, and quite magnificent.  The 31m boat had been sailing down the river with a cargo of 27 tonnes of stone when it sunk in a flood.  And there it remained, undisturbed at 9m deep, until it was discovered in 2004 by diver-archaeologists, looking for amphorae and the like.

The other significant piece is a bust of Julius Ceasar which is supposedly the only one in existence.  Whether it is Ceasar or not seems to be debatable.

 

 

 I was particularly taken by a displays of Roman lead pipes.  It is not an easy thing to manufacture a metal pipe which apparently the Romans did in great quantity.

Of course the museum contained numerous mosaics.  These are impressive as well and again are so old. 
Coming back from the river museum I stopped at the ruins of the Roman baths.  These were built in the 4th century.
As I walk back down the river walk I finally see the MS Camargue has been moved upstream and is docked where they said it would be.

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