Leaving Arles

A pleasant city, with a VAST Roman amphitheatre still used for the all-too-Roman spectacle of so-called ‘bullfighting’ – that’s how I’ll remember here. Oh, and the herded mobs of over-polite Japanese and braying, bull-like Middle-America who can’t even grasp the idea of other languages (unlike those quiet American couples I’ve met around the city’s twisty back-streets, such as the pair wielding paintboxes rather than cameras, and a good deal more fluent in French than I am!), and way too many Australians talking loudly about rugby-football (I’ve had the misfortune to arrive in the middle of some supposed ‘World Cup’ 🙁 ). Friendly people, too: none of the dreaded ‘service with a sneer’ that I’d met in a couple of places earlier on this trip.

But pity poor Vincent van Gogh! No doubt he was difficult, but the people here literally drove him to his death – they put out a petition to have him certified and incarcerated within the Hotel Dieu mental-hospital within less than a year after his arrival here – yet have profited from his amazingly prolific inventiveness ever since… Van Gogh this-that-and-the-other everywhere, but precious little for the real man himself. Typical bitter irony of the ‘pensee unique’, really.

A few other dark reminders of other past versions of ‘pensee unique’ – literally ‘single thinking’. No Inquisition here, at least, but behind the Hotel de Ville are the cells where the Gestapo held the mayor and other civil-administration prisoners before shipping them off to die in the concentration camps. Serious scars all over from heavy fighting at the tail end of the German occupation: one of the railway bridges has never been replaced, and even Van Gogh’s famed if decrepit ‘Maison Jaune’ was destroyed in the bombardments. The perils of ‘pensee unique’ are all too real, folks…

Still, today is not such a dark day (for which I am very grateful!). Time to get on the road, to Tarascon, nominally for a local festival, though knowing me i’ll probably keep wandering on. 🙂 Anything to avoid the all-pervasive rugby-football, anyway!

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