We initially booked rooms at L'Oustau de Baumaniere, famed for its discreet location and chic interiors as well a Michelin-starred restaurant. But when we checked in, we were informed that we had been upgraded to stay instead at their sister property, La Cabro d'Or. Upon arriving at our new accommodations we immediately felt at home. The proprietors, Jean-Andre and Genevieve Charial, have turned a former 18th century stone farmhouse into an elegant and comfortable boutique hotel with sprawling lavender gardens, a swimming pool, tennis court and a lavish spa. Genevieve handles all the interiors while Jean-Andre runs the hotel and restaurants. Our suite was luxurious and inviting, complete with a living room filled with books and a balcony overlooking the garden.
Prix-fixe menus are very popular in France and this is definitely true when it comes to Michelin-starred restaurants. A friend who was in Provence recently was raving about L'atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel so I made reservations. It was a wonderful long, leisurely lunch. Every dish was presented so creatively I couldn't help but take photos of every plate! Chef Rabanel is known for using fresh ingredients including flowers from his own garden and concocting them into complex, delicious combinations.
The Arles Amphitheatre goes back as early as 90 AD when it was built by the Romans, and is still in use today. Over the years it has been used as a theatre, fortress and even as housing for over 200 families. Today the arena is used for plays, concerts and bull fights during the summer months. Climbing to the top you are rewarded with sweeping views of Arles and you can almost imagine what it must have been like during Roman times.
I always say, "I haven't met a print I didn't like", and at Souleiado I fell in love with every single one I saw. This company has a strong history and is known for prints that evoke Provencal motifs and color combinations. In fact, the name is Provencal for "sun shining through the clouds after the rain". The store even houses a photo of Pablo Picasso wearing one of their shirts. Despite my meager attempt at self-control, I walked out with enough printed shirts to make a quilt!
Follow the Vincent Van Gogh Trail. He painted and drew over 300 images depicting his impressions of scenes and landscapes during his time in Arles. The trail has 21 stops, each marked with a reproduction of the art he painted there. These allow you to enjoy the vantage point of where the artist set up his easel.
WHAT I LOVED MOST
While walking along the narrow streets one afternoon we chanced upon Musee Reattu. The museum was a former Grand Priory of the Order of Malta and owns a sizable collection of 17th-19th century old masters as well as drawings and paintings donated by Picasso. Coincidentally, the museum was holding a costume exhibit curated by Christian Lacroix. The exhibition showcased Lacroix's work as a costume designer for the opera. I was enthralled to be able to view the garments up close and see the craftsmanship that went into each piece. The setting was like a costume party for Scheherazade and was fabulously extravagant! Before leaving I stepped into the museum shop where they were selling limited edition lithographs of fashion illustrations by Christian Lacroix. Naturally, I had to have one!