Arles

Thursday, May 1, 2008 and Friday, May 2, 2008

Our mission today was to purchase a Santon (little saints) in Provençal. We got a name of a Santon shop in Arles that carries Santons from a variety of artists in the region. Santons are modeled in clay, fired and painted in bright colors have become collector items, especially at Christmas. First only limited to biblical personages, they were soon joined by men, women, children all dressed in local costume. Darren’s dog-sitter, Michelle has a collection.

We had forgotten that May 1 is a national holiday in France much like our Labor Day in the states.  When we arrived in Arles we found the shop had just closed, so Friday will be another drive into Arles. Although the shop was closed we bumped into the “Fête des Gardians” (Herdsmen’s Festival) parade of a hundred horsemen, accompanied by tambourine players and women. This festival is linked to the feast of St. George, the patron saint of the Gardians or Carmargue herdsmen, whose brotherhood was founded in 1512.  The Carmargue is an area near Arles in southeastern France which mostly is famous for their rice, salt, white Carmargue horses, and of course, wine.

The city of Arles is steeped in history. From Greek to Roman times, this city became a thriving Roman colony and was the second-most important city next to Marseille. Its location next to the Rhone river gave it status for shipping, textiles, gold and silver work were manufactured, shipbuilding and minting money.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Today we drove back to Arles to the Santon shop. Darren was successful in purchasing a beautiful Santon of a woman with a basket of lavender. Very Provencal. We went into an old church which had on display the costumes of many of the Queens of the “Fête des Gardians”. We then just toured around the city and had lunch at Le Grillon, which was very pleasant as a strolling accordion player stopped by the restaurant and entertained everyone for quite a while.

To properly visit all the historical sites in Arles, you would need at least 2 full days. See Wikipedia’s website for more history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arles

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