Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Freeway Free in France: Rockin’ with the Romans

20160909_071609docStill in Arles

After our homage to Vincent, we switched back about two millenia to the time when Pompey was conquering the southern Mediterranean, just before he was recalled to Rome to help put down the slave rebellion led by Spartacus.  He helped establish the fort we visited yesterday at Ambrussum, but it was Augustus Caesar who visited a few assassinations and de-throneings later and established the Arena and the theatre, both of which are still in use.

20160909_055112docWe started off with a stop in the 12th century at the Cloistre de St. Trophies, a cool and calm spot right off the main square. The cloister included many  statues which had been so badly eroded you could hardly make them out, but a few that had been sheltered are very human and evocative.   Then we walked along the wall of the city overlooking the Rhone, well culverted against flooding, admiring an old Romanesque church which had been converted during the Revolution to a union hall for shepherds, a large domed building which was the remains of a steam bath built by Constantine, and a number of long views down the river to unnamed castles and fortifications in the distance.20160909_065114doc

The Arena was being set up for a cordillera that evening (that’s a kind of bloodless Provençal bullfight). In exploring the arcades,  we entered into a sort of human Whack-a-mole game.  DB had decided not to do the river walk but instead to meet us at a garden after our Arena visit.  C and I somehow got separated from WB, and we next spotted her halfway around the arena as we waved from the tower.  Ten minutes of brisk walking through the arcades later we arrived at where she had been, but no WB.

20160909_071525web Scanning the arena, we spotted her in the Tower!  Heading back to the tower, I heard my name called.  It was DB, AWOL from the garden, who had just seen WB at the base of the tower.  “I’ll meet you at the entrance to the tower, ” she said.  By the time we got there, WB  was back a quarter of the way around the arena, and DB was nowhere to be seen.  And so on. We finally joined forces and made our last tourist stop at the old Roman theatre, much pillaged (as was the Arena) for building materials over the years, but now set up for open air musical and theatrical performances. We tested the acoustics and found them sadly lacking compared to Ephesus in Turkey or the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. allyson-and-friends-063web

Travel Tip:  Arles is a busy city as well as a tourist stop.  It is also home to many festivals throughout the year, attracting still more people.  If you are arriving by car, try to get there early in the day, and find a parking place by going off the main road through the center city (Preferably downhill – you’ll appreciate that after exploring all day!)  Once you have a parking place, the next stop could be the Office de Tourisme de Arles, conveniently located on the Blvd. des Lices, near the Theatre Antique. Here you will find excellent maps of the center city, friendly advice about getting around, and zillions of beautiful postcards.  Enjoy!

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4 thoughts on “Freeway Free in France: Rockin’ with the Romans

  1. I enjoyed being able to virtually visit the sites via this blog. . . and I liked the suggestion about parking on the downhill side. I’m curious – did you learn this the hard way? 🙂


  2. Another travel tip: Whenever possible, travel with a local! Our local friend, hostess, and guide C steered me in the right direction.


  3. Hi Allyson, I’m sending you my comments now because I might not be able to join in the conversation tomorrow. I thought that your piece about the concert you attended was very nicely written. What I like about it was there was a lot of emotion when you wrote it. You also used a lot of contrasting language, from the size of the screen to the size of the people, to the screaming girls and the passion that you felt for the music. This blog in particular was very engaging, and kept my attention all the way through. The blog about the coliseum and Arles was, in my opinion, drier than the previous one. I understand that when you’re talking about places and describing monuments or touristic attractions it’s a little harder to show emotion. However,I would recommend you to put yourself in the place of a person who came up on your piece about the concert and enjoyed it very much. Then this person decides to read your next blog. She might be a little bit discouraged that the passion she was looking for it’s not there anymore. She might even get the impression that the blogs were written by different people.I guess what I’m trying to say in short is that, it would be great if you can keep the same voice you use throughout your blogs . If you, include your emotions and feelings about whatever you’re writing, you can make it warmer and more enjoyable piece. Thank you for sharing with us your writing, I hope I’m not being too critical.I think you have written great pieces, but in my opinion, the best ones show how you feel about the story you’re telling.

    Sent from my iPad



    • Thanks for your comment Fabiola. It is true that the pieces I write for my local column (noted as published in the LATC and what month) tend to be more personal, while the travel notes are written more to inform about a location for someone who might want to go to that place. And there are some pieces that are in neither category. Maybe I should split the blog into a travel blog and an opinion, but meanwhile, I tag each post so if you want more on the same subject you can search for your favorite tags.


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