From the Medical Arena to the Roman Arenas… Arles.
I have heard the best Roman Amphitheatre is in Nimes. Maybe, but this one was pretty good. Well, now that I say that, I have to disclose that the top level is gone. That kind of thing amazes me. How do things just disappear? I recall in England, in Glastonbury, I was told that after Henry VIII got rid of the Catholics, people would simply tear the church buildings down and cart off the stone for another use. Big stone. Heavy. Big cart?
So the top level of this Amphitheatre met the same fate. But the medieval folks added four towers to the sides. Maybe they used that stone. However, one of those four towers is gone now too.
In the middle ages, the locals actually built a town inside the center of the Amphitheatre. Well, it certainly would seem safer. But as I looked down on the arena, it was hard to imagine it filled with several-storied buildings and streets and bustling people.
I climbed up to survey. They still use this area – for entertainment and for bull fights. I suppose some people consider a bull fight to be entertaining? But these are not your grandfather’s Spanish bull fights. These are a smaller, wilder bull and they don’t kill it at the end. The cattle are raised with scant attention from the rancher. Calves are dropped, literally, in the middle of the field (or, wherever in the field the mom decides). And left alone by the rancher unless there is a problem. So the bulls are raised with little human contact and become great fighting bulls – or so I read and hear.
On the day I was there – no bull fights. But lots of kids – maybe 6th grade? Learning to be gladiators. Put through a series of fighting stances with spear and shield at one end of the arena and tossing discus at the other end. Clearly a good school tour.
We met up for lunch at a Breton Creperie. Love those crepes! My friend found a leather bag at the market and was quite pleased with herself. After lunch I had a quick tour through the Roman theatre ruins. Very small.
And then we hot-footed it back to the train as we had dallied too long over lunch. But it was a beautiful sunny day – it just called for relaxation and a reluctance to look at a watch.
Back in Avignon, we were touristed-out so we sat at the hotel before collecting our bags and heading across the street to the train station.
The return scenery was as beautiful as coming down. Mustard fields. Big mountains. This time we spied snow. We were smarter this time and had purchased sandwiches and drinks for our own picnic on the train. That meant we just grabbed a taxi home and could unpack and go to bed. Long day.