My nightride through the Rencontres d’Arles – A one night stand with a photography festival in a beautiful city.

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The next stop on my roadtrip through the south of France was Arles. I arrived late after hoofing it all afternoon on a hot & swampy day in Montpellier. Unfortunately, like a one night stand – I didn’t get the whole story about Arles – just a taste of a particular day and time under a limited setting. But what I saw and experienced was a gorgeous city with a beautiful old town.

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There was a fabulous vibe and a palpable excitement to be felt and seen all over town. My host had given me the address of their favorite restaurant to check out (Le Galoubet), but everything was booked, and I soon realized that my options were very limited due to the influx of people from the photography festival, which draws around 90 thousand visitors every year. So, after wandering around for an hour, I somehow managed to find a cool place with a fresh French kitchen called Le Rendez Vous.  The personnel were exceptionally friendly and accommodating, and my dinner was exactly what I needed after a long day of promenading and driving my still mending fractured foot from La Grande Motte to Montpellier and Arles.

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Since I arrived so late in the evening, I didn’t even buy a ticket for the official festival, but there were plenty of happenings going on all over town. The city walls were pasted with knockout photography and there were oodles of exhibits open for curious night owls like me.

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With some sort of spot-on intuition, I even had the chance to wander into a beautiful courtyard at Place de la Republique at the Palais de l’Archeveche for a fantastic slide show of photography – there were hundreds of spectators there contributing to the lively atmosphere. Besides that, just roaming around I felt encompassed by an intoxicating mixture of visitors, exhibits, parties and photo-freak events.

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On my stroll home I followed the flow of people walking through what seemed to be an abandoned industrial complex, and what I found out will soon be the new site of a contemporary art center called Luma Arles, integrating the old infrastructure with a new building from Frank Gehry, combined with work from other esteemed architects as well. I was only there at night, but the ambience was splendid.

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I love grandiose spaces such as these – it just oozes with potential and creativity waiting to bust out. Arles is also the site of the ENSP – L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie, the national school of photography, which makes Arles the perfect setting for such an event, and the projects that will come to be in the future. 

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And to make it all the more interesting, in Luma’s “Parc des Ateliers”, there was a big party going on with djs, dancing, drinks, and everything that comes with that mixture. As I was traveling alone, I didn’t hang out too long, but I still enjoyed cruising through the festivities.

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img_4170img_4167My rendezvous with this beautiful city only lasted overnight, but I know that I will be back. I was so satisfied by my little one night stand with Arles to know that I want more. I’d give it a go if I were you – anytime of the year.

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Please stay tuned for my next stop in La Ciotat!

 

All photos taken by June Liechti-Adamson

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