My trip to France was the biggest fourteenth birthday present I could ever imagine. My dad and I went on a 7-day whirlwind tour of Paris and pretty much all the major cities in Provence, plus an unexpected layover in London that left me yearning to return for a proper visit.
Paris was cool, Nice was incredible, but what really stuck out was Arles, a medium-sized city in Provence. The town is rich with history and an old-world feel. A large Roman amphitheater and obelisk remind visitors of its Roman past. Boulangeries and small French bistros lining the winding stone streets make it seem like a storybook. For a town like that, it comes with no surprise that it has been a major destination for artists, most notably Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Picasso.
My dad had long been obsessed with Van Gogh, so much of our time in Arles was spent retracing his steps. While many of the most famous landmarks in his paintings were destroyed during World War II, we stopped by the recreation of the yellow awning from Café Terrace at Night and the vacant lot where the apartment he shared with Gauguin once stood. We walked along the Rhone River, which might sound familiar thanks to the beautiful Starry Night Over the Rhone (although it’s not the Starry Night), and visited the small center dedicated to his life in the town.
When we got to the aforementioned center, we were expecting to see a Van Gogh painting or two—it was, after all, a space dedicated to his life and his work in France, and it only seemed natural for a painting to be there to represent such an important, penultimate phase in his career (just a year after he left Arles, he committed suicide). But there was nothing.