When my boyfriend suggested we take a visit to the South of France for (one of..) our summer holidays, I immediately began salivating over the prospect of sun, sea, wine and delicious food and agreed, bien sûr.
Little did I know that he – a keen photographer – was dreaming of Les Rencontres d’Arles, an annual photography festival that takes over the beautiful city of Arles from June to September.
With both of our passions set to be satisfied (mine of the culinary variety and his of the cultural), we set off to Marseille for a 4 night sojourn.
Arriving in Arles – a city in the South of France, north-west of Marseille – after a pleasant train journey from the city, we were thrilled to start getting glimpses of the honey-coloured buildings and their beautiful blue shutters as we wandered down the river towards our accommodation.
Not yet able to check-in, we dropped off our bags at our B&B for the stay – a beautiful, old but recently renovated, three-storey house with a courtyard, right in the thick of the action – and headed out into town for lunch and some rosé.
I never beat myself up too much about finding the perfect place for my first meal in a new city or town; you’re tired, you’re hungry, you haven’t got your bearings and who has the time to pre-plan your meal when you’ve been up since before dawn (and sans wifi)?! Needless to say, lunch was adequate, but we didn’t return.
After a wine in the sun and enjoying a can of beer together by the river, we returned to our B&B, quickly nestled into the comfortable bed and had a pre-evening nap (4am wake-ups will do that to you!).
After an hour to recuperate, we put on our glad rags, had a little glass of wine in our courtyard and left to explore the town and get some dinner. Our fantastic host François (more on him later) recommended a few places for us to try, and we opted for the most ‘French’-sounding of them all, Le Criquet.
Pre-dinner rosé in the courtyard
As fate would have it, we got a table straight away with no reservation (but I would recommend booking if you are organised enough). We had an incredible meal; I started with the fish soup, which comes with the most delicious croutons that you lather with aïoli (a specialty of Provence), before dunking them into the soup and polishing them off. For our mains, Ross had a white fish accompanied by an amazing array of seafood, including razor clams and sea snails, and I chose linguine with prawns.
Unfortunately we didn’t snap any pictures, but suffice to say that the service was amazing and the food was impeccable.
As we wandered home via Arenes d’Arles (which looked gorgeous lit up at night) and passed through the main square, we stumbled upon a great live band who were in town as part of Les Sud á Arles, a world music festival which also happened to be on during our stay! We stood and listened to a few songs, enjoying the atmosphere and watching children dancing away, before the musicians packed up and moved on, and another band started playing in another town square.
Still exhausted from our early start, we headed back to our bed and fell asleep, the sound of world music still audible from our room.