The Arena (Les Arènes)
Strictly speaking, “the Arena” just refers to the small sanded oval where twice a year for the two Ferias, man and bull meet. The rest around is the Amphitheatre. Pedantry aside, this is one of the great monuments of Europe. Built in the first century AD, it can seat more than twenty thousand people in varying degrees of discomfort on rows of stone seats, some of which have resisted the historical Arlesian passion for recycling (or theft as it has been better known in years past). This is a great place, redolent of gladiatorial fights. No. they never killed Christians here, nor were expensively trained and valuable gladiators thrown causally to wild animals like lions here either in spite of what Hollywood and over-enthusiastic tour guides might say. When was the last time anyone saw a wild lion in the south of France anyway?
Try to find a time when there are people in the building and it is being used. It you don’t wish to visit a Corrida, then the regular Wednesday afternoons during the summer Courses Camarguaises ( a competition when young men on foot try to snatch coloured ribbons from between a bull’s horns) are a good opportunity. Without people in it, the building is just old stones. Leave your digital camera at home (please!) and just look at the place. Walk around in it, feel it and look at it yourself. Feel the hot light outside on the stone terraces and the cool dark in the shadows beneath the arcades. There are two thousand years here; not just of history but of people’s lives. If you concentrate, you can do something that your Nikon never will. You can hear them.