The Hotel de Dieu was Arles main hospital constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries. The fine, five - storied, quadrangular building famously played host, very briefly, to Van Gogh during one of his more difficult medical moments - but probably not immediately after the ear cutting episode which is almost certainly a nice amalgamation of two stories for marketing purposes. He did however paint his famous Jardin de l'Hôpital en Arles which shows the formal set out of the square garden. This garden and the building that surrounds it are planted and painted respectively each year so that they resemble the painting with fervent accuracy. Just in case you miss the connection, the entire building that now contains the town library, various academic and administrative offices and exhibition spaces has been renamed L’Espace Van Gogh for good measure. Of course, the scene has been enhanced by an oversize ceramic reproduction of the painting in question.
At least ten versions of Van Gogh’s famous painting of this bridge exist and you can visit the bridge at its present location some five kilometers south of the town on the road to Mas Thibert and Salin-de-Giraud. It is a good half hours stiff walk from the Arena. There is a bus. Some busses on the No.1 line (Trebon / Barriol) go (near) there but check the timetable if you want to get back the same day! Unfortunately the original bridge was originally located further down the canal between Arles to Port-de-Bouc. It is uncertain where exactly because a series of eleven identical bridges spanned the canal and Van Gogh was never completely reliable when it came to recording local topography. They all fell into disrepair and were replaced by more prosaicially concrete ones. This last wooden one was “reconstructed” nearer the town for the sake of the tourists in 1962 and, of course, christened Le Pont Van Gogh. Langlois was actually the name of the bridge’s keeper not the place it stands. Van Gogh himself called the bridge Le Pont de l’Anglais, presumably misunderstanding the man’s name.
If you do like life imitating art then I can do no better than to recommend an eye-wateringly expensive coffee (or more for dreadful food if you have a gold card) at the so-called Café de la Nuit on the Place du Forum. Please note that this is definitely not a gastronomic recommendation. This cafe, immortalised in Van Gogh’s painting Café Terrace of 1889, is repainted almost every year in order to try to make it look more and more like the original, nocturnal, gas-lit muck yellow building of the famous picture. Whether or not this operation is a success in a matter of personal opinion but they certainly have succeeded in making the café look during the daytime as if someone has been sick all over it. (The immediately neighbouring Café Tambourin is a much better and less extravagant place to take a coffee or a Pastis. DO NOT EAT on the Place du Forum.