A marvellous menu in Arles

The Hedonist: What to see and where to be seen

Trains run direct from Marseilles airport – and it only takes 40 minutes to get right into the heart of Arles – so we arrive unfashionably early. Happily, we'd already bagged one of the 13 incredibly covetable rooms at the Hotel Particular on 4 Rue de la Monnaie (00 33 4 90 52 51 40; hotel-particulier.com), an urban mansion in the heart of the city. It's an aristocratic townhouse with four-poster beds, gilt-framed mirrors and rooms in cooling white combined with communal areas imbued with a subtle Moroccan vibe.

Time flashes by and soon it's time to head to l'Ouvre Boite (00 33 6 32 41 60 58) a tapas bar on Rue du Cloître where dishes start at €4-6 for inventive combinations such as pêche trompette, courgette and ponzu sauce. The crowd are young and hungry for some night-time distraction. We get chatting to a group who take us to Cargo de Nuit at 7-9 Avenue Sadi Carnot (00 33 4 90 49 55 99; cargodenuit.com) where the DJs soon have us throwing all kinds of shapes (good and bad).

Next morning, with blistered heels and dry contact lenses still in my now bloodshot eyes, I could have lounged in the courtyard around the Hotel Particular's shady, intimate pool all day. But alas, my companion wanted to get out and see the town. After a coffee and a croissant at the Café d'Autrefois on Rue de la liberté (00 33 4 90 52 25 53; cafedautrefois.com), I'd perked up enough to do some exploring.

You can't ignore the artistic history of the place. Both Van Gogh and Picasso loved Arles, and Picasso loved bull-fighting, so we take a peek at the ring that he and Françoise Gilot used to frequent. It stands bang in the centre and still – controversially – hosts bull fights.

Less bloodthirsty is the Saturday morning market. We quickly loose ourselves in a sea of traders selling Provençal and Moroccan goods – including hordes of perfumed tomatoes. The aroma of garlicky tellines (teeny-tiny baby clams) wafts our way, thrust in our faces by the scoop, but we're aware of a feast waiting for us at lunch so we save our appetites.

Lunch hour approaching, we jump in a cab and set off for the legendary Bistro du Paradou at 57 Avenue de la Vallée des Baux (00 33 4 90 54 32 70), a local institution set in the tiny village of Paradou, a 15-minute drive out of Arles. This bistro has seen a lot over the years – Jean Reno threw his wedding breakfast here, and there's often a whole host of celebrities dotted about the dining room. The pared-down food is Provençal simplicity at its best – warm home-baked bread and olive oil from the local vineyards. The starter of little fillets of red mullet is swiftly followed by Agneau du Pays, a rosemary-scented local lamb dish, and one of the largest cheese boards I had ever seen. We take dessert outside into the sunshine and manage to find room for a delicate tarte aux framboises.

Back in Arles, we stumble upon an artisanal chocolate shop from the Provence-based company Puyricard at 54 Rue de la République (00 33 4 90 93 46; chocolaterie.puyricard.fr) and buy a box of truffles, then just one more to check they are as good as we remember. They are.

Stuffed, we opt for a light dinner at Le Gibolin on 13 Rue des Porcelet (00 33 4 88 65 43 14), a tiny restaurant hidden up a back street with only a handful of tables. Wine is the main focus here, and the owner Brigitte will match your glass to your food – a fragrant honeyed white accompanied our creamy burrata cheese, with white figs and crusty bread.

It would be rude not to take a pastis or two afterwards at the Hôtel du Nord (00 33 4 90 93 44 44; nord-pinus.com) on Place du Forum, with its art-focused, fashion-conscious crowd. So we sit outside, opposite Le Café la Nuit, made famous by Van Gogh, and watch the bustling square.

A Hedonist's Guide to ... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific