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It is not to everybody’s taste, but Arles (13 Bouches-du-Rhone, PACA) claims to be the world capital of bull-fighting and the cradle of the sport in France.In the nearby Camargue, more than anywhere else in France, the bull is king. Living in the marshes since antiquity, they are part of the daily life of the region. Traditions and culture revolve around the bulls – both the Camargue bull, bred for “bull running” or the “toro brave” from the Spanish race of bulls which fights in the arenas.
Spanish bullfighting appeared in France in 1701. The restoration of the Arles Roman arena in 1825 allowed for the organization of the “free running” or “Camargue running”. The first bullfight in the arena took place in 1830.
The Easter Bullfighting Festival (Feria de Pâques) opens the French bullfighting season, attracting 500,000 visitors filling the 60,000 spectator places in the Roman arena and promises to be a tremendously colourful (and noisy) spectacle in stunning surroundings.
In September there is the Feria du Riz (rice)
– For more info on the Arles Feria see www.arenes-arles.com
Even if you are not tempted by the bull running or bull fights, Arles has an impressive legacy of Roman remains. The major Roman sites, such as the Arena and the Theater, are unique in that they are integrated into the houses and buildings of the town. Van Gogh stayed here in 1888 and 1889, having one of his most prolific periods. After a visit from Gaugin which precipitated an argument he famously cut off part of one his ears in Arles.