The renaissance of the Roquette neighborhood in Arles has been driven by the people, places and pets (!) that are hoping to shake it's previously shaky reputation by transforming it into one of the town's most charming areas. But come along, let's see for ourselves...
Let's begin on the rue des Porcelets as it leads to the Place Paul Doumer. At all hours, it is bustling with activity...
...but not all of the merchants are newcomers. The Genin family installed their boucherie-charcuterie shop, La Farandole, on this corner in 1877 and have fabricated their world-renowned Saucission d'Arles since 1655! That means that five generations have kept their recipe a secret. Did Vincent Van Gogh enjoy this tasty hard sausage? Quite possibly!
Further along on the left is Le Gibolin. Something tells me that the crazy Dutchman might have appreciated this spot for its tipple. Brigitte and Luc, two former parisiens, have established the spot as Arles' only cave à manger, where you can pop in to buy a bottle of wine or sit down for considerably hearty Provençal food such as piquillos peppers stuffed with morue and a fine daube de taureau in the colder months. The town's movers and shakers are happy to elbow up at the wooden communal tables for a chance to imbibe the warm ambiance.
13 rue des Porcelets
Price: around 16-35€ without wine
Keep walking, past the delightful children's book store, and Ben (isn't that a fine name? ;) will give you a welcome you won't forget in his tiny but charming shop. We chatted for quite some time (he recognized me because of the puppers--yes, I am famous for mes chiens) but I will definitely head back to try his incredibly reasonably priced delicacies. He offers up sandwiches, salads and paninis with over thirty fresh, seasonal toppings for you to choose from. As he stated, "It is like Subway...but better!" With ingredients like home-made foie gras dusted with sea salt, fresh goat cheese with mint and shallots and Paletta Iberica on the menu, I would say that is something of an understatement, wouldn't you?
Le Comptoir Des Porcelets
21 rue des Porcelets
Tel.: 04 90 4905 46
Open non-stop, very unusual for Arles
Sandwichs: 4.50-5.50 Euros, Salads: 4-5 Euros, Paninis: 5-6 Euros
Home-made daily desserts: 3.50 Euros
Also can be ordered for takeaway for a picnic on the Rhone!
Cross over to the right hand side and dive into the cool depths of Grenad'in Ice, which has only been open for two weeks. My food radar doesn't miss a bit and so, dear reader, I made the hefty sacrifice of researching it for you on a scorching day. Florence is the owner and ice-cream maker (her labo is visible from the shop). Everything is from scratch. She buys the fruit at the market and even bakes the pain d'epices to crumble into the flavor of the same name. That was exactly what I chose after asking Florence what was her favorite...
Can you tell that I enjoyed it just a tiny bit?
(Confession: this photo was taken after I had delightedly slurped down nearly half of the cone, portions are far more generous)
20 rue des Porcelets
One Scoop: 2.50 Euros, eat more at your own risk.
Milkshakes and sundaes available as well and Florence hopes to soon offer a few salé options too.
While there were plenty of seating options in the cheery space, I chose to park myself for prime people watching at a bench in the Place Paul Doumer just beyond. Such a land of far niente this shady café dotted square is. Clearly folks had nowhere pressing to be...
...save for the Mommy's on their after school runs. The stylish model thin woman with the red espadrilles flared up an ugly spot of jealousy in me until I remembered one very important fact: she wasn't enjoying an ice cream cone, now, was she?
There are several new establishments on the place, including L'Epicerie Moderne at #24, which specializes in the finest products from the region such as olive oils and red Camargue rice, all displayed with a retro touch...
...as well as Cécilia Flor at #16, where Sébastien celebrates my favorite--bouquets of all-white flowers...ahhh...
On a chilly winter's afternoon ten years ago, we were welcomed out of the Mistral and in to the fantastic antique store Circa to have a cup of tea. It was a kind gesture that I never forgot and so it was with little surprise that I learned that it is something of a mini-cultural centre with exhibitions and musical performances surrounding the excellent pieces for sale, all from the 1930-1970s.
2 rue de La Roquette
A similarly fine mix of deco and welcome can be found at La Pousada, a jasmine covered bijou of a bed & breakfast (only three bedrooms!), mere steps from the Rhone. But you might just be tempted to stay in et faire le cocooning at this sweetly serene spot where the buildings ancient materials have been incorporated into a comfortable contemporary environment. We love that!
9 rue de la Croix-Rouge
Rooms from 80-116 Euros, closed between mid-November to the beginning of March
Climbing jasmine also beckons at the entry to L'Hôtel Particulier, which is, in my completely subjective opinion, the finest hotel in Arles, if not in the entire region. It might just be my aesthetic ideal, kind of like if Paola Navone designed the welcome area beyond the pearly gates. This unbelievably beautiful lieu (my design friends most likely have the Zuber wall-papered bedroom on their inspiration boards) certainly deserves its own post and then some, if only I can summon the courage to ask! For that is how much esteem I have for Brigitte Pagès de Oliveira, the hotels creator and one of the absolutely one of the key harbingers of the Renaissance of the Roquette...
4 rue de la Monnaie
Rooms from 309-509 Euros
I hope that you have enjoyed this second little walk through one of Arles' oldest and most fascinating neighborhoods...there is more to come!