Casey & Christianne | Elegant engagement session in Arles, France
Wow! I enjoyed photographing this engagement session so much in Arles, France. As a Provence romantic couples and engagement photographer, photographing couples in my home of Arles is a dream come true!
Casey and Christianne are from the Bay Area of Northern California, USA. They recently became engaged and were on a Mediterranean cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines, starting in Rome, Italy and with ports of call in France of Nice and also Marseille. Casey contacted me to inquire about an engagement session in Marseille. on the day they were docked there. After discussing it a bit, and giving Casey several options, the couple elected to come to my town of Arles, an hour north of Marseille by train.
What is Arles? In addition to living in Paris, where I’ve lived since 2014, and photographing couples there, during the pandemic I bought an historic home in the small town of Arles, population roughly 50,000. I love living in Arles for so many reasons. It’s charming, colorful, artistic, historic, and with great weather (bountiful sunshine) and nature activities all around. It also has a strong Provençal heritage and is within easy access by train or bus to Marseille, Avignon, Nîmes, Montpellier and all along the French Riviera, including Nice. By the way, despite the fact that there’s an “s” on the end of ArleS, the s is not pronounced, it is silent. So, it sounds something like Ahhhhle in French language.
After having a look at my past work in Arles, Casey and Christianne decided it would be a great place for their engagement session. Upon docking in Marseille, they took a taxi to the train station in Marseille, called Marseille Saint Charles. This is a major train station, serving points all throughout Provence, the French Riviera and even, Paris. Timetables are easy to see and booking can be done on your cell phone at https://www.sncf-connect.com/en-en/. The site is in English, so it’s a very useful tool for booking travel within France on the highly efficient French train system.
Trains from Marseille to Arles run roughly once per hour and are anywhere from 47 minutes to a little over an hour, depending on how many stops the route has. Some train routes also serve Marseille Provence Airport. The train station stop for the airport is called Marseille Vitrolles.
Casey and Christianne hopped aboard the train and I met them at the train station of Arles (in French called “gare”). The train station in Arles is small, so it’s easy to find whoever you’re looking for, and I was so excited to meet Casey and Christianne and show them around town!
We started by walking into the old town, and I explained the history a bit. Two main bits of history exist in Arles. First, it was a town where famous painter Vincent Van Gogh lived from 1888-1889. Arles is the place where he infamously cut off his ear, but more than that, he painted some of his most beautiful work in Arles. He came to Arles from Paris in the winter of 1888, in search of better light, and he found it. While there are no museums entirely dedicated to his work in Arles, the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, a museum, does have a few of his paintings on display. It’s one of many wonderful museums you can visit in Arles, and the terrace has an incredible view of the Arlesian rooftops, too!
The most famous thing about Arles is its Roman history. Not only was it one of the most important Roman settlements outside Rome at one time, but much is left to see for the modern visitor from that era. Most people don’t realize how vast the Roman empire was. We think about Rome, and that’s pretty much it, or at least that’s what I thought. But southern France, in the Provence region, and even further north to Lyon (and yes, even Paris) had great Roman influence.
At one time, Arles was a Roman town. They built a huge amphitheater (arènes) for gladiator battles and bullfights (this area of France has many traditionally Spanish traditions even to this day), they built a huge theater for plays, Roman baths, a Roman Forum, and a Roman cirque, again, for sport. Not all of it remains, but the amphitheater does, as well as part of the theater, which is still used today for summer concerts. A day pass from the Arles Office of Tourism can be purchased and allows visitors to access all of these treasures. The Romans loved Arles, because of its geography. It sits next to the Rhône River, and empties into the Mediterranean Sea, making it ideal for river and sea travel, and quite a strategic location.
I walked Casey and Christianne through the main gate of Arles, which used to have a wall, but was destroyed during World War II. Then, of course, the first visit, to the beautiful arènes. From there, a walk around the charming streets of Arles. Arles is a town that is more charming than elegant, a town like Aix-en-Provence is elegant, but Arles is a more working class town with oodles of charm. But you won’t find fancy paved streets, you’ll notice a lot of street art and tagging, and the city is most alive in the summer, when the famous Rencontres de la Photographie takes place. This is the world’s premiere photography and video festival, with exhibits in 40 different locations. The festival starts every year the first week of July and runs through the end of September. It is a must-do for anyone who loves photography and visual arts.
We passed by the town square, Place de la Republique, where I photographed Casey and Christianne next to the church of Saint Trophime, and then we walked to the super charming neighborhood called La Roquette. This neighborhood is filled with charming tiny streets, colorful buildings, and lots of plants. You’ll find hanging vines (even grapes!), and lots of flowers. The flowering begins in spring, with jasmine and roses, and continues into the summer. The buildings were generally constructed in the 1700s and are a treat to see, especially if you’re a fan of history.
Casey and Christianne were so lovely, and up for anything, so we also crossed the bridge to the other side of the Rhône and I photographed them with Arles in the backdrop, which is so pretty. This couple was so natural and elegant, it was just such a pleasure to photograph them in these beautiful spots. While in summer, it’s usually sunny in Arles, on this day we had a mix of sun and clouds, but on the plus side, it did keep us a little cooler, as Arles can get quite warm in summer time.
We walked to the Bridge of Lions, a bridge that was built in 1868 as a railway bridge, but destroyed by the allies in World War II, to try to prevent German forces from advancing. As it stands, some buildings in Arles were destroyed in the war, and some of the newer buildings are visible on the entrance to the town. You can also see remnants of the bombing on what is left of the bridge. The lions still stand, however, and serve as a symbol of the city of Arles. In fact, the city logo is of a lion. It’s a majestic spot for a view of Arles.
Further down, one can find what is called the “digue” or dike, used to protect Arles from the sometimes-flooding of the Rhône River. Most of the time, it serves as a walking and biking trail, and in about 10-15 minutes you’ll also reach a very charming bridge, sort of resembling the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. This is an opportunity to get out in nature a little bit for couples who would also like to add that on.
As it stood on this day, Casey and Christianne had to get back to Marseille, so we walked back into the center of town (called “centre ville” in France) and finished up in Place du Forum (Forum Square). This square is famous for two reasons. First, Van Gogh painted the famous “Cafe de la Nuit” here, at a café you can still dine in.
Second the old Roman Forum, where the Romans did their shopping and trading, was located in this spot. Not much is left from that time except two columns, but it’s so interesting to think about what it must have been like during Roman times!
We finished our beautiful engagement session at a cute café, where Casey and Christianne had an “espresso toast”. I was so happy to photograph them, spend time with them and get to know them a bit, and capture their beautiful love story in Arles. It was a magnificent morning and I’m delighted to have been a part of it!
So, what about Arles, should you come to Arles for your romantic couples photo session? Absolutely, 100% YES if…
- You love historical towns that are cute, charming and colorful
- If you like Roman history, there are many Roman sites to visit in Arles
- If you like interesting museums, Arles has many, you can visit the tourism office site to learn more at https://www.arlestourisme.com/en/
- If you love towns with proximity to nature (Arles is close to the Alpilles mountains and Camargue Natural Regional Park, as well as a fantastic bike trail called ViaRhona)
- If you love cultural events, there’s so many cultural events going on in summer, such at the Rencontres de la Photographie and Suds Arles, a music and arts festival
- If you like great dining options, Arles has fantastic restaurants for every budget
- If you’d like to make Arles a base, there are also a number of wonderful hotels in Arles, you can check out Tripadvisor listings here
- You like having proximity to other great places in the region–it’s just a 20-minute train ride to Avignon, Nîmes, 45 minutes to Montpellier, around an hour to Marseille (which connects you to the French Riviera), and numerous bus services too, make it easy to get around the region without a car
- Nearby to Arles also you’ll find the charming villages of the Alpilles mountains, including Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Les-Baux-de-Provence, not to be missed!
For couples looking for a unique experience you won’t quite find anywhere else, Arles is a wonderful choice. Yes, I’m biased a bit, I have a home here, however, I can say with certainty that Arles is an amazing town for couples photography, it’s also peaceful and calm and so very fun!
Contact me with any questions, and I look forward to welcoming you to Arles!