In The Child on the Terrace, the latest in the Dangerous Journeys series, Anne McPhail escapes with a child she rescued from kidnappers and travels across Spain and France into safe haven, she thinks, in Italy. One of the cities she passes through is Arles, famous for the paintings of Van Gogh.
Arles is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a town that has existed since the 7th Century BCE, and was an important Gallo-Roman city. During the later Roman Empire it was an important cultural and religious centre.
Frequent wars afflicted the area until it was finally handed over to France in 1378 CE.
The port flourished until the advent of the railway decreased the importance of the river trade. Today, it is again a prominent port for river cruises bringing tourists to its streets for the history and, for many, the opportunity to walk in the steps of Van Gogh.
Anne’s route took her over the Rhone river on the bridge made famous by Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night over the Rhone.
Although the yellow house where Van Gogh lived and painted, including The Yellow Room, is a place many tourists would like to see, unfortunately, as it lay near the railroad bridge, it was destroyed by Allies forces in WWII.
Franco-American forces liberated Arles on August 25th, 1944.
We travelled to Spain in the fall of 2010 visiting Madrid and Seville before renting a cottage at Ronda, intending to explore the White Villages of the Sierra Nevada.
One day our route took us past the Roman ruins at Acinipo towards Olvera. We drove high above the River Trajo past the historic village of Setenil. We stopped to take pictures of this “village the mountain ate” before travelling on.
The village stuck in my memory and when I wanted to send Anne McPhail abroad after her adventure in Bermuda—No Motive for Murder—I brought her to Setenil with its cave-like houses and shops with their whitewashed exteriors.
The villages of the Sierra Nevada gleam from the mountainsides in this part of Spain. Every spring the citizens apply a fresh coat of paint to their walls, to reflect the harsh summer sun. Setenil does the same.
Setenil stood as a bastion for the Moors, its people attacked 7 times before the Christian king retook it in the long war that drove the followers of Islam from Spain, the Reconquesta.
Now tourists, those who find it in its remote location on a little-travelled road, sit in its cafes and walk the hilly streets.
It seemed a perfect, quiet location to bring Anne to repair her emotions. It seemed. What happened next is the story of The Child on the Terrace, coming soon from Write Words Inc.
We went on to Olvera that day, a steep town with a castle sitting on a pinnacle high above, and got lost in the Sierra Nevada.