On a walk around SoMa today, i saw this oft-reproduced Vincent Van Gogh called The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, [or more popularly, Café Terrace at Night],through a cafe window South of Market. Van Gogh painted it during his time in Arles on the Rhone River in the South of France, late in life as he slipped from sanity and created his most visionary work.
I had the pleasure of spending time there in 2005. It may be one of the perfect cities I have experienced; a bowl of light, contained within walls, populous but not overly so. It is ancient, a great Roman outpost that still boasts a tremendous, active arena. It is also very contemporary, hosting a legendary photography festival each Summer. It is a crossroads for people from Spain, the Magreb, Roma mixing with the unique Arlesians in a great center of culture at the top of The Carmague, the river's great estuary known for wild horses and flamingos. Van Gogh felt Arles' special power too, soaking in the essence of this small forest of stone so imbued with light, inspiration and convivial people.