Thursday, May 26, 2011

Encore Provence; Part 5. Other places and things

Because of the Mistral, on our first day we decided to move a bit further afield than locally and revisit Aigues-Mortes down in the Carmargue area. This is a walled town from which several of the French crusades set sail. It is impressive! Hugenot prisoners were also kept here in the Constance Tower.

These days, the place is full of lovely shops and restaurants, some memories of history past and is a charming place to visit. Plus I found some sandals at long last to replace the ones that broke in Hong Kong.


The formidable walls at the back of Aigues-Mortes. The panorama shot makes them looked curved, though they are straight, but you get some idea of size. The water used to be very close to the walls but has somewhat silted up.

The rear main gate
View from our nice cafe onto the sunny square

This is the Constance Tower. One can visit inside and also walk the ramparts. We didn’t on this visit.

aigues-constance tower

However, we visited a chapel of the Penitents Grise, a religious lay fraternity which does good deeds and exists to this day, along with penitents of several other colours. Their chapel is in need of repair but has this amazing stucco altar with angels and twisted columns, all rather Rococo.

The chapel
One angel from the altar. Love the hand signal!

And this amazing detail from one of the columns


That was Sunday. The next day we visited Orange which was new to us. Of course, being Monday, most of the town was closed. However, the main drawcard, the Roman Theatre, was open and Oh, my!!! This is huge!!!


Again, the panorama format curves the theatre stage, but it gives you an idea of size and impact. The biggest preserved Roman theatre in France, it is still used for opera and musical evenings. The form immediately evokes the wooden theatres of Italy we saw on the last trip in places such as Vicenza, Parma and Sabbioneta.

Only the first three rows of seating are original but many of the walls and passageways in the hill supporting the seating are intact. It would have had canvas awnings, your seating was according to your rank in society and theatre might occur, free, for up to 100 days a year. It all became rather debauched in the end apparently.

We liked the fact that the statue of the emperor in the niche over the stage had a removeable head. New emperor, bring in a new head.

This is part of the seating. The triumphal arch was also in Orange and very decorative. Built by Agustus sometime around the Christian age.

Theatre seating
The Arc of Orange

We also made a long trip to Aix-en-Provence as we had never seen it. A pretty town with the wide Cours Mirabeau all lined with plane trees. There was a market on as well, but mostly clothes and household linen.

The pretty Cours Mirabeau. There are shops and banks and cafes behind the trees
The clock tower makes an archway to the old town

We wandered into the old town with the intention of visiting the cathedral but it was, of course, closed for lunch. Speaking of lunch, the people love to grab a crepe and go, with nutella, or nutella and banana being popular fillings. This is a crepe stand which you find in all the towns.


On our way out of town we stopped at the field where Cezanne and others used to paint, with Mt St Victoire in the background. A lovely spot. We couldn’t see the view after walking up the hill and I was cursing the houses built in the way, until I turned and looked behind me.


The scene beloved by Cezanne

That finishes posts on Provence. Next stop Millau and my beloved viaduct. The story comes with a few mishaps.

1 comment:

  1. Brings back memories! Personally, I found Aigues-Mortes utterly antiseptic: in the preservation of the town, much of its soul seemed to have disappeared. However, Aix is delightful market town and I definitely see why Cezanne painted the mountain from the same spot over and over... it is majestic!