We left this morning at 6 AM to pick up Christie at 10 AM in Lyon. Once again everything worked smoothly, just like we knew what we were doing. We had packed food in the car, not knowing when Christie had last eaten. (She had some delayed flights, but these only put her off by an hour). By 10:30, we were on the road again, having each used the ATM. Our plan was to stop in Orange (that's a Provencal city), find the tourist bureau and do the tour of Roman ruins. The food didn't last long in the car - everyone was hungry. Orange was half-way (2 hours drive)and a good stopping point. We arrived at 12:30, meaning we missed the tourist office which closes for lunch from noon to 2 PM. Oh, well, we crashed through the city and ran into the theatre by following signs, which miracle of miracles was open all day long! Orange was a major Roman city and has one of only 3 remaining stages of a Roman theatre, and the only one existing in Europe. Now when I say theatre, this thing is immense, seating 9,000 people or more. (Roman theatres in the "provinces" were used to promote the cult of the Emperor and for "educating" the provincials to Roman ways - inculcating culture via propaganda. Everyone could come and seating, rather than by ticket, was by class with the nobility in the lower levels and the rabble in the higher levels. Apparently, theatre was important as they dedicated 60-100 days a year to theatrical performances which took full days to complete. This place is prepared for tourists. They have audio guides in English that walk you through the important aspects of the theatre. This is the most impressive Roman ruin I've seen since Rome. It's huge and in pretty good repair. In fact, it is used, has been used since the early 1900's, for performances of all sorts - opera, classical Roman and Greek theatre, modern theatre, rock performances. I don't think it's possible to give you a feeling of the scale of this theatre. (It might be partly due to the 3 bottles of wine we've been working on since we got back.) Today (Sunday April 10), I found this cool UNESCO website that shows 360 degree images of the theatre, the attached temple ruin and the arch in Orange. These 3 sites have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, which protects them, gives them status and I believe money to fix/maintain them. These 5 images allow you a better feel for the architecture.
It's now 10:30, the sky is clear with lots of stars (not much light bleed here) and a quarter moon, the terrasse is still pleasant enough temperature to sit out on and Katie, Christie and Dave have taken an after-dinner stroll around town. Tomorrow promises to be in the 90's as was today (34 Celsius)so the plan is to head into the Cévennes mountains to escape the heat and explore a couple of nature driving tours with small side hikes. I'm bringing my needlework and looking for a café if this gets out of hand, which if you know my daughters and my husband, is a distinct possibility.
It's hard to believe we've only been here a week now. So much has happened in 7 brief days. But I have to say, I'm living my dream and it's going to be hard to come home!