When I think of Provence, I envision fields of lavender, cute cobbled-stoned villages and plenty of small homes with brightly painted shutters. Not Roman ruins. But that's all we saw. All because Mr. Wild Dingo is whack-a-doo about Roman history. Even Juno is quite aware of his fascination for all things Roman. I'm beginning to think he only married me for my Roman ancestry. Still, some of the ruins were quite impressive.
Our first stop was the Pont du Gard, the still working Roman Aqueduct designed to transport water from Uzes to Nimes. No picture I took could convey the awesomeness of this site. It was huge! One thing we noticed was that the Romans had style. Not only was the golden color of the bridge complementing the countryside, but much of it was built with artistic reveals and creative design. While function ruled, form was never overlooked in almost anything Roman. The bridge was as beautiful as it was functional.
Out of all the ruins we saw that weekend, this was my favorite. Probably because the government paid extra attention in aesthetically presenting this historical site in the way it deserves. Every other ruin we visited couldn't hold a candle to how this one is maintained. Visitors enter a beautiful atrium with a well-curated museum that explains the history of many Roman aqueducts. The museum was as beautifully designed as the aqueduct itself. Beaches and 600-meter high panoramic hiking trails surround the aqueduct and anyone can visit by foot or bike.
Next we went to the oh-so-exciting city of Orange. There's not much to see in Orange except for the Roman Theater (pictured above) and yet another Arc de Triomphe that Mr. Wild Dingo just had to see. Just how many freaking Arc de Triomphes MUST we see? The Roman Theater was built during Agustus' rein and is only Roman theater which has conserved almost its entire stage wall, 338 feet long and 118 feet high.
Today the theater is still used for concerts, plays and musicals regularly, holding up to 9000 spectators. Orange regularly features jazz festivals in the summer. The sad thing about all the amphitheaters is how they are maintained and presented. In order to utilize the space, most cities will build ugly bleachers to replace missing stadium seats. What baffels me more are the millions of cars that pass by only a few meters away from these 2000 year old structures in France as well as Italy.
Arles was a bit of a let down. Sure, it was down pouring on us (as you can see the pelts of rain in the shot above), but the city itself was not what I anticipated. I went looking for what inspired Van Gogh and instead we ended up at yet another Roman Amphitheater (above). (Note to self: do not let Mr. Wild Dingo read any more Michelin guides.) As it down poured on us, it looked like the best option for seeing something and staying dry. Today, the Amphitheater regularly hosts bullfighting (which they claim is not to the death or harm of the bull) and other cultural events.
As we entered the theater, a group of 47 giggling, screaming teenagers came in and they NEVER SHUT UP. Sounds of ridiculous squealing girls and rough-housing boys echoed the halls. Like cockroaches scattering out of every crevice of the theater, we could not escape them. Teenagers today. There's no respect. Where's an obnoxious Formosan German Shepherd when you need one? Had this been Switzerland, they would have been hushed or shown the door. Or possibly thrown off the third story window of the Amphitheater.
So we quickly strolled the theater and split for it's neighboring site: another Roman Theatre (but not an Amphitheater). Quelle suprise! Didn't the Romans have enough drama in all that conquering and fighting? You'd think after a hard day at the office they'd want to relax with glass of wine and maybe some shut eye. Nope. They pretty much conquered, built theaters and partied. Not much remained of this site except two columns and pieces of its past (above) scattered about as if they were items for sale at a flea market.
On our last day in St. Remy, when leaving the city we accidentally ran into Glanum, a lost city developed under Hellenistic influence. I opted out of this one for a nap in the car while Mr. Wild Dingo explored and took the shot above for me. Yes you read that right. I fell asleep in the car while it was raining and I don't have a single regret. You see 37 Roman ruins in the course of 3 days, you've seen them all. My nap was heavenly.
Okay, for starters, EVERY emperor, and ANY general with any clout built a triumphal arch. (The typical inscription for a triumphal arch is something like: "Woo-hoo. We just beat the Bructians (insert local conquered tribe). In 100 years, no one is going to know who they are, but we beat them, and now we've got an arch to let everyone know we were here, and we kicked some local butt.) Next, once you've conquered the local population (and put up your arch), you've got to keep the now-conquered-and-civilized natives entertained, so they don't get silly ideas like revolting. ("Sir! The natives are revolting." "Yes, I know they are; filthy creatures.") Hence the theaters and amphitheaters (which are also handy for killing off the revolting natives who don't realize that becoming part of the Empire is way cooler than being a barbarian). Oh, and generally anyone living in town lived in teeny little apartments (think Swiss parking spaces, and you'll get the idea), and so the general plan was to be out of the house as much as possible. Again, if you've got people in the streets, you'd rather entertain them than have them be revolting. That's your Roman history lesson for the day.
All that said. Heh. Your comments actually remind me of when my Mom dragged me (and my brothers) through every Gothic cathedral in Western Europe. How many flying buttresses does a person need to see? (In hindsight... yeah... I'd love to go do that again, too.) Beautiful aqueduct picture! How many other public works projects are still at least partially functional 1800 years later?
Anyhoo, love, love, love the ancient rocks. And sorry, but I'm going to lobby for more Roman ruins. Although... you were in Arles and didn't see the cathedral?!? le sigh... 😉
Heh. I love the pictures so much, I'm not even going to harass you about napping rather than visiting damp ruins. (I should tell you about the time my Dad and I went to Rome for the weekend and it rained the entire time we were there - but rather than hiding inside
like a wusswe swam through the Colosseum, even though we'd both been there a zillion times before...)
Okay. I'll shut up now. 😉
-Dr. Liz (who is going to send Mr. WD some guide books on the sly!)
Wow, it all looks so beautiful there. Isn't is amazing how these places that were built SO long ago are still standing but yet it seems like all the new buildings and stuff just don't stand up as well and have as much beauty and detail to them.
I love the last photo with the striking contrast of the new orange blooms against the ruins...beautiful shot! I loved all of the photos...but the aqueduct was my favorite, esp. the close up...but they were really awesome.
What a fantastic trip! I would be trucking along with Mr WD all the way - the more ruins the better! LOVE the Aqueduct, how cool that it still does what it was supposed to do. Puts our technology to shame! Have to agree about Italian style - their aesthetic sense is impeccable, doesn't matter what - building, furniture, clothing (especially men's clothing!), care, food… its all good.
Thanks so very much for sharing such great pics of yet another place I will never see live. Much appreciated!
What very beautiful photos!! Living in 'young' New Zealand, the mere thought of anytihng built by humans that is that old is amazing. I have never had the good fortune to travel overseas, so i enjoy the opportunity to experience the world through the eyes of others - such as your beautiful blog.
You only saw one group of teenagers? That's nothing ;-). We started in Arles and got our quota of Roman ruins there so we have fond memories of Arles. Pont du Gard is truly awesome. Great shots. Did you get a sip of the water ruining through it?
Arles is the twin city of York PA -
As for Provence, all I can think of is high school French - so many of the textbooks were filled with Provence et autres khrap -
Hope the French took any Roman lead pipes out of the aqueducts they're still using. Wonder why we choose not to build infrastructure that lasts, let alone looks like art. One expects Provence to be rich in Roman ruins, but only among other things, like the ones you mentioned in your opening paragraph. Maybe you and Mr. WD could take turns in planning your outings? Still, it looks and sounds like you both enjoyed a wonderful trip. Latching on to Dr. Liz' excellent disposition, in Roman times the amphitheatre [and all other types of theatres, stadiums, etc.] had hard stone ledges as seats and audience members had to haul in their own cushions, back supports/protection [from the feet of the people in the row above you] and refreshments, so even though the modern seating is ugly, it's probably at least marginally more comfortable.
Jed & Abby