We’re returning to familiar territory as we drive West through Provence. It’s now later in the year, so the crops have grown and the orchards and fields seem full with life and crops. I’m reminded how beautiful and fertile the area seems and am excited about our next destination. Orange was on my list on our first go through the region, for its large Roman theatre and its pretty, old town which seemed a good, manageable size for an overnight stay. We didn’t quite make it though and I’ve campaigned reasonably heavily to stop off on our way through to Carcassonne now.
We arrive in blazing sunshine, discover free parking just on the edge of the city and, feeling fortunate, find out that free parking isn’t our only arrival discovery…Eliza’s done a poonami on route. So, here we are, first impressions of Orange, on our knees, Eliza laying on a change mat in the only slither of shade we could find near the car, with poo up to her armpits and all down one leg- ah, nothing like that to immediately endear you to a place!
With a clean baby and a couple of hours to spare before hotel check in, we decide to get some lunch and have a bit of an explore. I’ve read that there’s a large market in Rue de la Republique and spotted some of the stalls on the way in, so I lead us in that direction, Marie meanwhile making it clear that she needs the toilet so we need to stop as soon as we see somewhere suitable.
This is the tale of no markets- despite our best efforts and arriving about an hour earlier than our arrival in Die the day before, we are totally out of luck and arrive to stalls closing and vans manoeuvering through the centre. For the second day in a row, we choose a lunch spot on a nice looking terrace right in the middle of all the market clear up- lovely! Haha ….oh well….the waitress is kind of rude too. The salads are good though and Eliza seems happy with the attention from other diners.
From our central lunch spot we head south, toward the Roman theatre, noticing the closed shops on the way through, due to it being afternoon siesta time. The whole centre is pedestrianised and it’s got its charm, though not quite as oldy-worldy as nearby Arles, so it’s not exactly as I’d expected.
As we approach the edge of the town, the Roman theatre looms ahead of us. Unlike any I’ve seen, the back wall is fully intact and it is this, as the outer street facing wall, that we see first. Tall and solid in a yellow stone, it’s totally different to anything I’ve seen before. I’m excited to get inside and after a 5 minute delay waiting for an elderly American lady to demonstrate over and over again to her husband Larry how to use the ticket barrier, we’re in. So is Larry, I’m sure you’re pleased to know!
We have been given audio guides which, as usual, are quickly abandoned, in favour of just having a good look around. It’s gorgeous and it’s still used- in fact there are people setting up the stage for a show that very evening. Unlike other used theatres, the equipment fits in well with the Roman remains, adding to the atmosphere, rather than taking from it. Most of the seats have been restored in stone, rather than replaced with wooden and metal benches, so it’s looking much like it would have in Roman times, which is great. I’m excited, but it’s also baking hot so carrying Eliza up the steps in the sling is quite a challenge- it happens with a few well-placed pauses to turn around and take it all in. The wall behind the stage still has remnants of the columns and other decorations that would have once been there and in the centre of the wall is a large statue of Augustus, standing above the performance.
We have a nice, cooling walk through the old tunnels leading between the seating once we reach the top, and then slowly descend the very steep staircase, while a tour group of elderly French women express concern at Eliza’s fair skin being out in the sun (under a sun umbrella and covered in factor 50 baby suncream).
By the time we’re back at the entrance I’m completely boiling and hopeful that the museum visit that is included in the ticket will be nicely air conditioned to cool us down. As we cross the road I have a longing look toward the ice cream parlour opposite and we agree that it will be a great stop after the museum. The museum is NOT air conditioned…the tiled floor is cool though so whilst I resist the temptation to strip off and starfish on the floor, I can’t help but spot a seat in the corner and subtly remove my sandals to cool my feet on the floor. This helps, a little, and suddenly I can take more interest in the things around me, noticing some of the mosaics found locally and some of the finer detailed decorations from the theatre, which are now housed in the neighbouring museum to help conserve them.
The ice cream that follows is nothing short of delicious and re-energises us for the hotel hunt. Once found, we cool ourselves with cold showers and flop around in the cool room for the rest of the afternoon, hoping things will cool down outside meanwhile. Eliza takes the opportunity to catch up on some sleep.
Out for an evening stroll and we decide Orange is pretty at night, with the front of the theatre illuminated and pretty coloured houses lining the street opposite. After several months of French and Italian food, we decide to mix it up a little and sit down at the terrace of a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant with a view of the theatre. What follows is a welcome and delicious meal, with Eliza well entertained by the dog at the next table. The only downside is that we appear to be sat on the cruising road of choice and the local “boy racer” equivalent seems to be really noisy off road bikes that circle round and round, startling Eliza on every trip, without any girls hanging out nearby to impress.
All in all, a lovely stay in Orange.