This weekend we rented our “time machine” and headed south- I mean, to the first century B.C.E. to visit Big Man Augustus.
What inspired me to do this was a book with an unfortunately long and forgettable name: “The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France” by Ina Caro. There are so many vestiges of the ancient Roman Empire left in this country I can see why Ina chose to start her story during the reign of Emperor Augustus (a.k.a. Octavius).
It was after dark when we got to the town of Orange, an ancient city that was built in 40 B.C.E. and called Arousio during the Roman Empire. After checking into our hotel, everyone suddenly was in serious need of food. Normally when our family arrives late and hungry to a hotel, Mark goes on a search alone to bring back takeout while I get the kids bathed and settled (and maybe watch a little Iron Chef).
But the French don’t do takeout.
Trudging up and down dark, ancient streets may have caused my family much pain and agony (at least you would’ve thought so from all the whining), but our reward came. We passed by La Grotte, and I decided we simply had to eat there.
Sagan got her first taste of escargot, while I roasted my various meats on a hot stone.
Being served raw meat and snails under a big, craggy rock may not seem like something you would set out to do, but it was quite an experience. Honestly though, I prefer a nice view instead of a windowless cave. Thankfully the whine turned to wine, and my Chateau Saint Estéve has been the best I’ve had since we arrived in France.
The next day was warm, sunny and most importantly the town wasn’t overrun with tourists. The tickets to the ancient theater also included the Museum which was across the street. Since it closed for a typical two hours for lunch we decided to go there first. You can see a proper glimpse of what we saw here. Their photos are better than mine.
The Roman theater of Orange is one of only three left in the world with its stage wall intact. We were provided audio commentary (except for Kailas who got a coloring book) and this really brought the theater to life. All of us listened at our own pace with bonus information to hear if we so wished, narrated by what sounded like Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies. Watching Sagan remain completely engrossed for hours while she listened to the history of the ancient Romans, how the theater was built, the changes it went through over time, etc. made my eyes tear up. She is turning into such a young lady.
The town of Orange actually uses this theater for performances during the summer months. It would be fun to experience one of those. Sagan and Kailas tried out the view from every level. Augustus Dude seemed to wave at us, happy we were there.
On our way out of Orange we had to swing by and see the Triumphal Arch. Ina Caro claims it was the inspiration for her book and her description of it is the best I’ve read- so go check out that book.
We headed toward the Pont du Gard, through miles of vineyards that were still sleeping.
I wanted to catch the next ancient Roman ruin as it was lit up by the setting sun. The day was still warm enough with clear skies, and we had giant, cocoa dusted meringues to eat once we arrived. In fact, never try and eat giant, cocoa dusted meringues anywhere other than outside, since they are the messiest things on earth.
Diverting your attention from the meringues for a moment, take a look at that little aquaduct in the background. Even if you didn’t know it was built two thousand years ago, it is an awe inspiring structure. Right kids?
“Sure, Mama. I’m thirsty!”
Here I go trying to get creative with this gnarly olive tree in the foreground.
We stayed in Avignon that night. There is a whole lot more to see, but we opted to sleep in the next morning. The “Sun God” was not amused and decided to clobber up the sky on us. This only made our decision to head home all the more easy. We took the scenic route through the hills which was still interesting despite the rain clouds and occasional down pours.
Even if you don’t plan on visiting France any time soon, I highly recommend that Ina Caro book…what was the name again?