The stage is set

As a last stop in Provence before moving on to Israel we visited the Roman Theatre in Orange. This theatre is a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the first century CE against the hill almost to the top known as Colline-St. Europe.  Its acoustics are still considered some of the best in Europe.  The theatre has a tiered semicircle of seating that held up to 7,000 spectators for comedy as well as tragedy.  Today in addition to opera and stage performances many great musicians have appeared on the stage as well. From the 16th to the 19th centuries the interior was filled with slum housing.  In the 19th century restoration began including a new roof over the stage.

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City founded in 35 BCE by veterans of the Roman legion. With a theatre and a triumphal arch it was a small Rome in Gaul. Eventually it was a center of the Protestant faith so at odds with the Church. This is a particularly French neighborhood square.
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We’ve come to see the famous Roman theatre so it’s amusing to the Beaux Art theatre probably dating from the 19th century.
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Not a day has gone by this week without “running” into some Roman structure. In this case a large arch.
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Greek tragedies, comedies, and improvisations were performed in this theatre until Christianity banned them and the theatre fell into disuse.
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They were preparing for a performance today while we were there, not sure what it was but seems to be an Asian theme with the buddha figure and the wooden archway. Notice how it mirrors the columns engaged on the wall.
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This is one of only three theatre that still have their stage wall. The other two are in Turkey and Syria.
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That is the emperor Augustus framed by the arch way up high. He is presiding over all events in the theatre even though he is probably a reproduction of the original.
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This is a good way to see how the seats of the theatre are imbedded into the hill behind it.
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Elements discovered on the site during restoration have been put together in some interesting ways.
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This is farewell to France for now. More from Israel in a few days.

In the Neighborhood

This little area of Provence is so dense with things to do and see that it’s almost overwhelming.  If the rest of southern France is half as full one could spend years exploring.  Of course that means return trips, not the worst thing.  Everywhere one goes there is something else in the “neighborhood” worth seeing and all of this is 1 hour or less from where we are staying near Le Thor (or L’Isle Sur la Sorgue).  So starting with that closest neighborhood the Sorgue is a river that lies between the Alps and the Rhone River with its source the biggest spring in France.

Because the lavender is in full bloom, a trip to the Abbaye de Senanque was an appropriate stop and in the “neighborhood” is the beautiful hill town of Gordes.  We did not stop there but the view from the road was spectacular.  So was the Abbaye. This was the only pocket that we really felt the oppressiveness of too many tourists.  Unfortunately Gordes has been discovered by movie stars and now all the rest.

The water from the Pont du Garde was destined for the city of Uzes, a medieval city mostly not on the tourist radar so a quiet stroll around led to some lovely surprises and lastly, Nimes has another almost totally intact arena that is in restoration.

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The source of the river which fills this cavity in the cliff that is a sheer 700 feet high.
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The spring surges over these rocks in March every year for about 5 weeks into the river below
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Even when the spring is not at its height the Sorgue which is some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen in a river rushes very fast.
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That is the Sorgue river below (where you see the green) with a fortress above. This area was a trade route for the Phoenicians and of course later the Romans. Roman coins have been found in underwater caves and Jacques Cousteau almost perished in 1946 trying to find the source of the spring.
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A paper mill on the banks of the river, you can see the original beaters making paper pulp with energy coming from two water wheels.
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Water wheels for turning the paper beaters.
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Finishing off the sheets of paper for sale. Petrarque lived here so there are many letterpresses poems by him for sale.
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It’s always a pleasure to experience something unexpected and so coming upon the view of Gordes from across the valley was wonderful. It is considered one of the most beautiful in France and you can see why. First occupied by the Romans and in more recent history was a center of the Resistance during World War II.
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The Abbey was founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks and grew in popularity until the 13th or 14th century including mills and expanded estates. It is built in the Romanesque style in a cruciform shape with a protruding apse at the end and a cloister inside.
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As you can see the monks now grow lavender extensively.
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Uzes was established in the 5th century as a major town although the aqueduct Pont du Garde was built to bring water to it in the first century BCE. It was known as an open minded city, hence there was a Jewish community though they were subsequently expelled by the end of the 6th century.
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In the 8th century fortifications were established and many towers possibly as a result of the expansion of Andalusia (Islamic Spain) into the southern regions of France.
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Cloth was a major industry and so Uzes became a Protestant stronghold in the 16th century and as a result of the strife many of the churches were stripped of their relics and artworks. This is a perfect example of our discussion on iconoclasm.
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This little fellow reflects the current sweet feeling one gets in this quiet town (probably not on Saturday market day which we fortunately missed) though it belies the strife that occurred here and elsewhere in this region since the beginning of time.
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Fortunes of this town came and went. A scholarly Jewish community reestablished itself in the 13th century, the French Revolution reduced the power of the wealthy cloth industry, and then became a sleepy hamlet.
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On the other side of the Pont du Garde is Nimes, sometimes called the French Rome because of the important Roman monuments here. It is located along the ancient Roman road connecting Italy to Spain. It’s hard to imagine it from this photo but there was a Neolithic settlement here dated from 4000 BCE.
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This arena did not impress me as much as the one in Arles maybe because it seems so chopped up as it’s in the process of renovation as is much of downtown Nimes. The arena was first built in 70 CE and then remodeled into a bull ring in the 19th century. I was surprised here too that bull fights still take place. Many events are held here and it has a movable cover. People are surprised to know that arenas even in ancient times had such covers.
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Extensive renovations are in process and since this arena is more stone while Arles is more concrete this will probably take longer. The section that is completed is very nicely preserved.
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As with other arenas this one has been someone’s private dwelling and then a “slum” community until the 18th century when it was slowly converted back into an arena.

Skills of the ancients

In our classes this summer we have had conversations about the amazement we feel about structures such as Stonehenge or the pyramids or even the Nazca Lines and we sell human skills short by thinking someone from “the olden days” could not possibly have created such things.  In this part of France there are many opportunities to marvel at the skills of our ancestors.

The Pont du Gard is one such structure, standing through wars, earthquakes, and floods since 19 BCE.  The Maison Carre in Nimes, is the world’s best preserved Roman Temple from 16 BCE.

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The Pont du Garde crosses the Gardon river and is part of an aqueduct that carried water from a spring near Uzes to Nimes.
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The river is quite low now as it’s summer but in 2002 flooded to the extent that piers had to be added, one of the only modifications to the aqueduct.
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The water channel covered by stone slabs on the top carried 4.4 million gallons of water 31 miles. Unknown how long the aqueduct remained in use but may still have been functioning in the 9th century.
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Limestone blocks some as heavy as 6 tons were erected without mortar.
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1000 year old olive tree and the aqueduct which was the tallest of all the aqueducts in the Roman Empire.
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Lower section has built onto adding a road in the 18th century as this became a tourist destination and one could drive on this section until 1996.
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In 2000 in keeping with this as a World Heritage Site and to preserve the environment surrounding it an extensive visitor center with parking, a museum, and well designed paths were installed.
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While I’ve seen photos of the Maison Carre, coming upon it right in the center of Nimes in its stark whiteness was startling. Apparently it was cleaned in 2014.
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Built by Marcus Agrippa it is Hellenic with Corinthian columns both freestanding and engaged. Louis XIV’s chief minister wanted it taken apart brick by brick and re-erected at Versailles. Fortunately that did not happen.
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Looking through the temple portico across the square is the Carre d’Art (Contemporary Art Museum) designed by architect Norman Foster. It’s interesting how it mimics a portico and columns.
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You can see why this is considered the best preserved temple. It’s detail is pristine and looks almost new.
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Inside the portico looking up at the ceiling details.

Hill and Dale

The countryside of Provence is quite beautiful and distinctly Mediterranean.  I never realized how overwhelmingly dense in things to do and see.  There is no way not to make this a return region to visit.  There is something to see or do everywhere you turn.  When we think of “old” in California we are amazed to find something a few hundred years old though there are Native American sites.  Here almost everywhere you step there is something ancient and certainly there has been quite a bit of attention focused on this region.

I always think of this type of road with the tall trees on either side as a distinct feature of French landscape. The only thing missing is an elderly man with a beret riding a bicycle with a baguette on the back.
I always think of this type of road with the tall trees on either side as a distinct feature of French landscape. The only thing missing is an elderly man with a beret riding a bicycle with a baguette on the back.
This triumphal arch built in 25 BCE can be found across the road from the hospital in St. Remy where van Gogh spent some time. It marked the northern end of the city of Galum, a fortified city later abandoned in 260 CE. It is the best preserved of this type of arch in France.
This triumphal arch built in 25 BCE can be found across the road from the hospital in St. Remy where van Gogh spent some time. It marked the northern end of the city of Galum, a fortified city later abandoned in 260 CE. It is the best preserved of this type of arch in France.
Also known as the Julii Mausoleum located in the same place was built earlier in 40 BCE, acknowledging one of the most distinguished family names in the Roman Empire and currently the best preserved in France.
Also known as the Julii Mausoleum located in the same place was built earlier in 40 BCE, acknowledging one of the most distinguished family names in the Roman Empire and currently the best preserved in France.
Looking out from Opede Le Vieux over the Luberon region.
Looking out from Oppede Le Vieux over the Luberon region.
Oppede Le Vieux is a village at the top of a hill dating from the 12th century.
Oppede Le Vieux is a village at the top of a hill dating from the 12th century.
This village was hard to get to and a bit dark and dank so by the 19th century it was mostly abandoned for a new village further down in the valley. Only facilities for visitors remain and a few hearty souls.
This village was hard to get to and a bit dark and dank so by the 19th century it was mostly abandoned for a new village further down in the valley. Only facilities for visitors remain and a few hearty souls.
Through this arch one starts the climb up to the village and the small cathedral at the top.
Through this arch one starts the climb up to the village and the small cathedral at the top.
This restored cathedral contains a number of trompe l'oeil frescoes mostly gone with bits preserved here and there, a Roman column and capital supporting a perch for the priest.
This restored cathedral contains a number of trompe l’oeil frescoes mostly gone with bits preserved here and there, a Roman column and capital supporting a perch for the priest.
At the very top the fortress looks out over the whole valley and appears to be in some stage of restoration.
At the very top the fortress looks out over the whole valley and appears to be in some stage of restoration.
Crusader fortress had direct connections to the popes in Avignon.
Crusader fortress had direct connections to the popes in Avignon.
Wending our way back through the village and down to the new village of Oppede.
Wending our way back through the village and down to the new village of Oppede.
This 10th century hilltop village would probably be a sleepy backwater except for the fame of "A Year in Provence" which put it and the Luberon region on the map.
This 10th century hilltop village, Menerbes, would probably be a sleepy backwater except for the fame of “A Year in Provence” which put it and the Luberon region on the map.
Another arched alleyway. Menembres was the home of Dora Maar, a surrealist photographer and one of Picasso's lovers.
Another arched alleyway. Menerbres was the home of Dora Maar, a surrealist photographer and one of Picasso’s lovers.
Menerbres was the site of a famous battle between the Catholics and the Huguenots which lasted for five years.
Menerbres was the site of a famous battle between the Catholics and the Huguenots which lasted for five years.
This view from town looks like what you might imagine as the inspiration for "A Year in Provence"
This view from town looks like what you might imagine as the inspiration for “A Year in Provence”

 

Van Gogh in France

It’s easy to see how many artists especially in the 19th and early 20th century would be inspired by Provence.  The luminous quality of the light and brilliance of the colors can be seen in Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Bonnard, Signac, Dufy, Matisse, and of course Picasso.  But probably the most significant for this area was Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh lived in Arles for 15 months from 1888-89 and during that time painted 300 works though none of them remain in Arles (though the Foundation Van Gogh is having a show here of 31 paintings on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kroller Muhler Museum in the Netherlands).  His works from this time have lots of yellow, ultramarine, and mauve. His subject matter was primarily landscape and reflects his Dutch heritage.

Painted in 1888, now in the collection of the Kroller Muller Museum, Otterloo.
Painted in 1888, now in the collection of the Kroller Muller Museum, Otterloo.
The cafe today.
The cafe today.
Also painted in 1888, this painting is also in the collection of the Kroller Muller Museum.
Also painted in 1888, this painting is also in the collection of the Kroller Muller Museum.
We are here during lavender season and the fields (this one in the distance are everywhere). You can see the flatness of the perspective in van Gogh's work.
We are here during lavender season and the fields (this one in the distance are everywhere). You can see the flatness of the perspective in van Gogh’s work.
During the day the lavender fields are full of bees and the lavender is planted for them to make lavender honey. At dusk you can walk along the rows and take in the scent.
During the day the lavender fields are full of bees and the lavender is planted for them to make lavender honey. At dusk you can walk along the rows and take in the scent.
While this was painted in Paris there is no doubt that van Gogh would have seen the fields of sunflowers around Arles. This one was painted in 1888 before he came to Arles.
While this was painted in Paris there is no doubt that van Gogh would have seen the fields of sunflowers around Arles. This one was painted in 1888 before he came to Arles.
Coming and going to Arles fields of sunflowers as far as the eye can see.
Coming and going to Arles fields of sunflowers as far as the eye can see.
At the Foundation van Gogh they often have shows of artists influenced by him and this was an interesting take on his subject matter and techniques. This one titled "I do not Feel Embarrassed at Attempting to Express Sadness and Loneliness," 2001, oil on panel.
At the Foundation van Gogh they often have shows of artists influenced by him and this was an interesting take on his subject matter and techniques. This one titled “I do not Feel Embarrassed at Attempting to Express Sadness and Loneliness,” 2001, oil on panel.
In this detail you can see van Gogh's influence especially the way he blurs the edges.
In this detail you can see van Gogh’s influence especially the way he blurs the edges.
Glenn Brown, "Song to the Siren"
Glenn Brown, “Song to the Siren”
 "After Jordaens", 2013, ink on two sheets of polypropylene
“After Jordaens”, 2013, ink on two sheets of polypropylene
Glenn Brown "Suffer Well", 2007, oil on panel
Glenn Brown “Suffer Well”, 2007, oil on panel
Van Gogh, "Skull with Burning Cigarette", 1885
Van Gogh, Skull with Burning Cigarette”, 1885
In May 1889 after he mutilated his ear he checked himself into the Cloister and Clinic of St. Paul de Mausole in St. Remy de Provence.
In May 1889 after he mutilated his ear he checked himself into the Cloister and Clinic of St. Paul de Mausole in St. Remy de Provence.
As you can see it's a beautiful peaceful place and van Gogh felt very safe there. The monastery is from the 12th century.
As you can see it’s a beautiful peaceful place and van Gogh felt very safe there. The monastery is from the 12th century.
The monastery and cloisters are from the 12th century.
The monastery and cloisters are from the 12th century.
van Gogh, "Hospital in St. Remy", 1889
van Gogh, “Hospital in St. Remy”, 1889
The man himself holding a bunch of sunflowers.
The man himself holding a bunch of sunflowers.
The fields outside his window painted at least 15 times.
The fields outside his window painted at least 15 times.
van Gogh, "Meadow in the Garden of St. Paul", 1890
van Gogh, “Meadow in the Garden of St. Paul”, 1890

Trees on the grounds of the hospital

"Trees in the Garden of St. Paul's Hospital", 1890
“Trees in the Garden of St. Paul’s Hospital”, 1890

 

Arles

Arles is a fairly large city with a small historical center that dates back to Roman times and there are many significant Roman ruins there. It sits along the Rhone River and was also famously the home to Vincent van Gogh from 1888-1889.  Because of its strategic location it was inhabited first by Ligurians in 800 BCE and then Romans around 123 BCE expanding the port capabilities. By the 5th century the population was 100,000 and it was considered the center of Gaul.

Emperor Constantine spent considerable time here and built a number of important structures, best known are the baths of which very little remains.  Over the centuries it was the location for many conflicts both religious, political, and economic.  Once the railroad was built the port diminished and Arles became more of a backwater and hence popular with artists and now tourists.

Taken from the tower of the arena looking out over the river in the distance
Taken from the tower of the arena looking out over the river in the distance
Built in 90 CE one of the most intact (and oval) Roman amphitheaters. It could accommodate 20,000 spectators. It's 446 X 358 ft.
Built in 90 CE one of the most intact (and oval) Roman amphitheaters. It could accommodate 20,000 spectators. It’s 446 X 358 ft. Notice the tower which is an unusual feature of this amphitheater added during the Middle Ages. This structure became a fortress at that time so the towers (4 at the time) were used for defense.
Surprisingly they have use the amphitheater today for bull fights brought from Spain.
Surprisingly they have use the amphitheater today for bull fights brought from Spain.
The Romans invented and perfected the use of concrete which made such large structures possible. As you walk around in the amphitheater you see many shells imbedded in the concrete along with small pebbles and sometimes even glass. This particular shell was much larger than usual.
The Romans invented and perfected the use of concrete which made such large structures possible. As you walk around in the amphitheater you see many shells imbedded in the concrete along with small pebbles and sometimes even glass. This particular shell was much larger than usual.
It's easy to see how modern stadiums are designed to be just like the amphitheaters of the Romans, even the way the entrances to the seats are organized.
It’s easy to see how modern stadiums are designed to be just like the amphitheaters of the Romans, even the way the entrances to the seats are organized.
Built during the reign of Augustus and plundered during the Middle Ages for building materials it wasn't rediscovered until the 19th century. Personally I am disappointed to see a theater like this with all the new scaffolding and lights for use in modern times though will admit I've been to performances in spaces like this which are quite magical. Another one of those two sides to the argument things.
This theater was built during the reign of Augustus (1st century) and plundered during the Middle Ages for building materials it wasn’t rediscovered until the 19th century. Personally I am disappointed to see a theater like this with all the new scaffolding and lights for use in modern times though will admit I’ve been to performances in spaces like this which are quite magical. Another one of those two sides to the argument things.
This is a well preserved Romanesque church.  The portal is decorated with biblical scenes and figures of important church leaders.
This is a well preserved Romanesque church. The portal is decorated with biblical scenes and figures of important church leaders.
Here you can see some of the figurative details on one side of the portal.  I especially like the "creatures" depicted in the foreground.
Here you can see some of the figurative details on one side of the portal. I especially like the “creatures” depicted in the foreground.
Subterranean galleries ventilated by air shafts were part of the forum's structure.
Subterranean galleries ventilated by air shafts were part of the forum’s structure.
Later used as grain storage spaces they were built in the 1st century BCE
Later used as grain storage spaces they were built in the 1st century BCE
There are three different crossing tunnel sections.
There are three different crossing tunnel sections.
The Place de la République is what is on top of the crypto portico today.  Notice the obelisk in the center from ancient times.
The Place de la République is what is on top of the crypto portico today. Notice the obelisk in the center from ancient times.
A street demonstration of the communist party protesting the changes in work rules in France.  Many teachers in this group have job security but are in solidarity with others who do not.
A street demonstration of the communist party protesting the changes in work rules in France. Many teachers in this group have job security but are in solidarity with others who do not.

Location Location Location

This posting is about three small towns all of which are tourist destinations for different reasons.  L’Isle Sur La Sorgue is the closest to where we are staying and is a cute town with a small river (the Sorgue) running through it.  There are more ice cream shops than banks and it attracts attention for having a great daily market but the thing that gets the most attention is a once a week antiques market that we avoided.  Roussillon is a charming hill town whose buildings are all ochre colored because it is where ochre has been mined since ancient times. There are many galleries and shops where you can buy all kinds of artist pigments.  The third town is St. Remy en Provence and its claim to fame is the asylum where Vincent van Gogh spent time and from where he painted many of his most well known works (more on him later).

The river runs through the heart of the town and it's sometimes called the Venice of Provence.
The river runs through the heart of the town and it’s sometimes called the Venice of Provence.
These two happy pooches were waiting for their owner who was across the river shopping.  When he came out of the store they swam across, jumped up on the dock, and went on their merry way.
These two happy pooches were waiting for their owner who was across the river shopping. When he came out of the store they swam across, jumped up on the dock, and went on their merry way.
The open air market covers one side of the river and the restaurants and shops on the other.
The open air market covers one side of the river and the restaurants and shops on the other.
On the way to Roussillon a demonstration of farmers and their tractors, very patriotic, NOT a protest.
On the way to Roussillon a demonstration of farmers and their tractors, very patriotic, NOT a protest.
Hay "art"
Hay “art”
Ochre (from yellow to red to orange pigments) has been used since prehistoric times.  It was especially in demand in the 18th century for dying textiles and that's when this town was booming.  Now it's a tourist/artist haven.
Ochre (from yellow to red to orange pigments) has been used since prehistoric times. It was especially in demand in the 18th century for dying textiles and that’s when this town was booming. Now it’s a tourist/artist haven.
As you can see the hillsides show the ochre that was mined and processed from the 18th century to 1930.
As you can see the hillsides show the ochre that was mined and processed from the 18th century to 1930.
Looking out from the highest point in the town.
Looking out from the highest point in the town.
Entrance to the old mines below the town.
Entrance to the old mines below the town.
The color of the buildings is distinctive because of the ochre.
The color of the buildings is distinctive because of the ochre.
Fun for artists- pigments galore
Fun for artists- pigments galore
These are the different natural colors of the ochre.
These are the different natural colors of the ochre.
The town of St Remy en Provence's architecture is in stark contrast to the color of the buildings in Roussillon.
The town of St Remy en Provence’s architecture is in stark contrast to the color of the buildings in Roussillon.
Tenacious wisteria
Tenacious wisteria
For some reason this was a fairly quiet day in this little town
For some reason this was a fairly quiet day in this little town
Alleyway with a built in sukkah
Alleyway with a built in sukkah
A nice composition of "Frenchness"
A nice composition of “Frenchness”
This is the birthplace of Nostradamus, originally a Jewish French apothecary from the 15th century. He started out in medicine and ended in the occult.  His predictions are easily interpreted to mean whatever you want them to.
This is the birthplace of Nostradamus, originally a Jewish French apothecary from the 15th century. He started out in medicine and ended in the occult. His predictions are easily interpreted to mean whatever you want them to.

Immigrant Popes

From 1309-1377 the popes moved from Rome to Avignon because of a dispute between France and Rome.  A French pope (Clement V) decided not to move to Rome and instead established his papacy in Avignon from where the next seven popes ruled. Gregory XI decided to move back to Rome.  Upon his death the new pope Urban VI was disliked by some cardinals who reestablished a papacy in Avignon for a short period and considered illegitimate and called anti-popes.  This lasted through two popes and ended in 1407.

Palais des Papes was home to all this and is the centerpiece of Avignon.  Many renovations adding portions and then taking portions away depending on the pope (or anti-pope) and lots of restorations some good and some not so good have taken place since.  Well documented for a visit with simulations, reading material, etc.

The Palais des Papes remained under Papal control until taken over by Napoleon.

The exterior you see shows many styles and features some of the additions and restorations, one of the primary restorations was the re-addition of the towers (pointed at the top) Most of what you see is what is called International Gothic style.
The exterior you see shows many styles and features some of the additions and restorations, one of the primary restorations was the re-addition of the towers (pointed at the top) Most of what you see is what is called International Gothic style.
This gives you some idea of the scale of the architecture (from the back).
This gives you some idea of the scale of the architecture (from the back).
One of the remaining painted ceilings.  This is an example of Trompe L'oeil (trick of the eye) and also of rib vaulting
One of the remaining painted ceilings. This is an example of Trompe L’oeil (trick of the eye) and also of rib vaulting
When you see a ceiling like this you understand that wooden ceilings are rare from this time period as they were susceptible to fire.
When you see a ceiling like this you understand that wooden ceilings are rare from this time period as they were susceptible to fire.
A view into the inner courtyard, notice the crenelations along the top edges, synonymous with the Middle Ages, decorative and useful for shooting through.
A view into the inner courtyard, notice the crenelations along the top edges, synonymous with the Middle Ages, decorative and useful for shooting through.
The Medieval version of the barrel bomb
The Medieval version of the barrel bomb
This architectural element gives you a sense of the decorative quality.
This architectural element gives you a sense of the decorative quality.
gargoyle in situ
Sorry for the blurriness but this gives you an idea of where the gargoyle might be found.
Used for obviously big occasions such as festivals and banquets.  The popes used 1/4 of their treasury on this building.  This is how it looks in its restored state.  The ceiling was recreated from frescoes of the time.
Used for obviously big occasions such as festivals and banquets. The popes used 1/4 of their treasury on this building. This is how it looks in its restored state. The ceiling was recreated from frescoes of the time.
The wall of the audience hall restores shows some of the Roman style arches.
The wall of the audience hall restores shows some of the Roman style arches.
This is a simulation of how the audience hall might have looked in its time.
This is a simulation of how the audience hall might have looked in its time.
This is a bit of wall painting left that is a great example of Trompe L'oeil.
This is a bit of wall painting left that is a great example of Trompe L’oeil.
Most of the frescoes that could be saved have been moved for safekeeping.  Here is a bit from the chapel.
Most of the frescoes that could be saved have been moved for safekeeping. Here is a bit from the chapel.
This chapel is 160ft long and is also an example of the International Gothic style.
This chapel is 160ft long and is also an example of the International Gothic style.
A mythological creature hybrid of a lion and dragon combined, specific to this region of Provence.  There is even a town called Tarasque.  The story associated with it is a kind of Beauty and the Beast legend.
A mythological creature hybrid of a lion and dragon combined, specific to this region of Provence. There is even a town called Tarasque. The story associated with it is a kind of Beauty and the Beast legend.
I particularly enjoyed this rendering in front of a closed door where they are renovating and restoring frescoes.  It is closed to the public but gives one a glimpse of how this may have looked in "its" day.
I particularly enjoyed this rendering in front of a closed door where they are renovating and restoring frescoes. It is closed to the public but gives one a glimpse of how this may have looked in “its” day.

In the right place at the wrong time

A few months ago we arrived in Minneapolis on the day Prince died and it was a somber city for the few days we were there though I learned more about Prince than I ever had before.  We arrived in France the day after the British people voted to leave the European Union.  It seemed a somber atmosphere at the airport, not many smiling or laughing people but they may also have been jet lagged as we were.  We have not had much opportunity to speak with people and our French is not good enough for French TV.  We have arrived at our pied-à-terre for the week and most of the conversation has been with our fellow American friends staying here.

What I can say, and what the newspapers are saying, is that people have voted with their emotions instead of their brains.  Does this sound like something we should pay attention to?

If you are in my class right now a few of you have remarked about “old” buildings and of course I’m here in the land of old buildings.  We are staying in a 400 year old farm house lovingly restored and now shared with others.

We spent the afternoon in Avignon, famous for the song written in the 16th century about the bridge that goes to a dance (which was performed under the bridge).  I learned it as a child and never knew what it was all about.  Now I do.  Avignon is a Medieval walled city that became the papal home and center of power from 1307-1377 with 7 popes residing there before their return to Rome.  For a time there were two popes (one in Rome and the other in Avignon) known as the Great Schism.  More about this in the next post.

These trees are 400 years old as well and in the foreground is lavender that is in full bloom right now. Expect to see fields of it over the next few days.
These trees are 400 years old as well and in the foreground is lavender that is in full bloom right now. Expect to see fields of it over the next few days.
This is the view looking out from the house. Beautiful sunset and all seems peaceful in the world.
This is the view looking out from the house. Beautiful sunset and all seems peaceful in the world.
A 400 year old farmhouse restored lovingly and shared with others.
A 400 year old farmhouse restored lovingly and shared with others.
The outside fortified walls of Avignon, one of the few cities to still have the entire wall intact, built during the time of the popes' residencies.
The outside fortified walls of Avignon, one of the few cities to still have the entire wall intact, built during the time of the popes’ residencies.
In addition to protection from invaders the walls also helped protect the city from flooding from the Rhone river which runs alongside.
In addition to protection from invaders the walls also helped protect the city from flooding from the Rhone river which runs alongside.
This is the bridge associated with the song "Sous le Pont d'Avignon"
This is the bridge associated with the song “Sous le Pont d’Avignon”
Avignon has a population of around 100,000 and 12,000 of them live inside the walls. Unfortunately the "newer" city is fairly uninteresting.
Avignon has a population of around 100,000 and 12,000 of them live inside the walls. Unfortunately the “newer” city is fairly uninteresting.

Street scene

This alley leads to the Palais des Papes.
This alley leads to the Palais du Papes.