Back to our chariot for the latest adventure taking in the Roman city and renowned wine region.
We stopped first for picnic supplies and a whistle-stop tour of Villeneuve’s striking cathedral with it’s fine cloisters.
After that, it was all green for go to Orange for its impressive amphitheatre. Unbeknown to me before the trip, this was the city that spawned the House of Orange, the historic Dutch Royal Dynasty that was to be so prominent and divisive in Europe, none more so than in the United Kingdom and Ireland. I had always assumed Orange to be in the Netherlands – you live and learn, a great bi-product of travel.
We headed straight for the ancient theatre. Wow, it fully justified skipping the interior of its near neighbour in Arles. Not only were the stepped seats in great condition (albeit restored), but the stage, choir and stage wall were remarkably intact, complete with monolithic statue set into the centre of the stage wall recess.
It didn’t take much imagination to picture actors, musicians and singers strutting their stuff for the benefit of the expectant spectators. In fact the site is still used for plays, concerts and operas, with the likes of Maria Callas, Montserrat Caballé and Bjorn Again (?), having played there in relatively modern times.
We spent a good hour and a half in the amphitheatre, imagining actors entering stage left & right and the acoustics of the place reverberating with the sounds of divas & tenors. Definitely worth the time and effort.
The day was turning into a scorcher, so we sought refuge from the heat at a couple of vineyards en route to one of most famous names in wine production. We partook in some ‘degustation’ and made a few purchases along the way, as well as stopping for a picnic in the shade of a huge oak tree.
By the time we arrived at Chateauneuf, it was early afternoon and forty degrees Celsius. We found ourselves to be way our of our depth in the village wineries, the word ‘snob’ springing to mind for the vintners only interested in major orders it seemed.
We made do with a photo of the famed village sign and a pleasant coffee in the relaxing square aside it’s cooling fountain.
It was the time for a leisurely drive back to Villeneuve, spending time to explore off road to get up close and personal with the vines and the immigrant viticulturists who tended to them.
We noticed that the ground beneath the grapes was covered in white pebbles, so placed to keep the heat in the soil.
We thanked our lucky stars that we were not working in this heat and headed back to the hotel for a swim.
For our last night in Villeneuve, we again dined in the square al fresco – a real pleasure that is a rarity back home in the UK, save for the odd pub garden.
We really enjoyed our time there and of course still have the fort, chartreuse (ancient monastery) and the Philippe le Bel Tower (historic observation tower) to visit should we ever venture back this way.
Next day we would be on our way northwards, via a couple of train journeys………