Théâtre Antique, Orange
|Antique Theatre, Orange|
I posed the question to a fellow traveller who thought I looked a bit hung-over as we waited on the platform of Orange railway station in Provence.
"I haven't", he replied, "and I don't know anyone who has, either".
"It must just be me, then", I said.
Orange is situated in the Vaucluse region of Provence and is home to many well-preserved Roman monuments. According to legend, the valiant Guillaume au Court, nephew of Charlemagne, became its first Dream Lord, and his short nose is represented as a horn on the town's coat of arms, above three oranges. But it is self-evidently a legend, since I've travelled widely in France, and have yet to see a Frenchman with a short nose.
|Roman Victory Arch|
Orange is a small place and it didn't take long to track down the Antique Theatre. I thought it would be throbbing with tourists, but apart from a couple of teenagers billing and cooing on the terrace, the place was deserted. I stepped over the turtle doves and found somewhere to sit.
The monument dates from the first century A.D. and is the only Roman theatre that still has its stage wall. Gosh! The outer wall measures 103 metres in length and 37 metres in height. There are 16 bays at the ground level, of which four are for the use of the performers. It is still a working theatre in the summer months of July and August when it is a meeting place for artists and music lovers from around the world.
I spent about 30 minutes in the theatre and then made my way to the exit. Romeo and Juliet had passed the billing and cooing stage and were now into heavy petting. Another few minutes and he would be sending the colonel in, so I felt it was a good time to leave. Besides, it was already mid-afternoon and I hadn't eaten since breakfast.
It is at this point in the narrative that things started to go pear shaped. I found a pleasant restaurant but they had finished serving for the day. However, the waitress/chef/owner said that she could prepare a dish for me if I was prepared to wait. So I ordered a carafe of the house red, and then another. By the time the meal arrived (probably about an hour later) I had consumed the second carafe and ordered a third. An hour after that (or possibly two) I stumbled out of the restaurant and found myself in the main square.
The next morning it was pouring with rain and in addition the French rail workers were having a 'day of action', which is what they call 24 hours when they don't do anything. I wanted to get to Lyon where a friend was meeting me at the station. Finally a train arrived. It was crowded and I couldn't find a seat. So I went to the buffet coach where a young French woman was sitting with a BBC publication Advanced English Conversations. I struck up a conversation with her and she was able to practice her new skills as the train sped up the Rhône valley through the torrential rain.
Them were the days!