A Trip to France 9: More Vaison-la-Romaine

by Brenda W. Clough

We had not realized the Roman site at Vaison-la-Romaine was so enormous, so we went back. Most of the old Roman town is under contemporary construction, but a tobacco millionaire at the beginning of the 20th century invested a huge sum in buying land and excavating. Unfortunately the fashion in the period was also restoration, and much of the theater had handsome new concrete risers poured over the ancient (and probably un-sittable) stones. The section of the water feature in the first photograph is in suspiciously good shape. This, combined with the generally-less stupendous ruins available, has kept Vaison from getting that coveted Unesco or World Heritage designation.

The second photo shows the Roman bridge over the river, leading to the medieval city on the other side. Amazingly, this is still in daily use. Cars drive merrily across the stone pavement and zoom on away. Have a look at the quite ancient building to the left of the bridge. It too is still inhabited and has been updated for modern commerce; I believe if you go round the corner it’s a gift and souvenir shop. Someone has cut into the ancient wall and installed new French doors — see the workman’s ladder. I do not doubt that a little iron balcony will follow, perhaps with a cafe table and two chairs so the tenant can enjoy a pastis while watching the river run under a bridge 2000 years old.

 Finally, the obligatory cat shot. Two black cats live on the site of La Villasse. Cats are encouraged at French sites, to keep down the rats and mice; the ones in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris are welcome tenants and in the arena at Arles I spotted an ancient nook furnished with a dish of kibble. These two are clearly siblings, and not going to get buddy-buddy with a bunch of tourists. Instead they maintain a proper French sang-froid, refusing to be petted but willing to tolerate our adoration. We saw similar black cats at the Pont du Gard. Does this mean that all cats at French archaeological sites are black ones?

 

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires.
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