While staying in Vaison-la-Romaine we were able to tour some of the towns and villages in the area. We found Orange to be very interesting.

I had read about the Roman Theatre and was thinking of a coliseum like structure - similar to the what is in Arles. But the theatre in Orange is a dramatic theatre that was used to stage plays. The Théâtre Antique and the Arc de Triomphe are two of the largest Roman structures standing in in Western Europe.

Built in pre-christian times, with the rise of Christianity, the theatre was ordered closed by the after the fall of Rome. It stood idle for years. Then the town of Orange was invaded and the theatre was sacked and burned. During Medieval times it became its own fortified town with houses and streets. Later during the French Revolution it was converted into a prison. Then, thankfully for us today, in the 1800's, while it was still serving as a prison, efforts were made to reconstruct what could be back to its status as theatre.

As a Roman Theatre the productions lasted the entire day. The theatre had a retractable canvas roof. Built into the side of a hill, the hill forms the nature slope for the rows of seats to rise from ground level to a significant height.

The Arch de Triomphe, built around 20 BC, is covered with intricate frieze and relief, It was built by the Romans to celebrate their victories against the Gauls. Originally built well outside the walls of the town, today it sits in a traffic circle but still stands a regal as ever.

vOur next destination is the Abbaye de Sénanque located just outside of the town of Gordes. The Abbaye dates from the 12th Century. So many start at that time as there was a massive expansion in building monasteries across Europe. In the 12th Century over 700 were built.

A community of cistercian monks returned to the abbaye in 1988 and today live and pray in the abbaye. Tours of the abbaye are limited to specific times as this is an "active" abbaye. More information in the Cloisters Site.

The abbaye church is plain, as nothing was to detract the monks from their prayers. Cistercian Abbayes are known for their extreme simplicity in design. Only light, a symbol of God, is allowed to transform the space.

Our next goal is to stay in the costal town of Cassis. This is one of those towns that arriving without reservations can prove difficult. Traffic is a nightmare and there are few places to park your car while you scout out possible places to stay. Some hotels had rooms but no parking. Our advice. Don't even consider such locations. After hours or finding nothing we do what we always do, move on to the next town.

FrancerWe arrive in LaCiotat and things just got better. Don't bypass the tourist office located at the end of the old port. Although they won't make reservations for you, they have a list of what hotel is sold out and that saves some time. LaCiotat has some charm, and it also has a couple of the biggest ship cranes you will ever see. It is a port for oil large ships and the dry docks are the dominate view is you look across the water. Get over it and enjoy the rest of the town.

We found a room in the very basic Hotel The Rose. Some of the rooms were plain and basic. But this is an example of where you can afford to take the best room in the hotel. We did and our room had a huge patio overlooking the water. At 7:00 pm the hotel door is locked, all the staff leave and you enter via your access code. So you would not want to stay here if you are looking for a full service hotel.

France Of course the thing to do here is to book yourself on one of the boats that take you along the Colanque de Figuerolles - a series or fiords and rock cliffs that are very interesting.

The first day in LaCiotat was wonderful, sunny and hot, our hotel was only a few feet from the beach and on the first day we were debating about asking for the room for a second night.

FranceWe decided we might as well do that in the morning, as if the room had not been rented out by now, the doors would be locked soon. That night a major rain system moved in and the next morning we decided to make a run for Lucca to see if that would be far enough to get away from the system. Our thoughts were that even it is rainy there, at least there is more to look at in the city.



Of course there is plenty to see in Lucca. As with many of the towns in Tuscana, the town has has numerous towers.


Towers in Lucca


Piazza Antitheatro

Lucca Cassa della Penna

The Cathedral dates from the 11th century. Each of the columns that are in the top portion of the facade were created by local artisans and each one is different. Inside, which was rebuilt in the 14th and 15 centuries, is an impressive pulpit the was designed by Matteo Civitali and the 15th Century "small temple", the tempietto, that holds the Volta Santo. This is a simply fashioned image of Christ on a wooden crucifix that was carbed by artisan Nicodemus who was supposed to be a witness to the crucifixion. Tintoretto's Last Supper hangs over the third altar of the southern aisle.

The Piazza Antitheatro has the buildings form a complete circle around the piazza. Of course, there is also a Great Pen Shop in Lucca - reason enough for a trip.

LuccaWe had the opportunity to attend and even called Puccini e la sua Lucca - two singers sang arias from the works of Puccini. Enjoyable and their voices filled the old church.

We stayed at the Hotel Universo, located right in the centre of town. We have stayed there before, and knew it was expensive. But this is a lesson not to just book in the hotel and not ask the price of the room. We arrived at the end of a long hard drive, the rain was heavy, it is a non-ending series of tunnels through the mountains between France and Italy. In the end, 160 Euros was too much for the room and the hotel.


We head out in the morning and head towards one of our long standing "towns you can always return to" -- Santa Margherita Ligure. It was like coming home to an old friend and we were able to get a room in the Hotel Jolanda - one of the Great Places to Stay in Italy. There is a slower pace of life in Santa Margherita. The main attraction for many is to take a boat ride along the coast and visit some of the other towns. For us, we rested, enjoyed the food and wine and then the following day moved on to our next destination. If in Santa Margherita make sure you eat at the Oca Bianca.

AlassioNot far down along the autostrada is the town of Alassio - another of our places to stay along this stretch of the coast.

We have always enjoyed this town. One of the best beaches in Italy. The only concerning thing is the work on a new convention centre. This does involve the restoration of the classic old Hotel Alassio but we wonder what price will be paid for that contribution.

We have some of the best gelato in Italy and then drive on to our final stop on this trip - Villefranche-sur-Mer. We stay at the Hotel Le Versailles. We have mixed feelings about this hotel. The views from the rooms, they all look out over the sea, are incredible. The upkeep of the hotel is in question. We did enjoy the view looking towards Cap Ferat, the pool is super and the thick mattress pads that are provided greatly appreciated. We even ended up eating twice in the hotel restaurant - the food was very good.


NiceVillefranche-sur-Mer is 6 km from Nice, along the lower Cornish road. So we spent a day in Nice which is always a event that I enjoy. Sadly my long standing pen store (Maison du Stylo) has closed but I have found other things to see.





NiceThe old market area, and the flower market in particular is a great way to spend the morning.

So that was it, another great trip.




Roman theatre in Orange

Roman theatre in Orange

Roman theatre in Orange

Arc de Triomphe in Orange

Arch de Triomphe - Orange


Abbaye de Sénanque

La Ciotat