Saturday, September 20, 2014
20.09.2014 - 21.09.2014
Up bright and early for European Patrimony Days when nearly all tourist sites are free. We wanted to find parking in Tarascon so left early. We zipped over in about a half hour . . . faster than we expected. Drove right to the castle and easily parked right beside it. Only problem . . . it wasn’t open yet. Too early.
We noticed a grotesque statue on the edge of the castle grounds so walked over to discover the “Tarasque, a mythological beast that had once terrorized these lands. It figures in many local legends. According to the local tourist office, [The king of Nerluc had attacked the Tarasque with knights and catapults to no avail. But Saint Martha found the beast and charmed it with hymns and prayers, and led back the tamed Tarasque to the city. The people, terrified by the monster, attacked it when it drew nigh. The monster offered no resistance and died there. Martha then preached to the people and converted many of them to Christianity. Sorry for what they had done to the tamed monster, the newly-Christianized townspeople changed the town's name to Tarascon.]
We walked over to the very impressive Collegial Royale Ste. Marthe across the street and started to explore. It is set up with motion sensors so when you enter an area, the lights come on. Effective. All the chapels are closed off with very attractive iron work. It's beautiful but makes it difficult to photograph things behind it. We did go down in the crypt to see Ste. Marthe very thankful for the automatic lights.
By the time we finished, the château was open so we walked in and got our free passes (Patrimony Day). Whee! The first rooms were servants quarters and in the largest they have set up wonderful interactive stations to make the history more meaningful. They had puzzles for kids and touchable sculptures for everyone. It was fun. Then we walked through the tiny but lovely garden.
Next we approached the Royal Château with at least a million steps, most spiral. You explore the courtyard and chapel and start up the spiral stairs that fortunately were even and had railings. At each level you stop and explore the rooms. At the top, you are on the top of the Keep and can see for miles. Great Views. On one side you can look across the Rhone River and see the town of Beaucaire and its Château so you are looking from Château to Château. Fun!
Then you start down another set of spiral staircases, again stopping at each level to visit rooms. On the descent you go through several rooms of a costume museum of knights and their ladies. It was well done and interesting. Naturally you exit through their gift store.
This brought us to lunch time. Ed wasn’t excited about the restaurant across the street so we set off into Old Town. We passed the church and went down rue de College and rue Clerc de Molliéres to discover a covered walkway at rue des Halles that we followed to the Hotel de Ville finding most stores and the few restaurants closed. At Place du Marché there were a couple places open but not very attractive. We continued and ended up on the main road walking around town . . . everything closed. Finally we came to a port to a tree-lined street, entered and asked where the center or the tourist office was and got a vague “la bas.” Ed stopped in the next tabac and the kind man gave him directions and a map. Moving on we found a few open bars and finally ended up on Cours Aristide Briande where some cafés were open. None of them would take MasterCard so we trudged on. Finally at Place Colonel Berrurier, the third place we asked took MasterCard. Hooray . . . lunch. We had worked up an appetite.
The restaurant was Le Terminus and it was wonderful. They had a 13.50 menu that looked good but the 19.90 menu had confit de canard so we chose that. Ed got a charcuterie plate to start and I ordered bruschetta. Either plate could have been a meal. My bruschetta, a huge slice of country loaf, was covered in ham and shaved Parmesan with a green salad on the side! The confit de canard was tender and delicious accompanied by mixed vegetables, bread and a bowl of frites that we couldn’t begin to eat. Ed passed on the cheese course but I ate part of one cheese. There were three on the plate. Ed got citron and cassis sorbet for dessert and I got profiterolles. It was wonderful but we were stuffed. I must add the bathroom was large, spotless and handicapped equipped. Very unusual in France. [Le Terminus Restaurant, 6 place du Colonel Berrurier 13150 Tarascon; tel: +33 (0)4 9096-5301; open noon to 2 PM and 7:30 to 9:30 PM]
We walked back to our car to find two people parked illegally blocking an easy exit. A car came in behind us so I motioned him into our spot which created another road block. The two illegals moved, positioning themselves to pull into our spot but Ed somehow managed to back out blocking them and let the fellow we’d invited into our spot. We didn’t stay to see what happened!
Drove home and iced my ankle before church and then drove to Eygalières to church where there was a sign saying Mass would be tomorrow at St. Andiol instead. An Englishman asked us about it. He didn’t understand the sign and didn’t know where St. Andiol was. As Ed explained it all, a voice said, “Those Americans. You can’t believe a word they say.” We turned around and there stood Carol Lynn and David. What a surprise! We all chatted for a while and the Englishman left on his bicycle. We told Carol Lynn and David about the Chapel of St. Sixte down the road and they set off to find it while we drove home to change plans for tomorrow.