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in ORANGE Provence Orange in Provence is a sunny city with oodles of charm that has been built up over the centuries quite literally - for the Romans were here two millennia ago and the town is proud of its ancient legacy. Janine Marsh explores Orange and falls in love with its delights.
When Louis XIV visited Orange, he said of the theatre that it was “the most beautiful wall in my Kingdom”. He would recognise it if he visited today because, thanks to a quirk of fate, the 1.8m thick, 103m long wall has survived almost intact. High up in the centre of the wall is a statue of the Emperor Augustus – looking down on everyone from his lofty perch. From the ground you’d never know that he’s 3.5m tall. But if you were able to climb up there you’d be able to tell - and how do I know this? Because I did climb up there! My friend Guillaume who works at the tourist office organised a special visit for me. I have vertigo and don't like being up high at all but I wasn't going to miss this unique opportunity so I took a deep breath, kept my eyes to the front - and climbed. If you were thinking this is just a wall then you'd be mistaken because behind that stony time worn exterior is a narrow building. The steps to the top are rough. Carved away by time in places, worn and crumbling in others, whilst some steps are so steep I had to literally pull myself up to them like climbing a tree. Onwards and upwards, round and round we went, through dusty ante chambers, and skinny corridors, crossing planks of wood with deep chasms below. Eventually we emerged onto a platform high up, right behind the famous statue of Emperor Augustus. The Roman Theatre at Orange You can’t go to Orange and not see the UNESCO listed Roman theatre – I think it might actually be against the law! It’s not a theatre like we might know it, a dark interior with plush velvet seats. It’s an open-air theatre with a 37-metre high wall and a stage facing a round auditorium of stone benches, the top seats gleaming white against the azure blue sky. I have to tell you it’s a heap higher up when you're there with the Emperor than it looks from the bottom of the arena. The visitors milling about below posing for selfies on the stone benches, taking photos of me without knowing it, looked tiny. I wondered if they would see my tiny head sticking out behind the statue when they looked at their photos later. I stood on my secret perch for a while contemplating the immense history of this incredible monument. That statue has witnessed life since the year 1AD.
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