The weather cleared after dinner last night, so we took a short walk through Vienne. We crossed the Rhône and wandered through the non-historic side of town – not terribly picturesque, but real. Once we returned to the ship, we took advantage of our balcony to look out at the darkening hills and saw an interesting looking castle in the distance.
This morning, we joined our guide Martina for the Footsteps of Ancient Romans Walking Tour (the other options were a brisk hike and a long bike ride). We did not cross the Rhône, but we did get to learn about the mystery castle – it’s named La Bâtie and was built in the 13th Century. It’s been turned into a guest house and a winery – they don’t like to throw away buildings here!
As an example, Martina showed us sections of the Second Century Roman wall that were saved and used as part of a modern apartment building.
Then we went into the Cathedral of Saint Michael, which was built beginning in the 11th Century.
The Cathedral lost some of its stained glass windows when the Germans abandoned Vienne on September 1, 1944 (they blew up the bridge Diane and I walked over last night as they were leaving towns and it’s close to the Cathedral), so there’s an interesting mixture of old and new stained glass windows.
But WWII wasn’t the first war that affected the Cathedral; Martina showed us plaques which had been beheaded during the religious wars of the 16th Century.
We left the Cathedral and made our way through the pouring rain (which didn’t last long) to the Temple of Augustus and Livia, which dates back to the 1st Century CE.
France has a program requiring contemporary art to be included in construction and renovation projects; I’m not sure that it fits a First Century temple, but here it is anyway.
Our next stop was the Roman Theatre, but on the way, we saw this interesting half-timbered house with a missing ground floor. When the house was built, taxes were levied based on the area occupied by the ground floor, so omitting the ground floor was a legal form of tax avoidance!
The Roman Theatre is still in active use – the Vienne Jazz Festival is held there every year and there are many other events throughout the year.
We wandered around the theatre for about half-an-hour; then we walked over to the modern Théâtre François Ponsard; the back wall of the theatre was painted in the trompe l’eoil style by the same company that painted the Mur des Canute in Lyon; one window in the wall wasn’t painted – it’s an authentic Roman marble window.
Martina showed us the Archeological Garden of Cybèle just outside the theatre, and then turned us loose to explore Vienne on our own.
Then we walked back to the ship, stopping briefly at the Temple of Augustus and Livia to enjoy it without the rain.
We returned to the ship with a few minutes to spare before lunch; the ship started sailing to Tournon while we were eating, and we spent the rest of the afternoon in transit.
The scenery was wonderful.
We’re staying on the ship tonight because it’s pouring down rain; I’m hoping for better conditions for tomorrow’s wine and chocolate excursion!