Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dutch and British sailors jailed in Provence

Tarascon's royal castle is a massive dungeon, built in white stone for the Good King Rene,  count of Anjou and king of Provence right on the banks of the Rhone river, just outside the city walls. Among the curiosities  of the building, in a remarkable state of conservation, are the graffitis of erstwhile prisonners, many of them with english-sounding names.The place served as a Naval prison, safely located 30 miles inland : piracy was whitesperad on the lower Rhone, and British crews have been detained in the fortress as late as 1815.

On Saturday, June 26 2010, a reconstitution of the naval conflicts of the era  will be held under the castle walls, during the traditional ' Fete de la Tarasque'complete with boats, guns fireworks, 200 locals in costumes. This will largely beat the retransmission of Fifa World cup matches, in my opinion. Even if you miss the party, this place is a must-see of every voyage in Provence, with a lovely reconstitution of medicinal and aromatic garden in one of the courtyards. Tarascon Itself, half an hour from Avignon, is  a maze of cobbled streets leading to old chapels, museums, the Soleiado  manufacture of fabrics, and good priced restaurants ( I recommend the Brasserie du Palais, were Bernard and Charles speak english, for breakfasts and lunch.).
Tarascon is an interesting site, where the Rhone river flows at its mightiest, just before entering his delta know as the Camargue.  It is a major crossroad for rail, linking Italy, Spain and northern Europe, and was heavily bombed before the allied  forces landing operations in Provence in 1944 : last year's fete de la tarasque was devoted to a reconstitution of the  Allied landing near Saint Tropez.