Thursday, September 18, 2014

The best for the last: Vienne

I had chased all over France, looking up fine, historic sights. But the finest and historicest (is that a word?) was right next door: Vienne. Blandine lives in a little commune right across the river Rhône from Vienne. We have to pass through Vienne every time we want to go anywhere, or shop for groceries for that matter.
Vienne, by the way, is also how the French spell Vienna, but this Vienne is a small town in the middle of France, not far from Lyon. Today, it is almost a suburb of Lyon – Blandine often finds it more convenient to say she lives in Lyon, than provide tedious explanation about Vienne, and her commune. Heck, even I have been using Lyon as shorthand for Vienne in these posts.
But in its Roman summer, Vienne was an even bigger centre than Lyon. While Lyon was Lugdunum to the Romans, Vienne was Vienna. Julius Caesar set it up in 47 BC, taking over an earlier Gallic oppidum (Iron Age fortified settlement) that had been there at the site since Neolithic times. Vienne had its own amphitheatre, temples and palaces, on both sides of the Rhône. Many of these Roman remains can still be seen in the city. On the other side of the Rhône (Blandine’s side), there is a Gallo-Roman museum that houses the remains of what had once been an extensive Roman palace complex.
Vienne was also important in Christian history. Legend has it that the first bishop of Vienne was Crescens, who was sent here by Paul, as mentioned in the New Testament.
Having said all that, I was nearing the end of my visit, and I did not have a single picture of Vienne. It is often that way. You keep thinking you’ll do it ‘One of these days’, until it is too late. I still don’t have a single picture of Jodhpur, my hometown – purportedly one of the most important tourist destinations in India.
Eventually, I did manage to take a few shots of Vienne: on my very last day in France. Here they are, taken in a bit of a hurry, in the midst of packing and a dozen other things:-
 The 11th century Cathedral of Saint-Maurice, the seat of the bishop of Vienne.

The Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia, established by the emperor Claudius. It was for a time was converted to a church in 300AD.

The Roman Forum, also known as the Garden of Cybèle. You can see just a bit of it, behind the makeshift stage of Jazz à Vienne. The International Jazz festival of Vienne was going on at the time, and they had requisitioned the Forum as a stage.
Here is a photo of the de-jazzed Forum, taken from

(Image credit
Similarly, I couldn’t take a photo of the Roman Amphitheatre either. That had been taken over as the main stage for Jazz à Vienne. Here is a Wiki photo of it:-

(Image credit Wiki commons)
Talking of Jazz à Vienne, this is one of the most important gigs in the international Jazz calendar, and I was lucky to be right there when it happened. My last week in France was a week filled with music: I was at the festival all day, every day. I stuck to the free shows in the side stages (like the above Forum stage), where new artists performed. I simply did not have the cash for the ticketed concerts at the amphitheatre. There were people like Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck and Robert Plat at the amphi. Luckily, the standard of performance in the free concerts was also pretty amazing, so I did not miss much, hopefully. I did get to see ONE paid concert though – that was the night Taj Mahal, one of the last living legends of the Blues, was playing. Courtesy Blandine, bless her generous soul.
Here’s a photo of the Taj Mahal concert, taken from his Facebook page. I couldn’t take a shot as cameras were not allowed, and in any case, from where I was sitting at the back of the amphitheatre, he was looked like little guitar-playing insect on the stage.

Back to Vienne:
The church and cloister of Saint-André-Le-Bas, as picturesque a church as any we had seen on our trips. It was established in the 6th century, on the foundations of an older Roman structure.

 Vienne old city. Not as extensive as some other ‘old cities’ I had seen, but personable nonetheless.

The sole medieval house in the old city, right next to the Roman Forum. Today it houses a doner kabab joint run by some Asian immigrants. Mon Dieu! These immigrants are taking over everything!
The refurbished roman bridge across the Rhone. Today it acts as a pedestrian bridge.
A roman tower on the other side of the Rhone.
The church of Vienne and the amphitheatre, seen from across the Rhone

The chateau of Vienne, seen from across the  Rhone.


Marymom said...

3337Glad you could use the picture, Poltu. We enjoyed Vienne very much. It is so full of history. We had many good meals there and probably the best scrambled eggs of my life. Sometimes the small things stick out in one's memory. Happy travels, marymom

poltu said...

Thank you, marymom!