Sunday, March 13, 2016

Outing to Orange with Friends Alain and Mimi and lunch at l'Arausio Restaurant

One Sunday several weeks back, friend Alain who with wife Mimi own the epicerie in Sablet, asked me if we were free Monday afternoon. I replied yes, and he said they would pick us up in front of the boulangerie at 11:45 on Monday, a day when the epicerie is closed every week. Once in the car, they told us they had reserved at a restaurant in Orange, a town about 30 minutes southwest of Sablet.

Orange is an ancient Roman town on the east side of the Rhône River north of Avignon. The historic center of Orange is like a small town with narrow streets, picturesque squares and a famous Roman Theater and Triumphal Arch that I told you about here and here.

Roman Orange was founded in 35 BC by veterans of the second legion as Arausio (after the local Celtic water god), or Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio in full, "the Julian colony of Arausio established by the soldiers of the second legion."

According to Ina Caro in her book "The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France", Orange of two thousand years ago was a miniature Rome, complete with many of the public buildings that would have been familiar to citizens of the Roman Empire, except that the scale of the buildings had been reduced – a smaller theater to accommodate a smaller population, for example.

At the end of the 16th century, the Governor of Orange ordered the construction of the Temple seen below for the Dominicans who had established themselves in Orange back in 1269. In 1810, the Temple was bought back by the town of Orange under imperial order and given to the Protestants as a place of worship.

Protestant Temple of Orange

Excavations in the 1920s revealed the remains of a temple and its altar, built around a large stone tiled floor, at the heart of a hemicycle. In days gone by it was surrounded by a semicircular portico comprising 52 columns. Some archaeologists thought these ruins are the remains of a circus or a stadium.

Today it is generally thought that the theater and the hemicycle building were an Augusteum, together dedicated to the worship of the Emperor. The temple was 79 feet wide and 115 feet long, and rose up above a podium. A large paved street separated the temple and the theater.

To the north of the temple, under the site of the road and the museum, was the forum. A wall running alongside the esplanade of the temple was adorned with 12 fountains, symbolizing the twelve months of the year.

Archaeological excavations next to the Roman Theater and across the street from l'Arausio Restaurant 

As it was February, there were not many people in Orange and we easily found parking and restaurant l'Arausio across the street from the archeological excavations next to the Roman Theater.

Shirley standing in front of l'Arausio Restaurant

The restaurant is owned by the chef Stéphane Andres and his wife Valérie, daughter of Josiane and Franck Gomez who owned the now shuttered La Table du Comtat hotel/restaurant in Séguret. Incidentally, La Table du Comtat was the first restaurant where we dined when we came to sign the papers for the purchase of our house in Sablet.

l'Arausio Restaurant

As I mentioned earlier, the town of Orange was originally named Arausio, which is the origin of the restaurant's name.

Chateau Blanc

A deliciously prepared and served meal followed. You can see for yourself in the pictures which follow.

The two "amis" Michel and Alain

Creamy scrambled eggs with girolles mushrooms and a Mâche salad

Salmon roasted on the skin with morel mushroom risotto and squash flan

Pan roasted scallops over spinach with butternut squash puree and morel mushroom risotto

Beef fillet with potatoes sardalaises

Café Gourmand

After our excellent meal, we said our au revoirs and headed out to walkabout central Orange. I should say that Mimi, seen below has taken it upon herself to help/push Shirley speak French. She is Shirley's biggest fan.

Friends Shirley and Mimi are having a good time

Looking down Rue Mazeau to the stone arched gate

The population of Orange is approximately 30,000, third largest in the Vaucluse after Avignon and Carpentras. The ancient center of Orange is compact, interesting and easy to explore. The center of Orange is more like a village, and can be visited in a half-day, exclusive of a visit to the Roman Theater.

The Orange Mairie (town hall) on Place Clemenceau

Old church in center of Orange

Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth Cathedral seen below is a Roman Catholic church and former cathedral, and national monument of France. Construction began in the 12th century. It was gravely damaged during the War of Religions in 1561. It was the seat of the Bishop of Orange and a cathedral until 1801 when it became the town parish.

Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth Cathedral

Rue Victor Hugo in the center of Orange

Center of Orange

We definitely recommend a visit to the Roman Theater and Triumphal Arch and a walkabout the center of Orange. Don't hesitate to reserve a table at l'Arausio Restaurant, maybe Thursday when the weekly market takes place. Have a great week.

l'Arausio Restaurant
9 Rue du Mazeau
84100 Orange
Tel: 04 32 81 13 19


  1. Shirley does not speak French? I am so surprised! Go for it Shirley! You can do it! is an excellent and free website to learn any language. And it's fun! I use it to keep up to snuff between visits. Love seeing what you two are up to, your blogs always make me hungry. :-)

    1. Shirley is making great progress, understands quite well. She loves, way better than Rosetta Stone. Happy to hear you enjoy our blog posts.