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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lions, cider and jazz, oh my!

Two weeks ago two friends and I took a day-trip to Vienne , France for their wildly popular annual Jazz Fest.  Left early and came back after midnight , with lots of outdoor jazz concerts, picnics, sangria and old Roman remnants.  We walked out of the train station right into the middle of the city and saw the strangest sights.  Just in front of us was a fully mature male lion (in cage) and two men dressed in circus costumes walking a zebra and a donkey. Insane!  I walked right up to the lion and was so close I could smell his breath.  His eyes were striking and had the zebra and donkey in sight the entire time, occasionally darting if the horses moved.  He definitely wanted to snack on those four-leggeds, but gave the humans zero interest.  I’ve never been so close to a lion without separating glass, however as I was just as close to see his enormous canine teeth, the names “Siegfried” and “Roy” popped in my head and I backed up.  Pictures taken, astonishing animal, done.

Vienne is a small town situated on the Rhône river and home to many well-preserved Roman ruins.  An amphitheatre built in 40-50 AD was one of the biggest in Rome , and back in its heyday held 13,000 Romans, and continues to be in use.  The view of the city from the top of the Amphitheatre was spectacular, and I took several (i.e. a lot!) of pictures.  The Augustus and Livia Temple was built around 10-20 BC on a sacred area of the Roman forum, and was dedicated to the Roman cult.  I don’t know what the “cult” means, and kept ample distance from the Temple .  Just kidding! Kind of…  The Pyramid is the only remaining item of the Roman Circus; I walked next to it and snapped a couple pictures.  After, I looked at the sketches of all that entailed the Roman Circus and realized I had been walking in the footsteps of many lions, tigers and other bizarre activities.  It is absolutely incredible the great form that these Roman monuments still possess despite being built over 2,000 years ago.

Yet another Cathedral graces this area, this one Saint-Maurice.  This was probably the blandest of bland I have seen thus far, but inside had some rather modern and punchy stained glass windows for the 11th century.  I also took a turn on the organ while I was in there, but my musical skills still leave me, and everyone else, oblivious.

The Vienne Jazz Festival has been occurring annually since 1981, and the big performers get the Amphitheatre ambiance, with smaller and more intimate open-air concerts all over the city.  We set up for a dinner picnic with fantastic background vibes, and by night were serenaded by Al Green in the Amphitheatre.  While we didn’t want to pay Green’s ticket price, we decided to camp out just next to the gates with drinks and snacks.  We didn’t get the built-in amphitheatre sounds, but we did claim a street corner, danced in the street and drank awful cider.  The cider was so bad that we had to plug our noses and chug – the pictures are laughable, yet very memorable.

Hope you all enjoy the pictures and stories!  Tomorrow (Sunday) I am going to the Alps mountains for some sightseeing and hiking, and next weekend to Paris to see the Grand Finale of Le Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées!  If there are any Paris souvenir requests, send them over soon--- I will try to be a good nature photographer and a good sports photographer!!

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