Vaison-la-Romaine is a large town – or perhaps small city – with a long history. The ruins of an ancient Roman town (defaced with ugly modern art) border the younger part of the city.
Above the lower city, across the river, towers the medieval old town with the ruins of its castle.
Although the street leading across the bridge is lined with souvenir shops for tourists, the town is not a sterile Disneyland as for example Mont-Saint-Michel. People still live and work in it, and it has a lived-in feel to it.
Books were lined up on walls and ledges in many streets and corners throughout town, asking (as per the stickers on them) to be adopted by interested passerbys. Anything from old history books, over novels, to children's books.
The old town is rather spacious. The road often forks, alleys lead up the hill in different directions, and between the houses may be walled gardens.
As the path reaches the top of the hill, pavement makes way for bare rock, into which some streets and stairs are carved.
On the rocky peak sit the well-preserved ruins of the comtal castle, once overlooking the land in all directions. Established by Count Raymond V of Toulouse in the 12th century as a wooden motte, the castle was expanded multiple times over the centuries. It gradually fell out of use after the 16th century, being slowly abandoned and eventually left to fall into ruin.
The many roads back downhill lad past gardens, alleys, restaurants, little courtyards. There is a lot to see, many little corners and details; the town is dense and mazelike.
From within the streets and between the houses, it would be easy to forget how high it towers above the valley, how its houses crowds atop a rock. The roads slope gently, and open areas and little squares break up the network of alleys..
The lower city of later centuries is more spread out, and largely follows a square grid layout more suited for cars.
By the time I returned there, ticket sales to the Roman ruins were closed down for lunch break, so I could not explore that whole area.