Immaculately restored castle
See www.tarascon.org. A tatty riverside town with an immaculately restored castle, Tarascon was once terrorized by the legendary and fierce tarasque. A sharp-toothed monster with a taste for young children and a huge tail ideal for thrashing up a storm on the Rhône, the tarasque was finally subdued by St Martha who dashed over from the holy landing party at Saintes-Maries. She stayed on to keep an eye on the townsfolk, and her tomb can be seen in the Gothic Collégiate Royale, near the château.
The Château de Tarascon is a beauty: sheer walls rising from their reflection in the Rhône, a courtyard well almost 50 m high overlooked by the Royal Apartments, and a blustery roof terrace from which Robespierre’s cronies were tossed to their deaths in 1794. Good King René of Provence held court here in the 15thC, when the Rhône marked the boundary between France and the Holy Roman Empire.
French-held Château de Beaucaire on the opposite bank was largely demolished by Richelieu, but its crumbling ruins afford marvellous views back to Tarascon. Beaucaire was once famous for its summer fair, and several of the quiet streets are named after the jewellers, wine merchants and gunsmiths who gathered in enclaves to set up their stalls.