Tarascon Tourist Attractions
Tarascon gets its name from the Tarasque, a fabulous man-eating creature of wild appearance said to have dwelt here and which only St Martha was successful in pacifying. It has become the heraldic animal of the town celebrated by a festival in June, the Fête de la Tarasque, when a terrifying effigy of the creature is led through the procession.No less romantic is the second notability, Tartarin de Tarascon, the hero of the novel by Alphonse Daudet. Short and somewhat stocky with a black beard and quite warlike in his behavior, he is nevertheless more inclined to dream his adventures rather than carry them out in reality; in the long run he values physical well-being more highly than war and deprivation, and with his lovable humanity he is, for many, the embodiment of the Provençal character.
Château du Roi René
Immediately north of the road bridge (Boulevard du Château), on the banks of the Rhône, stands the massive fortress-like castle of Château du Roi René. Its origins go back to the late 14th C. and it was named after René, Duke of Anjou and former King of Naples (called "le Bon Roi René"), who ordered the completion of the castle in the middle of the 15th C. and who provided for artists and scientists a comfortable and courtly existence.Protected on one side by the river and on the other by a deep moat, the solid castle resisted every siege and attack right up to the bombardment by Allied forces in 1944. The building includes a court of honor; from the battlements there is a fine view.
The Church of Ste-Marthe in Tarascon, originated in the 10th C., but is now predominantly Gothic. The doorway to the south aisle is interesting, in spite of damage to the figures in the decoration. Inside the church is a panel by Pierre Parrocel, a less well-known member of the family of painters; in the crypt can be seen the Sarcophagus of St Martha, whose remains were found in Tarascon.
Hôtel de Ville
The Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) dates from the 17th C. Also in the Old Town there are a number of fine old buildings.
Outside of Tarascon are an abbey and the town of Beaucaire.
The little town of Beaucaire lies on the right bank of the Rhône opposite Tarascon and is in the Région of Languedoc-Roussillon and the Département of Gard. It was once famous in the whole of the Western World for its market (Foire de Beaucaire), which has existed since 1217 and which takes place from July 21 to 28. Today it includes a historical procession, concerts and bullfights. Noteworthy is the beautiful Town Hall (1679-83), built by J. Hardouin-Mansart. Above the town are the ruins of a castle of the 13th-14th C. from which there is a rewarding view.
Abbaye St Roman
About 5km/3mi to the north of Beaucaire, on the other side of the Rhône, is the Abbaye (Troglodytique) of St-Roman, which is built into the rocks (fifth C.). Access is by following the road parallel to the D986L; 15-minute walk from the parking lot.
From the top of the hill near Tarascon (go straight up the mountain from the turning off the D986L) there is a superb view across about 40km/25mi of the Rhône Valley from Avignon to Arles (Fourques Power Station), the mountain chains of the Montagnette and the Alpilles, as well as Tarascon and Beaucaire.