Category: Pont du Gard

pont du gard show

Pont du Gard. Lights, Cameras, Action!

Each year The ancient Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard is alive with an exciting sound and light show. 

No one does it better than the French!

More about Pont du Gard:

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

Summer 2019 don’t miss the Pont du Gard light show:  “The Bridge at Dusk” 

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

Tracing the history of the Romans in the south of France is a fascination I am anxious to share with visitors.

Guests visiting from North Carolina were more than happy to take the short ride from Uzès to Nimes to attend the Roman Days extravaganza at the Arena. Even though the event was narrated only in French, we were able to understand the storyline. The anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death was being celebrated by a reenactment of important events during his life.

On top of it being a beautifully sunny day in Nimes, the opportunity to step back into a time, nearly 2000 years ago, was extraordinary. It was particularly interesting to see the costumed actors roaming through the city before the event. (For more about Roman Days, click here to see the earlier posting.)

Roman Days in Nimes

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

 

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France: Pont du Gard

Tracing the Romans in France must include a visit to Pont du Gard.
Even though I’ve been to Pont du Gard four times, there’s no better place to take visitors who come to Uzes. The aqueduct that supplied water to the Romans in Nimes as early as 1AD is still a marvel to behold. Every time I round the bend along the walkway in the World Heritage park and see the magnificent structure, I get chills. Visiting during different times times of year makes it new each time to me.

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

School children at the highest point viewing Pont du Gard put this Golden Girl in her element.

The Romans in the south of France

Avignon, City of Popes.

An afternoon in Avignon is hardly enough time to get a fair impression of the historic city, much less to write a post. For the Golden Girls, it was a beautiful and convenient place to stop for dinner.

The Roman connection in Avignon is difficult to follow because most of the Roman ruins have disappeared. However, the Pope’s Palace, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed “Palais des Papes” reminds us that Avignon was once the center of the Roman Catholic world. It is a place that is definitely worth spending time to explore. The Palais des Papes was the residence of seven successive popes in the 14th century. Avignon’s control by the Papacy ended in 1791 when the city was claimed by France during the French Revolution.

I shall definitely research Avignon and write more later. Until then, enjoy the photos of our quick visit.

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

How to get there
From Uzes to Pont du Gard is a 30- minute car ride. Buses run regularly to the park area from the station in the center of Uzes, as well. To travel to Avignon, it is another 30 minute ride or drive.

Where to eat
The park at Pont du Gard is very well equipped with cafeteria-type restaurants and snack shops. The park itself is perfect for hiking and for finding places to stop for a picnic lunch.

In Avignon we had a quick meal before returning back to Uzes that night. Nothing to brag about.

Next: Sete to Collioure. Picture book towns along the Mediterranean

Romans in the South of France

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Expat Moving Tips for France

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

Visiting monuments isn’t on the top of my sightseeing list; however Pont du Gard is a “must”.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard is reportedly one of the most visited ancient sites in France. But not until I saw it myself would I know why. It literally took my breath away. There, hiding out in the French countryside — not far from groves of olives trees and fields of grape vines — was a magnificent structure from the early Roman Empire. From the 1st Century AD, to be exact.

My first trip to Pont du Gard started in the early afternoon. It’s only a 25-minute bus ride from Uzes, so I decided to try my luck with public transportation. No problem. Except that the bus dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. With only an arrow on a road sign that read “Pont du Gard” to show me the way, I took off walking. Fortunately the entrance to the park was only a few minutes’ trek down the road.

I must have been the one of the only people who has ever arrived at the park on foot, because there were no pedestrian signs or entrance. Just a parking lot for buses and cars. In fact, a park guard saw me and came down the road to greet me. He must have thought I was lost — or a spy! Anyway, he pointed me towards the main entrance of the park.

Pont du Gard

Museum exhibit at Pont du Gard

Inside the park there was a large, very modern, covered loggia where several groups of people were sitting at tables or just standing around. A very nice snack shop, glacé stand, and a few souvenir and gift shops were along the side. The indoor exhibit hall and cinema I was told to visit first were on the right and could be accessed by going through a central door and walking two floors underground. Since I had arrived 45 minutes before the English version of the introductory film was scheduled to run, I had plenty of time to visit the exhibit hall.

Or so I thought. I could have spent hours there if I had wanted to go into a deep study of Roman aqueducts and water systems. There were exhibits of early Roman baths, latrines and more. I was particularly taken with the displays of numerous artifacts unearthed from the earliest days of the bridge, into the 6th century, when it was in constant use. A near-real sized replica of a worksite demonstrated how the bridge and aqueduct were constructed. Faux pulleys operated by mannequins showed how the stones were lifted into place. The theatrical set seemed quite authentic and very well done.

Armed with a small bit of the history of Pont du Gard, I was ready to see the real thing. Back into the heat and scorching sun, I walked down a short path where the occasional tourists– and dogs — were taking their time getting to the monument.

Then, beyond the trees… and a few yards farther… there is was.
pont du gard

I was transported to the days of the Roman Empire. When I walked closer to the bridge, I knew I was walking in the same steps as Roman soldiers and early French citizens centuries before me. Like so much of the architecture I’ve seen on this trip, I was amazed at the shape of the arches and the stones.

As I walked across the bridge, the wind was blowing briskly. Never mind. Even though I had to scurry to catch my hat to keep it from blowing over the side of the bridge into the ravine, I was mesmerized. Several times I had to prop myself up against the sidewall to keep my balance. I was disoriented from trying to take photos from every possible angle.

An 18th century visitor and famous writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau was overwhelmed when he visited Pont du Gard.

“I had been told to go and see the Pont du Gard; I did not fail to do so. It was the first work of the Romans that I had seen. I expected to see a monument worthy of the hands which had constructed it. This time the object surpassed my expectation, for the only time in my life. Only the Romans could have produced such an effect. The sight of this simple and noble work struck me all the more since it is in the middle of a wilderness where silence and solitude render the object more striking and the admiration more lively; for this so-called bridge was only an aqueduct. One asks oneself what force has transported these enormous stones so far from any quarry, and what brought together the arms of so many thousands of men in a place where none of them live. I wandered about the three storeys of this superb edifice although my respect for it almost kept me from daring to trample it underfoot. The echo of my footsteps under these immense vaults made me imagine that I heard the strong voices of those who had built them. I felt myself lost like an insect in that immensity. While making myself small, I felt an indefinable something that raised up my soul, and I said to myself with a sigh, “Why was I not born a Roman!”

After I strolled slowly across the aqueduct, taking pictures along the way, I came upon a seemingly hidden path. You know how I like surprises! So I tramped up the rocky pathway, higher and higher above the bridge, wishing only that I had worn better walking shoes. Although there were hundreds of tourists, I didn’t encounter any other people along the way. Happily alone, I climbed to the highest possible vantage point. Surely others had been this way before. The shiny stones on the pathway were evidence enough. But today, the panorama that lay before me was all for me.

As hard as it was to leave this perfect spot, I had to catch a bus. So I came down from my perch, hurriedly explored the left bank of the bridge, and promised myself I’d return some day.

pont du gardDinner at the lovely restaurant on the water’s edge with a view of Pont du Gard is in my future.

A Bridge To The Past: The Roman History of France Revisited

A visit back to Pont du Gard and Nimes with my guest from the US reminded me how much history is so close to me in the south of France.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

Revisit some of the Roman past with a tour to Nimes — one of the key Roman towns in “Gaul” during the days of Augustus.

Here’s why Nimes is a “must” for Roman history lovers

 

Nimes

Nimes

France has so many amazing places to visit it’s hard to decide where to start. If you’re a Roman history buff, you must visit Nimes. It’s a city where you can see, touch and experience life in France during the days of the Roman Empire. Unlike other places with rich Roman history that are now in ruins, there are many artifacts from Augustus Caesar’s time that are in active use still today.

In Nimes you can walk on the same streets, into the same buildings … literally sit in the same seats as the Romans who once occupied this part of Gaul.

Visiting Nimes is more that seeing “remnants” of a Roman civilization. There are intact, still-standing Roman structures. A Roman temple, a Roman arena, a Roman tower. Places that are enjoyed now by real, 21st century people.

Maison Carrée

Maison Carrée

 

Roman Arena in Nimes

Roman Amphitheater , the Arènes de Nîmes

 

The Magne Tower

The Tour Magne

The Roman History of Nimes

The area that is now Nimes was an established community as early as 400o BC. It was founded as a Roman colony (Colonia Nemausus) by Tiberius Claudius Nero in 45 or 44 B.C. for veterans that had served Julius Caesar under his command in Gaul and the invasion of Egypt. The name “Nemausus” was derived from the name of a Celtic god — the protector of the nearby spring that provided water for the early settlement.

Coin of Nemausus circa 40 BC

Coin of Nemausus circa
40 BC

 

Maison Carrée in Nimes

Maison Carrée in Nimes

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 BC) — and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

 

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, VA

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond, Va

 

The Arènes de Nimes or the “Amphitheater”

In Roman times, the Arènes de Nimes could hold up to 24,000 spectators spread over 34 rows of terraces.  Divided into four separate areas, each section could be accessed  through hundreds of galleries, stairwells and passages.

Aréna in Nimes

Aréna in Nimes

The amphitheatre was designed for crowd control and ultimate viewing pleasure. There were no bottlenecks when spectators flooded in and all had unrestricted visibility of the entire arena. Several galleries and entrances were located beneath the arena so that animals and gladiators could access the arena during the Roman games.

The “games” included animal hunts with lions, tigers and elephants and gladiator matches. Executions were held, as well, where those in town who were convicted to death were thrown to the animals as punishment.

Inside the Aréna Nimes

Inside the Aréna Nimes

After the times of the Roman Empire, Nimes fell into the hands of the Visigoths, then the Muslims. The Visigoths turned the arena into a fortress or “castrum arena” where the townspeople could gather in the event of an attack. When Pepin the Short, father of Charlemagne, captured the city in 752, the splendor that was Nimes was pretty much in ruins. It was not until 1786 that work began to be restore the arena to its original grandeur.

The Tour Magne (Magne Tower) remains a prominent structure in Nimes, erected during the reign of Augustus in 1 BC. It is said to have been built atop an earlier Celtic/Gallic tower from 15BC- 14BC. The tallest structure for miles around, the Tour Magne was used as part of the fortification that surrounded the city. What remains of the tower can be seen from throughout the city.

Along with the Roman buildings that are still in use today in Nimes, there are ruins of the early civilization that visitors can wander through or view.

 

The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

 

The so-called Temple of Diana, part of an Augusteum, Nîmes © Carole Raddato

The so-called Temple of Diana, built during the Augustine era
(Photo by Carole Raddato)

Your Walking Tour of Nimes

The downtown area of the Roman city of Nimes is still alive. The most historic Roman monuments are within walking distance. To reach Les Jardin de la Fontaine, you might want to hop on a local bus. Visit the Temple de Diane while you are there. If you climb up to the highest levels of the terraced stairway, through more  gardens, you will reach the park-like area of Mont Cavalier. Further up the hill is the Tour Magne. It’s a hike to reach the tower, but it’s worth it if you want a view of the city from all directions. Take along plenty of water and, perhaps, a snack so that you can stop and enjoy the view along the way. 

Nimes

 

Step by step guide

  • Nimes can be reached by train, bus and car. The train station (GARE) is in the center of the historic area. Regional buses stop behind the train station as well. From the station, a pedestrian promenade leads straight from the station to the amphitheater.
  • Park at any one of the downtown parking lots. Just follow the blue P signs.  Some of the parking is outside and some in a garage. When I visit Nimes I park at the Marché (city market) that is outlined in purple on the map because it is so close to the Maison Carrée.
  • Start your tour at the Maison Carrée. A  20-minute film runs every 30 minutes during tourist season. It’s excellent and it gives you an overview of the history of Nimes. You can buy combination tickets that give you admission to the film, the amphitheater and the Tour Magne.
  • Walk to the Arèna (amphitheater). There are self-guided tours of the amphitheater with headphones and an audio presentation describing the days of gladiators. Stop along the way to the amphitheater, or afterwards, at any of the many cafes and restaurants for a more leisurely visit.
  • Walk past the Porte d’Auguste to view a part of the fortification that protected the ancient city. It’s not a short walk from the amphitheater, but it’s on the way to your next stop.
  • Les Jardin de la Fontaine is a “modern” part of Nimes that has a rich Roman background. It was built in the 18th century atop the ruins of Roman baths (thermal). You can stroll for hours in the garden enjoying the fountains, canals and seasonal plantings.

 

  • Tour Magne is your last stop. The tower is open for tourists (check the schedule) to wander through inside. A very narrow, spiral stairway leads to a viewing area where you can see the city of Nimes from all angles.

Here’s another reason why you must see Nimes

 Nimes blends the “new” with the “ancient”. A modern world among ancient Roman buildings.The Amphitheatre, for example, is the entertainment center used for rock concerts and other popular musical events. 

Times amphitheater is home for huge music events

Roman history reenactments, with all the pomp and ceremony, are staged in the Nimes amphitheater each year.

 

Amphitheater in Nimes

Amphitheater in Nimes

Then there are the Ferias or bull fights in the amphitheater. The events are popular in the south of France still today and draw crowds for the weekend events. 

 

 

Regardless of the time of year you visit Nimes, there’s a party going on. 

Maison Carrée

Maison Carrée

 

For more information about the arena

Maison Carrée

More places to visit history in Provence

Film trailer of the history of Nimes, on view at the Maison Carrée

 

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How to Make French History More Fun

Female expat living in Uzes travels to Nimes and Pont du Gard for fun and learning – Join the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook, too!

“Someday you’ll be glad you’ve seen this,” was the theme of a recent tour of Nimes and Pont du Gard with my 10-year-old visitor, McKenna. As spectacular and amazing as seeing an ancient Roman aqueduct or coliseum might seem, most children would rather spend the afternoon at the pool, or at the Haribo Bon Bon Museum.

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

 

la Maison Carrée

la Maison Carrée

I’m not saying that McKenna didn’t learn something from the narrative film at la Maison Carrée — the centerpiece of the historic district of Nimes — or from walking where lions and tigers entered the arena.

She definitely took it all in. Now that she’s back in the States she is sharing the stories with all her friends.

 

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

If the truth is told, I’m guessing her favorite part of the day was cooling off in the sparkling clear waters of the river below the Pont du Gard.

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

 

Another favorite spot for the active 10-year-old was the Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes. Somewhere among the ruins of Diana’s Temple, she found a playmate.

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

 

Climbing on the pediments of the first century monument dedicated to Augustus, or exploring the vaulted ceiling rooms might have been McKenna’s best memory of the day if we adults hadn’t been in such a hurry.

I guess we just don’t get it.

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Oh! “The Places You’ll Go!”

Female expat living in Uzes travels in France for fun and education. Click here for Trip Ideas You Can Steal

 

The whirlwind tour of the south of France is now history for my recent guests, including 10-year old McKenna. Now that they’re gone, the words of Dr. Seuss’s poem seem perfect to share with McKenna as a reminder of her visit.

 

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

For five full days McKenna, her mother and I packed in as much history, animal adventures, and fun in the south of France as we possibly could. Here’s a picture view of the highlights. Posts to follow will fill in the stories and learnings.

Day One – Uzes

Saturday market and dinner with our friend, Geoffrey, at Le Comptoir 7 

How many ways can you say “foie gras”? This entree featured foie gras as pate, ice cream and creme brûlée!

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

 

 

Day Two – Pont du Gard and Nimes

 

Tracing the Romans in France started with a visit to Pont du Gard. Wading in the cool river water was a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

 

 

Day Three – The Camargue 

A safari in the Camargue gave us “up close” views of the white horses, Camargues bulls and flamingos

 

Day Four – Sete and Carcassonne 

A day on the beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

 

Day Five – Carcassonne 

 

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

… and a lot of 10-year-old craziness along the way!

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Stay tuned for the full story on each location, including the scoop on …

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Trip Ideas You Can Steal From a 10-Year-Old’s Visit to France

Special friends are on the way to visit the Barefoot Blogger, including my dear 10-year-old McKenna. Planning the 7-day visit has been easier than you’d think.

McKenna and I have always had a closer-than- usual relationship because we share the same birthday date. We both agree, that makes us “twins” of sorts.  Almost every birthday since she was born, we’ve spent the day together. Her mother and I are friends from IBM. This past birthday, McKenna wanted her theme to be “Paris” in preparation for her upcoming visit to France.

Paris themed birthday party

Paris themed birthday party

 

Here’s the 7-day itinerary. You’re welcomed to steal!

My guests are arriving the end of this week and we’ll be taking off for an active tour of southwest France.

Day one: Pick them up at the TGV station in Avignon and take a walk around the Pope’s Palace.

Day two: Saturday Market in Uzes. Of course, it’s my favorite thing to do! Trek in the Vallee d’LEure and take a swim at the public pool. Dinner somewhere fabulous in Uzes.

Day three: Pont du Gard tour followed by a visit to Nimes to follow in the footsteps of the early Romans.

Day four:  Morning tour and lunch in the walled city of Aigue Morte. An afternoon “Safari” tour of the Camargue, starting from Grau de Roi. Drive to Sete and spend the night at my favorite Airbnb apartment.

Day five: Breakfast at the city market in Sete followed by an afternoon at a beach club in Sete on the Meditterean.  Catch an early evening train to Carcassone in time to check-in our Airbnb “converted bar” lodging. View the Bastille Day fireworks display in Carcassone, along with 40,000 other tourists.

Day six: Guided tour of Carcassone and shopping (along with thousands of other tourists.) Catch the late afternoon train back to Sete. Drive two hours to Uzes.

Day seven: Say goodbye and scurry to Nimes for an early morning flight.

Collapse. Sleep. Repeat.

(Yes, there will be posts and pictures of it all. Stay tuned!)

2015-06-07 11.17.47

Romans in France: The Mini-Series

Four days and nights I was glued to the TV last week. I watched the entire two-season mini-series, “Rome,” and I did it with the same intensity that I devoured “Gone With The Wind.”

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, Art or Architecture?

You see, ever since I moved to the south of France, I’ve been living in a Roman time warp. You’ve heard me say that many times, especially after visiting the aqueduct at Pont du Gard. Or after seeing the ruins of Roman-style villas in Orange; and the arena in Arles. So much of what is revered today in this part of France was established by Romans when they occupied “Gaul.” Miraculously, in spite of wars, weather, politics, and developers, lots of it still stands — from as long ago as 25BC and before.

Watching the HBO series saved me days of laboring through the historical novels I thought I’d have to read about  the Romans. Especially if I wanted to know about the “Caesars,” Julius and Augustus, who left such big footprints in France.

I know you’re thinking a mini-series is hardly the most factual way to learn history. Well, that’s probably true; however, I figure it’s close enough to give me a high-level view of what I wanted to know.

Now, it’s not that I didn’t study ancient history in high school and college. I did. More than that, I took four years of Latin and “translated” the “Aeneid.” Nevertheless, the mini-series had to remind me that Octavius Caesar became known as “Augustus” and that he wasn’t the “true” son of Julius, as if that makes any real difference in history. Also, I was reminded of the importance of “Gods” and “Spirits” during the period when images were carved, engraved and built in their likeness throughout the empire — including “Gaul”, the early name for what was later much of France.

Being armed with a bit of new knowledge, I’m looking forward to delving back into my tours through the south of France and taking notes on more Roman sites. Stay tuned!

For more information on Romans in Gaul check out this article on NYTimes.com

For the mini-series:

 

 

 

 

12 Things You’ll Miss in France This Year

The Barefoot Blogger’s “Must” Hit List
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In case you haven’t heard, this is the year to visit France. The euro to US dollar is at a twelve-year low. If you don’t already have your bags packed, here are a few things you’ll surely miss staying at home.

#1

Sunset on the French Rivera

Sunset on the French Rivera

 

#2

 

Un-shuttered windows and flowerpots

Un-shuttered windows and pots with bright flowers

 

#3

 

Narrow, winding, ancient village streets

Narrow, winding, ancient streets

 

#4

 

Morning breaking over stone skycaps

Morning breaking over stone skyscapes

 

#5

 

Vineyards and poppies and chateaus  with tile roofs

Vineyards and poppies and chateaus with tile roofs

 

#6

 

Bright lights on sparkling water

Brilliant lights and sparkling waters

 

#7

 

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Quiet walks on sleepy canals

 

 

#8

 

Finding wonder through peepholes

Finding wonder through peepholes

 

#9

 

Music in the streets

Music in the streets

 

#10

 

Busy sidewalks and Saturday Markets

Sidewalk cafes and Saturday Markets

 

#11

 

Majestic cathedrals

Majestic cathedrals

 

 

HISTORY

HISTORY

Where will it be?

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In Awe of the French: History Preserved

In awe of the French

Anytime I take a trip in France and walk among ancient Roman ruins, I am thankful to the French.

In French towns and villages where the Romans used to roam, you can actually see, feel, touch and experience the places of the past. There are arenas, forums and amphitheaters in the center of towns that are as active today as they were 2000 years ago.

Maison Carree in Nimes

Maison Carree in Nimes

 

 

 

Arena in Arles

Arena in Arles

 

Arena in Nimes

Arena in Nimes

You can climb on and over the walls, paths and steps where Caesar’s men walked.

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

 

You can tread the same routes where early villagers pushed their carts and lead their horses.

 

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

 

l'Arc de Triomphe in Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe in Orange

 

Thank you, France, for preserving these sites; for leaving these places open and

available to the public.

Roman Baths in Arles

Roman Baths in Arles

 

Théâtre antique d'Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

 

Thank you for enabling us to re-live, revere and learn from those before us. 

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

 

 

Amphitheatre in Arles

Amphitheatre in Arles

 

Tour Magne in Nimes

Tour Magne in Nimes

 

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l'eure, Uzes

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l’eure, Uzes

 

Amphitheater in Arles

Amphitheater in Arles

 

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks to Pete Bine for contributing photos for this post!

For more information on the sights, visit these “sites”

In Nimes:

Arena

Jardins de la Fontaine

Maison Carree

Tour Magne

 

Pont du Gard

 

In Arles:

Arena

Amphitheatre

Roman Baths

 

In Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe

 

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In Training for Nepal

Before I ever dreamed of living in France, I had this wild idea about visiting Nepal and Kathmandu. Now it seems even my craziest thoughts are coming to life.

Well, almost …

Let’s just say I had put this trip planned in 2011 on the back burner. Then I learned I was going to lose the deposit if I postponed it again. So I decided it’s now or never. Nepal here I come!

  • 5 locations in 15 days
  • Multiple early departures
  • Brisk paced, with no more than 2 nights in most locations, with 2 days rafting and 3 days hiking
  • You must be able to walk 5 miles unassisted and participate in 2.5-3 hour treks
  • Elevations up to 5,000 feet
  • Travel by 18-passenger minibus, canoe, river raft, and elephant back

What was I thinking?!

Now that the trip is almost a reality — November 25 —  I have to get in shape.

My friend from the States who came to visit in September loves to hike. We walked down to the Vallee de l’Eure where I discovered the “SWINGING BRIDGE” … and the “STEPS.”

 

 

01ebbf55ffc76e3d1ee94ef4a9c5b956ab7580416a“If you cross this bridge and climb these steps everyday before your trip,” said my friend Pat, “you’ll be ready for Nepal.”

“Yea, right,” said I. ” I’m going to do just that.”

IMG_0046Then there were my new friends who were visiting Uzes from California. Paula and Rich love the outdoors.

“Come along with us,” they said. “We climb to the top of this hill that overlooks the Vallee de l’Eure and  Uzes almost every day.”

“Sure,” I said, confidently. Then I followed them up the steep incline… 20 feet or so behind.

“Here,” said Paula as we reached the rockiest part of the uphill path. “This might help you keep your balance,” she teased as she threw a stick at me the size of a large tree limb.

“You’re a pal,” I gasped, trying to breathe and walk at the same time.

 I made it up the hill and vowed I might do it again. 

The view of Uzes

The view of Uzes

The Big Test

The training turned serious when my son came to visit a few weeks ago. In his travel bags from the States, he brought me a retractable trekking stick. He was intent on making me get as much exercise as possible. Little did he know that I could show him a thing or two … like the STEPS and the hill at Vallee de l’Eure.

 

Me with my proper trekking pole at the Vallee de l'Eure

Me with my proper trekking pole at the Vallee de l’Eure

Up again … this time with a proper walking stick, which made a huge difference on the rugged path.

Rocky path at Vallee de l'Eure

Rocky path at Vallee de l’Eure

 

 

The biggest test was the trek up the hill at Pont du Gard.

It’s not the  hill that you climb so that you can see the Pont du Gard from on high.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

It’s  beyond there. It’s the one that makes the Pont du Gard look like an anthill!  Yep, I walked that far!

Pont du Gard from afar

Pont du Gard from afar

 

Up we went …

IMG_0154  Through the hidden wall ….

 

Remnants of the aqueduct

Remnants of the aqueduct

 

 

 

… up the long path

 

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Path at Pont du Gard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… to an opening beyond the trees 

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to discover a long lost treasure

Abandoned gas tank

Abandoned gas tank

 

And some amazing plants I’d never seen.

 

 

Along a treacherous and steep path …

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Up higher and higher …

 

 

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And then … we turned around and went back. This was not the trail to another view of Pont du Gard.  We were on our way back to Uzes.  No thanks. I’ll drive!

Lesson Learned

Since the hiking expeditions, I’ve been on the move, but probably not enough. Time will tell. Nevertheless, the experience has helped me realize an important fact again. Whether you want to climb a mountain or move to another continent:

Everything new in life starts out just the same. Take one step at a time.

 

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Uzes in November: A Two-Day Tour

My  first house guest came to visit recently. During her two-day stay, my college-aged friend and I visited some of my favorite spots around Uzes : Pont du Gard, San Quentin La Poterie and Nimes.

When I learned that my friend from North Carolina’s daughter wanted to visit Uzès in November as part of her break from college, I was thrilled. She is a student at Tulane and is studying a semester abroad in Copenhagen.

Imagine: A “20-something” wants to spend time with me!”

Through emails I learned my visitor wanted to plan her time around a market day — either on Wednesday or Saturday. Since she reads my blog and she knows how I rave about “markets” she wanted to see one for herself. Plans worked out that she would arrive in Nimes by train on Tuesday evening and return for the train on Thursday evening.

Perfect. 

The “agenda” we decided upon would give her a chance to go to the Wednesday market in Uzes, and then see Pont du Gard, shop a bit in San Quentin les Poterie and tour around the quaint pottery village. Then on Thursday we would see the sights in Nimes — remains of Roman civilization — before meeting the train in the evening.

Uzès in November: Day One

I was so excited about meeting my visitor at the train that I got to the station in downtown Nimes well ahead of time. The train was delayed but she arrived close to schedule at 7pm. When she stepped off the train to greet me she was more adorable than I remembered. The last time we saw each other was when she was in middle school.

After quick “hellos” and hugs, we took the elevator in the train station to the parking lot below. We hopped in Mustang Sally and took off for Uzes — a 40-minute drive along a very narrow, curvy, downhill road. The same route the Tour de France cyclist often travel.

First impressions of Uzes – When we entered the town of Uzes I deliberately drove slowly down the tree-lined street, around the tall cathedral and along the walled passage. I could tell my young friend was taking it all in. Before we got to the main street, I pulled Sally into the almost-empty underground parking lot. We walked up the steps, through the staircase that leads from the garage, and into the fresh air.

A short walk through a backstreet alley led us to the plaza of the Duche — Place de Duche.

“Oh my,” my friend blurted out as we rounded the corner; I knew the feeling. Seeing the Duche, the towers, and the ancient stone buildings for the first time is pretty amazing.

When we reached the apartment building and entered the massive entrance door, I led her up the fifty-five steps to my place and to her room for the next few days — decorated just in time for her visit. A room with a view.

Uzes in November

Knowing we would be returning to Uzes late, I’d planned a simple dinner, one of my favorite meals in France so far: Mont d’Or over boiled potatoes with a green salad. As hoped, she loved it and claimed Mont d’Or is” the best cheese I’ve ever eaten.”

Rise and shine – Not one to awaken early, I made an exception this day so that we could cram in as much sight-seeing  as possible.

Our first stop: a cafe for “petite dejuener”. After going by three of my favorite places,we learned that cafes around here don’t serve pastries with their coffee. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to bring in a bag with your own. (You can tell that eating out this time of day isn’t part of my routine.) Happily, we went to the boulangerie to choose from a decadent selection of fresh, hot bakery items. Our choice:  croissants — two chocolate, two almond. Then off for coffee and latte at the nearest cafe.

Uzes in November

Uzes in November

Wednesday Market

Market vendors and tourists are dwindling down in numbers with the cooler weather in Uzes.  Anyway, there was enough activity that my guest could picture the Place aux Herbes crowded with people and things to buy.

Shops were open that displayed the season’s new fashions. Wishing she had brought a bigger suitcase, my young friend found a linen, ruffled dress that she could easily stuff into her backpack.

Pont du Gard

The aqueduct built by the Romans to supply water to the early Gaelic city of Nimes was next on the tour.

On the 20-minute drive from Uzes to Pont du Gard, I became concerned about the weather. The sky was cloudy and the wind was ferocious at times. I was a bit concerned about our plan to walk through the expansive, open grounds at Pont du Gard, then across the long, open bridge that is part of the aqueduct.

My mind darted back to last summer when, crossing the Pont du Gard, my hat flew off and it almost went over the side.  It’s a long way down to the river and valley below. I didn’t want to be a “killjoy” but I related the hat story and added that the wind was blowing much harder now. My companion wasn’t worried at all. She had seen worse in Copenhagen. We forged ahead.

There’s a blog about Pont du Gard that I wrote this summer. It goes into detail about my feelings the first time I saw Pont du Gard. I really hoped it would have the same affect on others. I wondered how I would react seeing it again.

Uzes in November

Uzes in November

In the fall, with few visitors in the park, the view of Pont du Gard is still amazing.

San Quentin la Poterie

Right on schedule after a half day at Pont du Gard, there was plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping in the small village on the other side of Uzes known for its artists, pottery and laid-back atmosphere.

Uzes in November

San Quentin la Poterie

Uzes in November

Uzès in November: Day Two

We accomplished a lot in Day One of the two-day tour, including plenty of time to eat lunch at Pont du Gard, to sip lattes in a tiny cafe/reading shop in San Quentin la Poterie, and to enjoy “mashed cod and potato” pizza at “Pizza les Duche” when we returned to Uzes.

The next day was just as busy, filled with visiting more sites of the Roman occupation of Gard. A tour of Nimes.

Nimes

The city of approximately 150,000 citizens, is proudly called the City of Art and History. Its beginning starts over 2000 years ago with many sites dating back as early as 25 BC.

To include Nimes on a visit to Uzes is not only a must-see, it’s convenient. The train station is in the middle of the city — the closest around. Trains connect to Paris and the rest of France where you can get most anywhere in Europe. My house guest’s train to Marseilles, then onto Nice, was scheduled for early that evening, giving us time to leisurely walk around the historic town.

La Maison Carrée – To me this is the practical place to start the tour. The grand, majestic “forum” is in the middle of downtown.

A 20-minute movie plays constantly during the daytime at la Maison Carrée that presents the city and its history in 3-D. It seems a bit “hokey” because the scenes are intended to represent people and events 2000 years ago; however, it’s entertaining. I definitely enjoyed the film more this time than when I saw it last summer. Then there were lots of tourists and I had to sit on the theater steps.

Uzes in November

The Arena – Also known as the Coliseum, is one of the most spectacular places to see in Nimes.

It is one of the few remaining arenas from the Roman days and, reportedly, it is the most well-preserved. We both agree it is a more impressive landmark than the Coliseum in Rome. The park-like historic district where the arena sits in Nimes gives the giant structure the space it deserves. Even though it is in the center of town, there are no tall buildings around that hinder the view.

Ooops!   Ok, there was a slight interference with the view that day — a ferris wheel

Uzes in November

Just a reminder that Nimes is a lively, modern town. Uzes in November

Uzes in November

Our lunch stop in Nimes gave me a chance to introduce a local dish to my guest — moules and frites.

When I see mussels and fries offered on a street menu as the “plat du jour”, I go for it. To pay nine or ten euros, it’s a good value. Plus, it’s really tasty! Especially with an icy, cold glass of beer from the tap.

Uzes in November

Tour Magne – The Great Tower is at the highest spot in the city of Nimes and the only remaining remnant of the ancient wall built by Augustus near 15 BC.

Getting to the Tour Magne is a mission in itself. Standing tall above the beautiful Jarden de la Fontaine, the monument is reached only by climbing the stairways that lead to the top of the terraced garden. The views along the way are magnificent, even in late fall.

Uzes in November

By the time we reached the monument visitor hours had just ended. Just as well for me since I swore the last time I climbed the stairs of the tower would be … well … the last time. My energetic friend could have easily taken it on, but she assured me she wasn’t disappointed. To see Nimes from this height was quite enough.

Uzes in NovemberUzes in November

Missing the climb to the top of the Tower meant we had more time to relax, visit and see other parts of Nimes.

Uzes in November

It also meant we had time to take in one of the most interesting, amusing spots of all — the cafe near the train station. My guest agreed these out-of-the-way places and people you meet make France the place to spend as much time as possible.

          Uzes in November   Uzès in November: Farewell

The non-stop, three day visit to this part of the Gard in southern France was over.

Before leaving on the train, I heard my “20-something” friend proclaim: “I’ll be back … soon!”

For another view of Nimes visit this earlier blog post 

For another view of Pont du Gard visit this earlier post

For another view of San Quentin la Poterie visit this earlier post 

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