On Thursday we ventured into a part of Provence that has extensive, well-preserved Roman ruins. Well, ruins isn’t really the right word – let’s say, rather, Roman structures. These things are still very much there!
The area in question is west of Avignon, and the countryside is entirely different from what we’ve grown accustomed to here – it’s rural and flat, and pretty much agricultural. Lots of fruit trees in bloom (gorgeous!), and fields of radiant, glowing green (in a good way!).
Our first destination is called the Pont du Gard – a Roman aquaduct that spans the Gardon River. This is the 2nd tallest extant Roman structure (after the colusseum in Rome) at 160 ft. high! It is truly awe-inspiring! And even more so when you consider that it was built 2,000 years ago!! It totally boggles my mind (doesn’t take much). I’ve included a few photos, but you should really go to the website for more extensive information and professional photos: http://www.pontdugard.fr/en. Here are our photos:
Along with the actual aquaduct, our admission included the absolutely fantastic, fascinating museum, which we had to tear ourselves away from so that we could go see the aquaduct. We definitely need to go back – it’s extremely well done, and we both learned a lot!! Those Romans were really something else! But most of you probably already knew that…
The site itself attracts lots of tourists – we encountered more Americans here than we have in all the time we’ve been in France! One large group of young were part of an exchange program from Chicago; we also met a Canadian from Nova Scotia who now lives in France. The whole site is in fact a giant park, with places to swim, boat, picnic, walk, and climb, as well as the educational aspect. Definitely merits another trip – in fact, we bought a year’s pass, as it was 18€ to park, for up to five people, and we know we want to return at least once. A year’s pass is only 24€, so it’s a good deal for us. Plus, I like supporting the site.
Speaking of the Visitors’ Center/Museum (well, I was a second ago!), Roy wanted me to include the following photo, which is a maintenance worker cleaning a trash can with a toothbrush!! Yup, you read it right! See?
After exhausting ourselves walking all over the site and across the bridge and back, we headed to our car to find the hotel we’d booked in Uzès. This is actually the place where the aquaduct began, but our real mission here was to have a quiet, picturesque town to stay in and visit, and then to go on to Nîmes the next day for more Roman wizardry.
Our hotel in Uzès was a gorgeously restored house an easy stroll from the main square of the town. Here’s the square:
As you can see from this photo, Uzès was not crowded or busy! Actually, it was disappointingly empty. Although there were plenty of pretty neat shops open, I wasn’t really in the mood to shop, so that held little charm for me. I did, however, want to sit outside at a café and have a beer or something, but the one that looked appealing didn’t sell alcohol! Are we still in France? Are you kidding me? No alcohol? I’d never heard of such a thing!!! So that was foiled as well.
We did walk all around the town, and got some nice views of its famous towers. And we did get a great view of the valley showing the early signs of spring. See for yourself:
From Uzès, the next morning, we headed to Nîmes, site of the best-preserved Roman arena in the world, along with some other really fine Roman structures. Also the destination of all that water delivered by the aquaduct. Here’s a fun fact to know and tell: did you know that it is also the origin of our blue jeans? That’s where denim gets its name: de Nîmes. And that’s one of the reasons they needed all that water – for the dying operation.So now you know!
Anyway, we wanted to see the arena, and the Maison Carrée, and the garden (the first public garden in France – built in the mid-1700s). We definitely got what we came for!
The arena was spectacular! It is huge (24,000 seats) and still used today (we’ll take a pass on the bullfights, thanks). We did get to see a demo of gladiators that was being presented to a school group, however:
After our time in the arena, we headed over to the Maison Carrée, a beautifully preserved temple, and then on to the gardens. By the time we walked to the gardens we were pretty much done, and hungry, so we didn’t venture far in, but enjoyed the splendid setting, at least. A little early in Spring for much to be in bloom anyway, we rationalized. Here are the temple and the gardens:
At this point, we were ready to find a simple lunch, have some ice cream (yes, the warm weather does bring that out in us!), and head back to Bandol. We’d seen what we came for, and more. We’ll definitely revisit some of it. And we loved it all!