Pont du Gard and the countryside of Languedoc-Roussillon

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August 11th 2013
Published: August 19th 2013
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We had thought that having an apartment facing east would still mean we could have our breakfast on the balcony in the early morning sun.However,because it didn't cool down that much over night by the time we were up for breakfast at around 8.30am it was already too hot to be in the direct sun.So it was breakfast inside at the dining table.

We took our time to hit the road this morning although we had a good distance to go if we were to achieve all we wanted to in the direction away from AeP that we had planned.

Being Sunday we couldn't miss taking a quick look at the markets downtown in AeP and made our way there first.Finding a car park was easy next to the railway station and it was only a short walk up to the main square and the roundabout,known simply as La Rotunde.The fountain here is very photogenic and we reckon every tourist that comes to this laid back city takes at least one photo of the fountain.

We trekked up the narrow lanes from the Cours Mirabeau making our way to the fresh food market.Most of what was on offer was fruit and vegetables with just one cheese vendor which was a bit surprising as when we visited here 4 years ago there were a number of vendors selling cheeses.We didn't find 'Joe'the guy we brought the cheese that had been matured in a cave,from.Perhaps he has gone out of business or perhaps he was on holiday.

We went onto the larger square where the fresh market had been 4 years ago but now the market there was for second hand things,paintings etc.

We headed back to the car and set a course for Pont du Gard,an attraction we missed last time even though we stayed just a few kilometres from it in Avignon.

With nothing for lunch other than fruit we really wanted a baguette and try as we might we could not find a boulangerie open on our side of the road,the D7N.

It wasn't until we got to just past Avignon that we found a boulangerie open and we got our baguette to supplement the fruit for lunch.

We have been blessed by wonderful warm weather with some days really too hot to be out in the full sun for too long if we were planning to walk a few kilometres.Today was another of those days and we were pleased it was only a short walk from the car park at the Pont du Gard to the amazing nearly 2000 year old aqueduct.

The structure,built with great precision by the Romans using slave labour, is a photographers dream with so many angles from in front,behind,from below and from above to appreciate its symmetry.

The Pont draws not only tourists who come to see the UNESCO site but also locals who in the summer swim,canoe and just generally have a fun time in the Gardon River that runs under the structure.

We took out time wandering along the track leading onto the aqueduct and across to the other side of the river.The walk up through the bush to view the structure from the upper level was well worth the exercise.

It is quite fascinating to consider how the aqueduct is in such great looking condition after nearly 2000 years and goes to show just how well it was built to last all these years.Just how the huge blocks of shelly limestone were put together including those on angles to make the structure is quite incredible.

The aqueduct was built as part of a system that carried water from Uzes(above Pont du Gard)50km down country to Nimes which was a major Roman colony in those days.

We made our way further north west to the town of Uzes,where NZ TV personality Peta Mathias,now lives for 6 months each year writing her cookery books and running cooking classes.We didn't come across her as we walked through ancient city that also dated back to Roman times.However, we did stop for a cappuccino and in the French way we turned our chairs to the town square so we could people watch while getting some cool shade under the café awning.

Rather than just take the road back to AeP that we had come out into the countryside on we dialled in another route to the GPS and passed through engaging towns such as Beaucaire and Tarascon and it was a pity that we had been a bit slack in getting out from AeP this morning as we felt we were running out of time to stop and take a walk in the towns.

However,our route took us past the turn off to Les Baux-de-Provence which had been recommended to us to visit by Chris and Marilyn,and we took the road up to the hilltop town which had a fascinating medieval history which included the Grimaldi family who of course rule Monaco.In the past up to 4000 people had lived in the town built on a rocky outcrop but today only about 20 people live there with the rest of the town given over to numerous tourist shops,restaurants and a small number of accommodation places.Despite the srenuos walk up the path to the town it was well worth it and we were pleased we had found the place in the early evening when some of the heat had gone out of the day.

Our route back to the apartment continued on a different track than we had come out on and as we neared AeP we made a surprising discovery,another aqueduct!This one,Aqueduc de Roquefavour, had been part of the Canal de Marseille which is part of the water supply to the city of Marseille being built in the mid 1800's.While the aqueduct is nowhere as old as the Pont du Gard,its size,height and length made it a remarkable sight.

The sun was well into going down by the time we got home and the cold beers were most welcome after a lengthy day out and about.It was just as well we had an easy dinner to prepare and it was a pleasant experience sitting on the balcony watching the last of the sun disappearing as we ate reflecting back on a most enjoyable days drive in the French countryside.

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