Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pont du Gard and Carcassonne

A reader’s digest version of the last week is the best I can do with limited Internet and battery time. Here are a few pre-Paris highlights.

Pont du Gard

Now we know why guidebooks don’t mention the Roman aqueduct ruin of Pont du Gard as an excursion from Montpellier. It’s easy to get to from Avignon and Nimes but next to impossible to get to—without a car—from Montpellier. Debby and I did it though! After a train to Nimes and bus connection to Remoulins, we walked 4.5K to a canoe rental place, then canoed 6K down the Gardon River and under Pont du Gard, then walked 10 minutes or so to the Pont du Gard, then across it, then hiked up about 50 feet above it for a panoramic view, then hiked back down, back to canoe rental place, then another 4.5K back to Remoulins, where we waited half an hour in the hot sun for the bus back to Nimes. Never mind I had heat exhaustion—I’m pleased this middle-aged jalopy survived and thrived. One note on our treks—we were fascinated to see clumps of bamboo growing everywhere along the roads.
Our canoeing adventure was worth our trouble. Whether we sluiced or bumped through, the many whitewater rapids were fun. Whee! The Pont du Gard is as magnificent from below as it is from above.


One of my favorite parts of the museum was the aerial film from Uzes to Nimes, the path the water took when the Roman aqueduct was whole and functioning, over all the remaining ruins of the Pont du Gard. We also saw an olive tree that had been growing near the aqueduct since 908.

Finally getting to boat on the Canal du Midi was a highlight for me, though the “countryside” here had industrial, nonpicturesque aspects. Some sections were lined with plane trees though, and we went through two locks.
La Cite, built over a Roman fortress, was a theater of the Crusades in the 13th century. Carcassonne is spectacular if you ignore the shops selling plastic swords. We toured the chateau inside the fortress and enjoyed spectacular views, even to the Pyrenees.

And we certainly learned more about medieval war defense than we ever thought possible. Q: If the enemy gets past your barbacane, what do you do? A: Hoist concrete balls (gigantic ones!) up with pulleys to drop on the invaders. Also, we learned the moat did not contain water; rather, it was a grassy area for jousting matches, and today for horse-drawn caleche rides for tourists.
On our last night after supper in our little apartment, Debby and I walked back to see the floodlit walls of La Cite. Daytime bustle had hushed. When we turned around to walk home, the full moon rising above hundreds of stone crosses in a cemetery was even more quieting.

1 comment:

Judy Carlsen said...

What a great thing to do and I'm glad to hear you made it! Wish I could have been there with you this time. Thinking of you as you are in Paris and as I booked a hotel for a co-worker there for this Thursday night. Looking forward to talking to you tomorrow!