The Romans had many settlements in the south east of France, and so there are lots of sites to see. Unfortunately there are too many for us to visit in the time that we have, and it would also work out very expensive if we even tried, so we settled on visiting just two. Wanting to avoid driving the van through the busy weekend traffic and narrow streets of the larger towns and cities, such as Avignon, Arles and Nîmes, we settled on the Pont du Gard, and Vaison-la-Romaine.
The Pont du Gard is a huge three tier aqueduct crossing the River Gardon. It was built in the first century to carry water to the city of Nîmes and, unsurprisingly, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not only is it fantastic to look at, it’s also a remarkable piece of Roman engineering, capable of carrying 8.8 million gallons of water per day, and descending just 2.5 cm across its entire span.
The weather has suddenly become much hotter, in the low 30’s, so we made an early start to avoid the midday sun. After parking the van in the vast car park, we bought our tickets and made the short walk to the aqueduct. Fortunately there weren’t too many people wandering about, as it was a little early for the coach parties. It really is a magical setting, and after crossing the bridge we were able to enjoy a walk along the river bank and admire the aqueduct from a distance. Returning to the visitor centre, we had a quick mooch around the museum which had displays showing how the aqueduct was constructed. Those poor slaves!
After a quick lunch in the van, we were back on the road heading for Vaison-la-Romaine, a town in the foothills of the Alps overlooked by Mont Ventoux, the legendary Tour de France climb which has been the scene of many an epic ride. I won’t be riding up there!
The aire was rather full when we arrived, and we luckily nabbed the last space. By now the weather was very warm, so we got the chairs out under the awning and spent the afternoon reading. After an early dinner, and with the weather a bit cooler, we strolled into town just five minutes away, passing the boulodrome where some 50 or so locals were playing or watching boules. Being popular with tourists, half of the town is made up of restaurants and bars, with the remainder made up of boutique-style shops selling premium priced clothing or local produce. We made do with an ice cream.
This morning we were up early again, so that we could visit the Roman remains before the weather got too hot. The site is split into two by a road and car park. We were first in and made a beeline for the amphitheatre, as it’s always nice to have such a large place to ourselves. On this occasion we were rather disappointed to find that the amphitheatre is a modern reconstruction, with very little of the Roman structure remaining. Had I looked online beforehand I’d have seen this, but I try to avoid looking at other people’s photos so as not to spoil things. The rest of the site was in a really good condition though, and we spent a while in the museum where there’s a nice mosaic, and some statues in excellent condition.
Back at the van, we’ve spent the afternoon sat in the shade under the awning. It’s hot, but there’s been a gentle breeze to take the edge off it. The fridge has been working overtime, humming away whilst cooling bottle after bottle of water and cans of beer. Tomorrow we will be need to find a supermarket to replenish our supplies.
Our plan for the next week is to move slowly up to Annecy, and then cross the border into Switzerland for a few days before entering Germany in the Black Forest area. I did German at school for a couple of years, but I struggled with it and hardly remember anything, so I’ve brought a language course away with me which I’m cracking on with, and I’m looking forward to trying out my new found skills on the poor unsuspecting German population – that should be fun!