Wednesday, October 26, 2016

France&Fez Day 7, Nimes and Pont du Gard

Our seventh day in France was a rainy and gloomy Sunday.  We headed towards the ancient city of Nimes in the rain, and were grateful for a break in the moisture as we found our way to parking amid much construction and traffic rerouting in that beautiful city.

Nimes is, indeed, an ancient city.  It boasts an amazing Roman Colloseum (still in use for bull fights and concerts, and lived in throughout the middle ages as attested to by graffiti and conversion of some quarters into chapels, etc.), a temple commissioned by Caesar Augustus, and the remains of a forum.  So many beautiful old stones!

And the rest of the town is charming, too, with its stone streets and squares, cafes and greenery.

The rain began again as we got in the car and headed with our picnic to Pont du Gard.  By God's grace, it stopped again when we did, and we found a covered spot for our traditional French picnic fare: a baguette, with butter and prosciutto, and with a variety of fromage (cheese), but never together; fresh fruits and veggies, and a little chocolat.  Then on to an amazing ancient site: the Roman aqueduct over the Gardon river.

This 50m high section of the aqueduct was built in the first century AD, and originally stretched its three tiers over 50 km from its source in the hills to Nimes.  A wonder of Roman engineering, the aqueduct maintained a steady 3% downhill grade over that whole distance.  It has graffiti on it from Roman times, medieval days, and through to the more recent building of the car bridge (now a walking bridge).  There is an interesting museum there as well, but the aqueduct, the river, and the countryside are the real beauty of the place.  Another wonderful day in Provence!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

France&Fez Day 6, J.'s Marseille

On a rainy October 1 morning, we stuck rather close to home, and made forays out into J.'s neighborhood of Marseille between showers.  We walked through a couple of her lovely neighborhood parks, then went grocery shopping (and were introduced to all the glories of Carrefour!) and toured her local shopping mall.

In the afternoon we headed down a narrow lane to the Parc Borely.  What a magnificent home this was, with fabulous grounds planted with trees from all over the world.  We sat in a cafe beside the pond there, and walked through the various corners of the lovely grounds, and even spotted a green parakeet in the wild.

As the afternoon wore into evening, we wandered closer to the shore of the Mediterranean, crossed the Corniche (scenic sea-side road) and wandered the plages (beaches) until the sun had set gloriously over the sea to the west.  Then, with beauty to feed our souls and imagination for years to come, we drug ourselves home, exhausted again, and having put in some 30,000 steps!

Monday, October 24, 2016

France&Fez Day 5, Les Baux and St. Remy

Our fifth day in France, we traveled west in Provence to the villages of Les Baux and St. Remy. The plane trees line the old roads between the farmland and the villages, and make the countryside charming and inviting.

Les Baux is both a castle built into a high limestone outcropping and a village nestled at it foot.  No longer much of a living city, these castle ruins and village streets are now full of shops and cafes, and history.  We started with a quick lunch in the village, then climbed into and around the castle ruins.

The lords of Les Baux controlled the high ground on the trade route between Aix-en-Provence and Avingnon, and built the formidable castle as their stronghold.  The castle met it formal end, however, in 1632, when a brother to King Louis the 13th decided to side with the protestants and make his stand at Les Baux.  After starving the castle and the village for some 22 days, the Kings troops won the day with a volley of cannon fire from some of the nearby Alpilles, and ended the revolt. So this was yet another site of Reformation sacrifice.

We then wandered through the lovely, medieval village, complete with renaissance glass windows, and plenty of "old stones".

As the evening descended, we drove on to the village of St. Remy, wandered those venerable old streets, and finished our day at a lovely little creperie, where we enjoyed the traditional combo of crepes sallee (savory) and sucre (sweet), accompanied by sweet hard apple cider.  Another wonderful day!