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Saturday, 17 September 2022

The Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is a remarkably well-preserved Roman viaduct bridge crossing the river Gardon in the (guess what😀) Gard department. It was built to carry water from springs near Uzes to the colony of Nimes and was also a toll bridge. The road bridge on the lower section was added in the 18th century.

Keith and I had visited the bridge before, but we were more than happy to revisit so that my brother could see it. Our campsite was close by so we avoided having to pay for the car park! Here we are standing on the 18th century road bridge.

The top two tiers - the water was carried on the top level.

The river is a popular spot for swimming, canoeing and picnicking.

Below is an example of 19th century graffitti, though I can't make any sense of the third line other than the year. 

Looking back from the other side of the river, and showing the Roman side (i.e. not the 18thC road bridge side).

There were quite a number of Alpine Swifts nesting in the rock of the bridge which was a surprise - I would have expected to see them nesting up in the mountains whereas we were on quite flat land. Alpine Swifts are larger than common Swifts and have lovely white markings on their undersides, although like common Swifts they are migratory and overwinter in Africa, and feed and drink on the wing.

Photo Credit: K Allen

You can see the baby Swift in the nest as its wings are sticking out of the crack in the rock! Whether there are others in there as well, I don't know.

Photo Credit: K Allen

One more holiday post to go, then we'll be off on our next trip! I'm not going to do a great long write up of every place we visit though on the next holiday - we are away for three weeks so it would take far too long! 😀

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Our village fete and brocante market

There was a five day fete in our village recently. I had heard from the sellers of our house that there was a big event every year, but of course with Covid happening after we moved here, this is the first time it has been held. There was a small one day event in 2020 but it wasn't much. Most of the things going on were not of interest to us, like football matches and dinner and dance events for local associations. However, the 'Vide Grenier' caught my eye and it was also on the same day as a vintage car rally, so that is when we went.

I was most pleased to see that it wasn't actually a Vide Grenier, which is basically a car boot sale for individuals, and usually here in France it's generally people selling a load of their old kids' clothes and toys and not always that interesting, but this was actually a brocante/flea market kind of market with pros selling their junk (rather than 'posh' antiques), which is what I like! 

There was also a part of the market with local producers selling their produce, such as honey or garlic like in the following photo. They look pretty to hang up but they were too expensive!

The market was huge and spread out over the whole village, going right up the hill to the very top of the old town.

Here we found some of the vintage cars. This is something American.

And this is a Mustang.

Two lovely old cars - I liked the white one.

As we were wandering around the sound of some music came down a side street and a rather eclectic bunch wandered past us. I loved the nun pushing the amplifier for the pirate who was playing guitar and singing rather badly. 😁

At the top of the village beside the 'Halles', the centuries old covered market, there were many food stalls and tables and chairs had been laid out under cover for people to take their food to to eat at. Actually we were really lucky as it was at last a much cooler day with cloud so it was far more pleasant to be walking around!

I'm assuming this is an old school, as that's what it says!

I also liked this old building, but it's getting a bit too tatty and looks like people have blobbed mortar over the stones, badly, at the bottom. Love the half timbered part and I hope it is renovated at some point.

Coming back down the hill and despite the heat this summer, the planters are still looking very colourful and well looked after.

I loved this colourful balcony!

We are now down to the lower part of the village and the building behind the antique fabric stall is the old weighbridge.

It's the first time it has been open so we went in to see what was in there....

A replica of what the village looked like back in medieval times, with the fortified walls and part of a castle. The perspex or glass was very reflective so difficult to photograph, so that is actually my shadow blocking the light as best I could! The old railway station that I mentioned in a recent post was along the road from here, so I guess the produce was weighed before sending off to other towns/markets, hence having a weighbridge.

Down to the 'main street' where the few shops are - a pharmacy and restaurant in view and opposite there is a bakery and a little mini market selling most everything you need, which is really handy to have in a small village with a population of just under 1,000. There's also a cafe which is behind where I'm taking the photo, and there was once a butcher's shop but it's closed. The building across the road on the far left used to be a coaching inn and the big barn like doors are still there where the horses would have been taken in, whilst the passengers would go around the other side which was a floor higher, to the inn and rooms. That's the way up to our road around there.

Here's what I came home with - just a few things but I'm very pleased with them. A couple of rustic jugs - the one on the left and the one just right of the photo. I used to have quite a few jugs but many bigger ones got broken over the years, so when mum died I took a few little ones from her house. These two cost me just 2.50 euros.

Many of my ornaments and bits and bobs come from either my grandmother or my mum (which probably came from her mum anyway), such as the copper and the gold mirror frame, which I remember from my childhood having a horrible picture in it. Mum had this and another one turned into mirrors, which look fabulous. I'm not into contemporary or minimalist style as you can see. 😀

There was also a stall selling old stuff for the garden, and I saw these rusty butterflies which were just the sort of thing I was looking for. I will paint the red part in blue later on to go with my collection of blue pots. They were pretty cheap too. (These orange Bidens overwintered here by the pool and have come back to life - I had no idea if they were going to be annuals or perennials, so that was a nice surprise!).

I have more photos of my planters, tomatoes and garden for another post later on.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

The Pont d'Arc and the Gorges of the Ardèche

We started the day meeting up with old friends for lunch - as luck would have it, an old friend from school contacted me to ask if we would be home in mid June - no I said, we will be away! Typical! But we were able to find a meeting point as Sally and Jim were driving home after a stay in Tuscany and going back through France to England. The town of Vallon Pont d'Arc is a touristy spot but with many restaurants so this was a good place to meet up. Last time I saw Sally was when we were in Brittany; she and her family came to us not long after we moved there, I think it was about 2006. Before that, we'd drifted apart, as you do, in our late 20s! We had a lovely lunch and it was wonderful catching up and time went by way too quickly, as it always does.

After lunch we said our goodbyes and we had a bit of a wander around the town. One of the first shops I noticed was the Maison de la Lavande, the lavender farm from the day before! They have several shops with their products in towns around the south east of France.

We then headed to the nearby gorges and not far from the town is the famous Pont d'Arc - a natural stone bridge over the Ardèche river and a popular spot for tourists, whether just stopping to take photos or for swimming and canoeing.

We also bumped into Sally and Jim again!

My brother and I down at river level, sensibly wearing silly hats!

All the info about the bridge is here on these info boards, in English, so it saves me having to type it all out! 😀 Click on the image to view larger if you can't see it well enough to read.

A horseshoe bend in the river.

For a nice change, there were stopping places all the way along the gorge to stop and take photos, though K and my brother got bored and stayed in the moho after a while, or maybe it was just because of the aircon inside! Yes, it was another boiling hot day.

Now this is a really cropped photo as the mountain in the distance was a long way away. This is Mt Ventoux, which looks like it has snow on top. It's not though, it is light coloured limestone, and it's a really bizarre experience driving up there. You go through all the different flora levels until you get to a world of barren nothingness, just pale stones! This peak is 1,909m high and has been used as a stage in the Tour de France a number of times. It is really well worth visiting (which we did on a previous trip to Provence).

Coming to the end of the gorges, looking towards the valley of the Rhone.

After we hit the lowlands we headed south to a campsite very close to the Pont du Gard, which we visited the next day, and will be my next holiday post. 😀