Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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I was only 25 minutes away on the train, so why not? One of those places that everyone visits and it was indeed very, very, busy. More history than is good for a small place. Those well kept city walls will, like the other place, come in useful when law and order breaks down and the predators need to be kept out.

It’s an expensive place to have a drink – €7 for a 50cl beer! Still it was nice after a hot afternoon.

I began with a walk right around the city walls, which are 4.3km in length, circling the old city which still has around 12,000 residents inside their protection.


In the foreground are the power supply masts for the new tramway, which comes into service on 19th October. It doesn’t go inside the walls.

The river Rhône flows past Avignon. This picture is quite deceptive as it has several channels beyond.

You can’t dance sur le pont d’Avignon any longer. Most it was washed away in the 17th century. This is all that’s left.

Across the river, the Fort St André keeps watch.

Within the city, the premises where a certain M. Pernod produced his first bottle.

In the same street, Rue des Teinturiers, a few of the waterwheels that once powered the dyemakers and tanners works are still visible, but long since out of use.

Avignon’s railway station, nice place but a lack of trains. To make matters worse, two back to Nîmes were cancelled and the one that did go was 20 minutes late!

These and more, click to view :

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One of the new city trams on a test run

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The Popes’ palace

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And the views from nearby

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Strange gargoyles on the side of the street, no doubt taken from an old church.

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Built as almshouses in the late 18th century. Following picture explains.

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One of the stranger pub toilets I have been in!

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Visit to Avignon 17th August 2019

Tagged: , , , on August 23, 2019 by cubsur51

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Last Thursday was a Public holiday in France, so I decided on a trip to the seaside. Courtesy of the transport policy of Languedoc Roussillon regional authority, the 50km train journey costs only €2 return! I joined a busy 6 car train on the trip which runs through fairly prosperous countryside then across causeways and between strangely coloured lakes to the sea. It’s a fairly slow ride in parts, taking almost an hour. Outside the summer this line sees almost no rail traffic, people preferring to commute on crowded roads.

The unusual name derives from the Occitan word grau (Latin gradus), which refers to the opening of an étang (shallow saline lake), or the watercourse from an etang into the sea. (Occitan is the old language of southern France, parts of Italy and a small area of Spain. It is still spoken in some remote areas and in cities like Nîmes is seen on street signs).

The Grau du Roi area is obviously very popular, with hordes there on the day of my visit visit despite it being very windy.

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Even some of the gulls could not be bothered!

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The white buildings are a nearby resort, La Grande Motte.

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The town has around 18km of beaches.

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It’s a Harley, Jim, but not as we know it. Seen on the town streets.

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The canal cuts through the centre of town. There is still a small amount of commercial fishing.

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North of the town are the pink lakes.  Apparently the colour comes from a small crustacean. Behind it the massive banks of salt. This is a major industry thereabouts.

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A train at Le Grau du Roi waiting to go back to Nîmes. A surprise on my return trip was a ticket check before boarding (almost unheard of in France) and a full baggage search by five fully armed members of the railway police.  Note the overgrown, disused tracks. A common feature in much of France where train service is minimal.

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A little way north of Le Grau du Roi is the walled town of Aigues-Mortes (dead waters in the Occitan) absolutely full to bursting with tourists. Pictures of the walls were taken from the train window. They will come in useful in future years to keep people safe from  marauders as they did long ago.

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Next post, tomorrow sometime, will concern my visit to Avignon last Friday.

Visit to Le Grau du Roi, August 2019

Tagged: , , , on August 21, 2019 by cubsur51

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Visit to Torre Magna, Nîmes, August 2019 – Tour Magne in French.

From my hotel room window I could see this tower right across the other side of town, on top of a tall hill. (The rusty roofs are those of the railway station. They are supposed to be that colour!)

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Some quick reading and it had to be checked. It is another of Nîmes Roman era monuments, dating from the 1st century AD and built as a part of the original city walls and defensive systems. The building was taller when first built.  It’s actual purpose is not really known. It may have been a signal and / or observation tower. Some say it was built simply as a demonstration of power.

If fell into disuse when the city declined in importance and size following the collapse of the Empire. New walls were built around the smaller city, marked today by the wide boulevards. It wasn’t entirely finished, as late as the early 19th century is became a semaphore telegraph relay station.

The interior was stripped down to the walls by treasure hunters (they found nothing) which weakened the structure. A modern concrete pillar now supports it. A circular staircase of 140 steps leads to a viewing platform giving excellent views over the city.

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The stub arch on the right marks the end of the access ramp. There were no openings on the ground floor.

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The climb to the top.

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The views when you reach the top make the climb worthwhile.

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On the left hand side centre is the arena.

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One way to the tower is through the Jardins de la Fontaine. Laid out in the 18th century, these ornamental gardens used some of the features of a Roman garden, long since forgotten. The ‘fountain’ was the original water source for the city and was again after the aqueduct finally broke down.

The way up is quite steep.

Also within the gardens are the remains of the so-called Temple of Diana. No-one is certain it ever was an actual temple. The site is free to access, except at the back.

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Visit to Torre Magna, Nîmes, August 2019

Tagged: , , on August 18, 2019 by cubsur51

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Visit to les Arènes, Nîmes, August 2019

No visit to Nîmes is complete with a visit to les Arènes, the Roman amphitheatre. Although it has been modernised, repaired and rebuilt in part, the basic structure is as it was when completed around 100AD. It is still used for shows, events and bullfights. One immediate word of advice, if going in summer, get there early! By the time I left around 1130am, there must have been at least 100 people queuing to get in.

As with the Pont du Gard, there must also be a million photos out there. Here are some of mine. Staff were busy clearing up after a three day festival event.  Many of the stadium’s features will be immediately familiar to any sports fan. The original capacity was around 24,000 but in the present day it’s only about 13,000. Some sections were damaged during the Middle Ages when the place was a fortress and houses, even two churches, had been built inside. Those sections have not been completly restored. The work of restoration and rebuilding actually began as long ago as 1786. Wikipedia article here.

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In summer a large retractable awning covered the seating area. Fitted to wooden posts, some of the post holes can be see on the parapet above the top row of seats, which were for women and slaves! The four rows of ringside seats were of course reserved for the nobility and those who could afford the price.

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I bet the Romans would have loved to have had modern floodlights.

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Slots all around the walls let in the breeze to help keep people cool. No air-con in those days.

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One of the gladiators changing rooms. Surprisingly small I though. Modern reproductions of course.

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The wooden seats are the modern ones used for current shows. The top tiers are the original stone. Bring your own cushion.

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One of the interior passageways between the entrances and the steps up to your seat

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I am sure that the design of the nearby Nîmes railway station is a deliberate recogition of the older place!

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Visit to les Arènes, Nîmes, August 2019

Tagged: , on August 16, 2019 by cubsur51

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Visit to Pont du Gard August 2019

Something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Anyone with even the slightest interest in history or engineering cannot fail to be impressed by this structure. Built in 1st century AD as part of a 50km aqueduct to bring a better water supply to the city of Nîmes, it is still almost complete but no longer functional. That lasted only about 600 years!

There are probably a million pictures out there. Here a just a few of mine. Down below, the river is a popular canoeing and kayaking centre, as well as a place just to jump in the water on a hot day. The site is accessed through a visitor centre which houses a museum and history of the construction of the waterway system. There is a lot of walking to do within the site and some parts are definitely not accessible to those less mobile.

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The low structure in the foreground is an early 18th century road bridge, whose arches exactly match the pattern of the much older aqueduct. It is across this that visitors walk. Guided tours of the Roman building, including the interior, are available at certain times.

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This is the river Gardon.

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The slots are those used by the engineers cranes when hoisting the blocks up the scaffold.

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This rather grand residence sits nearby.

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The plaque on the later bridge.

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The protruding blocks, clearly seen in this picture, were to support the scaffolding that rose with the structure.

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Nearby is a short tunnel, dug to bring water onto the top of the aqueduct. Most of the 50km of the water route was in fact at ground level or beneath it.

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The remains of one of the channels down from the hills.

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There is plenty of history and information easily found. All of this was achieved without modern machinery, computer aided design or committees. Wikipedia article here.

Most of the 1.5 million annual visitors go by car, so there is a vast car park nearby. You can get there by public bus from Nîmes, Avignon and Uzès, the buses stop about 5 minutes walk from the visitor centre. At the time of my visit, the bus fare for any journey was €3,10 there and back. Regional bus website for times is https://www.laregion.fr/transports-gard-regulier the stop is called Vers Rond Point du Gard.

Get there early! Estimate 2 – 3 hours on site. It is a pleasant area to walk around, although on the day of my visit it was quite windy with a lot of dust in the air.

Visit to Pont du Gard August 2019

Tagged: , , on August 16, 2019 by cubsur51

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In tourist mode! Very much enjoying a few days based in Nîmes, even though the city is packed to the rafters. The internet here has been fixed, so I shall be able to upload some pictures later today.

Yesterday I went to the seaside. A popular resort called Le Grau du Roi, about 50 minutes by a fairly slow train from Nîmes. Big plus factor – return fare of €2! Although very busy in summer, the line sees hardly any trains for 10 months of the year. Bus and train fares are the same.

Le Grau de Roi was very busy also and very windy.

On the way back all train passengers were held for a security check, bag search etc, conducted by five armed members of the railway police. Most unexpected. I don’t think they were looking for anyone in particular, but yesterday was a public holiday and perhaps it was just a matter of keeping groups of young men with far too much beer off the train.

Pictures to follow.

In tourist mode!

Tagged: , on August 16, 2019 by cubsur51

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Moved from Bordeaux to Nîmes… where it is very windy and very humid and very hot! Unfortunately I am yet again in an hotel where the internet service is almost of no use. Download speed of 0.25Mb per second means it is almost impossible to anything than simple text and even that takes forever.

I have visted the very famous (and incredibly busy) Pont du Gard today. Tomorrow it will be the various antiquities in the city itself, of which there are many and varied. Whether I can upload pictures remains to be seen, but it’s late now and a job for tomorrow.

Moved from Bordeaux to Nîmes…

Tagged: on August 13, 2019 by cubsur51

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