Tourism

This page has the following sections:

Pont du Gard
Markets
Arene at Nimes
Aigues Mortes
Beaches

Towns & Villages


Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is an aqueduct in the South of France constructed by the Roman Empire, and located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard near Remoulins, in the Garddépartement.

Name

Pont du Gard means literally bridge of the Gard (river). The Gard River, which has given its name to the Gard département, does not actually exist under this name. The river, formed by many tributaries, several of which are called Gardon, is itself called Gardon until its end.

Description

Built on three levels, the Pont is 49 m high, and the longest level is 275 m (300 yards) long.

Lower level: 6 arches, 142 m long, 6 m thick, 22 m high
Middle level: 11 arches, 242 m long, 4 m thick, 20 m high
Upper level: 47 arches, 275 m long, 3 m thick, 7 m high
On its first level, it carries a road and at the top of the third level, a water conduit, which is 1.8 meters (6 ft) high and 1.2 meters (4 ft) wide and has a gradient of 0.4 percent.

History

It was long thought that the Pont du Gard was built by Augustus' son-in-law and aide, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, around the year 19 BC. Newer excavations, however, suggest the construction took place in the middle of the first century A.D. Designed to carry the water across the small Gardon river valley, it was part of a nearly 50 km (31 mi) aqueduct that brought water from the Fontaines d'Eure springs near Uzès to the Castellum in the Roman city of Nemausus (Nîmes).[1]The full aqueduct had a gradient of 34 cm/km (1/3000), descending only 17 m vertically in its entire length and delivering 20,000 cubic meters (5 million gallons) of water daily.

It was constructed entirely without the use of mortar. The aqueduct's stones – some of which weigh up to 6 tons – were precisely cut to fit perfectly together eliminating the need for mortar. The masonry was lifted into place by block and tackle with a massive human-powered treadmill providing the power for the winch. A complex scaffold was erected to support the aqueduct as it was being built. The face of the aqueduct still bears the mark of its construction, in the form of protruding scaffolding supports and ridges on the piers which supported the semicircular wooden frames on which the arches were constructed. It is believed to have taken about three years to build, employing between 800 and 1,000 workers.

Post Roman

From the fourth century onwards, its maintenance was neglected, and deposits filled up to two thirds of the conduit space. By the ninth century, it became unusable, and the people of the area started using its stones for their own purposes. However, the majority of the Pont du Gard remains impressively intact.

From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the aqueduct was used as a conventional bridge to facilitate foot traffic across the river. The pillars of the second level were reduced in width to make more room for the traffic, but this jeopardized the stability of the structure. In 1702 the pillars were restored to their original width in order to safeguard the aqueduct. In 1743, a new bridge was built by the engineer Pitot next to the arches of the lower level, so that the road traffic could cross on a purpose-built bridge. The aqueduct was restored in the 18th century, by which time it had become a major tourist site, and was restored again in the reign of Napoleon III in the mid-19th century.

The outstanding quality of the bridge's masonry led to it becoming an obligatory stop for French journeymen masons on their traditional tour around the country (see Compagnons du Tour de France), many of whom have left their names on the stonework. Markings left by the original builders can also be seen, indicating the positions in which the dressed stones were to be placed: for instance, FRS II (standing for frons sinistra II, or "front left 2"). This is a tradition that has been partly continued by modern visitors, often looking to make their own markings.

The Pont du Gard was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985.

In 1998 the Pont du Gard was hit by major flooding which caused widespread damage in the area. The road leading up to it and the neighboring facilities were badly damaged, although the aqueduct itself was not seriously harmed.

The French government sponsored a major redevelopment project in conjunction with local sources, UNESCO and the EU which concluded in 2000, pedestrianising the entire area around the aqueduct and greatly improving the visitor facilities, including establishing a museum on the north bank. The project has been criticized for its cost (€33 million) and for the perceived loss of natural beauty of the surrounding landscape and area. During the redevelopment it was not possible to walk through the conduit at the top of the aqueduct; however guided crossings are now provided by the museum. The redevelopment has ensured that the area around the Pont du Gard is now much quieter due to the removal of vehicle traffic, and the new museum provides a much improved historical context for visitors.

The Pont du Gard is today one of France's top five tourist attractions, with 1.4 million visitors reported in 2001.



Markets

Most towns have regular markets at least once each week. Many have very old origins and are still held in historic market squares. A wide variety of goods are sold. Most have a wide variety of  foodstuffs : local seafood, herbs, fruit, vegetables and wines mingle with hams and cheeses from the mountains.  There are also irregular markets selling  specific goods (antiques, horses, plants, wine etc.) in main towns.

Impromptu rural farmers markets appear according to season and availability of crops. This is  particularly during the fruit season. Similarly, many fisherman sell fish direct from their boats on the coast.

We've put together a list of more than 550 regular markets within reach of Languedoc.

Languedoc markets by day.

Languedoc markets by town.

Languedoc flea markets.

Brocantes 

Markets are morning unless noted otherwise.



Arenes at Nimes

The Arena of Nîmes is a Romanamphitheater found in the French city of Nîmes. Built around 100 A.D., it was remodeled in 1863 to serve as a bullring. The Arenas of Nimes is the site of two annual bullfights, and it is also used for other public events.

The building encloses an elliptical central space 133 m long by 101 m wide. It is ringed by 34 rows of seats supported by a vaulted construction. It has a capacity of 16,300 spectators and since 1989 has a movable cover and a heating system.

This Roman arena, originating from the first century, is one of the best preserved Roman arenas. The Arènes de Nîmes are also briefly named ‘Les Arènes’,  The Arènes de Nîmes used to be a fortress, a knight’s castle and dwellings for 2,000 people successively. Now, it is used for great musical concerts.



Aigues Mortes

"Our eyes set upon Aigues-Mortes . . .
a jewel carefully set in a case of stone."


Alexandre Dumas's tribute to Aigues-Mortes still rings true, though the town's name in English, "Dead Waters," is less poetic. Located in the heart of the marshy Camargue region on France's Mediterranean coast, Aigues-Mortes is a completely walled town that has changed little in appearance since its glory in the Middle Ages. 


For more pictures see http://www.beyond.fr/villphotos/aiguesmortesP01.html


Aigues-Mortes is considered the purest example of 13th-century military architecture. It looks today pretty much like it did in the Middle Ages. The town of neatly rectilinear streets is surrounded by a crenelated wall with 5 towers and 10 fortified portes.

Aigues-Mortes was built in the 13th century as a port, but access to the sea was via a canal dug through the ponds and marshes of the Camargue.

The Constance Tower (Tour de Constance) is an impressively massive tower [Photo 4] in the northern corner of the walls, built by Louis on the ruins of the old Matafère Tower of Charlemagne. The original purpose of the Constance Tower was to protect the town and the port. It later became infamous as a state prison, favored by the Huguenots.

Aigues-Mortes was protected from land attack by its location in the marshes. Louis IX had a road built across the marshes to the north, and defended it with the Carbonnière Tower.

Museums & Sites

Le Monument d'Aigues-Mortes

Visit the Tour de Constance and the Ramparts

Location: Place Anatole France

Entry: €6.50; 18-25 €4.50; under 17 free

Tel: 0466 536 155; Fax: 0466 537 998

Musée Paleo Passion

Location: 33 rue E. Jamais

Open: every week-end and on school holidays in April, May and June. Open every day from June 15th to September 15th.

Entry: Free

Web: www.paleopassion.com

The Paléo Passion Museum presents you a splendid fossils and minerals collection coming from Europe. Dinosaurs' eggs, ammonites, tribolites. Exhibition of more than 700 pieces for the great pleasure of children and adults.

Musée de la Torture

Location: 3 rue de la République

Entry: €7.00

Tel: 0611 977 083

An unique and international famous in the world exhibition. A visual synthesis of the torture story and its very impressive organ. Several inventions to torture and kill.

History

Name
First record, 10th century Ayga Mortas (dead waters, referring to the surrounding expanses of swamps and marshes).


Gallo-Roman: Marius Caius had a town here around 102 BC, and Gallo-Roman ruins have been discovered beneath the ancient Abbey.

Medieval: The Psalmody Abbey located here since the 5th century was obtained by Louis IX in the 13th century. Louis IX (Saint Louis) built the port here in 1240 so France would have a Mediterranean port for commerce and to launch his Crusades. Until this time, all the other towns along the southern coast were owned by the king of Aragon, the Germanic emperor and the Pope. The town, that had belonged to the monks, grew quickly with the Royal privileges, including unlimited salt and no taxes.

Crusades. Louis IX launched the Seventh Crusade from Aigues-Mortes in 1248. He launched the Eight Crusade in July 1270, and died near Tunis on 25 August.

The town's fortifications, that give it such character today, were built by the next two kings of France: Philip III (the Bold) and Philip IV (the Fair). Following a century of Royal privilege, the port area of Aigues-Mortes silted up and the town fell into neglect.

The Constance Tower served as a state prison, first by the Templiers and then by the Huguenots. The Protestant Marie Duran was held prisoner there for 38 years in the 18th century.

Office de Tourisme

Tel: 0466 537 300; Fax: 0466 536 594

Email: info@ot-aiguesmortes.fr     Web: www.ot-aiguesmortes.fr

Dates

Wed, Sun mornings - Market.
Sat mornings, Summer - Flea Market.
1st Sun Oct. - Fête votive: feria, bulls.







Espiguette Beach

Picture
Espiguette is one of the areas most beautiful unspoilt sandy beaches.


Beaches

Well I can't possibly beat the comprehensive review of all Languedoc's 42 beaches at http://www.creme-de-languedoc.com/Languedoc/beaches/index.php



Towns & Villages

The photograph shows the Roman bridge on the Vidourle at Sommieres.

Languedoc-Roussillon has many hundreds of fascinating places to visit.  A small selection are given here.

Montpellier, regional capital of Languedoc Rousillon, and Herault is an old university town. Medical schools were established during the occupation by the Moors around the 9th century. The Moors, at that time, were the most advanced scientific culture in the Mediterranean basin. Today Montpellier has stunning modern architecture alongside an ancient centre. The tram makes it easy to visit the numerous art galleries and museums.

Nimes, the capital of Gard, was the Nemausus of Roman history. The arena (built AD or BC 0) is still in use. The old city and Maison Carre are worth visiting.

Arles is of interest for its extensive Roman remains and also it's artistic history.

Narbonne, just outside Languedoc, has fine Roman remains.

Mountain areas include Mt Aigoual, Anduze, Florac, Ganges, Gorge du Tarn, Mt Lozere, Mende, Millau, St Guilhem le Desert, St Hippolyte du Fort, St Enimie, Sauve, Le Vigan,

Coastal towns include Beziers, Bouzigues, Camargue, Canal du Midi, Cap d’AgdeGrande Motte, Grau de Roi & Port Camargue, Maguelone, Marseillan, Meze, Sete.

Historical interest in Aigues Mortes, Beaucaire, Lodeve, Pezenas, Sommieres, Uzes, Pont du Gard, Lunel (inc Ambrussum).

There are many other towns, outside Languedoc, but within reach and worth visiting. The majority of these can be reached by car within less than 2 hours, but Barcelona is just under 3 hours from Montpellier. A small selection -Aix en Provence, Andorra, Avignon, Banyuls, Barcelona, Les Calanques, Carcasonne, Ceret, Collioure, Figueras (Dali museum), Girona, Gorge d’Ardeche, Larzac, Les Baux de Provence, Marseille, Martigues, Mont Ventoux, Orange,  Perpignan, Tautavel, Toulon.


Languedoc tourist offices by town.

Dedicated town websites.


See a huge range of useful information for the region at...


Villas in Spain
See our selection of holiday villas to rent in Spain direct from their owners.
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