I think this was Day 19 of 35. They are all sort of running together, so I need to keep up on the blog or risk getting it all muddled up! Anyway, I woke up in Collieure, France and dearly wished I had had the extra day to layover here. I had an amazing meal down by the harbor last night, had an interesting talk with some Brit ex-pats who now live in France (they are freaked about Brexit), and woke up this morning to a brilliant blue sky and 70 degrees. The pool looked SO good.
But alas, today was a “transition day”. That’s a euphemism for “get on the freeway and drive like crazy to get somewhere else”. So, it was off through Perpignon, Narbonne, Montpelier and Nimes before reaching my destination, Avignon. Those if you who took French in school surely learned the nursery rhyme “sur la Pont d’Avignon” (on the bridge at Avignon). If not, you may recall that in the 1300’s the Pope relocated to Avignon, then a backwater village, and built Vatican 2. As you will see below, not as elegant as Vatican (Rome), but a lot more defensible, and that is why they moved in the first place. Anyway, this had a huge impact on the Church, at one point leading to having two Popes at the same time, and, with a soft spot for France, deteriorated relations with England…. lots of history in all this, but if you are interested, you probably already know it.
The 250km blast on the A9 was actually pretty nice. 120kph, three lanes, smooth road all the way. Lots of rest stops and fuel and food places right on the highway. It’s a toll road and cost me 20 Euros at the end, but I covered a lot of country very quickly.
My “detour of the day” was near Nimes, where I cut off to see the historic village of Uzes and the Pont du Gard. Background: Nimes was founded in the 1st century BC by the Romans. It had a great strategic location, but lacked one thing, water. The mountain top village of Uzes had a big natural spring (small river actually), but it was 80km away and there was one small problem…. a big deep gorge about halfway between Uzes and Nimes. So, the Romans built an aqueduct. No big deal, except for the gorge, where they built the most spectacular “water bridge” perhaps in the world, the Pont du Gard. An internet picture of it headlines this blog, and my pix follow. Anyway, after the water arrived in 40AD, Nimes prospered, quadrupled in size, and today has arguably the best Roman archeological sites in France. The “bridge” is incredible.
As many of you know, I am a little “city averse” when driving. Things never seem to go quite right (at the end of a long day) when you are staying in a city of any size. But I had to see Avignon, so throwing caution to the wind, I booked a hotel right next to the Papal Palace, knowing that I would have to park in a city parking structure and walk to the hotel.
It was HOT today. 95F in Avignon. It was a hot drive. When I got to the city, it was hotter, then Mr. Garmin decided it was time for a wild ride. Into the old town, down streets I am sure I was not supposed to be on, dead ends and pedestrian barriers, u turns and reverses up hill, all in search of my pre-determined parking garage. No matter what I did, Garmin kept trying to take me the wrong way down one-way streets and through pedestrian only lanes. Finally, I shut it off, went back outside the city and came in again, this time following the road signs to my destination. By that time the temp gauge, which is normally at 70 was at 90 and climbing. When I finally parked, both me and the Jag were overheated, and she decided to spit up. When I shut down the engine, the temp gauge pegged. I will bring a few bottles of water to the garage tomorrow morning.
The end result s that I am in a nice little hotel right on the main square. Fifth floor with elevator and AC! Sidewalk cafes right outside the door. Troubadours performing in the square (I am listening from my room as I write this). So, I guess it was worth it.
Tomorrow it’s good bye France and on to San Remo, Italy. Another mostly freeway drive, but I have seen all that coast before, so I will wave as a pass by Cannes, Nice and Monaco.
Today’s Route: https://tinyurl.com/y86cbbde
Collieure harbor and citadel last night. No idea why this fishing village needed a citadel.
Dinner, from the bottom up, chorizo, marinated sardines, garlic bruschetta, calamari. Not shown: fat crunchy bread, butter and a bottle of local Rose.
Couple of shots of Uzes above, not so interesting.
The layout of the park at Pont du Gard. And my shots below. Can’t match the internet shots as it is impossible to get far enough away to get the entire view.
1000 year old olive trees. Not planted by the Romans, but could have been from seeds off Roman trees. Gen 2 trees from 2000 years ago.
Proof that I was there AND hiked to the top!
Shots below of the Papal Palace in Avignon.