DAY 6 – (SATURDAY) PONT DU GARD
We’ve saved the best for Last. If you arrived on a Sunday and have a villa or other accommodation for a week, this will be your last day. And it’s an incredibly spectacular day to end any trip!
If there’s one sight in Provence one has to see it’s this one – the 2,000 year old Roman aqueduct that towers across the River Gardon and which is one of the best preserved Roman structures anywhere. At 50 meters tall it is awe inspiring any way you see it. And we have the best way to experience this day so that it won’t only be a highlight of your week, it will be an indelible travel highlight you’ll always have!
We recommend doing the Pont on a Saturday. That way, you can start the day at the Saturday market in Uzes. Uzes is a spectacularly beautiful village and its Saturday market is one of the best and biggest in the area. It is massive, sprawling through the cobblestoned streets and Places. It is at once a grocery store, bakery, florist one hundred times over. You’ll find clothes, jewellery, linens, pottery, plants and of course all manner of local tasty products to sample and buy. Once you’ve stocked up and perhaps had a coffee in one of the squares, you can head off to one of the kayaking centers near the river. The kayak operators will ferry you to the starting point on the river and arrange a time for to pick you up at the Pont. The kayaking itself – especially in late summer – is wonderful. It’s a relatively easy and calm 3.5 mile jaunt down the river towards the aqueduct. On the way, you may have to get out and push or pull your kayak as the water can get quite shallow! There are little island banks in the river all along the way so you can stop and swim and enjoy your treats you picked up earlier in Uzes. Depending on how relaxed you are, at some point the mighty Pont will come into view. After the absolutely obligatory photo session, it is incredibly thrilling to paddle through the Pont and emerge on the other side where the kayak company will meet you. It’s an absolutely perfect day!
SURPRISING FIND: Even though this is one of our favorite travel days anywhere, there’s actually more! Nearby the Pont du Gard is the charming small city of Nimes. Nimes is a lovely walkable Roman city. By the time you get here it will most likely be early evening so start by taking a quick look at the Maison Carree, the best preserved Roman temple anywhere, and then join the throngs at the huge outdoor squares opposite the mighty arena. You may just be able to hear the sounds from the concert inside the arena and if you plan really well you can get tickets for a show if you have the energy! For us it was enough to sit and have a lovely dinner in the shadow of this great Roman building. In April in fact, the arena hosts a weekend of the Great Roman Games where actors, extras and performers from all over Western Europe come to take part in a reenactment of a great Roman spectacle!
If you are lucky enough to have more time on your trip, there is so much more you could still do! If you want a day out in nature, head to the Camargue wetlands where you’ll find an impressive array of wildlife including the wild pink flamingos for which the region is rightfully famous. You’ll also find the black Camargue bulls and herds of snow white horses, an ancient breed that roams free here. It’s a great place for wildlife enthusiasts.
You probably won’t have come close to seeing most of the wonderful classic villages that dot Provence but you may want to spend some time exploring another town or city. Besides having a classic center with an amphitheater and lovely streets (Arles was a great metropolis of Roman Gaul), Arles was home to Van Gogh for over a year and at one point he worked together with Gauguin for a couple of months. There are many Van Gogh related tours available!
Aix en Provence is a college town and a must for many tourists (we had to choose one midsized town so we chose Avignon which we love). It’s full of lovely narrow lanes and streets, great cafes, buildings, sights and food! It also has a great weekly market although you cannot get to all of them! But for people looking for a mid sized town buzz and nightlife, Aix is definitely a place to visit.