Cycling the beautiful Mosel River


Pont du Gard

Submitted by mag on Wed, 06/26/2019 - 08:39

The oppressive heatwave has blown up from Africa and come down hard all over Europe.  Luckily we didn't have reservations anywhere so we were able to switch our criteria to places with AC!   We found an air conditioned camping cabin at Pont du Gard, which we really wanted to revisit, so we hightailed it down there. 

Flashback:  In 1981, when we wrapped up our 3 years working for Computer Sciences Deutschland in Munich and before we headed out to Sri Lanka and parts unknown, we decided to do 3 weeks car-camping with our little orange Simca & tiny green tent. We got down as far as Lisbon and the Alhambra but one of the highlights was camping all alone at the foot of Pont du Gard (in those days you could do that - way different now!).

Anyhow, now camping near Pont du Gard has become a "thing" and we found ourselves with a comfy AC'd cabin amidst hundreds of other cabins and campsites (mostly empty since the season doesn't start until July 1).  But Pont du Gard was the same - standing silent and majestic as it has for 2000 years - ever since the Romans built it to carry water down from Uzes to supply the growing city of Nimes.  For us it was a trip back in time & a fun experience to be able to ride on a direct bike path from the campground to the viaduct at any hour of the early morning or late evening - and we were very happy to have the luxury of air conditioning.  And the luxury of a "balanced Lunch" with all the major food groups (fruit, chocolate, and grains) under the misters in view of the bridge. The Gard is not very big right now but the water is still icy - even for a Montana girl - I only went in up to my neck.  

From wikipedia

The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD to carry water over 50 kilometres (31 mi) to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes). The Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges, and one of the best preserved. It was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985 because of its historical importance.

The bridge has three tiers of arches, stands 48.8 m (160 ft) high, and descends a mere 2.5 centimetres (1 in) – a gradient of only 1 in 18,241 – while the whole aqueduct descends in height by only 12.6 m (41 ft) over its entire length, indicative of the great precision that Roman engineers were able to achieve using simple technology.

The aqueduct formerly carried an estimated 40,000 m3 (8,800,000 imp gal) of water a day to the fountains, baths and homes of the citizens of Nîmes. It may have been in use as late as the 6th century, with some parts used for significantly longer, but a lack of maintenance after the 4th century led to clogging by mineral deposits and debris that eventually stopped the flow of water.

After the Roman Empire collapsed and the aqueduct fell into disuse, the Pont du Gard remained largely intact due to the importance of its secondary function as a toll bridge. For centuries the local lords and bishops were responsible for its upkeep, in exchange for the right to levy tolls on travellers using it to cross the river. Over time, some of its stone blocks were looted, and serious damage was inflicted on it in the 17th century. It attracted increasing attention starting in the 18th century, and became an important tourist destination. It underwent a series of renovations between the 18th and 21st centuries, commissioned by the local authorities and the French state, which culminated in 2000 with the opening of a new visitor centre and the removal of traffic and buildings from the bridge and the area immediately around it. Today it is one of France's most popular tourist attractions, and has attracted the attention of a succession of literary and artistic visitors. 


so that explains why it was so informal and relaxed when we visited in 1981 and were able to camp right below the aquaduct and swim in the river directly from our campsite...   very different now... this whole area has become a "destination" - not always a good change.