Le Pont du Gard

P1040970 You wouldn’t stay in Paris and not go to look at the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. So while I was staying in Nîmes I was very keen to visit the Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard which is only 20 km away from the city and is one of the most popular historic attractions in France Technically, an aqueduct is an artificial channel that transports water from one place to another. The Pont du Gard is, strictly speaking, a bridge that carries an aqueduct over the River Gardon. Although Nîmes has it’s own spring the Romans decided that they would bring even more water into their regional capital to supply fountains, baths and private homes. Having plentiful water that could be used lavishly was a demonstration of the power and wealth of the city. 2012-06-10 12.03.12 The aqueduct took water from the springs of the Fontaine d’Eure near Uzès  along a winding route, 50 kilometres long, into Nîmes (Nemausus). To achieve this they had to build a string of bridges, tunnels and other constructions of which the Pont du Gard was the largest and grandest. There are remnants of the aqueduct at other locations along its route, although none are as complete as the Pont. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, descending only 17 m vertically from start to finish and delivering 20,000 cubic meters to Nîmes every day. The following map (source – Wikipedia) shows the route of the aqueduct. File:Carte geographique Pont du Gard.gif To get to the site I took the B21 bus from Nîmes. The service runs two or three times of day from the bus station behind the train station and terminates in the car park near the visitor centre. The bus left at 11:30 and arrived about 45 minutes later just after 12. The bus back didn’t leave until just after 4 in the afternoon and I thought that with 4 hours to spend there I might end up kicking my heels. That wasn’t the case – I could have stayed longer. P1040958 There’s a visitor centre on the left bank with an excellent museum which provided information on the history and context of the aqueduct and explained how it was constructed. They also showed a film on a loop that was shot by someone flying a micro-light over the aqueduct from start to finish. So as well as getting an aerial view of the Pont du Gard the other remains could be seen. I enjoyed looking round the museum, but it was the bridge itself that was the main purpose, and highlight of the visit. 2012-06-10 11.38.02 It’s a remarkable construction with 3 levels of arches, all designed to support the water channel that crowns the top level. It’s still in remarkably good condition given that it’s almost 2000 years old . Although it has been renovated several times over the centuries. Until relatively recently it was possible to walk along the water channel itself, which must be a hair raising experience. I believe it’s still possible to do this once a month by booking on a special guided tour. It’s in a stunning location with the river running along a wooded valley. P1040964 Both sides of the river are accessible by road and once they’ve parked up visitors can cross from one side to the other over a bridge that was tacked onto the side of the Roman structure in 1743. The builders did quite a good job as they made it so that it matched the structure. It’s the same level as the lowest level of the Pont du Gard itself and  the arches match exactly – this can be seen in the picture below which I took underneath one of the arches – the Roman arch is to the left, the later “extension” to the right. P1040955 Crossing the bridge you get a close look at the the stonework and can see where past visitors have carved their names or marks into the stone. In many cases these were carved by journeymen masons visiting the bridge during their traditional tour around the country. P1040944 There are trails along the river banks and in the wooded hills on both sides of the river. I climbed up to a couple of viewpoints above the bridge. It was worth the climb to get a view of the bridge and valley. P1040963 Like on many other French rivers, it’s possible to hire canoes upstream and paddle along with the flow down to and under the bridge. P1040969 The river isn’t too deep for most of the year and there are stony beaches where it’s possible to dip your feet in the river or have a swim. 2012-06-10 11.52.52 There’s plenty of information about the Pont du Gard on the Internet. There’e Wikipedia, of course, and I found this site which provided a good brief summary about the history of the bridge.

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6 thoughts on “Le Pont du Gard

  1. I’ll say it again – an action-packed weekend, or should that be culture/history packed. Who cares about the rugby score?? I didn’t even notice that and I’m surprised you managed to fit the game in.

    • You’re right about it being a busy weekend. I find it hard to relax so do tend to pack lots in when I’m away. So I’ve still a few things to write up yet! But the rugby match was important and the reason for me taking the trip. The other things were a bonus.

    • I saw some amazingly well preserved Roman buildings and structures during my trip. All Roman remains that I’ve ever seen over here are ruins.

  2. This post brought me straight back to my adolescence, during French lessons where we learnt about the Pont du Gard. I was totally fascinated by it, probably because of the three levels of arches, and had not thought about it since, until now….

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