A Winelover’s Tour de France ( 9 )

It was with real reluctance that Bede took his leave of Montpellier the
following Monday, headed for Nimes. He departed the city environs
on a gloriously sunny morning and enjoyed having the sun on his
back for all of the 55 kilometres to Nîmes. His journey took him
through the countryside around Sommières and he was able to
appreciate its gentle landscape in a way not possible from a motor
vehicle. He was in Nîmes before midday. His main reason for visiting
this city was to view first hand its grand Roman ruins. The Arènes
(ampitheatre), the Temple de Diane and the Maison Carrée (Square
House) are said to be among the best-preserved Roman monuments in
Europe. The Arènes is still used for bullfights, usually in the
Provencal style – no killing of the bull. Maison Carrée is an ancient
temple dedicated to Augustus’s grandchildren, and it houses an
antiquities museum.
Bede stayed overnight at the very comfortable Hôtel de Milan,
situated within the city centre. On the inside of the door to his room
was a notice listing the services and regulations of the hotel with the
following direction: “Le jour de votre départ ayez l’obligeance
d’informer la Réception de vos intentions avant midi, et n’omettez pas
de remètre la clé de votre chambre en partant. Merci.”(“ The day of
your departure you are obliged to inform reception of your intentions
before midday, and not to forget to return the key to your room on
leaving. Thank you “).
Bede left Nîmes the next morning, heading for Uzès . He had been on
the road for about half an hour when he discovered that he was in
possession of the hotel room key. There he was, standing by the side
of the road contemplating his next move, when an old Renault came
up alongside him in a cloud of dust with the hotel propriétaire at the
wheel holding up a pair of black lycra cycle pants, which she had
apparently found hanging out the window of the room he had slept in.
Bede apologetically handed over the room key and received in return
a dampish pair of cycle pants from madam, who, with a broad grin on
her face and a wave, drove off. When he turned towards the footpath
he found a number of locals had gathered in their curious way to
witness this exchange. Bede shrugged his shoulders, gave a sheepish
smile to the bystanders, and cycled off against a background of
laughter and chatter.
He was headed for Remoulins to view the Pont du Gard, a three-tiered
Roman aqueduct that is one of the engineering and architectural
wonders of the Roman Empire, standing miraculously intact. This
truly impressive structure is said to have been built about 19 BC to
bring water from the Eure Spring, near Uzès, to Nîmes. It has three
tiers of arcades, progressively recessed. Walking paths scattered over
neighbouring hills enable one to view the aqueduct from several
different angles. He walked along the second tier and was able to take
in the wide sweeping views of the Gardon valley below. By the time
he had done this he was ready for a casual meal at the outdoor café
nearby. By mid-afternoon he was in the old papal city of Avignon.


BARRY JOHNS   ( aka Le Vigneron )