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France - Uzes and Forcalquier - May 2014

Pauline

Forums Admin
Here is a photo of the tower that belongs to the apartment we rented. You can see it between the two buildings.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
Uzes shuts down on Monday. We tried two bakeries this morning before we found one open. Many shops were closed. The historic center seemed deserted. Place aux Herbes was almost empty.

The sky was grey and there was some rain - England-style drizzle. A lazy day. We walked around town, made it to the tourist office before they closed for lunch (the bus schedules suck - just like in the Cotswolds), went to the Creperie for lunch, browsed the book store and got a few things (another Fred Vargas in French for Steve, travel guides for me).

In the afternoon we drove to Blauzac, a nearby village. I read that there is a "tourist route" to see the capitelles in the area. Those 18th and 19th century dry stone cone-shaped buildings used to store agricultural produce. They are called something else in Provence, where you also find them (starts with a "b" - this is how I speak French, I remember the first letter of the word and that is it). They seem to call them capitelles here. I read about this walk in a tourist brochure.

We drove to the village and parked. We found the hiking signs with a marker pointing to the route for the capitelles. I could not figure out from my map, or from the markers, where we were going and how far it was. Turned out it was a 45 minute walk to a one mile trail in the woods, where there were several capitelles. It was pretty magnificent. The walk was easy, mostly on paths through woods and agricultural areas. Trail was well marked. Once we got to the capitelles area there was a good information sign. The woods were enchanting and full of broken down dry stone walls and capitelles. A few were restored. One was a group of three together sharing a pond and a walled area. There was something magical about the spot.

We ended up doing an easy 1 1/2 hour walk. The town of Blauzac (more like a village) is pretty too. Not as fixed up as Uzes, but you can see it is heading that way.

The day was cool and we brought our rain jackets, but it did not rain.

On the walk there was a vicious looking Doberman (I don't like dogs) barking at us. I almost turned back but Steve thought he looked old and was more bark than bite. He finally stopped barking, but followed us in the capitelles area. At one point he came up to me and licked my hiking trousers, so I guess he was friendly enough. Funny because when we came across him I was telling Steve the whole plot of Ian McEwan's Black Dog which is set in the Languedoc (but much further west) and the key scene is when a woman is attached by two black dogs. But I think they are a metaphor for depression. And this dog seemed pretty cheerful.

We went to the big Carrefour (supermarket) today because I am on a mission to buy Duralex glasses to bring home. I bought some in France a few years ago and love them. I think I will now do a search to see if I can order them in England - might be easier.

I really like Uzes. Tonight walking back from the car park, stopping to buy some local strawberries, it all felt familiar and comfortable. I like returning to the same place. You spend less time figuring out the basics and that gives you time to see things in more depth, I think. There are such beautiful architectural details everywhere.

Photo of Les Capitelles near Blauzac.

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Photo of a nearly empty Place aux Herbes.

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Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Pauline,
I'm really enjoying your report. The area sounds wonderful. Are you and Steve fluent in French? I ask because you bought a Fred Vargas in what must have been a French bookstore.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Steve is the French speaker. We are both from Canada originally (left for the US when we were in our 30s), so studied French in high school. Steve studied it at university. He can read in French and speak pretty fluently, although he frequently complains that he is not good enough. I can't do more than order coffee, but I know some words.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I am tired! We've been doing too much hiking ...

Today was overcast but warm, even muggy. There is a nice breeze around, so it didn't feel too hot. We drove out to Sernhac, to find the second aqueduct tunnel. On Saturday, on the way here, we figured out how to drive to the area where the tunnels are, but we only found one. There are no signs, except a hiking sign pointing to the tunnels vaguely. Today I was better prepared. We have a hiking book (in French) that describes a walk through the area, seeing both tunnels. The map in the book is useless. This time we walked through the tunnel, then kept walking and went on a wonderful 1 hour walk around the top of this valley and we ended up at the other tunnel, which is directly across the valley from the first tunnel.

We had a picnic lunch on the walk. I brought a jar of peanut butter with me from the UK because I don't know if it is something you can get in France, and if you can get it here, it probably has duck fat in it or something. So we had our usual hiking lunch - British peanut butter sandwiches. (See, I am turning into a Brit. I want British food on vacation.)

The area north of Sernhac, around the tunnels is beautiful. Views towards the Rhone River, that kind of wild grass that is very fragrant when you walk on it, small oak trees (maybe). The tunnels were very interesting too - cut through two hills by the Romans to carry the aqueduct water. We walked through both tunnels.

Then we went to St Bonnet to see the church that was built using some of the stone from the aqueduct.

Then we went to Collias (we were there with you Chris last year) and drove along the Gardon Gorge to find a standing stone (La Pierre Bamboche). It was easy to find but was not that exciting.

On maps it may say "La Pierre Plantee" which means Standing Stone (sort of). Signs may also say "menhir". And sometimes they are named.

The only standing stone worth seeing around here is the one north of Lussan. I will write up directions to find it - either walk for 2 hours or do a 15 min drive on a really rough road. We will see it again on this trip, and I am now thinking we just drive.

We parked in the next town, Sanilhac, to do a 45min walk to another standing stone. This one was very lame. But I wanted to walk along this trail because it is part of GR 6/GR 63 that follows the Gardon Gorge to the Pont du Gard. This trail is not great. It is at the top of the gorge, but you don't see the river. You are walking in scrub (the official name is Garrigue) that is about 15 feet high, so you don't have any views. From the map it looks like you would get great views and maybe you do in other places.

Today was a "poking around" day. We were never more than 30 minutes from Uzes. I am starting to know this area and don't use the GPS.

On the way home, we stopped at a bakery/pastry shop recommended in our house book. Beside it was a Picard, which looked like nothing, but I remembered from SlowTrav discussions is a chain selling frozen foods that are supposed to be very good. We got dinner. I will start a new post about this in the France forum.

This apartment is working well for us. We don't use the tower each day, but in the guest book some people say they went up each day to watch the sunset. I think we are too tired after walking all day. But it is only Tuesday. Even though we are on a square where cars can drive through (but very slowly because they are narrow lanes), we don't get much noise and are both sleeping well. The rooms are spacious - high ceilings and large rooms. The kitchen is good to cook in. There is a good space in the entrance way to hang coats, leave shoes and hiking gear. I like being so close to Place aux Herbes.

Today I uploaded a few photos and am showing them as thumbnails. Click to see the large version. Photos are - morning coffee in Uzes, old buildings in St Bonnet, Pauline and the uninteresting menhir, beautiful woods on the GR trail along the Gardon Gorges, lights on the Place aux Herbes in the evening (when I learned at 8:15pm that the new ice cream place closes at 8:00pm).

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Pauline

Forums Admin
No longer searching for Duralex glasses. Yes, I can order them from Amazon in the UK. Only tea towels and some olive oil on my shopping list now. And the good sea salt.
 

Chris

500+ Posts
I discovered I can buy that exact same sea salt on Amazon! Are you no longer searching for Duralex because you found it, or because you changed your mind or because you can order it from Amazon? I remember when you bought the first ones at the market in Lauris (near Lourmarin). I just finished the wonderful olive oil I bought in Uzès last year.

Also, is the new Vargas novel a new installment in the Adamsberg series? I went to Amazon immediately to see if there was something new translated to English, but no luck.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I will buy Duralex glasses in the UK. I love the ones I bought on that trip with you.

There is a new Fred Vargas in English I think, but it is an old one. Steve bought "Les Jeux de L'Amour et de La Morte" - Games of Love and Death - this was her first novel. So not a new one. And not Adamsberg.

Steve read something about her books being made into TV shows in France. We found one on DVD on Amazon, in French with English subtitles, and ordered it. We also found a box set with 4 books made into shows, but it is in German.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Wednesday is market day in Uzes, but much smaller than the Saturday market. We got some local organic olive oil to take home and some olives and vegetables for here. It was overcast and muggy this morning, with a dramatic rain shower or two. Lots of people about.

I bought another set of Coucke table napkins (blue!) and we talked to the owner of the shop. He said most of the cafés and shops close from mid October to mid April. He said in winter he can go days with no one coming into his shop. There are no tables set up on Place aux Herbes. Tourist shops are moving in when other shops close. This was always the complaint in Santa Fe too. The Plaza was filled with useful shops and they all turned into tourist shops. It must be very different here in winter.

The sun has come out this afternoon.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Mmmm this will influence my decision on where to go for a mini vacation from Oxford.
Your apartment appears booked till November.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
That apartment we had in Nimes was great and well priced. You could take the train from the UK and then use trains here.

I am making a list of other Uzes apartments and will post them. Let me know if you find good ones too.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
We had an easy day today. The weather was odd. Overcast and then sunny and then a rainstorm - it was like that throughout the day. But it is warm.

We hung around the apartment a bit, went in and out several times. Went back to that fabulous new ice cream place in the afternoon.

Tonight, in the early evening, we spent some time on the tower. The sky was full of grey clouds which cast an interesting light on the rooftops and stone buildings. The wind was blowing. Black birds were flying all over town. Very beautiful. We saw these birds last October too. In that house the kitchen was on the top level (American 4th) with a roof terrace and we watched these birds fly in big groups.

How quickly a week goes. We only have two days left and three days worth of things to do.

1. Drive to the Ardeche Valley (an hour north) and do a hike along the edge of the valley. I bought a hiking map for that area and it shows viewpoints, so we should be able to see the valley.

2. Walk to that big menhir north of Lussan that we drove to last year. It is a three hour walk and you see a dolmen along the way.

3. Walk from Vers to the Pont du Gard (the walk Roz posted about above). We did most of this walk last October, but in two parts.

The new hiking map also covers the Ceze Valley, between here and the Ardeche and I will read it tonight. Maybe a walk there is a better option. Maybe I should skip redoing things we did in October and branch out to new things.

These are the hiking maps they sell for this department (the Gard) with detailed maps showing distances and recommended walks (in French on one side, English on the other). I have a few hiking guidebooks in French and they are good for ideas.

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I like all the versions of grey in parts of town. Maybe that inspired our chabby shic grey and white apartment.

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This was my photo of the day (I post every day on Instagram and it goes to Facebook and Twitter). I like this scene with the statue, the plane trees, the old cafe and the wall beside with old lettering on it.

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Pauline

Forums Admin
A Facebook friend says the green fountain in the photo above is a Wallace Fountain. There are several in Paris. They are from the late 1800s.

It was overcast but warm this morning, but started pouring rain around 1pm and rained all afternoon. The sun came out for a bit around 7pm.

We drove up to Aigueze in the Ardeche Valley. It is a beautiful town. It is one of the "best villages". Set up for visitors with restaurants and cafés. It is built into the rock on the edge of the valley overlooking the river. Very dramatic. We started a hike along the river but turned back after 30 mins. Steep, rocky trail into a wild area. Plus the rain was starting. We picnicked in the car.

Drove south through two very small villages on country lanes - St Christol de Rodieres and Salazac (once famous for producing silk). Beautiful area. Many fields of vines, even some lavender.

Further south to the Ceze Valley. We skipped la Roque sur Ceze because we explored it with Chris last year. We went to Goudargues, another beautiful town with a canal in the center and several cafés and restaurants. There are good hiking trails here and the area is beautiful.

Again on small lanes we went south to the small villages north of Uzes. We walked around St Laurent de Vernede, where the people who manage the place we are renting have another rental. Pretty village but quiet. Down to St Quentin la Poterie, but skipped it because, again, we saw it with Chris last year. It is a nice village and would be a good place to stay. Only 5 mins to Uzes.

So, we did not get much of a walk but we had a lovely drive.

Photo of Aigueze.

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Photo of the Ardeche Valley on our walk.

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Kevin Widrow

10+ Posts
Bonjour Pauline and Steve,

Welcome to the "neighborhood" ! Glad you are enjoying things and getting in what sounds like some excellent hiking. If you are up for it, I've done excellent ones up and around Forqualquier - which I believe is next on your list...

A bientôt, j'éspère,
Kevin
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Kevin!! I emailed you. Yes, let's meet and do a hike!

Today was a beautiful, perfect, warm almost hot, day, similar to Sunday. We had overcast days in between, but only had bad weather yesterday. Still, I had hoped for more sunny days.

We spent the morning exploring Uzes - such a pretty town. I looked at that Wallace statue again (now that I know it is important) and took photos of the plaques on it. Sat in the sun at a cafe.

Then we packed up sandwiches and drove to Vers. We walked from Vers, along three long stretches of aqueduct ruins, to the fabulous Pont du Gard (1st century Roman bridge for the Nimes Aqueduct). In a post above Roz has a link to her photos and a map for the walk. We had done two parts of this walk before, but it turns out we missed a large section of aqueduct ruins, so I am happy we did the walk today.

This is the way to see the Pont du Gard! From Vers, there is one small hiking sign for Pont du Gard (beside the historic wash house on the eastern edge of town) and that is it. They don't want people walking to Pont du Gard because entry is free, but you pay to park (18 Euro if I remember right). From Vers it is a lovely one hour walk. It is fun seeing the tumbling down arches that carried the aqueduct across some sections. And you approach the Pont du Gard from the west side which is its best (because on the east side a second lower bridge was added in the 1800s to use as a road across - that is what you walk on, but from the west side you see the original three tiered bridge).

We had our sandwiches sitting on a bench under one of the arches. Then walked back. It was sunny and hot, but the path was mostly in shade and there was a breeze.

Back in Uzes we did a bit of a walk on the outskirts to see where more "normal" life goes on.

Sitting here typing this now I am seeing lightening out the window and the rain is starting. We just got in from an evening stroll around the Place aux Herbes. Tomorrow we leave. I could do with another week here, but I am looking forward to seeing a new place.

P.S. Rain and hail! I had to race around closing the outer shutters because rain was coming in the closed windows. This is Santa Fe weather. Changeable, extremes, violent.

Photo of the aqueduct ruins.

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Photo of the Pont du Gard.

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Photo of our apartment - the two floors above the shop. Their smaller apartment is the top floor.

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Photo of Place aux Herbes at night.

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