Thursday, July 21, 2016

France: Impressions of Two Bridges

Pont d'Avignon

The iconic bridge

Pont du Gard

Avignon is noted for the Papal Palace and all the buildings to house the papal support staff between 1309 and 1377. The folks that did the walking tour of Avignon had a good look at all that but we missed it because we opted instead for the trip to visit the Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct over the Gardon River.

The Romans built this aqueduct in order to transport water from a spring at Uzès to Nîmes, a distance of 50 km over terrain that was far from level, using only gravity. The aqueduct had a torturous route, going underground in many places and required the building of this huge structure, all built without mortar, held together by its own weight, and still standing 2000 years later. 

It's massive!

The water travelled across the top tier in an enclosed tunnel the roof of which has since broken open in places. The next level down is a bridge which people have been using to cross the river all this time. 

Most visitors to this Unesco World Heritage Site only walk across the bridge, but our tour group was fortunate that the guide had a key to the entryway up to the top level and we all climbed up the spiral staircase in the dark to come out here.

The Romans were very attentive builders, making the walls of the aqueduct smooth, clean and durable. Over the years minerals from the water built up on the sides of the conduit. The floor of the aqueduct is concrete.

A lovely view from up here, even on a rainy afternoon

Plants grow in the most surprising places

Here we are in the part of the aqueduct that is still covered - very dark - we used our smartphone flashlights to help see our way

Looking back...

The view from this side

Back on land