jeudi 1 mai 2008

For the first of may this year, we went to visit the Pont du Gard. We got rather a late start, not getting on the road until 10 am. It was much further than I thought it would be, took about two hours from Marseille. It is a little bit north of Nîmes. We arrived around noon, parked, and went into the new complex. There weren't too many people there. We had lunch in the cafeteria, your standard sandwich and a soda place. If I ever go again, I am definetely taking a picnic. The prices weren't outrageous nor the food terrible, but it would be much more pleasant to have a picnic along the river.

After eating we walked over to the Pont du Gard. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. Alain had been there before as a kid with his parents, but didn't remember it too well. My parents had visited in November, when there was practically nobody there.

We walked to the right bank, then up to the top. Beautiful views of the river. We came back down, wandered around some more, then went over to the museum. They were offering visits of the top leve, the part where the water actually went through. The cost was 9€ including the museum, instead of the regular 7€ for just the museum. We didn't really feel like it, it was hot outside and we were tired but the woman really recommended it to us. I figured we probably wouldn't get many chances to say that we had been across the Pont du Gard, so okay why not. We visited the museum, which was interesting and well-done, but a bit much after a while. The kind of museum where you spent the first hour attentively reading all the information of the first half, then get fed up and realize you still have the whole second half to go through, so you speed through in 15 minutes. It didn't help that they had some sort of throbbing vibrating whoom whoom whoom noise that was making my head hurt, and the lights kept fading in and out.
Also was quite disappointed when I realized that none of the artifacts were actually real. Hey! Did they have plastic in ancient rome? (Okay, I admit, I touched.)

We went back outside, crossed over to the other side of the river again, and up hill again to wait for the tour to start. The guide said a few lines about how the sediments in the water would cause such a buildup of hardened material that the roman workers had to scrape it off the sides of the canal and then we walked across the walled in not very high tunnel (I could walk without bumping my head but anyone much taller than 5'7" or so would have to be careful) to the other side and that was it.

Around 4 it was starting to get crowded. Lots of families had come for picnics, sitting in the sun, and bathing in the river.

On the way back to Marseille we stopped at the in-laws, and Josée gave me some muguet or lily of the valley.

All in all, quite an expensive day. The half tank of gas, 20€ in highway tolls, 5€ parking, 18€ museum + 15 minute walk across the top of the bridge in the dark, and 11€ lunch. Alain said that there used to be nothing there- no visitor center, no museum, no cafeteria, no tourist shops, no movie theater showing a movie with views of Pont du Gard, no paying parking place. Honestly, I would have prefered it like that. I am not the kind of person to say "All tourists, except us of course, should go home." I just think that sometimes you don't need the gift shop and the multi-media experience and the waffle/pancake bar to enjoy say, ancient history.

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