france

Paris from the sky

Cds 2005 06 24 10 03 25 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

The Eiffel tower is not just an amazing structure to look at; you also get the most amazing view of the Paris gardens from the top of the tower. You can spend hours just looking at Paris; a most beautiful city.

Cds 2005 06 24 10 03 31 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

View from the tower

Cds 2005 06 24 09 59 50 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

The Pont d’Avignon (Pont St-Bénezet)

Cds 2005 06 29 10 12 29 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z Edit 2The Pont d’Avignon (Pont St-Bénezet), built between 1171 and 1185, is a famous medieval bridge in Avignon. It originally crossed the Rhone between Avignon and Villeneuve-les-Avignon. The original span is 900m, however over the years it suffered much damage due to floods. In 1668 it was finally abandoned, and now only four of the original 22 arches remain. You can still walk to the end of the bridge, where it dramatically stops in the middle of the river.

Cds 2005 06 29 11 52 14 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370ZThe name Saint Bénézet comes from, a local shepherd boy who was commanded by angels to build a bridge across the river. There is now a small chapel on the bridge, where he has been interred. I found the chapel a refreshing and cool break after the heat of the sun on the top of the bridge.

The bridge was very commercially important, since it was the only way to cross the river between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea. This of course resolted in the merchants using it to transport their goods.

Cds 2005 06 29 12 39 50 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z
The well-known song "Sur le pont d’Avignon" (On the bridge of Avignon) speaks about people dancing on the bridge of Avignon. However they more correctly danced sous le pont d’Avignon" (Under the bridge of Avignon). They would have danced beneath the arches of the bridge on the (the Ile de Barthelasse , the island in the middle of the river.

I have included the words below:

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les beaux messieurs font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les bell’ dames font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les jardiniers font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les couturiers font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les vignerons font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les blanchisseus’s font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Arles and the Camargue

Cds 2005 07 05 10 52 22 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z
Today, we drove to the Provincial town of Arles. Arles is very similar to Orange, in that it also has many Roman runes. Our main stop was Les Arenes (The Arena). This Roman amphitheatre is oval in structure, with many rows of tiered seating. Built in the first or second century AD, it holds about 20000 spectators. It was originally built to host chariot races and fights often with wild animals, slaves and gladiators pitted against each other. The fights were very often until one or the other dies.

The amphitheatre is still used today for bull fighting, although the aim now is to capture the ribbon ties to the bull’s horns, and not to kill the bull. If you climb to the top of the theatre, you can see a fantastic view past the town and across the Rhone (be careful – the stairs are very steep).

The artist, van Gogh lived in Arles for a few years, in particular he spent time there in hospital when he was suffering from depression (this is where he cut his ear off). There are exhibitions and museums dedicated to him.

Arles is at the edge of the Camargue, the large delta of the Rhone, a large area of nature reserve. There are huge areas of wetlands, covered on pink flamingo’s. It is very reminiscent of the Langebaan Lagoon wetlands, but on a larger scale.

Cds 2005 07 05 14 21 42 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

The Camargue is also the home of the famous Camargue horses, small horses slightly larger than ponies. If you drive down the reserve, you will find many horse farms, offering horse riding per hour or per day. Although we didn’t manage to go riding, it is definitely on the agenda for our next trip.

Cds 2005 07 05 13 14 36 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

The main road through the Camargue terminates in the sea-side town of Stes-Maries de la Mer. This little town is populated by many restaurants and shops selling bright umbrella’s, children’s buckets and spade and inflatable rafts. It was the first time we had seen the Mediterranean sea, so we had to put our feet in the water. The water was lovely and warm, however the sand was very silty and fine, much finer that the beaches in Cape Town.

We would love to have spent the day on the beach; however we had a long drive back to Avignon. (We did have time to have a drink on one of the many sea-front café’s!)

Next time we are in the Camargue, we will spend a night or two at Stes-Maries, and make sure to spend at least one afternoon horse riding.

Cds 2005 07 05 15 35 40 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

On the way back, we chanced upon the Perfume Museum, where we spend some time learning the history of perfume, and we able to smell about 50 different essential oils.

Cds 2005 07 05 15 35 40 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

The Pont de Gard


The Pont de Gard

The Pont de Gard is an old Roman aqueduct which was build around 19BC. That is over 2000 years ago. The aqueduct is now in the middle of a nature park, with lovely paths meandering through the greenery. If you walk down to the river, there are loads of places where you can sit on the bank and have a picnic. Unfortunately when we arrived it was raining, so we had our picnic in the car in the parking lot!

Fortunately the rain stopped and we were able to walk down to the bridge. The walk is only about five minutes from the car park. The bridge is very grand-looking in the pictures, but far more so in real life. It is built as three sets of arches. The first is about 20m high (you can walk across at this level), the second level is also 20m, and the final level is 5m high. The water course would have moved through the top level. The total length of the bridge is about 265m. It was quite intimidating to see this hugh bridge towering above me. If you look carefully at the pic on the right, you can see how huge the bridge is compared to the people below. You are standing on the first level, and looking up at the second and third levels.

The total length of the watercourse is about 50km, with a gradient if 1:3000, which means a total drop of only 15m through the entire journey. That is absolutely amazing engineering for the time. You are able to go and visit remains of the actual aqueduct itself, but it was too far a walk for today, so maybe next time.

There is also a visitor’s centre with a small museum and gift shop etc. It takes about one hour to get there from Avignon, but it is well worth it  (The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre).

Aeroplane trip over Avignon

Today I did something I have never done before. Lois and I went for a ride in a four-seater aeroplane. We saw the brochure last night at the hotel and thought “why not!”, so off we went. We took off from the Avignon airport (which is basically a small building and a single runway).

The cabin of the plane is about the size of a mini, and the engine is probably not much bigger (I am still partially convinced that the engine is just a really long elastic band). The plane honestly needed about 100m runway to take off, and a bit longer to land.

The trip was fantastic, we flew really low over the whole area, giving me a wonderful opportunity to see the landscape from above and to take some great photos. We opted for the shortest trip –which is about 25 minutes. The longest trip is about 1 ½ hours, and goes all the way to Marseilles.

Cds 2005 07 04 09 00 37 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

Here are some vineyards; they are all over the area. The bright yellow in the middle is actually a sunflower field.
Cds 2005 07 04 09 03 39 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

A hilltop fortified village, of which there are many. You can literally have a several hundred meter drop out of your bedroom window. No sneaking out at night!
Cds 2005 07 04 09 10 37 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

This is the centre of Avignon, clearly dominated by the Papal Palace. Building started in 1305, when the papal court moved from Rome to Avignon. In the second picture, you can see the town square as well.

Cds 2005 07 04 09 10 55 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

The bridge on the right is the remains of the famous bridge "Le Pont St Benezet". This famous bridge was built between 1171 and 1185, with an original span of 900 m. See this post for more details.

Cds 2005 07 04 09 14 30 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

Finally, our landing and a quick pic of us at our aeroplane. It is not often that I get to sit in the front! The trip is expensive, but I really encourage you to do it – it was worth every cent.

Cds 2005 07 04 09 19 24 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z

Weekly update
Enter your email address for a weekly update of new posts and photos.
* = required field
Archives