The Romans were here for quite a while and their presence is everywhere. The Arena at Nîmes is better preserved than the Coliseum in Rome and is used for both bullfighting (but more of this later) and also rock concerts; Mark Knopfler was here in July. The town of Uzès still has a duke in residence complete with a castle in the centre of town. Should marauders wish to invade his lordship’s privacy, the battlements overhang the walls, presumably to facilitate the pouring of boiling oil.
At the head of the Ardèche is the Pont d’Arc, a natural rock formation carved out by glacial erosion. The image isn’t great since i got there about an hour before nightfall, but you get the idea. Further south is the spectacular Roman aqueduct, over the Gardon, the Pont du Gard, built to take water from Uzès to NÎmes. The angulation is exact ensuring a smooth flow of water along a 40km stretch; these guys knew their sines from their cosines, for sure. Apparently, the engineering is so exact that even with modern methods its accuracy cannot be duplicated.
It would have been so helpful if everybody still spoke Latin since as I travel further south, words become more and more difficult to understand. I was reminded of the line from “Kingdom of Heaven” ‘..travel east until they stop speaking Latin and start speaking something else.‘ That’d be about here, then. Occitan is not a dialect, it’s a completely different language and even when the locals speak French, the accent and intonation is as thick as wet cement. With much grunting and shrugging. Beh, oui. Bieng.