This is the second page of pictures from our recent pedal along the back roads of Languedoc. Click on a day above to jump directly to that day.
Day Two of the cycling
Aigues-Mortes to Vérargues
Another day of continuous sunshine. We faced it bravely.
We had a fun walk round Aigues-Mortes before we left. We had been told that we would need a form from SNCF to pursue the matter of the bag that I had left on the train when I got off at Nimes so we visited the station. There we were greeted with a splendid show of indifference and denial of all knowledge of any such form and we were advised to visit the gendarmes to report the loss. The gendarmes, who were at the far end of the town, let us in but said that they certainly didn’t deal with the loss of things on trains unless they were passports. We walked back to our hotel and got the bikes out.
We were heading north today….
…and the wind was heading south but luckily it wasn’t as strong as yesterday. As we left Aigues-Mortes, a tower loomed up over the trees.
We had a canal to cross before we got to it.
The tower turned out to be the Tour Carbonnière.
It was a late thirteenth century sort of toll-gate to give added protection to Aigues-Mortes. It is certainly more impressive than Fiddleton Toll, our equivalent.
Once through, or rather round the edge of the tower, we pedalled along a delightful stretch of the Petit Camargue….
…on our way to St Laurent d’Aigouse and Marsillargues. An egret made of fun of us by stopping until we got near it and then flying off a few yards every time I reached for a camera. Two of the white horses of the area were more obliging.
We had coffee at Marsillargues and not too long afterwards, stopped for a picnic lunch under the shade of a tree beside the River Vigourle.
The rivers were a surprise to me as they were wide and full for the most part. The fullness is partly explained by the many weirs which we passed and the flatness of the countryside.
After lunch, we crossed under the motorway and then turned west over this interesting bridge.
The bridge is designed to be submerged when the river gets high. It must be quite a sight in the wet times of the year. There was a weir just upstream of the bridge.
After crossing the bridge, we turned south and ducked under the motorway again but in the opposite direction as we headed down to Ambrussum, a Roman Oppidum on the West bank of the river.
We only had a short day of cycling so we had plenty of time to visit the excellent (free) museum at the site and walk about among the ruins. The oppidum is on top of a hill with good views in every direction.
We enjoyed treading in the tracks made by carts and wagons in Roman times on the road to the top of the hill. This was part of the Domitian Way, which linked Italy and Spain.
There is a celebrated Roman bridge across the river below the oppidum on this route but not much remains of it now.
There is a well known painting of it by Courbet. It has fallen down a bit since he saw it. I found a copy on Wikipedia
The ruins were very much like many other Roman remains on the whole but there was a good rampart at the top of the hill.
We left the oppidum and cycled back under the motorway and just before we got back to our original route, we were hailed by Gerry who was in the process of transporting our luggage to our b&b for the night. He was on his way to Venice for an art exhibition after he had dropped off our bags. We wished him luck. Our direction was now towards the west. The wind, which seemed to get up in the afternoon was blowing towards the east.
Our B&B in Vérargues was very nice and even had a little swimming pool into which I plunged. Considering how warm and sunny the day was, the water was surprisingly cold and I didn’t stay in for long. Our hostess supplied us with a very good evening meal to round off another good day.
Day Three of the cycling
Vérargues to Le Ranquet, Tornac
It was another sunny day when we set out, once again heading north and generally into the wind. This was lighter than it had been yesterday but the blue skies made for a hot day at times and we were grateful for reasons to head for bits of shade.
The garmin played a delightful trick on us shortly after the start and sent us straight up a very steep hill into the tiny village of St-Christol only to send us straight out of the other side of the village and down a less steep hill back on to the road we had just left. Mrs Tootlepedal was particularly amused as this was the only time during the trip that she had to get off and push. As I had a map with me, I might have managed to avoid this.
Our route took us to the medieval town of Sommières which we entered by cycling across the Vidourle on this old bridge…
…and we left by walking across this lower level effort. The people standing on the bridge are watching someone not catching fish.
Looking up the river, we could see a new road bridge behind a picturesque mill building.
It was a peaceful setting, enlivened by a colourful duck.
The centre of the old town was impressive. As well as narrow lanes and low colonnades….
…it had some generous spaces too.
The old town was well supplied with shops including a boulangerie.
Leaving Sommières, we cycled on northwards to Quissac along a fairly busy road. At Quissac we stopped for coffee. The main cafe in the square wasn’t available as all the seats in the shade had been taken by members of a cycling club…
…so we had to opt for a little bar round the corner. Very nice coffee though.
Leaving Quissac, we we able to get off the busy road and enjoy the delights of a voie vert (literally a ‘greenway’ but in this case, a well surfaced railway track.)
It is hard to beat a single track railway bridge for simple elegance.
The powers that be had installed benches from time to time, wherever a chance of shade appeared, and we took advantage of one of these to eat our lunch.
We bought our lunch early each day from a patisserie or boulangerie and ate it whenever a shady spot allowed.
At the far end of the 6km trail was an even more antique village, Sauve. There was nobody around when we arrived and It was rather hot by the time we got there and the narrow streets prevented a cooling breeze from reaching us so we weren’t as impressed by Sauve as we thought we would b. However, looking back at the pictures of the village, it certainly looks very pretty when I see it now.
It is built on the side of a hill….
…and we climbed up and looked out over the roofs below.
I was very impressed that the residents seemed to have managed to get cars into the very heart of the old village.
Leaving Sauve, we headed north again, heading for our hotel for the night. This was called Le Ranquet, the local word for rock. Our bedroom was in a cabin up a path….
…past a little fish pond.
We had our evening meal in their restaurant and the food was excellent and the service was the best that Mrs Tootlepedal and I have ever encountered. Gallic charm at its peak. The pudding was sensational.
We were due to head east the next day so we went to bed looking forward to a day with the wind behind us for once.
As a footnote to the day, we were cycling along when Mrs Tootlepedal cried out, “Look, there’s an autumn crocus. Get a picture of it.”
I stopped the bike and went back to take a picture of a flower that we had just passed….
Sadly, Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that I photographed the wrong flower. How was I to know? I think that it looks very nice anyway.
Day Four of the cycling
Tornac to Uzès
We had been assured that the route for this day would be pretty flat. You can draw your own conclusions about that by looking at the elevation guide to the journey.
It depends on how good a cyclist you are as to whether a road seems flat or not.
After breakfast in our cabin….
…there was a good downhill start to our day and we whizzed past the Château de Tornac, high on cliff above the road.
For the first time on our trip we were passing close to some genuine hills.
Soon we were in Anduze, a pretty little town tucked under some steep banks.
Once again we found an excellent baker to provide us with our lunch for later in the day. Then we crossed a fine bridge over the Gardon d’Anduze.
There was a low level bridge just down stream.
Looking back as we climbed out of the town (up quite a steep hill), we could see the crags that make up the so-called ‘Gate to the Cevennes’
The bridge you can see in the centre of the picture….
…is a railway bridge and you can take a train up river for a few miles. This is no less than the ‘Train à Vapeur des Cévennes’ and I would have been very happy to have had a chance to travel on it. Our route led us in the opposite direction though.
It followed the Gard or Gardon for the first half and then headed over to Uzès.
We were cycling peacefully towards Ribaute when the air was rent with the sound of wild hooting. A look at the map revealed that there was no railway nearby so we were puzzled until round the corner came the most enormous road train we have ever seen. It was a circus on its way to its next site and hooting loudly enough to let everyone within ten miles know that it was coming.
We pedalled on and crossed the river for the second time and for some reason, I missed our turn and we headed too far down the main road. This mistake had two pleasing results. Firstly, we came to a very nice cafe where we had our morning coffee and secondly, the diversion back to our proper route took us through the village of Cassagnoles on some very tiny but well surfaced back roads through pleasant farm and woodland.
Shortly after we got back on track, we crossed the river for the third time on the morning.
The river upstream was gorgeous.
It wasn’t so impressive a few miles downstream when we stopped for lunch.
But we found a patch with somewhere to sit in the necessary shade as it was quite warm by now.
After a rest, we pedalled on and soon passed the only field of sunflowers still out that we saw the whole week.
After passing Moussac, our route turned towards the east and after three days of north west winds, we were hoping to be blown to Uzes. Of course at this stage, the wind not only shifted direction to the north east but also increased dramatically in ferocity and once again we found ourselves head down, ploughing into some severe gusts.
The road was a very quiet back road, winding through typical vineyards…
…with fine views across the valley. We came across a couple of metal benches strategically placed under some trees and took the opportunity to rest from the wind for a while.
This seemed to us to be the hottest day of our trip and after leaving the shade of the trees we soon stopped again. This time it was to sip an Orangina in Apaillargues. It sizzled as it went down. Gerry’s route notes said that the the village might be worth a walk through and so it proved.
We were soon back on the road. For the last 4km it was much busier and was also tree lined in places. This certainly looks beautiful…
…but it makes the road feel more dangerous for elderly cyclists.
One last pull (up a hill) brought us into Uzès, our destination for the night. Our hotel was very good but idiosyncratic in style.
The present day town retains the shape of the old defensive walls in a circular boulevard.
Behind this facade sits the old town. In its centre is the castle of the Dukes of Uzès.
Just in case anyone should wonder whose castle it is, they have signed it.
The castle is crammed into the very middle of the town and is surrounded by narrow streets.
I went back to the hotel and picked up Mrs Tootlepedal and we went into the old town for our evening meal.
There was a large square, busy when we went in and delightfully lit up when we left.
We went and had a look at the castle from the front.
The light was fading now and flocks of birds flew round the tower.
Opposite the castle a fine new building had a courtyard which linked the old town and the outside world.
I am allowed one glass of wine or beer a week by my medical advisers and I chose to drink it in Uzès.
Day Five: Uzès to Nimes
The view from our bedroom window promised us another sunny day for the last day of cycling on our tour.
As we were getting ready to go, we bumped into John, our tour organiser, who had come to collect our luggage. He told us that the wind which had beaten us up yesterday was the famous Mistral. We felt proud to have encountered a wind with a name of its own.
We left Uzès on a beautifully surfaced main road, sweeping down the hill towards the river. We were going so well that had it not been for the Garmin, I would have missed the turn onto the very quiet road that took us onto a signposted cycle route through the village of Argilliers to the Pont du Gard, our immediate destination.
The Pont du Gard is a big tourist destination and we were pleased to find that enough cyclists must visit it to have made the provision of excellent cycle access and parking worthwhile. We paid our entry fee and went in to the smart modern visitor centre. Descending to the depths of a large building, we found ourselves in a huge and rather gloomy subterranean museum devoted to the aqueduct. We discovered that our cycle route had taken us pretty well along the route of the aqueduct from Uzes.
The museum was extremely comprehensive and interesting and we could have spent a long time there but the call of daylight drew us up and we walked down to the Pont.
We soon got our first glimpse of the famous aqueduct.
It looked impressive enough from a distance but it looked more impressive the nearer that we got.
And very impressive when we went underneath it and looked back at the full height.
It was possible to get right down to the river side and see the whole construction.
The river was alive with canoeists taking the chance of a calm day to paddle under the arches. They give a sense of the scale of the whole thing.
We walked back up to the level of the top of the first row of arches, getting excellent views as we went….
…and went to look at the new bridge which was built beside the aqueduct when it was restored in the eighteenth century.
The novelist Alexandre Dumas was strongly critical of the construction of the new bridge, commenting that “it was reserved for the eighteenth century to dishonour a monument which the barbarians of the fifth had not dared to destroy.”
I thought that it might be too high for my bad head for heights but by looking straight ahead, I walked across it without trouble we and looked back at the bridge and the aqueduct from the other bank.
It is true that the new bridge does take away from the amazing lofty narrowness of the original construction. It must have been sensationally graceful before the bridge was added.
Still, the bridge let us get down to the shade under it to have our lunch beside the river. The authorities have not been restrictive in their guardianship of the monument and it is possible to play beneath the arches and canoe and swim in the river as well. It made a beautiful picture both looking up and down river from the bridge as we crossed.
This was our lunchtime view.
We were visited by a familiar looking bird, hoping for scraps from our picnic.
I even saw the flash of a kingfisher flying down river while we munched our pain au chocs.
We left rather reluctantly and followed the cycle path out onto the road and started the last leg of out journey back to Nimes.
The wind wasn’t a factor which was pleasant and the road wound through vineyards…
…until we caught sight of the next bridge that we had to cross.
This was another challenge to my wobbly head for heights but once again, it proved to be easily crossable.
At this stage, we left the river Gardon as it it disappeared towards the Pont du Gard though an narrow gorge…
…and climbed the longest climb of the whole tour. Luckily the gradient was by no means severe and we got up to the ridge overlooking Nimes with nothing more than a breather or two on the way. The downhill on the other side was on a broad well surfaced road and Mrs Tootlepedal and I came within a whisker of hitting 50 kph on the descent. That’s fast for us.
The Sunday traffic was light and the route mostly downhill so the final miles into the centre of Nimes were a pleasure. A splendid way to finish out tour.
We left the bikes at our hotel and took a walk round Nimes, passing the large temple once again….
…taking a peek at the Roman arena which is under restoration…
…and as night fell, we had our final evening meal of the holiday in a restaurant in the old town.
Full marks go to John and Gerry for their organisation of our tour. Everything went just as planned and they could not be held responsible for the Mistral although they did claim credit for organising the 100% sun.
It seemed odd not to have a cycle route to do but we got over it and set out for a walk round Nimes before catching our train home after lunch. There seemed to be a lot of crocodiles about …
…but it turned out that the crocodile is part of the insignia of Nimes.
Our peek at the Arena last night had whetted our appetite so we paid our money and went inside. It was impressive. It is a working arena and going through the structures behind the arena itself was eerily reminiscent of going to watch Tottenham Hotspur in the sixties though the arena at Nimes was probably in better condition.
During our cycle tour, Mrs Tootlepedal often remarked about the lack of the sort of railings and hand bars that health and safety considerations have introduced into British life. There were certainly none on these steps.
We got up them without falling down however and enjoyed the views of the arena itself.
It is still used for bull fighting but when we were there, workmen were putting up a tent on the centre of the ring.
It was hot work for them.
Braver people than I were walking round the top tier of the seating.
You get a good idea of how central the arena is to the town when you look out through the arches.
It is as impressive when viewed from the outside as it is from inside.
We left the arena and headed to the Maison Carrée.
While we had a coffee in the shade….
…Mrs Tootlepedal marvelled at the relentless decoration on the temple.
The porch at the front of the building offered welcome shade to visitors.
Looking up, we could see yet more decoration.
We walked back to the hotel to pick up our cases and passed through a delightful open space. I think that it is the Rue Moliere.
At the end of the street we found this gentleman sitting in the shade.
The final approach to the station was down a grand avenue…
…and we were able to sit in the shade on one of the trees and watch trains pass through the station as we were a bit early. Surprisingly, the trains go through at first floor level just behind the clock.
We found our platform, caught our train, made our connection at Lille and were back in London in time for an early night. Our only problem was which of the many beds in our room to use.
After an excellent breakfast, we were soon on our way and caught the bus at Carlisle to complete a very good holiday.