St. Remy - August 20: Roman Ruins
Our breakfast this morning was a buffet served on the hotel terrace. In addition to the usual yogurt, salami, cheese, and cereal, each table had a bread basket filled with crusty fresh French bread, croissants, and flaky pastry with chocolate chips.
After breakfast, we drove about 15 minutes down the road to Glanum, sight of old Roman ruins, and the tourists were already parking along the road to avoid the 4 euro parking fee. The excavation work they have done so far is remarkable. Evidence of Roman columns, baths, houses, statues, wells, and even furnaces to heat the water have been unearthed. Inside the small museum are tiles, clay pots, and stones with Roman lettering perfectly decipherable.
In the afternoon we drove to Site Pont Du Gard. It's a Roman aqueduct spanning a tributary of the River Rhone. While some people swam and enjoyed a picnic in the crystal clear water, we hiked to the top level for a special tour through the top level with a guide. We learned that it's only 12 miles "as the crow flies" from the source of the Aqueduct to Nimes, but since mountains are in the way, the Romans built a system of undergound pipelines or aqueducts (bridges spanning a river), 50 miles long. Walking through the area where water once flowed was dark and mysterious. There is evidence that terracotta was used to waterproof the inside. Over time, calcification from the water built up on the inside and peasants started poking holes in it for water. It took 15 years to build the aqueduct and it lasted over 150 years.
We saw a video in French which showed Pont du Gard, but the museum was much more interesting. It has detailed displays showing the entire process of building an aqueduct. Projected on the wall is a video showing an aerial route of the aqueduct as seen from a helicopter. Much of it is old mossy stone lost in the forest. Old illustrations and maps show people at the aqueduct in the 1800's. We learned that it was not until the 1600's that antiquities were recognized and preserved. Before that, stones were removed from parts of the aqueduct to build churches.
One interesting space in the museum has interactive displays including an archaeological dig for children. The English explanation explains that when artifacts are uncovered, it opens a "treasure chest of questions."
Dinner tonight was at Lou Planet. We had delicious vegetable crepes and a chocolate banana crepe for dessert. While we ate, a child rode her tricycle in the square while her family enjoyed a wonderful meal.