Monday, April 26:  Orange and Pont du Gard

Slow out of the gate again this morning, but eventually we got moving and had coffee at the “Sporting Bar” up the street, where we pondered the various liqueurs along the wall and the boys petted yet another unfamiliar, docile dog. At the boys’ request, Pat gave the dog a free dental exam. We learned later that “marc” is brandy, while “patis” is an annis flavored liquer that you cut to taste with water. The boys had an eclair and a “marble chocolate” from the patisserie, while Pat found a wholesome quiche at a boulangerie and Rob correctly inferred that the square croissant would be chocolate-filled.

Into the car for a couple of other Roman sights, first Pont du Gard. However, thirty kilometers into trying to get there, we got mired in the town of Orange, and decided to quickly change plans and bag the Roman Amphitheater there first (instead of second). It is the “best-preserved” example of the genre, since it includes most all of the back wall of the stage. Rick suggested that “vagabonds” climb the steps to one side for a free look. We took the steps, which degenerated into a trail with broken glass and dog deposits. But the view down through the chain-link fence was superb, and good enough for us now-jaded tourists (rather than the 7.50 euro entrance fee). Our fellow tourists looked at us quite perplexed through one of the gates around the upper-rim. Paid for another guidebook, and when I return home I must look up the precise meaning of “vagabond” now that I am one. (vagabond -- a person without a permanent home who moves from place to place.)

We found a likely-looking spot for lunch between the amphitheater and the parking lot, and the boys and I had our first crepes. Very good, but not especially filling. We splurged and let the boys have an orange drink in Orange. (Photo 68)

Now that we had hit the center of Orange, it wasn’t hard to find our way out to the tollway for the next thirty kilometers to Pont du Gard and its Roman aqueduct. The aqueduct carried water a distance of twelve miles as the crow flies, over a carefully chosen route of thirty miles. The vertical drop in that distance is just forty feet, or if Rick’s math is to be believed, one inch in 350 feet. Quite an engineering feat to make that happen, something I tried to impress on Robert, given his emerging interest in engineering. It took water 24 hours to make the entire journey. The route was chosen to minimize crossings such as this, but here is a wide span, supported by huge arches, the largest being eighty feet wide, the biggest of its kind. Its hard to tell from pictures just how big the structure is, but its height is just three meters less than that of the Coliseum, putting it second on the all-time Roman structure list by height. It was clear where a flood two years ago had scoured the banks of the river, and the resultant volume of water would have been immense. Still, the aqueduct withstood the battering of all the water and debris. A very impressive sight, one that pictures can’t convey easily. (Photo 70)

The area around the aqueduct has been recently developed more carefully as a tourist offering, and very tastefully and economically so. Still, the boys were content to just pay the 5 euro parking and skip the films, museum and kid-oriented exhibit. Robert especially seemed very keen on remaining a vagabond.

On the way home we messed up big-time on the tollway exit and went an extra thirty kilometers out of our way (at a cost of 2.20 euro). Very irritating at this stage of the game. Back home, David and I hit the Internet cafe, which was the slickest and easiest to use yet, so I collected emails and blasted out web postings and Pat’s letters. Got some upsetting news about Bryan Smith’s medical problems, though I appreciated my friends’ thoughtfulness in keeping me posted. Also learned that a few people are indeed reading these postings thoroughly. A wee dram for anybody who emails me that they found this reference.

For dinner, we tried an alternative to the cafe-on-the-square scene and went with Rick’s recommendation for a “value” restaurant experience at Le Tournesol. The owner/waiter acted shocked that we would ask about a kid’s menu (menu enfant) that we have seen everywhere else. “Grande, ne petit!” was his description of the boys. Then he rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders (twice) when Pat indicated they would be splitting an adult meal. He was easy to deal with otherwise, and when he saw our Rick Steves translator book, he had to run in back and get his copy to tell us that Rick had eaten there. I told him we’d slept in Rick’s room in Venice. The meal was good, the split for the boys was the right call, and the price was 104 Latini units. Us and one other American couple were the only folks there on a Monday night, off-season.

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Photo 67  Vaison La Romaine
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Photo 68  Orange in Orange
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Photo 69  Gard River
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Photo 70  Pont du Gard

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Photo 71  Pont du Gard
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Photo 72  Market Day, Bread
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Photo 73  Market Day, Cheese

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Photo 74  Market Day Feast