Monday, September 23, 2013

French Riviera, Avignon and Pont du Gard - by Gary

The French Riviera 
While the natural beauty of the setting is robust, we found much of the French side is about on par with the Italian side – too over-developed and bursting at the seams with humanity for our taste.  As Australians we also find it had to come to terms with the almost total privatization of the coast in this part of the world.  France is, however, a lot cleaner and the drivers much better behaved than in Italy.  Monaco looks like its bursting at the seams with money.

It was dead calm as we drove through, and many boats were anchored off, but it would be very exposed with an onshore wind.

Some boats were bigger than others...

The Canne waterfront is impressive, but we decide not to stay the night.

Development plus!

I realized while here this was my third visit to this town, once in little Orzel on my way down to the Med, once with Mum, and now again.  Yet because we have the kids and we therefore tend to focus upon what’s to be learnt, this time I learn much more about this fascinating and beautiful old walled city.  The town’s principle draw-card is the former fortress and, during the 14th century, papal palace.  It is considered one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe and was the seat of Western Christianity during the reign of seven popes in the 14th century.

The old city’s town-wall (the thick brown line) is still pretty much totally intact.

It’s pretty cool ...

... but the World Heritage papal palace takes the cake.

In the 14th century it must have looked formidable – it kept seven popes safe!

Pont du Gard
Perhaps the most famous of France’s Roman heritage, this superbly graceful yet functional piece of engineering might be considered emblematic of the impact of the spread of the Roman Empire upon its dominions.  The Pont du Gard is an aqueduct, part of a 50 kilometre construction that included the boring of several long tunnels and building of many other smaller bridges, to bring water to the Roman City of Nimes.  Its achievement implies mastery of surveying, topographic mapping, hydraulics, structural engineering and construction technology along with the ability to erect a bureaucracy capable of organising all these fields, organise financing, and organise maintenance of the finished system.  The Romans were simply awesome.

Elegance and functionality are the mark of this 2,000 year old structure crossing the Gardon River, a river which still rises suddenly and violently.  The bridge stands almost 50 metres high and has a water gradient of 1:3000, being only 2.5cm lower at the low end of its 275m length.

Its three tiers of arches have provided inspiration for many artists, engineers and architects since its construction in about 40 to 60 AD.

The interpretation of this World Heritage site is really well done, Zeke in particular really enjoyed it because of its engineering emphasis.

Including several (hard to photograph) reconstructions of the machinery they used during construction.

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