France 2004 – Day 11-14 : More…

After my night in the car I went and saw the Maison Carree in Nimes – truly amazing the building is over 2000 years old and has been in continuous use – THE ENTIRE TIME.

Talk about an ROI.

Nimes was a great town. I saw the Roman Arena – Les Arnes in French I also was able to get to a Bank, a Post Office and get lead lined film bags!! My film is safe.

I took a deviation from my plan my skipping Arles (for now) and going to Marseilles which was gorgeous the water of the Mediterranean is SOOO blue. I took a boat trip to the Fort de Iles du Frioul which was really just an excuse to photograph the Chateau d’If which we were not able to stop at due to the rough weather. This was a rough boat trip and we all got wet. Yes this is where the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned and they have a special cell I am told inside which is funny since it is s a work of fiction.

I headed north and spent the night in Carpentras – the next day I went to find the 14th century Synagogue there. Not easy since there was a huge open air market. I had a great talk with an Olive vendor who insisted that I not buy Greek olives but the olive de Provence that he made himself. They were good – I told him I wanted something salty and he gave me some garlic olives. I also met a meat vendor selling dry sausages – huge dry beef sticks- he insisted that try every type he had – I even tasted the Donkey one. he wanted 3.5 for 1, 7.50 for 3 or 15.50 for 7 – well I bought 7 (he gave me 8) and I figured I would eat one and send the rest home – till the guy reminded me as I was in line at the post office you can’t mail meat through customs – oops 🙂 well they have provided quite the feast here 🙂 and I am on my last one.

The Synagogue was amazing – they buzzed me in at this fairly plain wood door – this lady handed me a yarmulke and let me walk around – I was the only one there – it was lovely.

On the way out of town I saw La Port D’Orange the old city gates. I love the old city gates.

I headed sounds to Avignon and saw the famous half bridge La Pont Saint Benezet and also Le Palais des Papes – It was a really nice they give everyone these audio guide things and it really helps – people were spending hours pressing buttons and viewing things and I even found myself listening to more of it than expected – its a great place and it was really well put together – they even managed to keep me on the bridge longer than expected with its history and legends and such.

I stopped at Glanum and was going to see the Roman ruins but it was a 45 min to take a 45 min tour in French – instead O saw the Stone Quarry, La Mausolee, and L’Arc Municipal and left.

The Chateau des Baux turned out to be almost nothing – but the multimedia tour and the extreme wind turned it into a long stop – plus they have a great village there where I was able to pick up a fleece cardigan and a knife, spoon, fork thing like the one I had stolen.

I did finally stop in Arles where I saw the Roman Theatre and les Arnes (the big Arena) I was invited to share Spanish Topas with an Australian Couple I met and had a really nice time – then I went off to see the Pont du Gard – which needs to be open to see and visit so I stayed the night in Uzes.

The Pont du Gard is a funny place – they try to sell you this whole ticket package for movies and activities and everything but if you just want to see this amazing architectural wonder – it’s free.

Afterwards I went to the real Roquefort expecting to just buy some cheese and leave but no… it’s a whole experience. You see in the 1800s all of the cheese manufacturers merged into one and there is only 1 Roquefort (with 3 varieties) and they have a whole tour of the caves. Well clearly these people have too much money because they have animated models, and a movie (in multiple languages via headsets) and a slide show and light and sounds and caves filled with cheeses and in the end a gift shop where you buy…cheese.

Well the funny part of this is the English couple in front of me – the guy sound just like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit and kept talking about Stilton and Wensdlydale. Then when I saw he had the English guide he said – well I don’t speak Frog now do I? OY – well during the huge light show that showed how the caves were formed this voice cried out – ‘and the lord said – let there be cheese’ it was my voice and only the English heard me and they laugh and told me that Stilton was the true king of cheeses. A very fun time. He told me about an underground river cruise that I should try and go on.

I did shoot the mountains that form the caves and they are lovely.

As I drove to my next location I saw this enormous bridge that look a mile or so long that bridge a mountain – its the new highway that isn’t opened yet but it was intense looking.

I saw the Chateau de Severac-le-Chateau and the Chateau de Calmont d’Olt which was closed and not in the city I though it was in. They actually fire their catapults and such and daily demonstrations. But alas another trip… I slept the night in Limogne-en-Querco.

I saw the lovely Pont Valentre the bridge that they say is the most photographed thing in France – which is crazy since I have been to the Eiffel tower. It was nice though.

I have to thank my friend Tom for telling me to see Rocamadour – it was this great mountain village with Ramparts and a Nortre Dame Cathedral. It also had an elevator going through the mountain (one up down and one diagonally) so I didn’t have to walk too much.

The underground river and gorge the Gouffre de Padirac was breathtaking. Gets a little scary to take 3 elevators down into a little boat and then walk around this underground gorge and river. I used my 1600 speed film (though no photography was allowed) and I am developing it as I write this.

The Chateau de Castenau-Bretenoux was nice from the outside so I had lunch there and went on to Turenne where I saw the Tour de Cesar a very nice tower that they let me climb to the top of and the Tour d’Holorge which I do believe is currently being lived in.

My Last stop for the day was the Chateadu de Val which was closed. As luck would have it a guy drove up to the gate – opened it – pulled his car through and then came back about 5 minutes later to lock up. You can imagine what I was going during those 5 minutes.

I then spent the night in Ochines.

[Re-posted from my University Blog & Edited 07/01/2011]