Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pont Du Gard

The bridge level, where tourists can still walk across from one bank to the other.

The Pont du Gard is an aqueduct, or what's left of an aqueduct, that carried water to Nîmes from about fifty kilometers away to the north. It was built by the Romans in the first century before our era and provided about 20,000 cubic meters of water per day to the city.

A long shot of the aqueduct with people walking on the upper level.

The pont, or bridge, is an engineering marvel, built without any mortar, that has stood for more than 2000 years. It crosses the river Gard (also called the Gardon), hence it's name. It was maintained as a working aqueduct through the fourth century of our era and continued to provide water until it was eventually abandoned nearly 500 years later.

In 1989, tourists like me could still venture out onto the top of the aqueduct. A bit scary, but worth it. At certain points you could climb down into the channel where the water once ran.

Back in 1989, when I first visited it, tourists could still climb up and walk on top and inside the portion where the water once flowed. So, Ken and I scrambled up. There were a few other people up there, too. No railings or other safety features kept you from tumbling off, but no one did, at least while we were there. It was quite exhilarating.

The three levels of the aqueduct span the Gard river, all put together with no mortar and still standing after more than 2000 years.

I went back to the Pont du Gard in 2001 when we were in Provence with our friend Sue and the area around the monument had been transformed with a new parking lot, a museum and shops. The worst change is that people are no longer allowed to climb up onto the top of the bridge. Such is progress I suppose.

7 comments:

  1. Ah, safety features. Can't hardly argue against them, but they do take the fun out of a lot of things.

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  2. And now you have the "old-timer" perspective. "I remember when you could walk on the top, and yes, I have the photos to prove it!!!"

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  3. I got serious vertigo up there (years ago). The kind where you're afraid you're going to jump even though that would be the last thing you'd really want to do. I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl around!

    You guys are brave.

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  4. Well, yes, old timer. Can't argue about safety.

    Why, these kids today. Back when I was young I had to walk to school through 8-foot snowdrifts and it was uphill both ways !

    Actually, nowadays I'd probably react more like Amy did.

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  5. I saw an old woman in too high of heels walking around the slippery trails on the side of the pont where the big new entrance is. I would have fallen on my can in anything other than tennis shoes.

    The people in charge probably had to close off the top to keep such folks from living any more dangerously. The woman I saw was fearless in her heels.

    I love being at the Pont du Gard in the summer when people are swimming and kayaking there. It's one of my favorite spots in France.

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  6. I couldn't have walked there for fear of heights.
    My favourite photo is the first. It's really a striking angle.

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  7. Evelyn, I agree about the kayakers and swimmers. Have you been to the Gorges de l'Ardèche ?

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