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Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon

Languedoc-Roussillon / Gard

The Department of Gard in Languedoc Roussillon
Located in the South of France, the department of Gard is named after the River Gardon which runs through it. It is one of the 83 departments of France which was created during the French Revolution in 1790.

People are known to have been living in Gard for over two millennia. Archaeologist have uncovered evidence of Neolithic occupation. However, the first recorded settlements date back to Roman times. The Via Domitia, the ancient road, built by the Romans to link Italy with Hispania, crosses through Gard, reputedly following a route travelled by Heracles, the gatekeeper of Olympus. Hannibal too followed this route when crossing from Hispania to Italy.

The Pont du Gard
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the region, the Pont du Gard, dates back to this time. This impressive structure truly has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct which crosses the River Gardon near to Remoulins. Part of the 50km long Nimes aqueduct, which was built to carry spring water from the town of Uzes to the city, the Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges. Its historical significance is so great that, in 1985, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The bridge comprises three arched tiers and stands 160ft tall. It is believed that, when the aqueduct was fully operational, it carried 44,000,000 gallons of water a day to the people of Nimes. As the aqueduct became less used, it gradually became clogged with mineral deposits and, eventually, the water ceased to run completely. However, the structure found new life as a river crossing and, for centuries, the Pont du Gard was used as a river crossing for which local landowners levied a toll.

Today, after a period of restoration, the Pont du Gard is one of the top five tourist attractions in France. The bridge was finally closed to traffic at the end of the 20th century and the surrounding area has now been pedestrianised. The addition of a visitor centre on the north bank, which also includes a museum, means that you can now learn about this stunning attraction and its history while you are there.

The outlet for the water carried by the Pont du Guard was the Castellum in Nimes. From there it was redistributed to homes, fountains and baths around the city. The remains of the Castellum can still be seen in the city today.
The Castellum is not the only evidence that remains of the Romans in Nimes. The impressive amphitheatre is still in use today as a bull-fighting and concert arena. It is the finest example of a Roman Arena anywhere in France. The Maison Carree (square house) is one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world. The impressive exterior gives way to a surprising small interior, where today visitors are able to view a short film about the history of Nimes.

The Jardins de la Fontaine were built on the sight of the ancient Roman baths. One of the oldest public gardens in the world, the gardens are structured in such a way as to highlight two further Roman monuments, the Temple of Diana and the Tour Magne, which stands at the top of the nearby Mont Cavalier. Entrance to the gardens is free of charge, and they are well worth a visit if you are in the city. Early evening is the best time to go as the new fountains are spectacularly illuminated with coloured lights.

Nimes is a beautiful, bustling historical city. Not only does it contain one of the best preserved collections of Roman architecture outside Italy, it is also the birthplace of the popular jean fabric Denim.

Uzes, the source of the spring water which once crossed the Pont du Gard, lies 25km from Nimes at the source of the River Eure. The town is popular for its farmers market which is held each Saturday. Uzes market hosts a wide variety of stalls with locally produced cloth being available alongside the more traditional produce stalls.
Uzes has seen much unrest over the centuries. The cathedral for example, was destroyed in the 13th century, rebuilt, and destroyed again in the 16th century. It was again rebuilt in the 17th century but was stripped of its furnishings during the French Revolution. The 11th century Tour Fenestrelle (window tower) has somehow managed to survive these ravages and remains part of the cathedral as it stands today. It is possibly the most iconic piece of architecture in the city.

To the north of Uzes lies the pretty little village of Aiguèze. Aiguèze is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France and was the first village in Gard to achieve this honour.

Le Grau-du-Roi
Gard’s only coastal town, Le Grau-du-Roi, is surrounded by salt marshes which are home to numerous wild flamingos. The town’s location on the Mediterranean, coupled with its 18km of fine sandy beaches, has made it an increasingly popular resort town. Once a small fishing village, improvements to the town's transport structure and marina mean that the population of Le Grau-du-Roi has more than trebled over the last 50 years.

Cevennes National Park
The Cevennes National Park is located not just in Gard but also covers parts of the Lozere and Ardeche departments as well. The park is home to 70 species of mammals, including wild boar, moufflon, otters and Przewalski’s Horse, the last truly wild horse species in the world. But it is the bird life in the park which makes a visit truly spectacular. Griffon, Egyptian and Cinerous vultures are native to the park and live alongside Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons and the Eurasian Eagle Owl. With more tha 30 visitor centres, you are certain to be able to find one near you when you visit.

It goes without saying that located in Languedoc-Roussillion, home of over 30 of the finest varieties of wine in France, Gard contains some of the most productive vineyards in the country. Winery tours are easy to find and are an enjoyable and relaxing way to spend a day in Gard.

Full of history, wildlife and with more than 18km of beaches for you to enjoy, the department of Gard is well worth adding to the itinerary of any French holiday.

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