- Category: Europe - 2015
- Published: June 25, 2015
- Written by Grant
When the Romans paid to have Nimes built the local Celtic people built it in the same location as their village. As Nimes grew they needed access to more water to serve the population so the Romans did what they knew best – engineer a solution. They built a 35 mile long aquaduct to bring water to their fledgling city. Not only was this an amazing feet but part of it is still standing – the Pont du Gard.
The Pont du Gard is 160 ft high and nearly a quarter of a mile in length spanning a ravine. The Pont du Gard only drops 1 inch in elevation over it's 1100 ft of length. The entire aquaduct drops about 50 ft over it's 35 miles! The Romans were very precise.
While we were in Nimes we took a bus to the Pont du Gard. The Tango bus company's office is behind the train station in the small plaza. We were able to buy a family pass to Pont du Gard for about 20 Euros including transportation which is pretty amazing.
Upon arriving to the bus station on the back side of the train station we saw 30 or so platforms and realized we could very easily miss our bus if we didn't know which platform it would pull in on so we returned to the Tango office and the man looked up our bus in a 3 ring binder. I believe the platform was #7 if I remember right. The trip to Pont du Gard probably took 45 minutes each way and dropped us at a roundabout about half kilometer from the entrance. Note, that the bus back to Nimes picks up on the opposite side of the roundabout (nearest the park entrance) so if you're standing at the same stop you got off of (like we were) you'll miss your return bus as we nearly did. You've been warned.
After we walked the half kilometer in the scorching heat with no cover we entered the park. Then we walked another half kilometer again in the heat past 1000 year old olive trees to take refuge in the shade of the aqueduct itself. You can climb stairs to the top of the ridge to get a better photo. They offer tours through the aqueduct but we didn't have the time. During our climb we came face to face with a cicada. I haven't mentioned them yet but from about 9am to 9pm the cicadas are playing their built-in instruments. It's very noticeable at first but eventually you don't hear it anymore. By the way cicada's are probably the ugliest insect on earth. Upon returning from our trek we picked up the others and crossed the Pont du Gard so we could get better access to the river. We brought swim gear but really only had about 40 minutes to cool of before heading back. My mother and daughter sat in the shade and ate ice cream at one of the local restaurants as the rest of us swam. We nearly didn't get in the water because you have to change, get wet, dry off, change again etc.. For 40 minutes it's not hardly worth it. However, there's something to be said for swimming under a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct as it's very hard to forget. If you go to Pont du Gard make an effort to swim. It may be the highlight of our side trip.
The river is full of schools of tiny fish that suck your feet while you're attempting to lay back and view the Pont du Gard itself. If you can manage to stand still long enough you'll have clean feet. The unbearable heat suddenly became no problem once we were wet and refreshed. We quickly got dried and changed at the public restroom and headed back. Upon returning to the Museum we ducked inside the theater to cool down and watch a film about the Pont du Gard then headed back to the bus. Again, you catch the returning bus on the near side of the roundabout – not the side you got off from. We were all standing on the far side as the bus to Nimes pulled up across the road, I ran to catch the driver who reluctantly swung around and picked all 7 of us up before proceeding onto Nimes. Had I not done that we would have been in the sun for another hour.
The return journey was a bit different as we turned left and drove through the very tiny roads of the hilltop town of Castillon du Gard. I was not at all prepared for this so I don't have any decent photos but if you google it you can see this very photogenic little town on it's hilltop. I'm not sure we went that way because it was definitely out of the way nor can I guarantee your bus will take the same route but if it does keep your camera ready as it goes by in a flash. Leaving Castillon du Gard you descend to the valley floor and drive past miles of grape vines – you're in wine country here..
The Pont du Gard can also be accessed from Avignon as well. I recommend taking the Tango bus as it is easy (once we got our tickets), reasonably quick and very cheap. We saw people selling Pont du Gard transportation for 5 times more. If you take the bus you can spend the money you saved on lunch across the river and spend the day at Pont Du Gard.