Arrondissement de Nîmes

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  • Day950


    February 1 in France ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    The large overflow carpark on the edge of Sommières is home for today. The original tarmac car park is packed, but thankfully there is plenty of space on the gravel area where we are. The reed lined River Vidourle runs alongside and large flocks of crows call out as they fly to and from their high treetop roosts.

    It rained for most of our journey here, but eased off soon after we arrived in the early afternoon. We are getting used to shops closing for lunch, so Will took the opportunity for a little fish before we headed into the 'centre ville' via an arched Roman bridge, built in the 1st century by Emperor Tiberius. Today it serves as a road bridge, narrowly squeezing two way traffic between its low walls, without leaving much room for pedestrians. They have their own low concrete bridge a little further downstream.

    Currently we are taking a more passive approach to travel; plotting a route that will get us to our ferry and simply seeing what the journey brings. We'd not researched Sommières, so had few expectations and were pleasantly surprised as we took the grand entrance through the town walls, via the archway (complete with portcullis) built into a clock amd bell tower. Tall, terraced shops and homes, their walls leaning inwards, formed narrow alleyways, where we were shocked to see a few people daring to drive, or rather crawl along in their cars.

    Despite its modern creperies and clothes shops, Sommières exuded history. It is one of those towns that has had continued habitation through the centuries. Old has stayed old, but been adapted and extended in an effort to suit the demands of successive new ages. Certain streets were entered into via small stone arches and the rain brought out a smell of damp concrete in some residential areas, adding to the olde worlde feel.

    The businesses around the small main square marked the town out as somewhere people would travel to visit as a treat, with cafés, gift shops, artisan boulangeries, patisseries, galleries and a florists. Spreading out from here were sellers of loose teas, wines and craft beers, fashion boutiques and even a hippy shop where Will found a new pair of trousers. People didn't appear as openly friendly as in many of the smaller places we've been staying, but this is often a consequence of larger settlements. As we were leaving we saw a sign giving notice of a road closure each Saturday for market; we were in luck!

    The following morning even more cars streamed into our car park. We waited for the heavy rain to abate to a constant drizzle and made our way in towards the covered stalls that lined many of Sommières' streets and filled its squares. Apart from a few clothes and nik nak vendors, it was mainly a food market, with fruit and veg, baked and sweet goods, cheese, fish, fresh and processed meats filling the majority of tables. We were a little surprised at how many of each type there were, as competition usually whittles them down to no more than half a dozen. We managed to pick up some organic bread and veg amd opted for three ages of sheep cheese from a very small, local producer.

    The Yellow Vests were actively leafletting and mustering support. One kid of around 11 years even tried to recruit Vicky, bounding up to her and asking 'vous voulez participer avec le gilets jaunes?' They looked intially crestfallen at her stringent 'non', but soon bounded up to the next unsuspecting passer by!
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  • Day948

    Return to Vallabrègues

    January 30 in France ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    We've ended up at Vallabrègues aire again, exactly a week after we first visited. Avoiding France's over developed southern coast after a foray to Monaco in the east, we are doubling back westwards towards Spain.

    It was another interesting day's drive to get here, over Provence's beautiful wooded hills. Thanks to a a blue sky and wonderfully bright sun, the temperature never dropped below 3°C, but we saw plenty of snow on the ground and needed to be careful in the shade of cliffs and slopes, as the white stuff had piled up at the edge of the carriageway and even remained in the centre of each lane at times. On higher ground it was thick on the branches of wintery oaks, bare but for a few crisp brown leaves persistently clinging on. The wind would occasionally blow a flurry from the trees, splatting it onto Martha's windscreen and bringing gleeful grins to our faces.

    We had programmed an LPG station in, but it must have stopped selling it, because a pump was nowhere to be seen. Here in France we'll often come accross LPG when we have no need for it, but we don't want to risk running out, so will programme another station in along the next leg of our route.

    Despite crossing over our tracks of a week ago we'd planned to stay at another aire close to Vallabrègues, after discovering the town hosted weekly bull fights. However, there was a mixup with waypoints in the sat nav and when we ended up here, Vicky was too tired from the long journey to travel on, so we stayed put.

    There was something comforting about being in a place we knew and while Will fished, Vicky focussed on making arrangements for when we return to the UK. We've been trying to get our rear bumper fixed since a collision in June, but the garage SAGA Insurance directed us to is experiencing massive delays when ordering parts from europe. It looks likely we won't be able to get the work done anytime soon.

    Having already explored the streets of Vallabrègues, we took some time to call our family for a catchup. Hearing about Burns Night meals they'd been having, we got to really fancying some haggis, neaps and tatties. Now, as you can imagine, haggis isn't widely available in France, but Vicky had an idea and looked up a vegan haggis recipe online. Will spent an afternoon cooking and combining all the ingredients, let the concoction rest for a day and baked it the following evening. It was really yummy, especially with a nip of whisky!
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  • Day940

    Vallabrègues, Le Rhône

    January 22 in France ⋅ ☀️ 6 °C

    Today we feel we've 'arrived'. The sun shines in a blue sky as we pull into the free aire at Vallabrègues; a grassy patch with gravel pitches radiating out from the centre like spokes on a bicycle wheel. The journey here has buoyed our spirits, as we near the Mediterranean Sea. We followed the course of the widening River Rhône and as we drove, the sights we saw told us we were in 'the south' now. Workers tended vines, honeyed stone castles loomed above on precipitous craggy outcrops, olive and soft fruit orchards were ten to the dozen and we even saw neatly cropped fields of lavender and thyme between curtains of bamboo canes as tall as houses, green leached out of their leaves, leaving crisp, sandy coloured fingers that rustle in the wind. We even saw a few roadside stalls selling clementines, although we think these were probably imported from Spain.

    We associate these surroundings with warm sunny days, outdoor adventures, exotic wildlife, icecream, seafood and wine, so it was with smiles on our faces that we parked up at Vallabrègues. The aire is at the edge of town, on the Rhône's natural flood plain. It's actually below the water level, although a huge embankment has been built to seperate it and protect the town, which flooded back in 2003.

    Wanting to take advantage of the sunshine, Vicky set out on a walk alongside the river, while Will fished in the nearby pond. He was able to stay out later than previous days, because our direction of travel and time of year means we are getting more daylight hours, the sun now setting at 17.38pm!

    Feeling energised, Will explored the narrow streets of Vallabrègues when Vicky was in bed and found a Tabac where, during opening hours, we might get a token to fill the van with fresh water. After an overcast river walk the next morning we returned and managed to buy the 'jeton' for €2. Cars are confined to the edges of town, so we wandered through the quiet alleyways between terraced homes, emerging upon a sandstone gravel square planted with time worn Plane trees and featuring a bandstand. At the edge were two bars with marquees attached to their frontages. Bar du Cours had tables and chairs set up outside and a chalk board displaying the menu du jour for €15. The barhand raised their eyebrows and looked worried when Vicky asked for a veggie meal, but the server knew just the thing: 'a big salade!' We smiled as this is exactly what had been offered at the little auberge we ate at last week. It seems as if Vicky may be eating quite a few 'grandes salades' whilst in France! We were led into the dining room and given our choice of seats. The tables were functional, wipe clean vinyl with paper mats and a few other cutomers sat quietly hunched over their meals. The one striking feature was the homage the room payed to bullfighting; many framed photos and even a bull's head woven out of willow branches and mounted on a plaque. No wonder the barhand had raised their eyebrows at Vicky's request for a vegetarian option! The meal was good, and the server attentive so we tried to ignore the bullfighting photos, but on our way back to Martha, we came across Vallabrègues' bull ring, which advertised weekly events for €3 with free entry for those under 12 years. We hadn't realised this cruel activity was still such a part of local culture in this region, but felt very glad to have avoided being there when a fight was scheduled.

    As March 29th grows closer we are becoming increasingly worried about the effects of Brexit on our travels. With 9 weeks to go there are as yet no arrangements in place that would allow us to stay more than 90 days out of every 180 within the Schengen zone, putting an end to long term touring in Europe. Vodafone have said they'll continue to allow customers to roam with no additional charges, but for how long? We will need to get International Driving Permits when we return to the UK in February, probably one for France and one for Spain. We've also been advised by our insurance company to call them 3 weeks before crossing over to the continent in order to obtain a Green Card. We desperately hope we will be able to continue living life as we have been, but things look set to become a lot more complicated and restrictive. We'll just have to wait and see...
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  • Day39

    Wild beach, wilder ride...

    October 6, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Our first car adventure in France... to Plage Espiguette - an absolutely beautiful wild beach on the Mediterranean about 45 minutes out of town. We rented using “OUIcar” - an AirBNB type car sharing platform, so we saved a very few euros and ended up with a 20th century special - dingy and small, but we figured it would get us there and home... The day was actually amazing - with soft white sand, fun waves (I thought about Crystal Beach in Thunder Bay), excellent beach combing and sand dune climbing. It is a beach devoid of development, which means a different vibe - lots of bikes and kite-pulled dune buggies (and no constant requests for ice cream at the local beach bar). At around 18h00, we had to head home - slightly burned and very sun-tired, weighed down with shells and sand - our hair, clothes, towels, and every other place you can imagine. Sadly, our perfect day was not to be... we took a wrong turn about 10 minutes into our ride home, and that’s when the car engine started cutting out. Still 40 minutes out of town, Geoff pushed so hard on that pedal and ignition key I thought they would break, the engine finally turned as the night fell, and we finally roared in the direction of home with the big red light on the console flashing “STOP” in our faces. Malcolm offered to tell jokes to lighten the mood, but soon realized the futility of this, and contented himself with occasional body noises for a laugh. Anytime we slowed down, the engine would sputter again, and threaten to cut out -so Geoff did not slow down once for 40 minutes until forced to in a left turn lane - thankfully about 15 minutes from our house, and 5 from the drop-off for the car. Stalled on the road, now completely dark out, I called the owner. We sat amidst the honking horns (drivers not so patient having to go around). After 25 minutes, the owner arrived with his solution - he put Geoff at the wheel in neutral, and pushed the car back to his place using his own car... who needs a tow-truck in Montpellier? I walked home with the kids and we had dinner at a fashionably French hour - around 21h00. Dale sees this as a “scary” experience, Geoff sees it as a sign that our next car rental should be with an established company, I see it (now) as good practice for the many similar experiences we are bound to have in the next 9 months!Read more

  • Day49

    Roman legacy in Laguedoc-Rousillon

    October 16, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    Better late than never to post about our trip en Provence... we started out in Nimes - a “hit” at the Arène, one of France’s oldest and best preserved Roman coliseums. Once I got over the initial resistance to the 40€+ entrance fee (yikes!), it was a very interesting site, with a great audio guide. Did you know that the killing of defenceless prisoners by wild animals or armed men were actually unpopular events - generally not attended by most of the audience? Moreover, gladiator fighting, the real reason everyone came to the coliseum, seldom resulted in the death of a gladiator since the magistrate who organized the event would have to compensate the gladiator’s school for the loss. And... the “thumbs up/ thumbs down” is also a fiction - actually, a thumb tucked into a closed fist meant “mercy”. Hollywood fails us again! Then onto another Roman legacy in the region - the Pont du Gard - an amazing bridge supporting one of the best -preserved examples of a Roman aqueduct. Aqueducts, in bringing water from high in the hills to towns and cities, allowed for the growth of an agricultural economy, but what I find more interesting is their innovative effects on governance and growth of public spaces. Cities and towns could bring people together, around fountains or baths, and had public lavatories to support this (you understand this if you have ever been to an outdoor concert without adequate port-o-potties...). And they also had to manage a shared resource - with all the physical and social challenges of fairly allocating it... clearly I remain a public service e geek at heart! For the future traveller, note that seeing the Pont du Gard off-season, in the rain, and at the end of a long day, is not ideal. It is a beautiful area that deserves sunshine and a picnic, probably bikes or kayaks. Maybe next time... :)Read more

  • Day19

    Each day a new day

    April 6, 2015 in France ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Nannie is very sick in hospital in Nimes; she is in intensive care after hitting her head and has been asleep for more than 2 days. We are very worried about her but the doctors say she will get better and they will try to wake her up tomorrow. I will be able to visit her in a few days.

    We are trying to keep doing things like she would with us. We make a wish and toss a coin in the fountain every day. We had crêpes for lunch today- it's great that you can get nearly everything with Nutella in France!

    The dogs here are so good, they wait nicely even at food shops! Ruby says they are all "Tres Mignon".
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  • Day21

    Uzes at night

    April 8, 2015 in France ⋅ 🌙 6 °C

    Tonight mum has taken over the blog entry.

    Ann/Nannie is awake!! She still has the ventilation tube in for a couple more days. But she can understand what we say to her, yes in English and French. We are all breathing a little easier now and things are very hopeful that she will be herself again in weeks to come.

    Meanwhile we were very lucky to have support of our amazing family team here and accept the chance to go out for dinner and explore Uzes after dark for the first time. The stone and architecture and laneways and random cats and general oozing mediaeval charm is fantastique!
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  • Day21

    French movie cinema!

    April 8, 2015 in France ⋅ 🌙 9 °C

    First to say Nannie is even better mum says and might get her breathing tube out tomorrow. We will wait for what is best for Nannie but I miss her.

    Today we went to see Shaun le Mouton (Shaun the sheep) at the cinema. It was so funny. We also made our own popcorn in a machine when we put the euro coins in. It was a lot of fun for all of us & we were the only people in the cinema so we could talk and laugh loudly.Read more

  • Day23

    Dress ups

    April 10, 2015 in France ⋅ 🌙 2 °C

    Nannie is better again today but her throat is too swollen to get the tube out yet. It may be a couple of days yet. I can't wait to see her again.
    Today all the school kids in Uzes dressed up in costumes and marched right past our house. It was very noisy and fun.

You might also know this place by the following names:

Arrondissement de Nîmes, Arrondissement de Nimes

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