It’s Scary On Top of the Pont du Gard

Susan found this photo from 1995 … of me standing on top of the Pont du Gard.

pontdugard

You can’t tell from this photo … but I’m kind of scared. And maybe even shaking a little bit in my bike shorts. Hey, it was super high and narrow up there, and really windy. You weren’t supposed to be up there because, well, you could fall over the edge and plunge to your death. Which isn’t good for tourism.

And yes, I’m wearing a fanny pack. Hey, it was 1995, and they were cool back then. OK, fanny packs were never cool. But they were sort of practical on a bike trip. Back then.

So, here’s the story…

We were in the midst of a French bike trip, and did a day trip from Avignon to see the Pont du Gard. This aqueduct is considered one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, for good reason. It’s amazing. The Pont du Gard was built around 19 BC and carried water from Uzes to Nimes, a distance of 31 miles. Not much of the aqueduct remains. This section rises majestically 160 feet over and across the Gard River.

Back in 1995, you could climb up into the top level of the Pont du Gard. You weren’t actually allowed to, and there were signs saying not to, but there wasn’t anyone there to stop you.

And so, lots of people climbed up to the top level. Maybe not lots, but several. Many. We saw them from down below.

“Come on Susan, we have to do it,” I insisted.

pontdugard2.jpg
We also paddled our way to the Pont du Gard in 2007. How do you like Susan’s hat?

 

You climbed into the top level, the top tier, and were inside the “tunnel” where the water once flowed. It was dark and spooky, with some shafts of light coming in from the holes up above.

“Come on Susan, we have to climb up through one of these holes to the top.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Other people are doing it.”

According to my memory, I don’t think Susan actually climbed up and out of the hole and walked along the top of the Pont du Gard. I did, and tried to coax her up. She was way too smart to give in to my peer pressure. But she did pop up just long enough to take this photo.

Although you can’t see them, there were other people up there. They must have been hanging out in the other direction. At least that’s how I remember it.

I walked around a bit, although walking isn’t exactly the right description. I sort of scurried along, low and slow, like a crab, clinging to the center of the way-too-narrow top of the post. Some maniacs sat at the edge, dangling their feet over.

No way.

I don’t remember posing for this photo. It was probably the only time I stood up to tall.

Here’s what Susan remembers: “I immediately had to get down on my knees because it was so high. I did climb up there, but I couldn’t stay up there. It was too high and windy and wasn’t very wide. I felt like I was gonna fall. Taking this picture, putting a camera in front of my face, was about as much balance as I could handle. There were other people up there, but there weren’t very many. Don’t give people the idea there were a lot of people up there.”

I won’t.

We hung out a little bit, and then climbed down. Went for a dip in the Gard River, dried off in the sun, and started riding back to Avignon.

You can no longer climb up into and on top of the Pont du Gard. It’s probably for the best, but sure I do miss that view. It certainly got my adrenaline flowing.

pontdugard

Mount Ventoux Beckons

Everywhere you look … Mount Ventoux.

Looming up above, off in the distance … daring brave cyclists to climb to the summit. This is the view from our hotel window here at the Hotel La Garance in Sainte Colombia, a few Ks outside of Bedoin, which is one of the base towns below the Ventoux.

Bedoin-1.JPG

Not bad.

The summit of the Ventoux is the white cap way off in the distance.

Tomorrow we get our bikes, and begin riding. And, get this, Susan is getting a E-Bike, something we didn’t even think about until earlier today when we went to one of the bike rental places in Bedoin. And saw they had E-Bikes.

Maybe, just maybe, she will attempt the Ventoux on Tuesday with me.

Or maybe, we’ll do it on Sunday, as the weather forecast still calls for lots of wind on Monday and Tuesday (my birthday). The guy at the bike-rental place said there will be gusts of 100 Ks (62 MPH). At least it won’t be snowing.

wind.png

So, here’s something I learned today that’s hard to admit: Sometimes, when you tour Provence (or any other area) on a bike, you miss out on things.

I know, it pains me to write this, but it’s true.

Let me explain…

Today, we meandered our way over to Bedoin in our rental car, stopping in four of the Ventoux villages: Roaix, Rasteau, Cairanne and Crestet. All were little stone towns hundreds of years old on the top of hills of varying heights. I’ve cycled through all of them before, stopped, looked around a bit … and kept riding.

Not today.

We parked and wandered through each village, through the narrow stone streets, past the cathedrals and old houses, up and up to see the amazing views.

bedoin-2.JPG

The photo above is from our walk to the top of Rasteau, and this one is from the top of Cairanne…

bedoin-3.JPG

Crestet was probably our favorite of the four. It was the most medieval of the towns.

Here’s a couple of photos from Crestet…

crestet.JPG

crestet2.JPG

OK, tomorrow we get our bikes and begin riding. There are at least two bike-tour groups staying in our hotel, including La Vie En Velo, a British group. Some of their riders are going to do the Ventoux tomorrow, and a couple brave souls are going to do the three times in one day thing. I did this back in 2010 … and it was and is one of my most memorable days of cycling ever.

This year?

Once is probably enough. Per day. But I may have to do two ascents, one from Bedoin, and another from Sault.

Stay tuned…

bedoin-7.JPG

Seguret: Our Secret City in Provence … Shhhh, Don’t Tell Anyone About It

I just realized I haven’t been posting as much since Susan got to France.

OK, time to catch up. We’re in Seguret, a tiny and magical village we discovered together a long, long time ago…

seguret-1
This is what Seguret looked like 500 or 600 years ago 

 

It was 1995, we were biking through Provence, headed to Vaison-la-Romaine, a fairly big city known for its Roman ruins and market. It was hot, we were tired … we passed by a sign for Seguret. Never heard of it. Looked in my Let’s Go France book and it said there was a nice youth hostel with a swimming pool.

A swimming pool! This was a rare treat back in 1995.

That settled it … we’re going to Seguret.

seguret-14.JPG

The youth hostel turned out to be a combination youth hostel/hotel. There was a large room and a couple rows of bunk beds for the men, and a similar room for the women. And you could also get your own, private room … which we did.

And then we headed to the pool, which had a great view down and across the valley.

headstand-seguret.jpg

Dinner: Everyone gathered at a couple long tables for a wonderful meal, which included all the local, red wine you could drink. I know, all the red wine you can drink … and a swimming pool.

Needless to say, everyone drank a lot of wine, and stuck around for quite a while to drink … and talk. There was a fascinating assortment of people of all ages from all over Europe, as well as several Americans, Brits and South Africans.

We wound up staying three or four nights.

Then there’s the town of Seguret, a true medieval and walled city built into the side of one of the Dentelles mountains, with the ruins of a once-great castle way up above.

seguret-11.jpg

There was a café in town, and not much else. We climbed up to the café most nights with a constantly changing assortment of people from the youth hostel, and Pomme, the youth hostel dog, and our guide to and from the café.

Everyone in town knew Pomme.

seguret-4.jpg
Dinner in the courtyard of La Bastide Bleue with a view of Seguret … and wine from the next town over (Sablet)

 

We loved the place: the youth hostel and Seguret. And returned later in that same trip. And again in 2000, 2007 and right now. There’s a lot more going on in town these days, and tour buses stop by. It’s still quiet in the evening and has a medieval feel, and you can wander the narrow, stone streets in silence.

seguret-6

The youth hostel is long gone, and this place is now the La Bastide Bleue, and it’s a very nice hotel. The swimming pool is still here … the great courtyard is still here … and so is the town and castle up above. And the restaurant is excellent.

Seguret is still magical.

seguret-2.jpg
Susan doing a Headstand For Humanity in the shadows in front of the ruins of the castle

 

It was in Seguret, in 1995, that I first learned about Mount Ventoux. I’m not sure if we’d ever heard of it, but even if we had, we had no idea that you could climb it on your bike and that people, thousands and thousands of people, came from all over the world to do this. Or that it was considered the hardest and most grueling climb in all the Tour de France.

DSCN0356.JPG
Near the top of the Ventoux

 

A rather drunk Belgian couple, whose English got better the more wine they drank, told us all about Mount Ventoux one night at dinner. Perhaps our first night in Seguret.

“It is like this,” the Belgian guy (Remy) told us, holding his arm at a ridiculously steep angle. “But there are many people climbing it on bicycles. Crazy people.”

Crazy people?

I looked at Susan, who was looking at me, and knew exactly what I was thinking.

Yep, a day or two later, I climbed Mount Ventoux on my bike. I’ve climbed the Ventoux several times since, from each of the three base towns (Malaucene, Sault and Bedoin) and in 2010 did this extra-crazy thing where you climb it three times in one day, once from each of the base towns.

Today, we climbed up to the ruins if the castle … and tomorrow we head to Bedoin.

 

We’ll rent bikes, and I plan to ride to the top of the Ventoux on my birthday: October 2. Susan will meet me up top in the rental car. She’s not quite as crazy as me.

However, the weather forecast calls for lots of wind on October 2 … and if it’s pretty windy down below, it’s dangerously windy at the top of the Ventoux. I know this from experience … and that you can literally be blown over the side of the mountain by gusts that reach 80 or 100 miles per hour. It’s dangerous up there at 1,912 meters. Once, in September, it snowed on top of the Ventoux … and I got hyperthermia. And almost got blown off the side of the mountain.

So, I may have do my birthday climb a day or two early. I’m crazy, but not an idiot. Stay tuned…

seguret-12