This weekend just gone was a four-day long weekend and we decided to head west towards Aidan's neck of the woods - Montpellier.
On Thursday the mister was supposed to go on an epic bike ride up Mt Ventoux, but it was cancelled due to rain. It poured - all day. An ominous start to the weekend.
Friday it was still raining, but at least cats and dogs weren't involved. We headed off towards Montpellier, our first stop being Pont du Gard.
Fireworks being set up for the long weekend. Not sure if they eventuated given the weather.
This Roman aqueduct was built around 50 AD to provide Nîmes with water and is thought to have operated until 900 AD.
Pont du Gard is a 50m section of an aqueduct which was 50km long and dropped 17m over this length. That's 17m over 50km for a duct built 2000 years ago, people. Phoar. *fans self with old engineering text book*
The Pont's setting is lovely - plenty of walking trails and wilderness, perfect for a day with hiking boots and a picnic. Assuming it's not bucketing down of course.
Graffiti - 1830s style.
We had a spot of lunch in a nearby town and came back to the car to find a leaking tyre. *sigh* On the plus side, it turned out to be a slow leak that we could pump up a few times and get away with.
That night we stayed in a small town (Fabregues) outside Montpellier. We settled into our apartment and discovered that the hot water service wasn't working. Then we found out reception closed at 1930h. This was at 1945h. We went to bed smelling like a family of wet dogs.
The next morning we arranged to change rooms with reception before heading off for the day (we had to wait for the new apartment to be cleaned).
First stop was the Pont de Millau.
What a contrast to the day before's bridge visit. This sexy bridge was completed in 2004 and took a little over 3 years to construct.
The bridge spans the gorgeous Tarn River valley, is about 2.5km long and is the tallest bridge in the world. Cutting edge - one (of the many) things the French do well.
After ogling the bridge from the viewing platform we went down to the information centre which was also beautifully done, both outside:
Great displays on the bridge and its construction, plus a short video. There were also some very flash tourist type videos for the bridge and all the surrounding towns. Sure made me want to come back. Even the gift shop was pretty:
Cutest paté tins ever.
After lunch it was a quick visit to Roquefort, of the cheese fame.
This ewe's milk cheese gets its delicious penicillin from mould spores created in rye bread. The mould develops into veins in the cheese in the underground caves of Roquefort. Only cheese stored in caves in a particular 2km by 300m area can use the name Roquefort.
There are 7 cheese houses (brands) that operate tours in Roquefort - you need to take one to get down into the caves (plus there is a tasting at the end, yum). Confession time - the sign said 'no photos' but when a French woman whipped out her camera and started flashing away with it, I took a sneaky no flash photo.
Sorry little resting roqueforts. (Not so little actually, each wheel is about 20cm or 8in across.)
We were late getting back to our apartment, but snagged the key to the new residence at 1900h and started to move. Reception closed at 1930h again, after which we realised we had no towels, no sheets under all the bedspreads, no soap, no sponges/towels in the kitchen and (shock, horror) no TV remote. But we did still have the key to the old apartment, so we went back and stripped it down and brought it all back to the new one. If you'd like to know where not to stay in Fabregues, just drop me a line.
The next day we checked out (to the complex's credit, they gave me a 20% refund when I asked for money back) and headed over to Montpellier.
Parking was easy-peasy, after which we spent some time playing in the kinda weird Dr. Seuss style playground in the Place de la Comédie.
Also seen in the Place de la Comédie:
We met up with Aidan and family and headed up to the main square to find a spot for lunch.
Square where we had lunch.
The Opera house on the far side of the square.
Lunch was great - plenty of crepes and conversation. As we finished off our meals, each family sent their two eldest kids to play in the square which we assumed was a pedestrian zone. The square was packed with people walking, kids playing, seated musicians playing.
A young fellow on his motorised scooter was driving too fast in the square given the crowds. He (I think, as I didn't see the accident) clipped our son's arm and then lost control of the scooter, dropping it on its side where it slid for several metres. For a very horrible 20 seconds all I knew was that our son (who is fine) had been hit and was on the ground, possibly underneath that scooter (he wasn't) with broken bones or worse. People were everywhere, both our boys were wailing and if you've ever wanted to see a 7 months pregnant woman dash like a cheetah you're out of luck. I'm not doing it again.
Yes, yes, more windows. Sorry.
The police were called and fortunately a nurse was dining nearby and gave the little guy a thorough check over. Amazingly he escaped the whole thing with only a small bruise, which appeared the next morning. The police arrived, the scooter had to be towed and that young man may have been in a bit of trouble as he was driving unlicensed. I asked the policewoman if scooters were allowed in the square (the waiter had told us no) and there was a fair bit of roundabout explanation which seemed to mean they're probably not, but a blind eye is turned. About 5 other scooters drove by while the police were standing there. French law is riddled with grey areas, but I said my piece (either ban the bikes or make sure it's well signposted so parents know their kids are in danger) and left it at that.
After such a boring lunch we decided we needed some more excitement so we headed down to the river to see an Extreme Sports exhibition running that weekend.
The walk down along Place de Thessalie Antigone was great - beautiful buildings and lots of fountains, all with an ancient Greek feel.
The view from Rue de Rhodes over the river:
The boys all declared the Extreme Sports to be 'booooooring' so we headed back the way we came for some fountain fun.
Just not extreme enough for us crazy Aussies and 'Murricans.
To be fair to the exhibition, it couldn't compete - the kids had already seen this fountain and wanted to go back to it. All six of them had an absolute ball and came out soaking, including the child that almost had me dropping a baby a few hours beforehand.
After that we had to head home, back into the pouring Provençal rain.
Even though we experienced more highs and lows than Dolly Parton's jogging bra, we declared the weekend a success.
After all, we were still alive and still living in southern France. Plus we had friends like Aidan and family.
Up next: some quilting. Finally.
Sentimental post-script: parents please give your babies (of all ages) an extra-squeezy cuddle tonight for me. Thank you.