WEDNESDAY, 31st MAY
Arles is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Provence Region of southern France. It sits on a low hill where the Rhine River branches in two parts to the sea. The town dates back to the 7th century BC and was a major Gallo-Roman city. Arles boasts 300 days of sunshine per year. It is famed for inspiring the paintings of Van Gogh. Once a provincial capital of Ancient Rome Arles is also known for many remains from that era, including Arles Amphitheatre, which is the largest and best preserved ancient monument in Arles, dating back to the first century AD. The arena is actually built into the bedrock. It has a length of 136 m and a width of 107 m and could accommodate 21,000 spectators.
We were given a map and directions to explore the city and eat lunch in two hours before meeting the group to move on further. We managed to walk far further than necessary when we lost the direction of the river and our lunch was not exactly up to scratch but nevertheless we enjoyed Arles.
PONT DU GARD – a masterpiece of Roman ingenuity.
The Pont du Gard (Bridge over the River Gard) is a Roman monument built half-way through the first century AD. It is the principal construction in a 50 km long aqueduct that supplied the city of Nimes with water. Built as a three level aqueduct standing 50m high it allowed water to flow across the Gardon River. In essence the bridge is constructed out of soft yellow limestone blocks taken from a nearby quarry bordering the river. The highest part of the structure is made out of breeze blocks joined together with mortar. It is topped by a device designed to bear the water channel whose stone slabs are covered with calcium deposits. It measures 360m at its longest point along the top. It is estimated that the aqueduct supplied Nimes with around 200,000 cubic meters of water a day, taking 27 hours for the water to flow from its source to the city. It is considered that it took between 10 and 15 years to construct the Nimes Aqueduct with Pont du Gard taking less than 5 years and a labour force of 800 to l,000 workers.
CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE – wine tasting of one of the world’s most famous wines.
This was perhaps the highlight for a couple of gentlemen on the Tour but for Pat and me the experience was a little wasted as we are not “drinkers”. Nevertheless we followed the audio presentation through the many processes to bring the grapes from the vine to the bottle and then had a sip or two of the wines for tasting.This ended a most interesting and informative Tour with Nicholas.