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On the edge of Provence in Southern France there is a village that sits on a hill, surrounded by vineyards and fruit trees, and wild garrigue. This small stone village of Vers has quarries that were the source of the stone for the 'Pont du Gard' (the ninth wonder of the world) which is a 40 minute walk away.
It was 2000 years ago, and the Romans of Nimes wanted water for their baths. There was a natural spring near the village of Uzes but it was 48 kilometers away. The Roman engineers went to work building an aqueduct of stone at the proper levels to flow downhill the whole way, with only 10 meters of drop to work with. And they had another problem: to get across the huge canyon carved out by the Gardon River. The magnificent Roman solution, the Pont-du-Gard, is the third most visited tourist destination in France (after the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre). Follow the old aqueduct ruins just outside the village as you reach it in a short walk from the house....
Special Bonus when you come here: CULTURE CONNECTION. Sit and do nothing if you want. But when you feel restless, why not get a sense of who the local French people are and what they are about? Be invited for dinner by a local French family, visit a local artist, host your own soiree with Martin's friends. How about a combined cooking and French lesson for beginners? Guided hike to Pont du Gard, Gordon river swimming, village wine tour, trip to Uzes market and more.
Things to do in or near the village:
Vers is a village made of stone houses on a hill surrounded by vineyards and orchards. Pop: 1800
* Visit the Pont-du-Gard. Free guided tour led by Martin along the ruins of the old aqueduct to the Pont-du-Gard! Conservative method (by bike or car): Go down to main highway, turn left and head toward Remoulins. Within a quarter of a mile will be a round-a-bout with entrance to park at the Pont du Gard. Locals park on the highway at no charge. This aqueduct bridge is so amazing that as soon as Napolean saw it he started its restoration. The French government has been putting money into it ever since. Go down below the bridge and have a picnic next to the river.
Adventurous method: (40 min on foot) Find the men playing boules in the town square. Notice the public restrooms across the street. Turn to the right and follow that street/road out of town toward the main highway and Remoulins. You will pass a natural fountain on the left (fill water bottles because it is a fountain of youth!). Keep going down to the main highway. Go straight across the highway and follow paved road past the round-a-bout. Follow the road up the hill. You will see aqueduct ruins. Check them out. Follow the ruins and turn left as they end. Follow the trail. If you seem lost keep going; the canyon is on your right with the bridge coming up!
On your way back, cross the main highway back to Vers, but immediately watch for the gravel road up to the right just past the RR tracks. Go up and take the turn to the left and follow along until you see more aqueduct ruins. Follow the path along the ruins to the left back to the village. You will pass fruit orchards and end up at the back of the village.
* Martin and Monique recently had a 'romantique' dinner at the nearby Jardins de la Gare restaurant, within walking distance. After a wonderful (4 star?) classic French dinner, we walked home hand in hand under the moon and many stars. From the house entrance, turn left, then the first right. When you reach the village school, turn left, then the next right. Go straight ahead past the wine cooperative, the restaurant is a short distance ahead on the left.
* Go for a walk all around village until you have found the following: town square: stone sculpture of thinker, men playing boules, place to hand wash your clothes (fountain), pedestrian path leading from square past gardens and huge estate owned by the English, path ending at amazing cemetery (go in and check it out). There are three naturally occurring fountains in or around the village. A patisseries, bar with pool table and soccer pinball, beauty salon, town library, elementary school, post office, pharmacy, doctor, dentist and masseuse offices, tabac, soccer field, and a wine co-op are all available.
Walk to the cave wine co-op (10 min). Face the elementary school. Turn around 180 degrees and go forward. Follow that road until it tees and turns right. At the bottom of the hill the wine co-op is on the right and the store on the left. (Bring empty plastic 1 gal jug-- if you don't have one, you can buy one) Ask person inside to fill jug with wine. Be prepared to choose between four choices of wine-- rouge, cabernet, Rougette, or Blanc. Rouge is the cheapest and the best. No sulphites or additives-- whoa... I can't find wine like this anywhere!
* Walk to stone quarries (15 min). These are where the stone for the Pont du Gard came from. Face the elementary school. Turn to the left and walk around the school turning to the right. You will begin to see carrier signs. Keep going until you get to last (Roman) quarry. You can see it below. Turn right and walk on down. Notice quote from Einstein on the left behind as you enter. Check out examples of stones. Go for a wander into the quarry. Try to find where giant cubes of stone are coming from. On your way back to the village as you exit the quarry make a U to the right and follow the gravel road down. Watch for the ruts in the stone of the original Roman stone carts.
Walk to Castillon (25 min). Follow the route that my house is on out of village. As you exit the village, watch for crumbling house on left in vines. Check it out. Keep walking until you get to a village perched on a hill. As you approach the hill, watch for a pedestrian path straight up to the village. Go to the cafe for tea. Find the four star restaurant. Check prices on posted menu. Check out art and pottery shop above the post office. Buy picnic ingredients at town store. On the way back, descend the hill and watch for stone church set back in vineyards to the right. Keep on following footpaths past the church. Find spot for picnic. Circle back home to village of Vers.
* Visit Uzes farmers' market on Saturday morning. (10 min by car) Take bus from wine co-op bus stop. A chart is posted there with the schedule. Uzes has some of the best shopping in the entire South of France. Check out art shops in town, have lunch after market. You can rent car in Uzes for the day to go to:
* Trip to Arles: (40 Min by car). Place where Van Gogh lived and painted. Go to Tourist Information to buy Van Gogh book, find where the Arena stadium is and museums. Trip to Nimes: (30 min by car): see Roman stadium, festivals. Trip to Carcasson: the walled city (3 hrs). Trip to Avignon (30 min by car) art exhibitions, music, festivals, Palace of the Popes.
* Walk to the Gordon River (20 min). Bring a swim suit and have a picnic on the beach. Go to the town square below Main Street. Find the stone paved walkway near the toddler's play area. Follow it until the stone wall on the left ends. Turn right, and when you pass the cemetery turn left. Turn right just past the RR tracks and take the dirt/gravel road to the left in 50M when the vineyard ends. Go all the way down to the main highway where you will see the Begude de Paulon. Go directly across the highway and go down to the crossroad. Go straight down the Chemin de Passuer. As you approach the end it seems like a private driveway. Go right up to the entrance gate and find the footpath to the right. Follow it across the footbridge to the beach. This is a public beach of the Commune de Vers. You can rent a canoe at the town of Collias on the other side of the river, and paddle under the Pont du Gard!
* Be invited for dinner at the table of a local French family. Peak experience! E20/person.
* Go on a local hike into the garrigue jungle with the Amitie Versoise (2 hrs, about 6k). A different direction each time. Practice your French!
* Bike ride to Argilliers, a neighboring village. Bikes available
* Visit a local artist or artisan in their workshop.
Go to the Uzes farmers' market on a Saturday morning. That afternoon receive a Provencal cooking lesson from Chef Pierre as you participate in the preparations for your own soiree that night. Invite new friends you have bumped into on your adventures that week.
Self Tours: You provide the car, and maps and directions will be provided. You are in the middle of one of the great wine areas of the world, the Cote du Rhone. Other destinations: La Camargue, the bird sanctuary, Avignon, the Palace of the Popes, Arles, the land of Van Gogh. Tarascon, the nearby castle. The villages of Peter Mayle's 'A Year in Provence.'
WE ARE SITUATED 28 KM FROM AVIGNON.