Pont-du-Gard, France - May 24, 2012
I'm now camped just downstream from the Pont du Gard. The aqueduct is pretty impressive. I think I saw some lights set up and so may walk back up there this evening to see it all lit up.
I had a bit of a yuck day yesterday. It had stopped raining the night before in Lourdes and actually was a little sunny when I left in the morning but that didn't last long. No real rain, but just very dark and sombre. I was originally headed for Avignon... pretty sure I wasn't going to make it that far... and as it turned out, it was pretty slow going. So I thought then that by mid-afternoon I might stop at the town of Albi, but as I drove through, I got the feeling that I didn't like the place and went on. I didn't get much farther though as the road began to climb over a small range (Midi-Pyrenees) and the fog started getting pretty bad. Then it got really bad. Just a two-lane road and I was trying to stay close to the truck in front of me, but he was going too fast for me in the wet curves and I kept losing his lights. Then cars would just appear from the side, or in towns, people would just appear in the roads. It was pretty freaky and getting downright dangerous. Anyway, I was just about to pull off and catch my breath when a hotel appeared and so I whipped the bike off the road and stayed there. Pretty nice place in a dump of a small town. Not too cheap, but the lady who ran it was really very nice and helpful. Her husband was quite stand-offish I thought. He asked me if I spoke French and I said "seulement un peu" (only a little bit) and he replied, "seul un tout petit peu" (only a very little bit).
Anyway, it was quite foggy when I got up but didn't cherish the idea of another day there but figured that I could make it the two hours it would take to get to the freeway that led out of the mountains. As it turned out, by the time I got packed up and had breakfast (way overpriced) it was just really hazy, but no real fog. So I plowed on, and out of the mountains.
Nice Tree... Now Where's the Wine and Cheese?
It turned sunny down here, so I made for the Pont du Gard. Got there and found a parking lot with a gate where you take a ticket. No mention of price, but how much can it cost to park? So I parked, took my tankbag, but locked up my jacket and helmet by running a bicycle cable through the sleeves and visor and around the frame (locked by the same padlock I had on my locker in highschool). Then did the small hike to the bridge. There was an information booth there and so I asked about a ticket and she said that you just pay for the parking at the automatic machine on the way out. OK... the aqueduct was cool but I was still carrying too much stuff and was thinking that I could just go camp at the camp I had seen near the entrance and come back... maybe when it was cooler. So I left and went to pay... 18 Euros... about $24!!! It's the same whether it is one person or a carfull of 5. Your parking ticket is your entrance fee. Man, did I ever feel screwed. I didn't even take up a parking space, but parked next to another bike in one. When he came back to his bike, he probably felt even more screwed as he didn't wind up taking up a parking space either.
Pont du Gard
From an Evening Stroll
Well, the campground is interesting with its unisex showers and bathrooms, but it does have free "wee-fee" as they say in France. And also a laundromat. Perfect. I'm really needing one. So it is 5.50 Euros to wash, 3 to dry. But coins only. There is a card reader but it's not connected to anything and so doesn't work and no change machine. So I asked the lady at the front desk for change. Just a bunch of whining and of course, no change. She suggested I go next door to the restaurant and ask there. But madame, they're not his machines. So no laundry. Who the hell carries 8.50 in Euros in change with them. That's like walking around with $11.00 in change. Do you walk around with $11.00 in change? Especially when everywhere you go down here, they seem to whine about change. It's like a third-world country. Small bills are part of the culture... made all the more difficult because you always get 50 Euro bills at the cash machines. What can you buy with a $65 bill? Oh well, she put my nationality down as US and so she can hate the ugly Americans.
I'd have to say that I am not enamored with southern France. There is really something different about it and the people that is not to my liking. I may have mentioned it before when I was in the Languedoc region. I have my own theory but will keep it to myself as it is probably totally unfounded in fact. Pretty countryside in places... but folks... there's lots of pretty countryside in other parts of the world too. But the Pont du Gard is awesome and the Romans did great work. I read somewhere that as an aqueduct, it only slopes 2.5 cm over its length. Amazing.
So I am out of here and headed east tomorrow. May just take the freeways and make some tracks. I'd like to go to Avignon, but may save that for another trip. Or not. It's funny what things really put you off a place. I've talked to people who really hate places I really like because they just had a different experience there. Sometimes, it's just the way people drive, or the way you hear them talk to their kids or their spouses. It's just how they interact with each other and with you. Totally unfounded, but nothing is as real as our perceptions. In fact, string theory would suggest that our perceptions are all there really is. Your perception of reality is the reality.
I need a shower. I've obviously been smelling my own stink too long.
Also, I can't seem to update the website for some reason. The FTP server seems to lock up and so haven't been able to update the location or the track in the past two days. Not sure what the issue is or if it is resolvable from here. Bummer. Won't be able to post pictures anymore if I can't fix it. Spot seems to be working though. Good boy!