Why Visit Uzès and Nearby Pont du Gard
Loyal readers who follow my musings about Provence know that visits to the Pont du Gard are a regular part of our annual visits to the South of France. However, after you have walked out to the Roman aqueduct and walked across the bridge and hiked to the top of the hill on the other side to marvel at its beauty, the question inevitably arises about what are we going to do for the rest of our day. Visits to the Pont du Gard do not require a full day unless you are going to paddle a kayak down the Gardon River, which by the way, is great fun.
Many times, we head to nearby Uzès, a short 15-minute drive. Uzès is a well-preserved medieval town in the Gard department set on a promontory above the Alzon River. Continue reading here to see all of Michel’s beautiful photos of Uzès.
Why Visit Uzès?
Uzès has a permanent population of 8,200 with at least double that many bodies during the height of tourist season. High walls surround the remains of the medieval town. These were erected to shelter inhabitants from invaders. Although the ramparts no longer serve as protection, the stone fortifications provide a slight buffer from the noise of snarled traffic on the ring road.
Inside and outside the walls of Uzès, there are secrets to be told and many that remain to be discovered.
Was there a tunnel from le Duché (Duke’s Residence) to Place Aux Herbes?
What happened to the traces of the Romans?
Why are there balconies in the Cathedral?
What was the village like during the French Revolution?
Uzès is a charming medieval town that held a strategic hilltop position above la Vallée d’Eure (Eure Valley). Food (grain, grapes, olives) and livestock (sheep and goats) continue to flourish on the fertile fluvial plain as they would have during the Middle Ages. The Romans identified the source of the Eure River as the starting point for their massive hydro-engineering project to transport water over the Pont du Gard to Nimes – 50 km away.
The Duchy is open to the public for guided tours daily, except for Christmas day. However, the castle’s structure would be a contemporary architect’s nightmare. Constructed upon a Roman castrum (camp) was a military fort including the 12th-century Bermonde Tower, ramparts and guard’s turrets. The old construction abuts a 16th-century renaissance facade and a Gothic chapel. After the French Revolution, the Château du Duché was in deplorable condition. The Crussol family returned but were required to buy back their castle from the town (1824). Much restoration work has been on the interiors and exteriors in the last 150+ years.
Tucked behind the Duchy are medieval gardens (le Jardin Médiéval d’Uzès). After visiting the tiny garden plot, climb the King’s Tower (100 steps) for a panoramic view of Uzès and its surroundings.
The terrace in front of the Cathédrale Saint-Théodorit d’Uzès also provides a vista point over the valley. The Cathedral itself has been rebuilt three times, not terribly attractive on the exterior. However, some interesting peculiarities exist inside the church – the original organ, the rot iron balconies and the chapel with restored frescos. The Tour Fenestrelle, Uzès’ leaning tower of Pisa, and the bell tower (campanile) are the only remaining original sections of the church.
Uzès is known for its bustling Saturday market in Place aux Herbes. During peak holiday times, you can expect the plaza to feel like you willingly chose to stand in a sardine can. According to local Debbie Bine (The Barefoot Blogger), the Wednesday market allows much more “elbow ” room.