My wife and I traveled to the ancient and remarkable city of Uzes on a recent Saturday morning–a distance of 60+ kilometers from “Aux Secrets du Puits” (Cavaillon) that can be reached in little over an hour by car.
Saturday morning is market day in Uzes and the city center and periphery are filled with numerous merchants allowing one to sample not only the usual gastronomic delights of a Provencial “marché” but also the cloths of the Bouche de Rhone region (especially serges). It is in many ways as interesting and pleasing as the “marché” in St. Remy on Wednesdays. Not to be missed.
Uzes started out as on “oppidum” or Roman camp guarding La Source D’Eure, a spring where water from the underlying aquifer has continuously welled up to the surface for millenia. This fresh water was carried by a 50 kilometer long series of trenches, tunnels, and aqueducts to the castellum (water collection site) in the Roman city of Nemausus (today Nimes). La Source D’Eure is 76 meters above sea level and the castellum is 59 meters (a difference of 17 meters or around 56 feet). The water flowed on an incline only by gravity. It is estimated that the daily flow was 44,000,000 gallons and the time from La Source to the castellum was 27 hours!!! The most amazing part of this engineering marvel is The Pont du Gard (a combined bridge and aqueduct) which has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Others may prize La Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame de Paris, the cathedral at Chartres, Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp church or the Maison Carre in Nimes but for us The Pont du Gard is the most treasured site in all of France.
We thus set out to find La Source D’Eure. It is best approached from a road just outside the city leading to a parking lot at La Vallee D’Eure. Uzetiennes play, picnic, and have wedding photos taken in this beautiful valley. And there we found La Source D’Eure–still pouring out water (even in a very dry summer). We also found the ruins of a small aqueduct and several hundred meters of a tunnel system that carried the water on the start of its journey. For a Romanophile like me it was wonderful to see all this.
Uzes was besieged by Charles Martel in the 736 and later became the stronghold of the Dukes of Uzes. This was a prominent dukedom in royal France and became the pre-eminent dukedom in the 17th century. If France still had a king today it would fall on the Duke of Uzes to be present at the death of the king and then call out “Le Roi est mort. Vivre le Roi!” You can visit the duchal palace built around La Tour Bermonde in the center of the city. One should also visit the Cathedrale Saint-Theodorit with its beautiful 11th century tower (La Tour Fenestrelle).
For those who love Provence, French history and ancient Rome you could not ask for a better place to visit.
Charlie and Joan Jarowski