My name is Jon and I came to spend a vacation in France, including two weeks of immersion with Virginie. I came with my wife Marie. We are retired and looking for new adventures.
I had been looking forward to doing an immersion course for three years.
Virginie was very responsive to my emails and my needs.
I may be different from other students because I have almost no formal education in the French language. I don't know if I'm self-taught or not, but that doesn't mean anything.
The thing that matters, is that I am passionate about the French language.
It is very important to be passionate if you want to succeed!
I was very pleased when Virginie asked me to write a few words on what was undoubtedly an unforgettable day for us.
Destination... the Pont du Gard ! It was not true! We? We were going to the Pont du Gard. I had taken the wrong destination, certainly. But no! We were going to the Pont du Gard!
In life, there are always pros and cons. The downside was that we had to wake up very early.
In fact, we left at seven in the morning. This was to avoid traffic jams during rush hour.
My wife was also looking forward to seeing the Pont du Gard. She loves architecture. She was not disappointed. Me neither. It was wonderful!
Alex, Virginie's husband, bought us tickets for a guided tour in French on his smartphone. With the smartphone that Virginie took, we had no problem entering the site. While waiting for our guided tour, we started by visiting the cultural center with its exhibition and museum. The museum explains the construction of the Pont du Gard and other elements: the instruments used, the plumbing, etc. The Pont du Gard, built in the 1st century, carried water from Uzès to Nîmes, an important city.
From its collection point, running water took a whole day to reach the distribution structure in Nîmes. This distribution structure was a kind of water tower, called castellum divisorium, still visible in Nîmes.
Thanks to the force of gravity, the water was then distributed through fields, where there were farms, to baths and individual houses throughout the city, depending on the amount of water that entered the structure.
After seeing the exhibits in the museum, we started our guided tour.
The guide spoke to us in French.
I spoke to the guide and told her that I was not French, that I was going to stay close to her to better understand what she was saying.
The guide took us to the aqueduct, giving explanations about the surroundings.
A bit of history
She gave us details to help us better understand what we were going to see. We could see the Pont du Gard while she was talking to us. She used a large picture book to show us the daily life of the people who lived in Nîmes at the time.
When there was plenty of water, fountains and other non-essential places also benefited. It seems that as a distributor, the castellum divisorium was very efficient!
Most people had no private bathroom or toilet.
The most fundamental activities, such as rinsing the face, washing the hands and shaving, sometimes alone, sometimes at a hairdresser (for men), or hairdressing for women, were done in public places.
Wealthier Romans could have their own toilet and bathroom. Toothpicks and vegetable products were used for the care of the mouth. In addition to chamber pots, public latrines (toilets) were always available.
The public latrines seemed weird indeed.
Weird maybe, but like other things built by the Romans, they were very effective. Water flowed where people were sitting.
One would use a shared sponge to clean themelves. Dirty water was coming out, while clean water was coming in.
The Pont du Gard was expensive, but for good reason! Water was essential to their life. Without clean drinking water, people often fell ill in large cities where they died from drinking contaminated water, in other words, sewage. They contracted germs from drinking, and they got sick and died.
To solve this problem, Roman cities built aqueducts to bring fresh water from the hills into the cities. They also built public latrines and sewers to drain waste water from the streets and pour it into the river.
This system created by the Romans to obtain fresh water was a great success, a great improvement. The result was that large cities like Nîmes flourished.
Back to the guided tour.
On the aqueduct
The guide took us up some stairs to show us blocks on the bridge. The Pont du Gard is a 3-level aqueduct.
On the first two levels we find huge blocks of stone assembled without mortar. Some blocks weigh up to six tons. I couldn't believe that these huge blocks were placed without mortar.
The guide took us higher where there was a staircase leading to the third level where the water flowed.
But after going up those steps, I found myself in an extremely narrow spiral staircase. I hesitated.
I became claustrophobic.
I said that I didn't know if I was going to be able to do it.
My wife Marie and Virginie shouted together, “Jon, you can do it!” Indeed, they were right. I was up and free in no time. It was nothing! If you have doubts yourself, know that you can do it, too!
Finally, we were there in the pipe where the water flowed for centuries. The canal was covered with a stone ceiling.
All there was left to do was to enter and walk the full length of the aqueduct. I no longer hesitated. I entered with Marie and Virginie. It made me so happy just to be there. I was there, as if by magic, in this world full of history(ies).
I saw the drain and noticed a thick buildup of minerals on the stone blocks. I didn't know what it was at the time. But after getting out of the aqueduct, the guide explained to us that the hundreds of years of water flow left this impressive accumulation.
After the guided tour, we found other places in order to view the aqueduct.
I took all the photos I could, of course.
But my camera couldn't capture everything. It was too huge.
After viewing the Pont du Gard for a long time, and after getting very tired, we sat down in a nice restaurant overlooking the aqueduct.
Always this view - the immensity of the Pont du Gard - continued to captivate us. It was magnificent!
There are still many more things to say about the Pont du Gard, but if I continue, I will never finish.
This is the most magical place I have ever seen in my life.
I will never forget the Pont du Gard!
Thanks for your work Jon!
If you come to my place for an immersion stay in Provence, I will make you discover the different aspects of Provence: the landscapes and the scents, but also the culture, the gastronomy... while helping you to improve your French. See you soon in Provence!
Virginie In Provence