Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Off to Marseille - with a wonderful detour

We are leaving Avignon for Marseille this morning. We searched for accommodation before we left and found what appears to be a great option for four nights. Of course there area a couple of absolute essentials - free internet access, parking onsite or close by and preferably a shower as opposed to a bath and a decent size room. We have to take our luck with the comfort of the beds - and yes, they vary enormously! So we have booked four nights at Suitehotel Marseille Centre Euromed. Almost sounds too good to be true! Tram in to the City Centre at the door and at the port for a cruise ;)

Thought that we might as well do some sightseeing on the way, so went via Pont du Gard. Now, if we had thought that we had seen some amazing sights, our socks were about to the blown off again! This 'bridge' is what remains of a Roman aquaduct that was built around the time of Christ. Once you have a look at the weblink you will immediately know it - it is famous all over the world.

The scene is set in the parking lot where there are dry stone walls seperating the various areas for parking. You can't see the bridge from here and you are led to the information centre and museum. Unfortunately, as it is the middle of winter, most of this is closed. You continue to walk along a wide pebbled path around a curve. You can hear the running of water, but it remains hidden from view. You pass what was once an ancient olive grove with a number of aged twisted olive trees whose gnarled trunks are all more than 6 feet across (they probably date back to the time of the aquaduct) remaining.

Then along slight incline around a sweeping bend and there in front of your eyes is a marvel almost beyond comprehension. Thousands of years ago, with none of the modern tools available today, thousands of men hauled thousands of heavy rocks and with a precision that we would find hard to match today, constructed the means to carry water about 50 kms from its source to the City of Nimes.

We have to wonder as we stare at this marvel of engineering and ingenuity, as to whether any of the so called modern wonders will still stand in more than 2,000 years. I mean, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is still less than 100 years old!

We spend a couple of hours wandering all round the site, Michael racing first up one side to the top, then almost tumbling as he hurries down to the road level so he can rush up and meet me at the top on the other side. He is like a little kid in a lolly shop!

But we know that we need to keep moving and so jst after 3 pm we say goodbye to this ancient place that still has the power to speak so eloquently and leave for Marseille via some of the back roads. We go through small towns, many that bear the signs of Roman architecture. Eventually, we merge on to the highway that takes us south to one of France's oldest cities - Marseille.

The landscape changes and we cross a bleak high plain that could be in any coatal area - and then, we espy the blue blue waters of the Mediterranean with the white sandstone outcrops jutting boldly in to the sky with Marseille in the background. We have to concentrate as we arrive to ensure that we can follow the directions (that we have printed from the web) to the hotel. Like all the big cities we have come across, streets are not laid out in a grid, but rather in a haphazard fashion, follow the contours of the land.

Without too much drama, we find the hotel in the Port area just as it is getting dark - so your first glimpse of Marseille is the Port by night from the balcony. More tomorrow guys. I want to try to arrange a day cruise!

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