Tuesday 1 October 2019
We dropped into Marseille around midday Sunday having flown from Singapore via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, who have the best food in the sky. And I really mean dropped in – I think the pilot of the Airbus 321-200 came in a little fast and missed the normal touch down spot. I reckon to save the embarrassment of pushing on the power and going around again he went for option two “throw it on the ground”. That worked to the point that when we hit the ground the cockpit door flew open. Full reverse thrust and lots of brakes and we were taxiing.
We headed to Nimes, to the Vatel Hotel as the service in the Pulman hotel in Montpellier is so bad. Our room was not yet ready so we drove to Sommières for a late lunch, then back to the hotel and checked in.
Sylvia’s daughter, Beka, and boyfriend, Tom, and their two dogs, Daisy and Turtle, had arrived in Amsterdam last week and bought a van to embark on a two year European rock climbing gig. They were driving south so we headed to a small town called Bollene to meet them and drop off some extra kit we had brought with us for them.
Just south of Bollene Is the town of Mornas, which has a huge cliff behind it with a fort on top. It inspired me on Sunday when driving past so today I thought it was time to check it out.
I headed up a narrow road “luckily no one was coming the other way” past the large church to a car park. There I dismounted, headed up a steep concrete road to the fort, where I was greeted by a friendly lady, and paid the 5euro fee.
No-one seems to know when this first became a fort. It was however pre-Roman times and was occupied by them. In the Middle Ages it may well have been a wooden structure. By the 20th century Mornas was owned by the Earl of Toulouse and over the next 300 years the Earl along with the Archbishop of Arles and the King of France all claimed and scrapped over Mornas. The Papacy got hold of it and did it up to ward off vagrants who roamed the area. In the 16th century the Catholics and Protestants fought over it. By the French Revolution (1789) it was abandoned.
I always look at these places and appreciate just how hard it must have been to get all the stones up there, let alone make them into walls.
A path between the walls takes one up to the east side where the parapet walls have been built right on the cliff top. It’s always hard to get the perception of depth when photographing down the side of a cliff but no one was going to come up the east side in a hurry.
A tower had a spiral staircase which leads to a room complete with throne.
Some more stairs, then a ladder take one onto the roof with stunning views.
A chapel has a stairway which leads to what maybe was once a secret passage.
Some of the signs were amusing.
Again I was lucky on the drive down not to meet another car.
Wednesday 2 October 2019
After dropping Sylvia off at the Royal Canin head office and factory, where she has meetings all week, I headed south to Pic Saint Loup. At 658M its the only hill in the area.
I parked up at the bottom of the track on the east side, near the quaint little town of Cazevieille. The track starts at 300m so its a fairly easy stroll to the top. Yes I have written about this place before but it’s always nice to come back for a bit of exercise and the good views from the top.
After a good look at the views from the top and a look in the church I decided to take the track back along the east ridge which runs along the top with the vertical drop on the south side making for a good walk. The track however, although on the map, petered out where a rock slide had interrupted it. I cut down through the bush to the track I had come up on in the process losing a hearing aid, bugger!
Thursday 3 October 2019
About 40ks back toward Marseille is a town called Arles, which we pass every time we come here. Having been to just about every village and town in this part of France I wasn’t expecting anything special. Crossing the river Rhone I turned off the N113 with the road taking me to the centre of town. Heading down Boulevard des Lices, suddenly in front of me was the worlds ugliest building.
Obviously the person that designed it and a few on the local council like it. Tour Luma Ales is in fact the local tourist office and a new experimental art centre. I parked the car took a pic and walked away from it – nothing inspired me to go inside.
Just down the road back towards the motorway I saw what must have been a fortress wall so headed down that street, eventually finding some stone steps that took me up and around the back. I headed along a street to an open area with great views over the city.
I walked around the corner and there in front of me was the local Amphitheater. I shouldn’t have been surprised as back in the day these things were built like soccer stadiums are today; every even not very large town having one to entertain the locals.
Built in the 1st century AD it has had many uses over the last two thousand years. After its use by the Romans for feeding the lions, among other things it became a stone quarry -hence all the upper stone seating has gone. Then during the Middle Ages a town was built on site with four fortress towers being built into the surrounding walls, 3 of which still remain. Now scaffolding type seating has been placed in the upper galleries and it is apparently used for bull fighting among other things.
Just up the road is a half amphitheater, built a little early and without the sophistication of internal rooms and passages.
Next I came across the Cryptopotrigues. This, set under a building on the edge of the town square, is basically the foundations of a building built around a square in order to level uo the ground. Two 90 meter tunnels and a 60m cross tunnel at the end make up the foundations of the buildings above. Over the centuries they have been used as storage, bazaar markets, air aid shelters and many other things. These towns were built by the Romans with amazing attention to detail and great engineering.
From here I wandered the streets realising again why I like these old towns so much, as each street or alley, although it is just a street or alley, but in these places each one has something unique about it. Captured in a time capsule and although now occupied by people of this day and age, they will always hold the secrets of the often long and interesting past.