Today was about going swimming. Jud felt the need to swim. This need had engulfed his entire being to the point where his judgement took the first bus to a dimension where judgement had been banned.
There was also far too much talk about groin issues. Mostly it concerned AFL players back in Australia but, by the end of the day, it had also made an impression on Luca.
Beer o’clock turned up like a white hatted cowboy and Mirinda and I headed out to the tabac for some essential refreshment. Sitting over our beverages we decided to visit the Roman bath complex as a start to our final full day in Arles.
The baths were originally huge. Houses have been built over most of it but there’s still enough left to warrant a visit.
Regardless of how you feel about the Romans, you could never accuse them of sloppy workmanship. After 2,000 years, the place is still intact enough to make one wonder at how an empire was reduced to only the stupid, leaving the world ignorant for so long afterwards. It sounds remarkably like these days of populism and distrust of experts.
Besides drawing ugly comparisons, I wandered and marveled among the remains. And this was not to be the only time today that I stood in awe before their genius…but I mustn’t jump ahead of myself.
The baths didn’t take long and we were soon on our way, trying to find an escape from the heat, in the guise of a restaurant with air conditioning. Mind you, it wasn’t a direct hunt as we wandered through the narrow streets, trying to catch errant breezes as they breathed cool air on the rarest of occasions. And that was how we found the waterfall that Sharon suggested we look for.
Eventually we spotted a wonderful little restaurant at the back of the Place du Forum called Restaurant le Rendezvous. It was lovely and the food delicious. My carpaccio of scallop was divine, drenched as it were, in passionfruit. And my salmon salad perfect in the heat. Really, the only thing it lacked was really cold white wine.
It was very soon time to meet up with Sharon, Jud, Joel, Naomi and Luca at the Tourist Information Office (though not before I finally bought a new hat, leaving my old yellow one sitting on a bar table as if awaiting my return) which we duly did before piling into the seven seater car and heading out of town.
At this point of the day, there was quite a bit of driving around the dramatic limestone countryside, soaking up the views while Joel played his Music for the Oldies playlist in order to keep us entertained. And he was right, it was very entertaining for at least one oldie.
After a bit of convincing, Jud stopped so we could have a walk around a small, sleepy village, allowing us a toilet break as well as a drink from the town spring.
It was then back on the road and heading towards the Carrières de Lumières which we’d visited a few years ago. Mirinda wanted someone else to experience the joy we’d had when we went and the show was different (Van Gogh this year) so we could enjoy it afresh.
Of course, given it’s one of the most popular tourist spots in the whole of France and because its currently holiday time, there was a rather scary looking queue. I was very impressed with Mirinda’s resolve as she said she’d stand in it, in the sun, just so we could all experience the amazing light show in the old quarry. The others went for a walk up the hill while we gradually moved forward.
And, of course, it was well worth it. And comfortable. It was supposedly 15 degrees inside while the world outside boiled away in the late 30’s. Speaking of which, it was 40 in Paris today and 38 in London. But, as we all know, there’s no climate change; it’s just hot.
We all managed to last through an entire set (and a bit) before heading back out into the stifling sweatfest of a world that is less important than money, and climbed aboard the big car again. This time we were headed for the Pont du Garde.
As we neared the big old bridge, Jud’s nostrils quivered in anticipation of the watery delights waiting for him beneath the 2,000 year old arches spanning the valley. He barely managed to stop and buy drinks at an almost conveniently located supermarket. But, finally, we reached the start of our destination. And we weren’t alone as the hundreds of cars in the massive car park attested to.
Still, it’s a big valley and, after the 15 mile trek to the other side, we found a spot and claimed it. They all went for a swim while I guarded the goodies (and had a well earned beer) amid the sounds of French children playing and French adults making strange animalistic noises.
The aqueduct took only five years to build, around 2,000 years ago and supplied Nimes with a constant water supply for 500 years, which is quite an achievement, if you ask me.
As the sun started setting, the promise of more illuminating delights started. The bridge was bathed in various colours as Apollo whipped his steads below the horizon. The show started somewhat repetitively slow and, after about an hour, Jud decided we should leave. We headed for the ramp.
Jud (and the kids) were stopped by a French fireman who said there was a fire and we needed to return to a good viewing spot. There was no obvious smoke, as Mirinda’s nose was quick to point out, though there was a fire engine dashing to and fro as if in some sort training video called How to Destroy the Moment. But, whether intentional or not, the fireman did us a massive favour.
The thing is, after a slow and somewhat dull start, the show really started to liven up. Different scenes were cast on the bridge, giving it different looks and colours and, sometimes, movement. The lizards crawling up the big arches in the centre section were extraordinary. It was an incredible end to the day.
Apologies for the quality of the above photograph but it was very, very dark. Here’s a snatch of the Van Gogh illumination to make it a bit better.