Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A Town the Roman's Built

Travel piece on Uzes in France.

The smell of earthy concrete buildings, the sound of heels hitting cobbled streets. The sun has now descended down through the Gorges de L'Alzon that lies to the east of Uzes.
       Sitting in Place Aux Herbes, with a blanket wrapped tightly around my shoulders I listen to the small French man with his waistcoat and red baggy shirt as he plays his guitar. His weather-beaten face has seen plenty of suns, perhaps, as he has worked on his grape farm out in the fields of this Languedoc region. The creases around his eyes have felt the blast of the Mistral winds spilling over the French Alps during winter time.
      We are far from that now, it is June and around me I am only aware of the man and the shadows. The street lamp and candles on tables of restaurants disperse light through the trees, crafting shapes on the shop walls that line this square. Tomorrow morning they will be open and bustling with people. The Saturday Market is one that sees the streets of Uzes full of visitors from neighbouring villages and towns. Antique jewellery, chic clothing and fresh goat’s cheese entice tourists visiting the region. They will leave and Sunday will be back to this happy peace.
      The buildings of this town seem wise, baring secrets that should have died years gone by. A town built by the Romans, they left their imprint on the yellow stone buildings and cobbled streets that huddle together. Nearby one will find the Pont du Gard, a Roman Aqueduct, built to carry water from the basin of the river Gard to the city of Nimes. Another mark of the Roman Empire.
       In the centre of this town lies the palace, home to Il Duce. A vast building which can be toured, but being a poor student I stand outside and admire its greatness which intimidates nearby homes.
      Uzes has been described as a gem by one New York Times travel writer. Originally a farming town, its charm was discovered in the 1980's and since then has become the home of many a retired businessmen and lady who migrate south from the country's capital. This helps explain the flashy Jaguars and Rolls Royces found up dusty side streets; and also the more expensive ladies (and males) boutiques that inhabit shop spaces on surprising street corners.
      A slice of French living in an untouched town, two hours from Carcassonne airport and one from Nimes, it is worth a trek through high Alps and narrow tree lined-road if only to take a Sunday stroll through Le Pieton and stop at la Nougatine for a fresh croissant.

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