Without a doubt, the south of France is one of the most-touristic spots in the country, with only Paris claiming first place. Although the south tends to get hectic in summer months, it continues to welcome visitors to its region. From the stunning lavender fields to the French Riviera, there’s so much for one to explore in this beautiful part of the country.
I was based in Avignon for almost a week in July, and I spent every day on trips out to cities, towns, and villages in Provence. Hot and lethargic as the weather was in the midst of summer (40°C/110°F and up), I didn’t let that stop me from seeing as much as I could during my last days in France.
On my third day, I decided to return to the Gard department, located roughly 30 kilometers west of Avignon. The decision was actually a back-up, similar to my visit to l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue just a few days prior: I’d tried my luck at finding a bus to les Baux de Provence (which I really wanted to see), but unfortunately, there were no direct services nor transfers that would be convenient for a mere day trip. With that said, I defaulted to my back-up plan, which was to see the cities and towns in the Gard.
My plan was to check out the Pont du Gard before heading to Uzès; I looked at the bus lines to get there, and there was a line that hit both places. After factoring in the times of getting to and from, I made up my mind to see the two spots for the day. Although I was a bit disappointed not to have had the chance to see les Baux de Provence, I was still able to see other lovely towns in the south of France (and two of them!).
I’d actually gone to the Pont du Gard before, over three years ago when I was working as an assistante. I’d spent a few days in Nîmes with a friend, and I’d chosen to spend an afternoon at the Pont du Gard. The visit had been very brief, as I’d gone in March and weather wasn’t very ideal — rainy and cold. While I’d appreciated the trip, I had written it off as a “one-time” visit to even bother returning in the future. Fast-forward a few years, however, and my mind changed.
The Pont du Gard is equidistant from both Nîmes and Avignon (about 25 kilometers each way), which had made it a short bus ride when I’d gone in 2016 from Nîmes and likewise this summer from Avignon. In fact, the line I took was the exact same one from before, and it was funny to recognize the route taken to get to the aqueduct.
Upon being dropped off at the nearest stop (at a roundabout a kilometer from the site), I headed over to purchase my ticket (7€) to get in. Thankfully, I arrived before it got busy with tour groups and long lines, so the site was quite peaceful while exploring the area around it.
Compared to my rainy first visit, it was warm and sunny welcome the second time. The three-tiered Roman aqueduct remained as sublime as I’d last saw it, and I even made my way down to the Gardon river to dip my toes in the cool waters — I could even see small fish swimming just inches past me! Families and small children were camped along the shores soaking up the sun and fantastic views of the aqueduct, truly an engineering masterpiece.
I soon left the Pont du Gard to catch the next bus to Uzès. However, the bus took forever to come, ending up being roughly 30-40 minutes late — not sure why, but I’m told things operate slower in the south of France, so I wasn’t too surprised (just a little frustrated).
Any case, I reached Uzès by 13:00 where I proceeded to get a late lunch at a random cafe just a few doors away from the office du tourisme. Considering it’s a small town (barely 8900 people), I didn’t expect much in terms of food, but I was pleasantly surprised by how fresh it was: I got a filling chicken-curry bowl and a refreshing lychee iced tea, which helped to get me through the rest of the afternoon of exploring town.
I hadn’t done a lot of research prior to visiting Uzès, so I got some information at the office du tourisme after lunch. I wanted to get views of town, so I was suggested a hike to la Table d’Orientation, an observation deck just outside the main walls. With that said, I headed out of the town center to a sweeping park with hiking trails that looped throughout the countryside. I got a bit lost while using Google Maps, but eventually I reached the observation deck. The views turned out to be rather disappointing, since the site was obstructed by trees in the foreground. It was an hour wasted, but I still had some time to rush back into town for a visit.
First stop upon returning to town was the Uzès Cathedral. It can be seen throughout town, with its distinctive campanile towering above all the buildings. I didn’t go in, but rather past by while on my way to le Duché d’Uzès, a castle built for the Duke of Uzès back in the day. It was a hefty 20€ to visit, which struck me as a rip-off, so I opted not to pay to enter. Instead, I headed to the tour du Roi, a tower adjacent to the castle that cost a mere 3€ to get in, along with access to its garden and a complementary drink.
The rooms inside the tower are mostly bare and nothing to write home about, but it was the view at the top that made it stellar. Rich sienna rooftops greeted me, and it felt as if I stepped back centuries to simpler times in Provence. I’ve had my fair share of rooftop views, but Uzès’ had to be one of the most-peaceful ones I’ve encountered.
I took a quick tour around the garden, and I received my complementary drink. It was a chilled beverage, an herbal blend of lemongrass and licorice grown from the garden. Not the hugest fan of licorice, but the drink was thirst-quenching on a hot summer day.
Still feeling the heat, I ended my visit at the place aux Herbes. It’s the main square in town with several souvenir shops and cafés for locals and visitors to check out. I bought a postcard before settling for another drink at one of the cafés. I ordered a passion fruit-mango smoothie, which turned out really tasty. After relaxing for a bit, I caught the bus back to Avignon, returning close to 17:00.
My time in Uzès ended up being rushed due to the late bus and time wasted from the hike — any case, I found the town charming, although I wouldn’t say that it really stood out to me, i.e. a little too quiet without much to do in town. My revisit to the Pont du Gard was pleasurable, this time in much-better weather conditions — I really got to enjoy the calm atmosphere by the water, all the while regarding the famous historic site. It was more of southern France explored, and it was pleasant all the way.
More adventures coming soon!