Friday, June 3, 2016

Magical Evenings at the Pont du Gard

The 2,000-year-old aqueduct called the Pont du Gard is one of the most magnificent sites in Provence; I never get tired of tromping around on it, photographing it, splashing in the river beneath it or just hanging out enjoying the scene. In the 15 or so years I've lived in Provence, the Pont du Gard site has changed dramatically, with a new visitors' center, museum, cinema, kids' play area, expanded hours, tour offerings, night lighting, hiking paths and much more. One of the biggest changes is the number of cultural events that are now held here every year: art exhibits, museum shows, live music, dance evenings (more on that below) and annual spectacles such as Les Féeries du Pont’’ (Fairies of the Bridge), which takes place this weekend and next. 

Every year when I write about Les Féeries du Pont, I try to get my story posted a few weeks in advance of the first performance. This year,  I totally blew it...the first show should be ending in a few minutes. But there's still tomorrow night and next weekend...so here's what you need to know.

Les Féeries du Pont combines video, light, flame, fireworks, original music, narration and more. There's always a theme and a loose story line and, each year, some new over-the-top special effects. This year's show is called Feux Galois and you can catch it tomorrow night, next Friday or next Saturday. Showtime is 10:30 p.m or at dusk. But definitely arrive early as there are "animations" before the main event, starting around 8 p.m. 

Once again, the producer is Groupe F, the internationally acclaimed pyrotechnician group known for their shows at the Eiffel Tower, Versailles and the Olympics. If you want a smile, have a look at their website; their work is technically dazzling and incredibly beautiful. 

On show days, the Pont du Gard site will be open all day but only until 7 pm, after which special show tickets will be required. After a certain hour it will be impossible to cross the bridge from the left bank to the right--where seating is for the show--so check the website for specifics. Be sure to bring cushions, chairs and blankets or you'll be sitting on the ground; the shops on site should sell seats if you forget. My best advice is sit as close to the bridge itself as possible for maximum impact.  ''And don't forget to bring also warm wears,'' my contact at the Pont du Gard sweetly tells me. 

Tickets for Feux Galois range from €15 to €25; kids under six are free. You can buy them at the Pont du Gard anytime including the day or evening of each show, as long as there are still places available. You can also buy them online here (if you have a French credit or bank), at FNAC stores and on FNAC.comFranceBillet.com and Ticketnet.com. Group rates are available (call 04 66 37 51 10). If you have an annual pass to the Pont du Gard, you get a discount; an annual pass is 26€. Parking these evenings is free. 

So what about dinner? Casual food will be sold on site or you can bring a picnic in with you. There's also a restaurant called Les Terrasses that serves excellent Mediterranean cuisine (04 66 63 91 37). A special Féeries du Pont menu will be offered at Les Terrasses but definitely reserve ahead. 

If you can't go to the show but plan to visit the Pont du Gard at another time this summer, it's open in summer until midnight and it's illuminated beautifully. The museum and shops close at 7 or 8 pm, depending on the month. 

The Pont du Gard is a highlight in the region...a must-see for anyone visiting this part of Provence... a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning the Gardon River near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard. Built around 19 BC, it was the critical link in a 30-mile canal that supplied nine million gallons of water per day to Nîmes, one of ancient Europe’s largest cities.

As you're planning your site-seeing days, I suggest making it your morning or afternoon. That leaves ½ day for exploring Avignon (on its own day, below) or for Uzes, the first Duchy of France. Uzes is a beautiful village with pretty architecture and history, narrow traffic-free medieval streets and shops both elegant and artsy. If you love pottery and ceramics, tack on a visit to the tiny village of St. Quentin la Poterie, where 20-plus potters have open studios and shops.

In July and August, guided half-hour tours through the water channel at the very top of the Pont du Gard (third level) are available. 4€/adults and 2€/children. No reservations are required or taken...just ask for this at the welcome desk.

Also in July and August  you can "Dance at the Bridge" every Friday "with live music from an orchestra and a very  jazzy atmosphere." 

You can also see the Pont du Gard by kayak; the outfitter is KayakVert and you leave from the town of Collias. You can keep the kayak all day if you like but most people like the basic two-hour paddle, taking them 7 km on the Gardon River, up to and under the Pont du Gard. What a fun way to see this magical relic up close, particularly on a hot day. The two-hour trip is 23€ for adults, 11.50€ for kids...info in English is on their site here.

The Pont du Gard is located between Remoulins (RN 100) and Vers-Pont du Gard (D 81).  Its 40 km from St. Remy, 27 km from Nimes,  21 km from Avignon and 19 km from Uzes.  

For info on the Feux Gaulois show or on visiting the site at other times, click here. For historical info, click here. To contact the Pont du Gard directly: contact@pontdugard.fr or 04 66 37 50 99....and yes, they speak English. 

If you want to catch a Groupe F show at another time, check their schedule here. On Bastille Day (July 14), they'll be doing the fireworks in both Paris and in Arles. And once again they'll be staging their musical fountain display called ''Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes'' at the Chateau de VersaillesAll the info is on the Versailles website here. 

2 comments:

  1. I was fortunate to visit Pont du Gard almost 20 years ago. I would love to return.

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  2. Hands down, this was one of the most amazing things we have seen. Any one who can, should go!! Sadly, we won't arrive until the 18th, so we will miss this years spectacle!

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