Seeing Roman ruins

September 15, 2009

Living in Los Angeles, one doesn’t get to see really old buildings. It was a joy to learn that we would be staying in a little settlement, rebuilt from Roman ruins. As I mentioned yesterday, we vacationed in the south of France, technically, the Languedoc-Roussillon region in a little area called Suzon, which is part of a teeny city called Bouquet which is about 30 minutes from Uzes. An artist purchased this hilltop area 25 years ago and over the years built a group of five homes, mostly from materials in that area. After building the first couple of homes, he tired of trying to fit ancient rocks together and built himself a modern home with square bricks.

On our second day, Bernard showed up at our door offering to show us the Roman ruins on the top of the hill. His English was as good as my French, so we were able to communicate as we walked up the hill. Along the way, we saw dug up parts that were left from the boars looking for truffles. Truffles attach themselves to the roots of oak trees, which are plentiful in the region. He said that most people bring dogs to find truffles but bragged that his wife had the nose to smell truffles, pointing out location under an old oak tree where a recent truffle had been found.

As we got to the top of the hill we were privileged to walk through the remnants of a minor Roman settlement that had toppled from fire and age. He has found pottery (we found some later) and ancient coins from 1 CE as well as the Middle Ages. Scholars have been to the area and taken photos but he wouldn’t sell them his coins. He showed us various collapsed rooms, and other settlements atop the hill. We were amazed that little had been touched since the middle ages. He took us into a grotto (a “grotto” is nature made, the caves are man-made) and a bat flapped up as we entered. We weren’t interested in going in but did our “oh wow’s” and left.

As we traveled around the region, we saw the Theater in Avignon and the Arena in Nimes. [Pardon my lack of complete accents and diacritical marks here.] I loved the theater — it had terrific vibes, having a history of theater and fun entertainment, whereas the arena felt creepy to me, now used for bullfights and formally used by gladiators and other death-for-entertainment activities. Also in the otherwise gross city of Nimes, we enjoyed the beautiful Temple of Diana and the parks and fountains that surrounded it. (Nimes’ only other redeeming quality is that the fabric we know at denim is from Nimes, or De Nimes.) The most breathtaking structure was the Pont du Gard [see yesterday’s post for the picture]. A gorgeous piece of Roman ingenuity, that carried water from Uzes to Nimes. We were amazed to learn that at one point, the Arena was filled with water for aquatic battles.

The region is peppered with ancient and well preserved Medieval villages. We drove up many and after a while got spoiled by “yet another gorgeous view from an ancient village.”

[Photo is not of Roman ruins, but of Diana, the goddess of the hunt, in Nimes, where other Roman ruins are plentiful.]

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