on June 4, 2006
Forty kilometres north of Arles is one of the world's most photographed artifacts. Pont du Gard, built 2,000 years ago, was part of a 50km system carrying water to the city of Nimes. It was added to UNESCO's list of world heritage sites in 1985.Construction of the bridge was begun by the Romans around 40 AD. It is about 900 feet long and 160 feet high and is made of shaped stone, assembled without mortar. In the 18th century, the middle level was widened to create a road bridge.This structure is iconic. It is featured on 10-Euro paper currency and it was background in a series of television spots for the modern Volkswagen Beetle. The magnificent arches are pictured in countless tourist brochures and school textbooks as an example of Roman engineering.We were completing a circle tour that began early that day in the Camargue. We had spent many hours exploring Avignon but the bridge over the River Gard was a can’t-miss site. We arrived as day's end approached and were treated to a golden show of sunlight that emphasized each stone arch of the famous structure.Work in recent years made the area around Pont du Gard very accessible and comfortable for visitors. A museum provides comprehensive displays about the importance of Roman aqueducts and their construction. Three major themes are developed with impressive multi-media presentations. The first discusses Gallo-Roman civilization and the importance of water to everyday life. The second theme discusses engineering and construction of the aqueduct and bridge while the third represents the maintenance and evolution of the structures over time. There is also a program LUDO, specifically for younger children. The facility offers a family package that provides access to all programs and exhibits for a very reasonable 20 Euros.Particularly for those interested in history and engineering, Pont du Gard is worth a half day visit, longer if you care to enjoy detail of exhibits in the Museum. Of course, you will find the usual food and souvenir outlets and a large free parking area.
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