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The Pont du Gard: kayaking under the Roman aqueduct

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Once the aqueduct for the city of Nîmes – today one of the most important sights in southern France. Standing in front of the Pont du Gard, one might not think it possible that this architectural masterpiece is almost 20 is centuries (!) old. The Pont du Gard is not the landmark of the Gard department for nothing: the three-storey aqueduct is one of the best-preserved structures from Roman times in the world.

We have not only explored the Pont du Gard on foot, but also paddled directly under the monument in a kayak. In this blog article we will tell you why such a canoe trip is definitely worthwhile and which other sights and highlights in the Gard department you should not miss.

1. The Pont du Gard We expected the Pont du Gard to be impressive. And yet we were just flabbergasted when we were right in front of the 35 meter high structure. The closer we got to the Pont du Gard, the more impressive it became. And the crazier it seemed to us that this aqueduct, as it stood before us, was actually built in the 1st century AD and therefore 2000 years old.

Today is the Pont du Gard one of the best preserved remains of Roman water channels. So it’s not surprising that there’s a lot going on around the aqueduct.

Visit the Pont du Gard – you need to know that The Pont du Gard is one of a total of Grands Sites de France – so those areas in France that are very well known in terms of tourism. The Pont du Gard is therefore not freely accessible, but is located in an area for which you have to pay an entrance fee. (We’ll get to the exceptions in a moment.)

The park in which the Pont du Gard is located is huge. From the entrance you can reach the aqueduct after a 5-minute walk, but there are also countless hiking trails. Many lead up, so you can get a nice view of the bridge from there.

On sunny days it is on the river bank a lot going on: You can swim in the river without any problems – depending on the water level, in many places it’s more like “bathing”. If you get hungry, there is a restaurant (“Les Terrasses”) that serves solid French cuisine with a view of the bridge. Of course, you can also take something to eat with you.

Since the Pont du Gard is one of the most important tourist attractions in southern France, you should be prepared for this, especially during the peak travel season is very busy. Our photo of the almost empty bridge is a bit deceptive, because we actually had to be patient for it. However, we did not experience the Pont du Gard being completely overcrowded, so don’t worry!

Information on visiting the Pont du Gard at a glance

Opening times: all year round from 9 am to 18 hours (November to January), to 20 pm (February to April and October), until 21 h (May), until 22 h (June and September), to 22 o’clock (July and August)

Admission: Regular 8,50 Euro (Parking fees are already included here)

How to get to the Pont du Gard By car: It is important to know that that there is both a right (“rive droite”) and a left bank of the river (“rive gauche”). There is an entrance to the official “Site du Pont du Gard” on both banks of the river. There are sufficient parking spaces there (the costs for this are included in the entrance ticket). In principle, it doesn’t matter which side you arrive from, as you can walk across the Pont du Gard. You will find the restaurant “Les Terrasses” on the right bank of the river.

On foot: In principle, it is also possible to walk the Pont du Gard free of charge to reach. However, you have to put up with parking your car in an unsupervised parking lot and then making your way to the bridge through the forest. However, since we didn’t do that, we don’t have any experiences to share here.

By canoe: And then of course there’s nor the wonderful possibility of reaching the Pont du Gard by canoe. We will tell you all the details below.

By kayak/canoe to the Pont du Gard The Pont du Gard crosses a river, the Gardon (sometimes called the Gard). And you can explore that river by paddling in a canoe. A paddle tour is definitely more strenuous and time-consuming than a leisurely walk to the aqueduct, but it is also much more exciting. The moment you paddle right under the Pont du Gard is quite an impressive experience, we can say. The advantage of a kayak tour: You experience the Pont du Gard from a completely different perspective.

Important to know: The entire canoe trip is seven kilometers. You will be taken to the starting point by car (so you only paddle down the river in one direction). About halfway you will reach the Pont du Gard. This means: Most of the time you are in beautiful nature, but of course you only see the bridge for a limited time. But of course you can always stop at the river bank, get off and take a break. If you are traveling by kayak, you also save the entrance fee (8,50 per person).

Don’t forget: Sunscreen, enough water and swimwear. We paddled in t-shirts to protect our shoulders from the sun, but some just wear bikinis/swimming shorts. You get a waterproof container in which you can store your valuables (camera, mobile phone, etc.) and take them with you on the trip.

Information about kayaking at the Pont du Gard at a glance

Our provider: Natu Rando

Price: Kayak (two-seater) 29 Euro (entrance fee of 8,70 per person omitted)

Duration: about 2 hours for about 7 kilometers Stick (but you can take as much time as you want)

2. More tips for the Gard We spent our second day in the Gard in Saint-Gilles and the Camargue. To be more precise, we did something that we had never done before: we were traveling by houseboat! The Camargue alone would be worth a trip of its own, but we are glad that we got an insight and of course we would like to tell you about it too.

Saint-Gilles We got to know the small town of Saint-Gilles because we started our little houseboat holiday from there. Saint-Gilles is on the Way of Saint James to Santiago de Compostela – and indeed: If you walk through the city with open eyes, you will notice the appropriate thing Shell symbol keeps popping up.

The old town of Saint-Gilles could hardly be more contrasting. : While the city makes a somewhat dilapidated impression at first glance, some streets are among the most beautiful that we were able to see on our trip to France.

Saint-Gilles is not a tourist city in the classic sense. In other words, with the exception of the abbey church (we’ll get to that in a moment), there aren’t any real sights. Nevertheless, we found a walk through the old town very exciting, which was also due to the fact that we were accompanied by Beate (whom you can see in the photo below). She is originally from Germany, but has found her heart in Saint-Gilles and, among other things, takes care of the town twinning between Saint-Gilles and Abensberg (near Regensburg).

Saint-Gilles Abbey Church The architectural highlight and most important building of Saint-Gilles is without a doubt the Abbey Church (also called “Abbey Church of Saint Egidius” or in French “Église abbatiale de Saint-Gilles du Gard”). The abbey church is listed as a station on the Way of St. James and is therefore a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Admittedly, we are rarely really impressed by churches, but here even we were amazed. And if you look at the facade like this, then you can understand why – right?

A tip: If you visit the abbey church, then you should not Crypt, i.e. the lower church, which you reach via a spiral staircase down.

Restaurant tip: “L’Atelier des Halles” We can highly recommend the restaurant “L’Atelier des Halles”. We had an excellent meal there. Modern French cuisine is served (lunch and dinner). For the high quality of the food on offer (and in comparison to the rest of France), we didn’t find the prices that expensive: A self-composed menu (consisting of a starter, main course and dessert) costs 29 Euro. For individual main dishes you pay about 18 Euro.

Inside the restaurant is very stylish furnished, but you can also sit outside in the small, sun-protected courtyard very nicely . The service is also to be commended: the employees were extremely friendly. Conclusion: clear recommendation!

By houseboat from Saint-Gilles to Aigues-Mortes Let’s come an experience that still makes us smile when we think about it: our houseboat ride. Yes, you read correctly: In the Camargue we actually steered a houseboat for the first time in our lives (and of course slept on board).

The pretty Caprice (from the boat rental Le Boat) was our temporary floating home. We have to admit: At first we were a little nervous, or no: quite nervous! But it’s also understandable, isn’t it? After all, we have steered a boat for the first time in our lives. So really, with all the trimmings and all by yourself!

What we weren’t really aware of before: Holiday on the houseboat is extremely popular in France. Numerous canals flow through the whole of France, which are perfect for a trip with the floating home. We ourselves were on the Canal Rhône à Sète. Incidentally, it is very suitable for boating newcomers, because here in the Camargue there is only one lock (near Beaucaire). To explain: locks are what you fear most as a beginner.

First time holiday on the houseboat: Our experiences & tips We can confirm all the scaredy-cats and doubters: We got used to the handling of the boat within a very short time and felt as if we had been doing it for years Make the rivers of France unsafe by houseboat. Not even our almost unsuccessful reverse parking maneuver in Aigues-Mortes can change anything about this self-confidence, but more on that in a moment.

So that nothing goes wrong, you will receive an approx. 1.5 hour training. A captain will show you how to steer the boat, how to park and explain all the important details you need to know. By the way, you don’t need any previous experience and no boat license to be able to rent a houseboat. What takes some getting used to is the clunky controls: So if you steer to the left, for example, it takes a few seconds for the boat to respond.

Parking the boat requires a bit of practice. Depending on where you dock, you may have to park your houseboat backwards (and not alongside). And that works very differently than driving a car, because a boat can only go straight in reverse gear. And when you suddenly feel like the whole port is watching you trying to meter barge into its parking position (as happened in Aigues-Mortes), then one can be a bit nervous, right? But don’t worry: somehow we made it and we were told that all beginners feel the same way.

How does it feel to be on a houseboat? Decelerated! As soon as the initial nervousness is gone, steering the boat becomes absolutely a habit. We can even understand that some people find a houseboat ride too little “exciting” or too monotonous. We therefore recommend that you check the region you are traveling through for possible stopovers or excursions.

The great thing about a houseboat holiday is that you have your own , small home always with you. You feel independent and self-sufficient, while watching the landscape go by. This travel feeling is difficult to put into words, but we found it quite enjoyable.

Most vacationers book a houseboat for a week or even longer – and that makes perfect sense. We can confirm that it takes a bit to really get into the “houseboat holiday mood” and get used to everything.

Aigues-Mortes old town In the evening we docked in the cozy little town of Aigues-Mortes, directly in front of the landmark: the city wall. What a setting ! Aigues-Mortes is known for the almost completely preserved (and walkable!) city wall that runs around the historic city center.

By the way City center: There is a lot going on in the alleys of Aigues-Mortes, because the pretty town, as expected, attracts a lot of visitors. It doesn’t matter whether you come by houseboat or explore the Camargue by rental car: We can highly recommend a stopover in Aigues-Mortes.

Finally, a culinary recommendation for Aigues-Mortes: In the restaurant “Le dit vin” we had an excellent meal. The restaurant is one of the most popular in the city – without a reservation we would not have had a chance to get a seat. French, creative cuisine is served. There was also a great vegetarian option during our visit. The prices are rather high: We paid 70 Euro (for 1 menu, 1 main course and 2 glasses of wine).

It is very nice to sit in the green inner courtyard, but also the interior inside we thought it was great, although the atmosphere in the restaurant was a bit hectic overall due to the large number of guests.

Transparency: {Advertisement} For this blog article we have collaborated with the French National Tourist Board (Atout France). As part of the #facesoffrance nature campaign, we were allowed to travel through southern France for two weeks – including the Gard department. Many thanks also to our boat rental Le Boat! Of course, this cooperation has no influence on our opinion.

This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

Have you ever been to the Pont du Gard or any other place in the Gard department? Or do you have any other tips for the region? Leave us a comment – ​​we look forward to hearing about your experiences!