Montpellier, Arles, and the Camargue, France

We spent the week of April 13-19 in Montpellier, France. Jennifer attended the “Drupal Developer Days” conference, where she spent her days collaborating with other developers on Drupal code improvements and having other Drupal conversations. She normally works alone at home, using text chat to keep in touch with the Drupal community, so she really enjoyed the chance to see her “imaginary friends” in person. It was a great week!

people in funny hats

Lunchtime at the Drupal conference

Zach spent the week hanging around and exploring the Montpellier area. The first day he managed to find his way to the beach, despite his extremely limited ability to communicate in French. This involved a Tram, a bus, and a nice walk along some causeways. There was an island along the way which contained an interesting old Cathedral with peacocks hanging around outside. There were plenty of locals and windsurfers hanging out at the beach, it being a vacation week in the area.


Peacock wandering around the cathedral

Causeway to the beach at Montpellier


Beach scene

Beach near Montpellier

Later on in the week, Zach took a train out to Nîmes, and then a local bus to the Pont Du Gard. This is the highest Roman aqueduct in the world, built in the first century AD. The water was transported 50 kilometers down to Nîmes, where it was used to supply baths, fountains, etc. to the Roman citizens. There was a museum there that showed interesting examples of the ancient lead pipes and faucets used in the intricate water system of the time.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

The rest of the week, Zach just spent doing short hikes around Montpellier.

We left Montpellier by train on a very rainy Sunday the 19th, and caught a train to Arles. Arles was an important Roman city from around the 1st century BC to the fourth AD. It was a trading hub: situated at the limit of where sea vessels could navigate up the Rhône river, the boats had to transfer their cargo to and from barges to trade with the interior of Europe. It has an impressive theater (used for arts performances from Roman times to today) and arena (used for gladiator competitions in Roman times, and bullfights in the modern era). Their excellent ancient history museum contains a large collection of sarcophagi, and many items of glass, ceramics, and metalwork. It also has some very lovely mosaic tile floors, and a very well preserved Roman river barge, which apparently sank something like 2000 years ago and was raised up from the river bed and preserved a few years back. It was a good day for visiting a museum when we arrived in the rain, but I forgot to get my camera out of my dripping pack, so we don’t have any photos of the museum. We also went to visit an underground crypt from Roman times — it had actually been a forum (market) then but since had sunk to below ground level.

Roman crypt at Arles

The Roman crypts of Arles

Monday we awoke to better weather, so we rented a couple of sturdy and serviceable bikes from the friendly guy at Theo Velo by the train station, and headed off on a 45 km, very flat and pleasant ride through the countryside to see the Camargue, a national park in the wetlands of the Rhône delta. We saw many birds (egrets, herons, swans, etc.), a pretty little dark-brown fox, several bull farms, and the famous wild white horses and their surprisingly dark-colored and very cute foals. One of the neat things about doing that day trip by bicycle was the sounds: there were birds singing around us all day, and not much traffic to drown out the noise.

cycling in Camargue

Jennifer cycling in the Camargue

wild horses of Camargue

The famous wild horses of the Camargue

grasshopper on Zach

A huge grasshopper landed on Zach while he was riding

We got back to Arles in plenty of time to tour the Roman theater and arena, and had a quiet dinner at the hotel.

Roman theater in Arles

Roman theater in Arles

Roman theater of Arles

Another view of the Roman theater of Arles

Interior of Roman arena at Arles

One of the many walkways in the Roman area at Arles

Roman arena at Arles

View from the top of the Roman arena at Arles

Tuesday we embarked on a rather long journey by train… As I compose this, we’re en route to Italy! More in our next installment…

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Map (note: not exact). The green marker shows the beginning of the route. If you click on other markers, you will see a note or information about that spot.

Approximate elevation profile (markers correspond to markers on the map):

Elevation Profile