Awe and Shock

I (along with thousands of other people) chose a poor vantage point last night. The fireworks celebrating the liberation of Avignon looked more like bright lights behind a tree. I moved around a bit and improved things slightly, but the display was intended for the other side of the Rhone.

The campground in Avignon had dedicated camp sites, but no grass; packing up muddy things frustrates me. I also left behind most of a big tube of toothpaste, and 10 (of my 20) trashbags – things I had bought but wasn’t going to carry. I still managed to leave by 9 am, with a lot to do and a long way to go.

Having a decent map for this part of France, I spent most of the trip to Nimes navigating by paper map, as much to remind myself I could as anything. The climb out of the Rhone valley proved a recurring investment in elevation, with little return until the end of the day. I also managed to find road construction which had wiped out my intended path. I wandered through the area of construction, and after multiple paths, carried my bike across a field to get back to functional road (carried to avoid driving over a thorn bush).

My path around France takes me through Nimes, but I had another reason to go there, that didn’t include Nimes being the origin of denim and Levi’s 501s. The ampitheatre in Orange sold me a combined ticket to also view the colliseum in Nimes (and other site in Nimes). Somehow I entered Nimes the same way I enter everywhere – the wrong way on one-way streets. Finding my way to Tourist Information, I turned around to see the coliseum. Wow.

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The only remaining intact Roman coliseum, built 2,000 years ago. The audio tour did a great job. Besides the original purpose, the coliseum has since serves as a fortress, a walled city, and a prison. Restoration efforts finally removed everything back to the coliseum state. Wandering the halls where Romans also wandered, and standing in the center of the coliseum where gladiators fought.

After that, I visited the Roman temple Maison Carre, also from the same time frame. After that I visited the Roman Gardens, with the Temple of Diana and the Tour Magne (the Roman guard/watch tower). Today I found impact after impact on my sense of history.

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54 kilometers to Nimes, and a full day of tourist. Instead of leaving Nimes at 2 pm as I expected, I didn’t rush, and at 4 pm I had another 60 km to Montpelier. The last time I made that big a jump on this trip (because of a missing campground), I added 40 km to the day at 4 pm. I had a well-defined cycle path, and a gradual grade. Today I knew my uphill wasn’t over, and I would have to find my own way.

I met a couple of Canadian cyclists at Tourist Information in Nimes who pointed out a green way that ran about 8 km west of Nimes. That green way worked out; I made great time, over 24 kph, until forced to leave it for the remainder of my path to Montpelier. After that I navigated city to city, arriving in Montpelier by 7:30 pm and checking into the hostel.

While I walked to several tourist sites, scouting things out for tomorrow, I will forever remember Montpelier as the city of restaurants. The street scene around the hostel bustles with street cafes.

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