Highlights Of Uzès
Uzès is one of southern France’s best kept secrets. Rooted in history since Roman times, the old town has not only restored its characterful old lanes and authentic architecture, but has preserved something of a gently prosperous, old-world atmosphere – it’s a genuinely charming place.
Take a tour
With much of the mediaeval street-plan still intact, this is the perfect town to explore on foot. Start your stroll with a look at the Duché, a part-medieval, part-Renaissance fortress whose noble family were one of the most illustrious names of French history. You can climb the Tour Bermonde to take in a skyline of towers and rooftops that seems little changed by the centuries. Then admire the magnificent Romanesque architecture of the Tour Fenestrelle, which takes its name from its elegant ‘little windows’. The tower is a survivor of France’s bitter wars of religion – the rest of the town’s original cathedral wasn’t so lucky. As in so many parts of France, you will notice that, particularly on a sunny day, stopping for a morning coffee or a late afternoon aperitif – a short but unhurried pause – is taken seriously in the town.
Stock up at the market
Don’t miss the picturesque Wednesday and Saturday markets in the Place aux Herbes, where local producers set up their stalls around an ornate fountain. The town’s tradition as a trading centre continues: a reminder of the cloth merchants who made the town’s fortune over 500 years ago. Nowadays, it’s the delicious local foods that bring in the customers: go for “just a look”, and you’re likely to come back carrying pots of local olives and bottles of oil, bandoliers of dried red chili peppers, deeply savoury tapenades and some of the excellent wine. If you’re lucky, you may find a stall selling delicacies from the nearby Monastery of Solan: the lovingly produced biodynamic rosé is sold in small quantities, but its fresh, rounded, red-berry flavours are worth savouring.
Explore the region
If the weather forecast looks good, consider booking ahead and setting aside a day for canoeing or kayaking down the Gorges du Gardon. The views along the river are impressive enough as it winds through magnificent and rugged scenery, but the highlight is an up-close view of the Pont du Gard. A masterpiece of ancient technology the 160ft Roman aqueduct more than lives up to its billing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For the more adventurous, the gorges are the place to try scaling the via ferrata – a kind of rock-climbing. It’s worth checking in advance that your travel insurance will cover these activities.
Further afield, the famous Provencal city of Avignon is a must-see. In an era of CGI special effects, the towering, fortified Palace of the Popes seems scarcely real, but undeniably impressive. Although Avignon is an unforgettable city to visit, it can be difficult to find a quiet place to reflect on the history around you. For that, you may want to retreat to a pleasant market town, just down the road…