Floods hit the A9 just north
floods hit the south of France
Les inondations effrayantes en Languedoc
Terrible news from the south of France this September. Torrential rains
and violent storms brought floods, death and destruction to hundreds of
villages and cities in the Vaucluse, the Bouche-du-Rhône, the Gard, the Hérault,
the Drôme, and the Ardèche. A few days after the flooding, 13 people
were reported dead with at least a half a dozen still missing. The tally
of damages is almost immeasurable…vineyards wiped out, much of the Côte
du Rhône harvest in jeopardy, bridges and roads destroyed, phone and
cable lines drowned out. Because we weren’t in France at the time, we
can’t bring you any direct reports, and our communications with friends
has been difficult with continued power and telephone outages. But
here’s what we’ve learned, thanks to newspaper reports and a French
Hardest hit was the department of the Gard. In
Collias, a few kilometers from Uzès and just upstream from Remoulins and
the Pont du Gard, a wall of water swept away a significant number of homes
and businesses. Further upstream from Collias, near Blauzac, the 16th
century Pont Saint Nicolas was wiped out, cutting off the most direct
route between Uzès and Nîmes. The 2,000-year-old Roman-built Pont du
Gard still stands, but the beaches beneath are gone or washed up into
bordering vineyards and orchards. Sommières’ Roman bridge and its lower
town were severely damaged. People were stranded in trees and on rooftops
throughout the region, waiting for help and for the waters to recede.
To put some numbers on the volume of water
into perspective, normal rainfall in the Gard is about 60-80mm per month,
and never much more than 800mm annually. Two out of three stations
reported more than 300 mm in the 24 hour period of September 8-9, with
Anduze at the top of the list with 687 mm.
A map-based chart of the
Rainfall amounts for Sept
average annual total rainfall of 800 mm
(Courtesy Météo France)
Part of the Chaîne des Puys
Volcaniques in Auvergne, one of many treasures along the A75 autoroute
Photo by Bertrand Dichamp
highway across the Massif Central - the A75
Bonne route, l'A75
Most of us who visit France want to “stop and smell the roses” as
we’re touring by car, avoiding the snarly, speedy, and expensive
autoroutes unless we’re in a hurry to get somewhere. But we’re
intrigued by the most recently opened autoroute segment, the A75.
Designed to open up the largely unexplored Massif Central, the route
stretches from au plein centre Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers near
the Mediterranean coast. It offers a variety of great places to explore
for the adventurous traveler, including the volcanic
hills in Auvergne, mountain trails in the Cantal, traces of
the Knights Templar, and the gorges
of the Tarn river. Rest stops and exits are planned to accommodate
the tourist, every 8 kilometers (rather than the usual 30-kilometer
spread between exits). Best of all, it’s free. We’re looking forward
to taking this new route through and into the heart of France, la
France profonde. After all, that’s what travel is all about, be it
live or via the armchair. Bonne route!
Like a fairy tale from afar...
Carcassonne, une site historique
High on the list of top ten architectural images of France has to be the
medieval fortress of Carcassonne, a fairy tale vision of a fortified
castle from afar, a bit more like Disneyland from within. In spite of the
hordes, some jarring restorations and the overriding commerciality of the
walled city, Carcassonne is rich in history and redolent with the spirits
of its former inhabitants.
| What a colorful history! Romans, Visigoths, Berbers, Franks, even
Charlemagne paid homage and left traces during the first milennium. Pope
Urban II preached the First Crusade from its ramparts in 1096. The knights
of the Trencavel family made Carcassonne the center of courtly love,
literature, and gracious living in the 12th century. Beastly
Simon de Montfort wrenched it from these Cathars during the bloody
Albigensian crusade, turning it over to Catholic bishops in 1209. Then
Louis IX moved in, proclaiming French sovereignty and the Inquisition,
driving fear and hopelessness into the hearts of its citizens. In the
mid-14th century, Scottish and Gascon archers fiercely attacked
and overtook the walled city in the name of the Black Prince of England.
When the smoke finally cleared in next century, Carcassonne the medieval
fortress had seen the last of its glory days. Viollet-le-Duc arrived in
the mid-1800s to oversee a major restoration that, controversial as it
was, brought back a sense of the walled city’s previous beauty, strength
Best way to see Carcassonne is off-season. Even
better is to stay at a hotel within the walls so that the daytime crowds
can disperse, leaving you and your fellow overnighters to step back in
time to soak up the silent, evocative atmosphere. Want to find out more?
that ends our fall report. Next month we'll have another holiday
edition of Armchair Uzès. Stay tuned.
Towers, bridges, dungeons,
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