Visiting the Pont Du Gard, An Ancient Roman Monument

Visiting the Pont Du Gard, An Ancient Roman Monument

The resounding impact of my steps as I walk beneath these mighty arches made me think I could almost hear the voices of those who built them. I was lost, like an insect, in its immensity. I felt, though small and insignificant, that something unknown was lifting my soul, and I said to myself, “Am I not a Roman!”

– Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau on le Pont du Gard

Inspiring poets, philosophers, artists, and architects for centuries, the Pont du Gard stands as a reminder of the genius and grandeur of the Roman Empire.

Imagine you are in the middle of a huge wilderness area, surrounded by undeveloped land. A massive Roman structure, 2,000 years old and completely intact, appears in front of you. I didn’t visit the South of France looking for Roman monuments. And yet, I found myself gazing upon the granddaddy of all Roman aqueducts. Yep, it’s really all that.


I think part of the reason the Pont du Gard made such an impression on me is the location. It reminded me of the Texas Hill Country with its low growing scruffy plant life, oak trees, and hot dry summers.

I spent about an hour and a half walking along a path that followed the Gardon River upstream. The path passed underneath one of the arches of the bridge. I put my hands on those ancient stones and tried to imagine the energy and vision of the people who created this magnificent structure. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, I felt small, and insignificant, and uplifted, all at the same time.

Why was the Pont du Gard built?


The Pont du Gard was part of an aqueduct meant to carry water about 12.5 miles from Uzes to the city of Nimes (once referred to as the Rome of France). The bridge is three tiers high, approximately 164 feet tall, and 30 miles long. It took over 1,000 men five years to build the bridge, which houses the aqueduct.

The Pont du Gard has withstood frequent flooding, while more recently built bridges in the area have not. You have to hand it to the Romans, they were the best architects in the world and built things to last.

Enjoy life

In 1985, the Pont du Gard became a UNESCO World Heritage Site (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). To become a UNESCO site, a nominee has to be a:

1. Masterpiece of human creative genius;

2. Unique example of Roman civilization;

3. Outstanding type of construction which combined architectural and technical skills.

To summarize: it is an enduring example of the cultural heritage of the Roman Empire.


Today at the Aqueduct

The location of the Pont du Gard, surrounded by 165 hectares of protected land in the South of France, accentuates its immense size and remarkable architecture. It has always been accessible to the public and is a wonderful area for recreation, including hiking, kayaking, swimming, and sunbathing. It is the most popular monument in France, receiving more than 1,000,000 visitors per year. Due to the nature of the site and the unique landscape – referred to in the Mediterranean as the garrigue (limestone soil with fragrant vegetation like lavender, thyme, and juniper) – it is important to be respectful, and take everything with you that you bring in.


if you go:

The Pont du Gard is offered as an excursion to travelers on the Viking River Cruises Provence to Lyon itinerary. One of many excellent tours I took on the eight-day cruise, it stands out as a highlight of my time in France. This tour usually sells out quickly, so if you do go with Viking, be sure to book it early on.

You can also visit the Pont du Gard on your own. I recommend basing yourself in Arles or Avignon. Both cities have historic centers which are UNESCO sites. Arles is only 10 minutes more drive time to the Pont du Gard, than from Avignon. Rick Steves describes Arles as “grittier than Avignon” and I’d say that’s accurate. I loved it because of the Roman ruins and the Van Gogh history. However, I also loved Avignon, a very pretty city full of lovely shops, cafes, and home to the Palace du Papes.

Here’s the link for the official Pont du Gard website.  Check my travel blog for more stories on my time there.  

This article originally appeared in Penny’s blog, Adventures of a Carry-On

Solo Travel Safety

Solo Travel Safety

(Originally appeared in Penny’s Travel Blog, “Adventures of a Carry-On.”  To check out some of her other travel entries, click here.)

I don’t normally blog about solo travel, even though it is a topic in which I’m well-versed. It’s trendy to travel solo as a woman, something I’ve been doing most of my life and never given a second thought. But, a recent experience in downtown Los Angeles made me realize that there is a good reason this is a hot topic and maybe I could help someone else by sharing my insights.


Solo travel safety ©pennysadler 2013 Broadway St. Historic Broadway District, Los Angeles

Last Sunday I was with friends in L.A., and we decided to take an architecture walk in the Historic Broadway District. In addition to the old vaudeville and movie theaters, you’ll find the Bradbury Building (Blade Runner location), and the Grand Central Market. The theaters date from the 1800’s to the 1960s. On Broadway St. The architectural styles range from Renaissance Revival to Art Deco.

This was once part of the garment and jewelry district, too. It’s a wonderful area for photography and for culture and history, which I will cover in a future post.

So, I’m standing on the street in front of the Bradbury Building taking photographs while my friends have disappeared into the Sprint store next-door.

Out of nowhere, two guys appear, and they are in my space. I wasn’t afraid at first, mostly just annoyed. They had an attitude –- street guys doing an I’m cool routine. They didn’t seem threatening, but, there were two of them. One of them said, “Hey, you look like a tourist.” I replied back (foolishly perhaps), “Hey, because I am a tourist.”

They then started sort of a rant about the pretty tourist woman on the street. I don’t know if it was meant to be flattering or to distract me but I began to feel uncomfortable. That’s when I knew it was time to make a quick getaway.

I still didn’t feel true fear, but I wasn’t going to wait for it either. I dropped an F bomb and walked away while they yelled at me what I could do with parts of their anatomy I’d prefer not to ponder.

I never felt truly threatened by those guys, and they probably weren’t dangerous. The point is that I never saw them coming. They surprised me. Reflecting on that day I realize that I really was vulnerable, even if they weren’t dangerous.

What happened?

It was daylight, friends were nearby, and though I was on the street, there was no one around me. I didn’t know the neighborhood, but the car was parked only two blocks away. I felt safe. But, I was distracted by all of the cool architecture.


If I’d been alone, truly alone, my intuitive radar would have been on high alert. I would have been scanning the area for several blocks, not just the block I was on, and I don’t think I would have spoken to those guys at all. In retrospect, I think that was a mistake. I’m not suggesting that women should walk in fear, or even that they should never talk to strangers on the street, but know when to walk and when to run, and when to keep your mouth shut.

Coincidentally, later that day, I was describing the neighborhood to a friend on the phone who said, “Is that where the Canadian girl’s body was found in a water tank on the rooftop of the hotel of her hotel?”

Wait, what? I knew nothing about this. I soon learned that a young Canadian girl, a tourist, had gone missing. Guests in the hotel had been complaining about the color, taste, and smell of the water, thus, the missing girl was found.

I was stunned. Yes, in fact, we had been in that very neighborhood and walked right past the Hotel Cecil. Now my brief encounter with the two guys on the street seemed more ominous.

I still believe in most cases I’m just as safe on my own as with someone, but there are many factors to consider. My message today is this:  do your research, pay attention, and if anything seems the least bit uncomfortable, get the hell out.

If you’d like to read some of the most current news regarding solo women traveling,
here are some suggestions:

                or follow the discussion #WeGoSolo on Twitter.