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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Uzès on Sundays: Horses, Swans, and Otters “Oh My!”

Sundays in Uzès are quiet. Most stores are closed in town, except for flea market-style shopping along the streets; not much is happening. It was the perfect time to pick on Geoffrey.

Geoffrey is my good friend in Uzès. He’s been here through thick and thin, helping me adjust to my new world. He’s also the unpredictable character you’ve grown to love in my early posts.

He’s back!

Sundays in Uzès

Over the past few days, Geoffrey and I have indulged in a contest. A “pity party,” if you will.

“Who can gripe the most.”

As hard as it might be to believe and as perfect as living a dream may seem, there are “down” days. Fortunately for me, like Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore, when I’m down, Geoffrey’s perky. When he’s on the “low” side of the see-saw, I’m on the “high” side.

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.”So it is.””And freezing.””Is it?””Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

Sundays in Uzès

Last Sunday’s a perfect example. After several days of not hearing from Geoffrey, I called him to see if he was still alive. From the sound of his voice, which is usually cheerful, I could tell he was “alive” but far from “lively.”

After our “Bonjour” s, I asked sarcastically, “Comment allez-vous ?”

C’est bien,” he replied. “Et vous,” he said in a very sing-song tone. Not his always jovial, laughing voice.

OK, Geoffrey,” I barked. “This bad mood of yours has got to quit. It’s gone on quite long enough.

Before he could reply, I ordered: “I’m going to Carrefour to shop. Mustang Sally and I are coming to pick you up.”


I could hear noise in the background, meaning he wasn’t home. “Where are you,” I asked as if he owed me an answer.

“I’m at the little bar at the Esplanade‘” he said. “Having a pastis with Nicholae,” he added. “You can come by and pick me up if you’d like.

“I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” I said.

The Esplanade is a small, sparsely shaded park in Uzès’s center between the city’s post office and the regional bus station. The park is often used on Saturdays for various market vendors’ booths. Occasionally it’s the site of gypsy carnivals. During the week, locals and tourists will sit on the few benches around the perimeter.

The “little bar” is on the street corner across from the Esplanade. It’s mostly a “hangout” for the town’s “idle” older men who seem to be unemployed. They are there all hours of the day.

I stopped at the “little bar” with Mustang Sally just as Geoffrey finished his drink. It was close to thirty minutes after we had talked. He saw me and quickly gulped down the last of his pastis. While getting in the passenger side of the car, a man at the bar called out to him. He said Sally had a flat tire.

Oh crap!” said Geoffrey. “Something else to ruin my day.”

We can fix it at the service station at Carrefour,” I exclaimed.

Geoffrey checked to see if we had enough air in the tire to get out of town, then jumped in the car.

As we headed down the road, my travel companion was silent. I decided I’d try to cheer up “Old Grumpy” with a joke he’d told me a few days before, even though I’m terrible at telling jokes.

I breathed and started: “I’m sorry I’m late,” I said.

No problem,” Geoffrey replied glumly.

I told you I’d pick you up in fifteen minutes,” I added.

Yes, you did,” said Geoffrey. “It’s OK.”

I would have been here on time,” I continued, hoping he wouldn’t catch on and ruin the punchline.

Taking a breath, I looked at him from the driver’s seat with my most serious face and stated: “Well then, you didn’t have to call back every half an hour to remind me.”

Geoffrey looked at me. His face lit up. He chuckled. Then he let out that familiar belly laugh. He was going to be OK.

Sundays in Uzès

As our sour moods were lifting, we arrived at Carrefour only to find it was closed. Shopping would have to wait. We could, however, use the air pump to fill Sally’s tire. It was at the service station adjacent to the front of the store.

While Geoffrey showed me how to put air in the tire, I asked: “Want to see the horses at Les Haras’ stables when we’re done? You said you wanted to take me there.

Great idSundays in Uzèsea,” said Geoffrey, obviously happy that I had thought of something he wanted to do.

“Let’s go.”

Les Haras Nationaux is a French national riding academy and champion stud farm. It is one of a dozen or so regulated facilities of its kind in France.

The institutionalization of horse breeding for military, farming, leisure, and competition purposes in France traces back as early as the time of Charlemagne.

In 1665 the King’s Council of Louis XIV established what was to become “royal standards” and control for stud farming in France. In 1715 requirements for breeding the “Haras du Pin” or “royal stud” were strictly enforced throughout the country.

These days the French Ministry of Agriculture manages the activities of “Haras du Pin” breeders. The ministry’s responsibilities are to ensure the bloodlines of quality horses bred in France and to regulate and oversee services for breeders and horse lovers.

Some of the studs we found hanging out in their stalls, waiting for a “roll in the hay,” with the mares priming themselves in separate quarters.

The “white” horses are the famous “Camargue” breed, originally found only in the swampy Camargue region in the south of France. Their origins go back, some say, to the Paleolithic period more than 17,000 years ago. Through time, they have been bred with other breeds, especially Arabians,

“This genetic combination permits these brawny animals to withstand the region’s bleak, cold winters and intensely hot summers. They are so strong they can canter through mud up to their bellies!” 

Below is the layout of Les Haras Nationaux outside Uzès.

Sundays in Uzès
Haras International in Uzes

Sundays on Uzès: La Vallée de l’Eure

After a trip around the stud farm at Les Haras Nationaux, the Sunday afternoon was still too beautiful to leave behind. We headed to the park at Vallée de l’Eure on the other side of Uzès.

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It was my first time at the park, although I passed the turn-off on the way to San Quentin La Poterie several times. Once down the road, we drove close to the rocky hill I had viewed from a distance. Rock climbers are particularly fond of this spot and can camp in the park.

Geoffrey says people with no yards or terraces where they live spend their Sundays here.

In addition to the hill for rock climbing, the park’s other attraction is its spring: the source of water for the Gard River that flows beneath the famous landmark Pont du Gard.

During Roman times, the spring-fed the Pont du Gard aqueduct and delivered water along the miles and miles of Roman-built conduits to the city of Nimes (“Colony of Nemausus”).

Sundays in Uzès
Source of water for the Pont du Gard

Today, while Pont du Gard draws millions of tourists yearly, the spring that started it all is barely noticed. The origins of the aqueduct — as old as the stone facade of the Pont du Gard — are close to ruins.

Sundays in Uzès
Beginning of the Pont du Gard water source


Sundays in Uzès

Standing next to the spring, Geoffrey got on his “bandstand.”

With his loudest voice, he proclaimed to me, and everyone else within hearing distance, that it is “scandalous” the way the French government is neglecting the ancient structure.

For my entertainment and, perhaps, for distribution to the UNESCO  World Heritage Center, I put together this “public service announcement” regarding the plight of the Pont du Gard’s most important monument.

Swans and Otters on Parade

While Geoffrey continued ranting about the “Scandal of Pont du Gard,” I busied myself watching swans gathered in the stream around the edge of the park grounds.

Beside the spring, Geoffrey got on his

“Chase the Otter” seemed to be the game of the day.  


… and remember


Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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