As you might know, France has been divided in 100 large counties in the late 18th century, called ‘Départements’ in French. They run from Ain (01) to Val d’Oise (95) and the famous overseas ‘Départements’ called Reunion island, Mayotte (both in the Indian Ocean), French Guyana (next to Brasil), Guadeloupe, Martinique and St-Pierre-et-Miquelon (next to French speaking Canada on the Atlantic coast).
Among these 100 French administrative divisions, GARD county (30) headed by famous Nimes local Prefecture (a 3-hour TGV ride from Paris) is one of the most beautiful with lots of old villages and towns dating from the 8th till 18th centuries.
Easiest way to get there from Paris is to book a TGV train ticket, both comfortable, cheap and good for the planet EARTH (with very low CO2 consumption). Then book a local rented car to tour around these delicious villages and towns.
Half way between Nimes and Ales (also worth to visit), you’ll find UZES, a Southern pearl with incredible towers, the castle of the former duke of Uzes (le ‘duché’), with most beautiful cathedral and churches (St-Etienne has an impressive old oak door). Try and park your car in one of the many parkings, my favourite being the cathedral one, though very disputed.
You may also book a night around this place as you have so much to see between delicate places and their stone arches, lots of local shops and restaurants, including a local hats and clothes creator, called ‘Petit Béguin’ (means ‘Small love’ in old French), 30 rue du Dr. Blanchard, 30700 UZES. They have incredible original hats and dresses, as well as jewels created by two sisters and the daughter of one of them (photos herewith). You will also find several painting and sculpture galleries with original artists.
This incredible town of UZES owes its riches to both its bishop and duke who have built from the 11th century (most major buildings) to the 16th century. You will also embrace delicate internal courtyards where you dine and stone arches between buildings, most of them thought to be mutually supportive to both buildings, as were built the roman and gothic churches from the 10th to the 15th centuries.
Only 25km from UZES, you will find the delicious small town of SOMMIERES, where the brown colour of the Renaissance painters originated (‘Terre de Sommières’) and alongside the Vidourle river, with the Roman bridge and Town Tower. Do walk along the tiny streets and the colourful places (go to place Jean Jaures, among others) with a visit to local bakeries and patisseries, among which Patisserie Rosso, 30 rue Antonin Paris, 30250 Sommieres. You may also pay a visit to neighbouring château de Pondres, where all rooms and flats as well as restaurant summer bookings are booked long in advance.
In Sommieres, do also pay a visit to the church, with its magnificent architecture and to the tiny courtyards, in the old buildings, as well as the castle.
Author : François P. VALLET, Coach, consultant and lecturer.