Day 47 - Pont Du Gard & The Incredible Light Show

When we were at Harrods in London, Kian saw a Batman Lego set that he loved.  We told him he will have to wait possibly until his birthday to get it.  We emphasized that the chances of him getting the Lego set in Ireland was slim to none, as we were going to stay on a farm without many toy stores nearby.  In addition, we had a plane ride to catch from Ireland to France, so adding extra weight to our backpacks was really not something we wanted to do. 

So he waited...and waited...and waited...and occasionally asked about whether we still remembered. "Of course we do!" is what we replied and sent him off playing.

A month and a half later, and just about 2 months before his 5th birthday, we decided to venture out to a toy store here. We explained that we had no idea whether or not the store would have what he was looking for, and he might have to wait until his birthday after all.

The toy store is in a shopping complex about 15-20 minutes from the city center.  It seems very new, with lots of different shops ranging from clothing to shoes to home decorations to entertainment, and so on.

Shopping Center

Shopping Center

The toy store, Maxi Toys, was fairly large based on the French standards we are getting used to, and had lots of different departments. The only difference between this toy store and many like it in the US were the prices!  EEK!  Have I mentioned how expensive everything is in Europe, especially here in France?

We didn't see the Batman Lego set that Kian had seen in London, which frankly was a good thing because that set was for kids 7-14.  We did, however, find a junior Lego Batman set, which is meant for kids 4-7.  After making a deal with Kian, that this is an early birthday present (I even have a video in case he needs to be reminded later) we bought the set.  To be fair for Hannah, we also bought her a little Snow White plush doll.

Shortly after lunch, after the whole set was built and Kian had the chance to play with it for a little bit, we packed up and set out for Pont Du Gard.  

The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge that crosses the Gardon River. It is part of the Nîmes aqueduct, a 50 km-long (31 mi) structure built by the Romans to carry water from a spring at Uzès to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes). Because the terrain between the two points is hilly, the aqueduct – built mostly underground – took a long, winding route that crossed the gorge of the Gardon, requiring the construction of an aqueduct bridge. Built in the 1st century AD, the Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and is one of the best preserved. It was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1985 because of its historical importance.

We intentionally decided to leave later in the afternoon, since I had read something about a light show and a jazz band playing at night.  The drive to Pont Du Gard is about a half hour from Nimes.  The entrance fee per vehicle is 18 euros, and we had to pay a highway toll of about 2 euros each way (back to my complaints about everything being very expensive here).  Regardless, I can easily justify the price considering the great time we all had, and the neat light show we were treated to at night (more on this later).

After arriving and parking the car, it was a short walk to the welcome center, and from there another short walk to the aqueduct bridge.  It was definitely another amazing piece of Roman architecture that has been very well maintained, considering it's almost 2,000 years old.

To get across, you can climb and walk on top of the third tier (there's a narrow walkway surrounded on both side with walls), but we opted to skip that and headed across the lower level and towards the river, so the kids could have some time to splash around. 

The river was busy, with lots of swimmers, kayakers, people diving into the water from short cliffs, and people just lounging about.  The beachy area was a mixture of rocks, grass, and dirt, and there were more than enough places to go that it didn't feel too crowded.  We picked a place pretty near the entrance, where it was shallow and there were lots of other kids playing.  The river itself is cool, but not cold, is shallow for a while before getting deep, and has a rocky bottom that was full of little fish who were quick to swim away.  

We saw a lot of families with kids young and old, but honestly I was not able to communicate with anyone.  This was for a number of reasons, such as: a) the parents were in the river and their kids were playing by the river bank, b) the kids were older, which meant the parents were relaxing or chatting amongst themselves, c) the parents were too pre-occupied running after babies who were trying to eat mud :), and of course d) my French isn't exactly up to par for just striking up a conversation.

So we just enjoyed each other, and the simple world of children playing in the water. 

After quite some time, everyone had enough of the river (except for Hannah, who never wants to leave anything that is fun) and was feeling hungry, so we headed up the stairs to find a place to eat. 

The view of the bride around sun set. 

The view of the bride around sun set. 

The main restaurant was fully booked for the night, even though it looked pretty empty at the time, so we ventured a bit further to a small stand with quite a few tables and chairs, with a great view of the bridge, and which was right in front of the Jazz Band's stage! 

We got two small tapas platters, which also came with two baguettes... more than we could eat! Shortly after we sat down, the band started to play (unfortunately we do not know the name of the band and I could not find it online). They were very good and played a combination of English and French songs.  Slowly, as the sun began to set, more and more people gathered around the stage and dance floor.  Except for two older couples who were very good at dancing (as we could tell from their coming dressed with dance shoes), and children (who don't care about what anyone else thinks), no one got on the dance floor until much much later, and even then you could probably count the number of people on your fingers. 

Of course the kids, including ours, had a great time.  Children are just drawn to music and dancing.

Once darkness draped the sky, some colorful lights started to appear on the bridge, so we followed the lead of some other groups of people and headed down the stairs towards the river to sit on the hills and watch the light show.  There was no advertising for this light show anywhere to be found, so we had no idea what to expect or when it would start, we only knew it was supposed to be happening every night in the summer thanks to a brochure we found in our apartment.  The people sitting nearby us heard us speaking English, and asked us in a somewhat surprised tone how we had heard of this.  Perhaps it's some local secret?  Or perhaps we just didn't know anything because of our lack of French?

Finally, at 10:25 PM (which was after more than a half hour of waiting, when we were really starting to wonder if we should expect something more than randomly changing colors), a 5 minute count down appeared on the bridge and the Jazz band stopped playing for the night.  All lights went out and the show started at 10:30 PM.

Countdown complete!

Countdown complete!

The show consisted of a series of projected pictures on the bridge that were synced to music. It was wonderfully done, and not like anything we have seen before. The kids really enjoyed the show, and thanks to my hubby, who used his knee as a tripod, we have some awesome pictures to share with you. 

Unfortunately, our attempted movies all came out too dark to be worth sharing, so you'll have to take our word that it was a very entertaining show.  The show lasted about 20 minutes, and concluded with a hearty applause from the audience, not least of all from us, since we thoroughly enjoyed the show!