Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cliousclat & Pont du Gard on Sadie Hawkins day

Traveling with two children vs. just the one is a whole different ball game, but it’s like cold water, you just have to dive right in. And then you might never leave the house again.

My mother had been here one whole month, and we hadn’t been further from the apartment than Montpeyroux, which is no way to repay her for the savior she has been for me with the kids. So Roberts took a few days off, we packed up the trunk with baggage fitting a family traveling with two small children, and off we drove, east towards Lyon and then south to a little town called Cliousclat, just south of Valence. Recommended by my friend Leigh as a good stopping point on the way to Provence, it was the history of the town that convinced us to make the stop. Due to the excellent quality of the clay, the town has a reputation for pottery that dates back to the early tenth century. Because our visit was not during the usual tourist season many of the stores were closed, however we found one or two open, and combined with the many picturesque streets and buildings we found enough to keep us occupied for several hours.

A short while later we crossed into Provence, only my second visit to the region (the first being during our trip to Saintes-Maries-de-La-Mer last May). I was immediately struck by the topography; where on our previous trip to the Camargue region we traveled mostly through flat land with marshes and farmland, this visit wound us through mountains and ridges in addition to the vineyards and lavender fields I had been expecting. The mountainous terrain is due to the Tertiary Era which took the sedimentary rock covered by the Cretaceous Sea and lifted and folded it into the Alps and the Pyrenees, which contrasts to the Camargue with its man-made delta and wetlands.

We arrived at Le Pont du Gard with only a few more hours of daylight. While planning the trip I was worried that a late departure from Clermont-Ferrand or a lengthier stay in Cliousclat might force us to abandon a visit to the famous aqueduct, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. A few hours of daylight gave us enough time to see the ancient structure from several viewpoints, and the setting sun on the stone walls was a poem fitting for a wonder of the Ancient world.

The bridge over the river Gard was part of a system that brought spring water from Uzès to Nimes, was built in 1C and is still in comparably good condition due partly to renovations by Napoleon III and partly to the use as a toll bridge for many centuries. At the height of use as an aqueduct the daily flow was estimated to be about 44 million gallons, but in the 4th century maintenance ceased and so by the 9th century it was not used any longer. The dressed blocks of masonry, some weighing as much as six tons, were lifted into place by goats and human treadmill-powered winches. Pont du Gard is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.

We just happened to be standing on the bridge on February 29th, leap day. As we neared the center of the bridge a couple asked me to photograph them; we had observed them earlier sharing a bottle of wine while watching the sun slowly sink behind the trees. It turns out the woman had taken advantage of leap day (otherwise known as Sadie Hawkins day) to propose, and her soon-to-be husband had answered “yes!” There is a popular tradition in some countries that leap day is the only time a woman may propose marriage to a man. Curiously, if the man refuses he then is obligated to give the woman money, buy her a dress or gift her 12 pairs of gloves to hide the fact that her hand is not sporting an engagement ring! Luckily, that was not the case. I felt honored to be able to take the couple’s picture and wish them the best of luck in their future together!

As the last light slowly faded we made our way back to our car and struck out for Avignon to continue our adventure.


  1. The photo of Pont du Gard and it's reflection in the water is breathtaking! :)

  2. What a good trip you had! That is a fantastic picture of the Pont du Gard. You reminded me that I've been there (25 yrs ago).

  3. I bet mammai tāāāāā patikās Cliousclat! Tā kā mazas Inga debesis :)

    Un manohman - tas Pont du Gard - nereāla celtne! Cik jauki, ka tas bija pataisīts vēl vairāk vienreizējs ar to, ka satikāt gaŗā gada dienas pārīti! Vareni!

  4. We are totally going to Provence this summer to see the lilacs. I love that you met a Sadie Hawkins couple too...

  5. Hello my friend as usual I loved reading your Blog ! Your pictures are wonderful... I can't wait to see you ....

    Your French reader....


  6. What a romantic place to propose. It's so heartwarming and happiness-contegous to witness someone's proposal or a birth of a child or a wedding.

  7. How fun to learn about the Sadie Hawkins Day tradition! This post has made me so excited for my upcoming girls-weekend in Provence next month. Thanks for sharing! Popping in from POTM.

  8. Wow!

    Wow! and...


    You made such a glorious part of the world come alive for me and the snippets of history and geography lace throughout really captured my imagination - thank you.

    As for the conclusion to the tale - that deserves the biggest 'WOW!' of all.
    What a treat to be invited to share in such a special moment and although I knew the proposal ritual, you've taught me something new about the refusal options - amazing.

    Thank you for joining in this first POTM Club by the sea, your writing and photography were fantastic and I look forward to reading more.

    Happy day!

    PS: Thank you for popping the new button in your sidebar, it was such a thrill to spy it there.

  9. haha! love your comment that you have to dive into traveling with two kids like it is ice cold water. i'm not there yet, but after traveling lots around England with our 3 year old, i can believe it! thanks for sharing your trip - and happy you had a nice visit with your mom! popping over from POTM club!

  10. Hello, I have poped up from Felicity blog link.Thanks for sharing those pictures...I am a provence girl expatriate in Australia and that feels nice to see those snippets!I hope France is treating you well!

  11. What a wonderful day! Popping by via Serendipity. Love that you got to be part of such a special moment for that couple.


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