Wednesday, June 07, 2017

A Beautiful, Rejected City

How could a city that looks like this be rejected?


This is Sommières. We visited here in the evening, after checking out Uzès and the Pont du Gard, so we didn't get to see the market. The bridge in the photo was built by the Romans.
We parked near the river and didn't notice until we were returning to the car that there were signs warning of inundation when the river ran high. Luckily, that didn't happen during the few hours we explored the city.
I should have taken a picture as we drove across the bridge above which goes straight into the city gate. But, I was driving so I didn't get a picture.
Here's the gate from up close, looking back toward the bridge rather than into the town.

I know! I was excited too. I said to Earl, "It has a portcullis!" A portcullis, in case you didn't study castles with your boys like I did, is the grill that comes down to close the entrance. I'm sure the original medieval town had a drawbridge too. 
As we walked toward the gate, we passed several bars where townspeople gathered. They looked a bit rough. 
Once inside the gate, everything was magically transformed and Sommières' toursity side became apparent, even though not many tourists meandered around. The shops were for aromatherapy and new age items, perfumeries and luncheon restaurants that had long since closed.
We walked past the big old church and headed to the heights to see the 11th Century castle. It was closed, but the view from above was worth the hike.

Here's part of the castle tower.

Part of the castle was in ruins so we explored that section and ran into a group of young men playing boules nearby. 
A man in his 20s came up the castle road alone and sat on a bench while Earl and I explored. I got a creepy vibe from him, like why was he sitting alone and not looking at his phone?
Earl said he was probably just enjoying the peace and quiet. When we started to walk down the road, the man followed. My husband has a habit of wandering off to look at things, leaving me alone, but I stuck close to him and nothing happened, so maybe I imagined the sinister vibe. It's the only time I've felt unsafe in France, other than sometimes in a big city like Paris.  
After we hiked back down the road, we ordered sandwiches to go (à emporter) for our dinner once we returned to the apartment. 
The gate as we left the walled city was quaint too.

I had a distinct feeling as we left the village that it wasn't the right one for us in spite of its beauty.
The wide division between the tourist areas and the local areas made me uncomfortable. The occasional flooding made me nervous; we'd probably buy a house that ended up covered in water, and it was one of the few times that I felt unsafe in a small city.  
But, it's nice to sometimes know for sure that a city can be checked off the list. I'd give this one two baguettes out of five in my rating system.  


Anonymous said...

Flooding is one of those things around here. There is no rain, and then, in the space of a few hours, there is far too much. This is not the flooding of the Mississippi that lasts for weeks. Here, it lasts for hours. All the same, it does wreak havoc, and you need to make sure any place you settle/buy is not in a flood zone.
The weird guy never did anything, right? I used to walk "home" after a night of tangoing in the pre-Uber days, when there were no cabs to be found in Paris after midnight (and no Metro). I would walk from the Left Bank to Montmartre, getting lots of offers for rides, which I would decline with a laugh, saying I had just arrived at my destination, which wasn't true but whatever. I never felt threatened.
As for a touristy area, many French towns have this, with the soap shops and all. The worst, though, are the towns that don't. Saint-Rémy de Provence, for example: the whole place is perfectly restored and perfectly tasteful to tourists and also beyond the budgets of the young generations of families who have been there for centuries. I would rather be in a place that has its tourist center, as so many cute French places do (France is, after all, the #1 travel destination in the world), vs. a place where tourism has pushed out the locals, as in Aspen. Or a lot of Provence.
I have been planning to post about safety in Europe and have been taking shots of elderly ladies, tottering about town with canes or walkers, and handbags dangling. To me, they are the canaries in the coal mine: that they, so vulnerable, feel fine walking about shows me that I am quite OK. Little kids, too. I see very young ones (6? 8? years old) running around the center of Carcassonne, unaccompanied. They head one way, then a while later, in the opposite direction, but carrying bread or something else. They were sent out on an errand. Alone! This should be normal everywhere. Let such old ladies and children be your guide.

Just Me said...

Ha! You are so funny. Loved this tour too.

Paulita said...

Francetaste, , I agree with your points about safety. That's why I said it is the only time I felt unsafe in France, except occasionally in Paris when Earl wanders away and strange men will approach me, probably in an attempt to scam me. And as far as the separation between the tourist and working class, maybe this city is more honest than others with the line fairly delineated. Thanks for your insights.
Just Me, Thanks for coming along on the tour! And for commenting.

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