Villeneuve-les-Avignon is located on the right bank of the Rhone river, right across from Avignon. In 1292, thanks to the politics and land swaps of the time, the position became a post on the frontier of the royal domains of France. To the east, on the left bank of the Rhone, barons and kings pledged allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire, not to France. So in 1292, Philippe-le-Bel, king of France, agreed to the construction of defensive fortifications including the Philippe-le-Bel tower (what else?) and the Saint-André fortress. Not long after, Avignon became the home of the Catholic pope giving the French king even more reason to watch his neigbours. These defensive constructions, preserved to the present day, are landmarks of the modern city and visible from multiple angles along this route. Continue reading “Easy walking around Villeneuve-les-Avignon”
The high plateau in the Ardèche department, north of the upper Ardèche valley is full of examples of ancient volcanic activity. In this case, ancient is relative. These volcanoes are believed to have ceased activity relatively recently on the geological timescale – near the end of the last ice age about 10 to 12,000 years ago. Accordingly, natural erosion has had less time to erase the visible signs of volcanic activity. Interesting geological phenomena are visible in many locations and recognising the substantial interest of this area, UNESCO recently accorded the label of Geopark (see this link in french) to the regional park.
In the French “massif central”, between Clermont-Ferrand and the summits of the Haut-Languedoc, there is much evidence of ancient volcanic activity. While still ancient, the most recent volcanic activity took place in the the Ardèche Mountains, now a Regional Nature Park. This park, created in 2001, extends roughly from the market town of Les Vans in the south to St Agrève in the north. In 2014, the area was granted UNESCO Geopark status recognizing the remarkable landscapes and sites of geological interest resulting from volcanic activity. Geologists have determined that some of this volcanic activite may have been as recent as 10 000 years ago so it is common to see this area referred to as the “young” volcanos of the Ardèche.
The Geopark is magnificently suited to wandering, walking and long distance hiking with many marked trails providing access to well known sites (such as Mount Gerbier de Jonc – the source of the Loire River) and to less well-known ones throughout the area. Continue reading “A hikers guide to the Ardèche Geopark”
Hiking distance : 11.6, 9.5, 8.7, 8.2 km ; Hiking time : 3h30, 3h, 3h, 3h
Here are 4 trails that explore the landscapes around the village of Aigaliers (located in the Uzège region of the Gard department).
As a guide to the points of interest, there are various pin markers on the accompanying maps. Here is a short outline.
Glass works : In the 17th, 18th and 19th century, the right to manufacture everyday glassware objects was reserved for the local signorial family. In Aigaliers this was probably the D’Aigaliers family. Sand and evergreen oak, which on conversion to charcoal burns very hot, were locally available, so rudimentary glassworks were commonly set up in evergreen oak forests. In Aigaliers, the glass works is located south of Le Chabian. The ruins are not hard to find, and several parts are still standing. The author is not sure when glassmaking ceased, but the Aigaliers glass was somewhat known around the region. There are references to Aigaliers glass in historical sites as far away as Claret in the Herault department. Continue reading “Exploring Aigaliers and surroundings”
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