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The Town


History

Uzés is a wonderful, photogenic town in the centre of the area called the Uzége. It is located in the Gard department of Languedoc-Roussillon, within the triangle formed by Alès, Avignon and Nîmes. The population numbers around 8,500.

The town of Uzès was founded 2,000 years ago by the Romans as an administrative settlement called Ucetia. It was located at the source of the Eure, where a Roman aqueduct was built in the first century BC to supply water to the Roman regional capital Nîmes, located 25 kilometres away. The most famous stretch of the aqueduct that survives to this day is the Pont du Gard, a huge bridge spanning the Gardon river. It is the tallest existing Roman aqueduct and a UNESCO heritage site, as well as popular tourist attraction.

Uzès has had a long history as a religious centre. It was a bishopric from the 5th century until the French Revolution. The Cathedrale Saint Théodorit in Uzès was originally the seat of the bishops. Although the Cathedral has been rebuilt several times, the tower, Tour Fenestrelle, survives from the 12th century. It is the only example of a round bell tower in France.

In spite of its small size, Uzès has an important place in the political tapestry of France. The title Duke of Uzès is the premier title in the peerage of France, coming right after the princes of the blood. The Dukes of Uzès have a long and illustrious history of serving the kings of France. Their palace, the Duché has been extensively restored in recent years and is home to the 17th duke of Uzès, Jacques de Crussol d'Uzès and his family.

Uzès was declared a protected historical site in the 1960s and funds poured into its restoration. The centre of town has been beautifully restored, with a good mix of medieval stone houses and later townhouses. Particularly noteworthy are the fine 16th century townhouses, many with ornate balustrades dating from the days when Uzès was a wealthy textile centre. It is a tribute to the beauty of the town that Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Gerard Depardieu was filmed here.


Things to do

There is so much to do in Uzès! For history buffs, the Duché offers guided tours daily that include rooms in the palace, the dungeons, and the wine cellars below. There is also the option of climbing the tower and admiring the view of the town and surrounding countryside (we needed a kir after this experience, but it was a breathtaking view). The Cathedral, with its beautiful antique organ is open for viewing. There is a local museum documenting the history of town and the region, and an extensive medieval garden to tour. There is also a museum at the Haribo candy factory, at the entrance to town, documenting the history of the town as a licorice producing centre.

In terms of shopping, there are a great number of interesting boutiques and shops. There are shops stocking both food staples, and more interesting and exotic food items, such as Terroirs, which stocks a wide range of olive oils and vinegars, among other delicious things, and the Maison de la Truffe, which shows the wide variety of ways this local speciality can be enjoyed. Even the selection of bakeries at which to buy your morning croissant is unbelievable. The twice weekly market, Wednesday and Saturday mornings is widely held to be the best in the south, and takes place all year round.

Uzés has a great many interesting clothing boutiques, for both men and women, many in a particular bourgeois bohemian style. You can find unique and beautiful clothes and shoes. There is no shortage of artisanal jewellery, art galleries and home decor shops.

There are a huge number of restaurants to sample. The Place Aux Herbes is ringed with outdoor cafes. In addition there are many wonderful restaurants on the ring road surrounding the old town. Any and all of these are a mere few minutes walk from Maison Sept. If you have ambitions to drive a little ways, you can try the restaurant at the Hostellerie le Castellas in Collias, a town of 800, 8 km from Uzés, that has just received its second Michelin star.

For other entertainments close to home, there is a cinema, a large open air swimming pool and tennis courts within Uzés proper. There is also a golf club that has a 9 hole course, or a short 4 hole course so you can squeeze in a quick round before dinner.

If you enjoy cooking, Uzès has its own resident chef. Peta Mathias, a well known chef, writer, and broadcaster from New Zealand spends a good part of the year living and teaching in Uzès. Look up her website at www.petamathias.com for courses she is currently offering. There is also another cooking school, called L'eveil des papilles, that offers courses either at their workshop, or at the house. They also will cook a fabulous meal for you in the house, while you relax. Contact them at 33 (0)4 86 65 46 88 or through www.Avignon-et-provence.com.

For those of you who love the brocante, Uzès has a number of permanent brocante shops, including one just across the street from Maison Sept. Also, there is a weekly brocante on Sunday mornings in the car park at the roundabout on the road to Avignon and Nîmes.

Uzès has a strong cultural life, with concerts, exhibitions, theatre and fairs all year round. Some of the special events highlights are:

  • Garlic Fair – in June
  • Fête Votive - in July and August with a running of the bulls and other events.
  • Les Nuits Musicales d'Uzés – in July, initially dedicated to baroque music concerts in historical settings like the courtyard of the Duché, has more recently expanded to include various types of music
  • Truffle Fair - in January, a huge pile of dirt is brought into the Place Aux Herbes and truffles hidden within, and truffle pigs brought in from the surrounding countryside to compete in finding them

For more ideas on what to do in Uzès, please check out the following websites:

  • www.discover-uzes.com
  • www.uzes.fr