Sunday, July 18th
Carcassonne > Nîmes
Since it's the only time in 2004 that the Tour is close to Mediterraneen Sea, here's a map of today's stage
town, capital of Aude département, Languedoc-Roussillon region, southwestern France, southeast of Toulouse, near the eastward bend of the Aude River, which divides the city into two towns, the Ville Basse and the Cité. The Cité has the finest remains of medieval fortifications in Europe.
On the summit of an isolated hill rearing abruptly on the Aude's right bank, the site of the Cité was occupied as early as the 5th century BC by the Iberians, then by Gallo-Romans. The inner rampart was built in AD 485, when Euric I was king of the Visigoths. Clovis failed to take it in 508, though Muslim invaders succeeded in 728, as did Pippin III the Short in 752.
The viscounts of Carcassonne and Béziers built the Basilique Saint-Nazaire (1096-1150), and about 1125 the Château Comtal was incorporated into the Visigothic rampart. In 1247, as a consequence of the Albigensian Wars, the viscounts' possessions were confiscated by the French crown. Great artworks were then undertaken. The cathedral's Romanesque transept and choir were replaced by Gothic structures (the Romanesque nave remains). The stained glass is from the 14th to the 16th century. The outer ramparts, also turreted, towered, and crenellated, were built during the reign of Louis IX and continued by his son Philip III, who also added to the inner walls the beautiful Porte (gate) Narbonnaise. The Porte, the only entry into the Cité by road, is guarded by two towers with projecting beaks and a double barbican that forced assailants to expose an undefended flank.
When Roussillon province was annexed to France in 1659, Carcassonne ceased to be a frontier fortress and was left to decay. In 1844 the architect and medievalist Viollet-le-Duc began reconstruction of the cathedral and the ramparts, work which continued until the 1960s. The Cité has about 1,000 inhabitants in its narrow, winding streets.
The Ville Basse was founded in 1240 when rebellious citizens of the Cité were banished beyond the walls. It was burned by Edward the Black Prince in 1355 when he failed to take the citadel. The church of Saint-Vincent and the cathedral of Saint-Michel, both 13th century, survive. Ville Basse is the business centre of modern Carcassonne. There is some light manufacture, but Carcassonne lives mainly on tourism.
city, capital of Gard département, Languedoc-Roussillon region, southern France, south-southwest of Lyon. Situated at the foot of some barren hills called the Monts Garrigues to the north and west of the city, Nîmes stands in a vine-planted plain extending south and east.
Named after Nemausus, the genie of a sacred fountain, Nîmes was the capital of a Gaulish tribe that submitted to Rome in 121 BC. The emperor Augustus founded a new city there and gave it privileges that rapidly brought it prosperity. In the 5th century Nîmes was plundered by the Vandals (a Germanic people) and the Visigoths (a westerly division of the Teutonic peoples known as the Goths). It was later occupied by the Saracens (Arabs), who were driven out in 737.
In the 10th century the city passed to the counts of Toulouse, and it was joined to the French crown in 1229. At the time of the Reformation, it became largely Protestant and suffered from persecution after the revocation in 1685 of the Edict of Nantes, which had accorded a measure of religious liberty to Protestants in 1598. Damaged in 1815 during the fighting between royalists and Bonapartists, Nîmes became prosperous once more with the coming of the railways later in the 19th century.
In Roman times one of the richest towns of Gaul, the city is famous for its many Roman remains, which are mostly in an excellent state of preservation. The vast amphitheatre, probably built in the 1st century AD to seat 24,000, is an ellipse (440 by 330 ft [135 by 100 m]), standing 69 ft (21 m) high. From outside it presents the aspect of a double row of 60 arches surmounted by an attic. It was built of large stones from a nearby quarry, put together without mortar. Originally intended for gladiatorial shows, chariot races, and naval spectacles, it was used as a fortress in the 5th century by the Visigoths. In the Middle Ages, houses, and even a church, were built inside it. Cleared of buildings in 1809, it is now used for bullfights. Despite this checkered history, it is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in existence. The famous Maison Carée (1st century AD), a rectangular temple 82 ft (25 m) long by 40 ft (12 m) wide, dedicated to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, adopted sons of the first Roman emperor Augustus, is one of the most beautiful monuments built by the Romans in Gaul, and certainly the best preserved. Like the amphitheatre, the building has had varied uses (town hall, private house, stable, and church) through the ages. It now houses a collection of Roman sculptures. The Tour Magne, atop a hill just outside the city, is the oldest Roman building, 92 ft high, but probably originally higher. Its original function is not known, but it was incorporated into the Roman wall in 16 BC.
Near the Tour Magne is a reservoir from which the water carried by the great Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, was distributed throughout the town. The pleasant Jardin de la Fontaine, situated on the edge of the city, was designed in 1745. The fountain and the canals that flow through it are partly Roman. The Archeological Museum, which is housed in a former Jesuit college, has a fine collection of Roman objects, as well as some Iron Age artifacts.
The city's population grew considerably after 1960, from both rural immigration and immigrants from North Africa, especially Algeria. The traditional manufacture of textiles and clothing still flourishes. New industries include shoe manufacturing, food processing (canned fruit, brandy), and the manufacturing of electrical and agricultural equipment. Nîmes is also an important market town, notably for wine. The city is an important crossroads for rail transportation, particularly of commercial traffic such as meats.