Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Nîmes
07/08/2021 - Stage 12 - 159,5 km - Flat
On the road
Department of Drôme (26)
Prefecture: Valence (Pop: 63,700)
Sub-prefectures: Die and Nyons
Surface area: 6530 km².
Specialities: stone fruits, aromatic and medicinal plants, lavender and lavandin, garlic. 19 AOC / AOP including 10 wines, 3 cheeses and 6 other products: Grenoble walnuts, Nyons black olives, Nyons olive oil, Provence olive oil, Haute-Provence lavender essential oils, Ardèche chestnuts. Drôme products also benefit from 9 red labels and 13 IGP.
Sports clubs: Drôme HandBall Bourg-de-Péage, Valence HandBall, Team Drôme BMX, Saint Vallier Basket Drôme. Competitions: Critérium du Dauphiné, Drôme Classic (UCI Europe Tour), Corima Drôme Provençale (cyclosportive), Drômoise (cyclosportive), Raid VTT les chemins du soleil (Marathon X Country international)
Festivals: Fêtes nocturnes de Grignan, Crest Jazz Vocal, Saoû chante Mozart
Economy: 44300 establishments and 13000 companies. Leather and luxury goods, agri-food, transport-logistics, etc.
Main tourist sites: Crocodile Farm (Pierrelatte), Grignan Castle, Ideal Palace of Factor Cheval (Hauterives)
Websites and social networks: www.ladrome.fr / www.ladrometourisme.com / www.facebook.com/ladromeledepartement
Pierrelatte (Pop: 13,500)
Pierrelatte is, along with Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, Bollène and Lapalud, one of the three communes on which the Tricastin nuclear site is established, created in 1961. Pierrelatte was above all home to the plant responsible for enriching uranium for military purposes, which closed in 1996. The CEA (Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique) has maintained a civilian research centre there.
The Municipal Museum of Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Archaeology and History, housed in a former 18th century prison.
Listed as a natural site of artistic character in 1921. Urgonian limestone rock.
Legend has it that Gargantua, tired of travelling across France and hobbling, sat down for a moment on Mont Ventoux to breathe a little and free himself from a nasty stone in his boot that was causing him terrible pain. This is how Pierrelatte was born, or at least its Rock, a small stone that fell from a giant boot in the middle of a large plain: an unusual rock, the first stone of immense future achievements.
In the Middle Ages, the rock served as the foundation for a castle. The castle was gradually dismantled in 1633, and the rock became a stone quarry.
The Crocodile Farm
The Crocodile Farm is the largest European animal park dedicated to the discovery of reptiles. More than 600 animals live there in semi-freedom, including 400 crocodilians, giant tortoises, monitor lizards, snakes and anacondas, iguanas, lizards, but also fish and other tropical birds.
Listed as a botanical garden, the Farm also presents more than 600 species and varieties of exotic plants: aromatic plants, fruit trees, aquatic plants, spices and giant herbs.
Donzère-Mondragon Canal and Dam
Construction: from 1947 to 1952
Architect: Théodore Sardnal.
Characteristics: 24 km long
Special feature: the longest Rhône diversion canal, 24 km long, between Donzère and Mondragon, and the highest lock. Inaugurated by President Vincent Auriol in 1952.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1992 (dam)
Sub-prefectures: Largentière, Tournon-sur-Rhône
Highest point: Mont Mézenc, 1754 m.
Number of communes: 339
Surface area: 5529 km², including 172,000 ha of forest (31 pc of the department).
Specialities: chestnuts in all their forms (AOC), Picodon (AOC), Maoche, bombine, Caillette, olives, fine fat beef from Mézenc (AOC), potatoes (violine, truffole, échamps de l'Eyrieux), blueberries, raspberries, honey and wine, including a few ancestral varieties such as Chatus.
Sports clubs: Union cycliste d'Aubenas (national division), Rugby club Aubenas-Vals (federal 1), US Aubenas basket (N2 men), Basket club Nord Ardèche (N2 men), Pouzin handball (N1 women) Competitions: Boucles Drôme-Ardèche (end of February), L'Ardéchoise (cyclosportive, June), Tour féminin international de l'Ardèche (September), Monte Carlo Rally (passage during certain editions), Historical Monte Carlo Rally (January), Gorges of Ardèche International Marathon (canoe-kayak - November), Gorges of Ardèche Triathlon (beginning of July), Pont d'Arc nature raid(Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, April)...
Ardèche by bike: Viarhôna from Sarras to Bourg St Andéol, along the Rhône, shared between Drôme and Ardèche. Dolce Via, 77 km of soft paths from La Voulte-sur-Rhône along the Eyrieux river. Grande Traversée de l'Ardèche MB. The 13 routes "Sur les Routes de l'Ardéchoise".
Festivals: Aluna (mid-June), L'Art de l'envol Montgolfier Festival (June), Alba la Romaine Circus Festival (clown and circus arts, July), Rencontre des cinémas d'Europe (Aubenas, November), États généraux du film documentaire (Lussas, August), Humourists Festival (Tournon, August), Labeaume en musiques (Sud-Ardèche, July-August), Equiblues (Saint-Agrève, August), Castagnades (October-November), Les fascinants weekend vignobles et découvertes (October).
Economy: 22,663 businesses (excluding agriculture), of which 29 pc are service activities (excluding information and communication), 24 pc retail, car and motorbike repair, 19 pc construction, 12 pc accommodation and catering, 5 pc manufacturers of industrial products (excluding foodstuffs and equipment), 4 pc extractive industries, energy, water, waste management and pollution, 3 pc manufacturers of foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco products, 2 pc information and communication, 2 pc transport and storage. Agriculture (source Agreste): 4,713 farms, of which 34 pc are livestock farms, 22 pc winegrowing, 20 pc fruit. Tourism: 18.1 million overnight stays from April to October and 2.2 million stays.
Websites and social networks:
www.ardeche.fr / www.ardeche-guide.com / https://www.facebook.com/ardeche.saga
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ardeche_tourisme (#ardeche and #emerveillesparlardeche)
Bourg-Saint-Andéol (Pop: 7,200)
Between its hills, which shelter it from the Mistral, and being part of the southern Ardèche, this commune is on the right bank of the Rhône. The name of the town dates back to the 15th century in memory of Andéol (?-208), who came to evangelise the region.
The peloton had the chance to discover Bourg Saint-Andéol in 2016 for the start of an individual time trial to the Caverne du Pont d'Arc won by Tom Dumoulin, who had not yet won the Giro. Located on the banks of the Rhône, the town is also a regular venue for cycling races. Sprinter Juan José Haedo won a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2010 and the town has hosted the Classic Sud Ardèche on several occasions.
Bourg-Saint-Andéol has also been a regular stage town for the women’s Tour de l'Ardèche and has seen the greatest win, including the two 2015 world champions, Lizzie Armistead of Great Britain (road) and Linda Villumsen of Denmark (time trial).
Church of Saint Andéol and Tomb of Saint Andéol
Construction: 858, with the exception of the 16th century Gothic lace bell tower, it was remodelled in 1108, then in the 16th and 18th centuries.
Style: Carolingian Rhenish Romanesque
Characteristics: it has an apse on the west side, an exceptional type in France. Inside, at the crossing of the transept, the dome is of a rare type with its four series of arcatures with sculpted capitals between the trunks.
Special feature: it contains the white marble pagan sarcophagus of Saint Andéol, with the name of Julius Valerianus to avoid arousing suspicion and to protect it from any profanation. It was found in 1876 by Abbé Paradis.
Classification: Historical monument in 1862
Construction: medieval fort embellished in the 15th and 17th centuries.
Style: Renaissance façade
Characteristics: located on the Saint Michel rock overlooking the Rhône.
Particularity: from the 14th century, this residence was the home of the bishops of Viviers. The first floor has sumptuous 17th century frescoes.
Classification: Historical monument in 1946
Saint-Marcel (Pop: 2,400)
Saint-Marcel is one of the oldest communities in the Vivarais and has a picturesque medieval heart. From the first half of the 13th century onwards, the village developed solid institutions led by rectors, often in conflict with the consulate of the nobles. To assert their power, the numerous co-lords built towers and beautiful residences, some of which are still visible. Sheltered by its ramparts, Saint-Marcel-d'Ardèche was one of the four towns of Bas Vivarais in the 15th century. Its characteristic bell tower dates from this period.
The Revolution swept away the lordly power and destroyed the castle. It was rebuilt in the 19th century with the temporary return of the Bernis' power. The same period saw the demolition of the ramparts, the construction of fountains and washhouses, and the reconstruction of the church behind its 15th century bell tower. The village developed thanks to the silk industry, the vineyards and the tile factories. But the end of the century was terrible: silkworm disease, the phylloxera crisis... In one century, the community lost half its inhabitants. It was not until the 1980s that the village experienced a new boom with the industrial development of Tricastin, the quality of its vineyards and its quality of life.
The cave was discovered in 1836 by a hunter whose ferret had slipped into a cavity. To date, 57 km of galleries have been explored and catalogued. At the crossroads of geology, archaeology and speleology, a one-hour guided tour allows you to discover a whole underground world, arranged and illuminated in a magical way. The Saint Marcel cave contains a vast network of underground galleries, cascading pools, sumptuous cathedrals, strange concretions, huge rooms with evocative names such as the fountain of the virgin, the painters' gallery, the table of kings. Underground winetasting tours are even offered, which allow you to blindly taste the local wines...
Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche (Pop: 970)
Since 2012, Saint-Martin has been part of the southern Vivarais land of Art and History.
On the square between the church and the Tourist Office, a mosaic has been created in homage to Max Ernst who lived in Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche from 1938 to 1941 in the house of Mexican-British artist Leonora Carrington. Bas-reliefs by Max Ernst remain in the listed house, which cannot be visited.
Saint-Remèze (Pop: 800)
Saint-Remèze, a commune of 800 inhabitants grouped around its church and its castle, located at the southern end of the Ardèche department, enjoys an incomparable geographical location between the Rhône valley, the Ardèche Gorges and the Dent de Rez Massif. It has an exceptional environmental heritage with its cliffs and limestone plateaus covered with woods and scrubland, and its caves, including the famous Madeleine cave. On the edge of the Mediterranean climate, it also has a privileged geoclimatic position, which makes it a land of vines and lavender, of colours and flavours, ideal for holidaying. It is at the heart of the Ardèche Gorges Nature Reserve.
In the heart of an exceptional natural site, the Madeleine cave is one of the most beautiful in France, with grandiose volumes, sets of amazingly shaped concretions and an unusual range of colours. The sound and light show in the largest room is a great success. The cave is located on the tourist route of the Ardèche Gorges, and is still famous for its magnificent viewpoint, in particular the Cathedral Rock.
Gorges of Ardèche
The Ardèche Gorges are known as a remarkable summer playground. The region is characterised by its very special geological formations carved out by the river over the millennia. The result is gorges perfectly suited to white water sports, of which canoeing is the main representative. The Gorges of Ardèche is one of the one hundred and fifty-three reserves that protect the natural jewels of France, both metropolitan and overseas. Every year, they attract nearly a million people in search of wild nature, green leisure activities and outdoor sports. Created in 1980, the nature reserve's mission is to reconcile this craze with the preservation of the site.
Vallon-Pont-d'Arc (Pop: 2,350)
In the extreme south of the Ardèche department, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc heralds the famous Gorges of Ardèche, located in a nature reserve that is well preserved, although frequently visited. The village is the emblem of tourism in the region. It is located in the middle of the garrigue and its Provençal airs attract visitors, who have the possibility of discovering various unique sites (natural arch of the Pont d'Arc, caves, beaches, avens, tunnels, dolmens), of practising outdoor sports (descent of the gorges in canoe and kayak, climbing, speleology).
In this canoeing and kayaking stronghold, cycling has found its place: in 2009, Jérémy Roy won a stage of Paris-Nice. Finally, in 2016, it was near the village, at the Pont d'Arc Cavern, that Tom Dumoulin won a time trial in the Tour de France, which was battered by the winds.
Pont d'Arc Cavern
In a deep cave, the first artists in the history of mankind created a masterpiece: horses, lions, rhinoceroses and many other animals captured on the walls. Thirty-six thousand years later, scientists, engineers and artists achieved a unique feat. They reconstructed the original cave making this extraordinary collection of paintings and engravings visible, and the emotion that struck the cave's discoverers twenty years earlier perceptible. This cathedral, untouched for thousands of years, was discovered in 1994 by three cavers, Jean Marie Chauvet, who gave his name to the cave, Éliette Brunel and Christian Hilaire. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, the cave could not be opened to the public without risking damage. The necessary reconstruction was completed in April 2015. Entering the cave, one discovers the world of men and women living there 36,000 years ago. In a play of light and shadow animating the walls and revealing the decor, the works are unveiled. Hundreds of animals of fifteen different species appear. Painted with red ochre, engraved with flint, traced with a finger or charcoal, the bestiary comes to life as the techniques of blurring and perspective are skillfully mastered.
Pont d'Arc is a spectacular natural bridge dug by the Ardèche. The bridge is 59 m long and 54 m high. It is a popular spot for canoeists, as they can pass underneath and even touch the rock. It is considered the natural entrance to the Ardèche Gorges.
Vagnas (Pop: 570)
Occupied by Man for 280,000 years due to the presence of springs, gathering and hunting grounds, and then arable land. The village is situated on the route of communication (Neolithic drains, Greek goods road from the Rhône to the Cévennes, Roman road of Antonin the Pious Alba-Nîmes). The battle of Vagnas in 1702 and the defeat of Jean Cavalier, the leader of the Camisards, marked the beginning of the victory of the Catholic royal troops in the Cévennes.
4 km away, in the commune of Labastide-de-Virac
Castle of Roure
Construction: 14th century
Characteristics: flanked by two flat round towers with orange tiles. From the covered way, one discovers the splendid panoramic sight on the Cevennes, the Ardèche plateau and the Coiron.
History: a major site of the religious wars in the region, which watched over the Pont d'Arc until the Camisard revolt. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the Count of Roure abjured the Protestant religion and became Catholic. In 1703, the Camisard leader Jean Cavalier took the castle and burned the church.
Current destination: houses a Silk Museum (2002), which displays a very complete overview of the different stages of silk thread production in a silkworm factory, in this castle which was, with its surroundings, an important production centre for this famous thread.
Classification: Historical monument 1978
Sub-prefectures: Alès, Le Vigan
Surface area: 5 853 km2
Specialities: four remarkable taste sites, 9 AOC-AOP and 5 IGP: Costières, Uzège, Cévennes and Côtes du Rhône wines (Laudun, Lirac, Chusclan, Tavel, Listel...), Pélardon, Nîmes olives and olive oil, Cévennes sweet onions, Nîmes strawberries, Cévennes chicken and capon, Camargue rice and bulls, Uzès black truffles, and, soon, Cévennes chestnuts and honey. Crafts: pottery from Anduze, basketry, stone quarries, gardian boots.
Sports clubs: Nîmes Olympique (football), USAM (handball), ASPTT (table tennis), RCN (rugby). Support for young talents, objective Olympic 2024: Lucie Gauthier (table tennis), Enzo Giorgi (handisport fencing), Jean-Marc Pontvianne (athletics), Tom Poyet (handball) and Lorenzo Serres (mountain biking). Events: Etoile de Bessèges (cycling), Critérium des Cévennes (rally), Côtes-du-Rhône Marathon.
Festivals: Gard hosts many festivals, including the Transes Cévenoles (contemporary music), Jazz in Junas, Itinérances (cinema), Cratère Surfaces (street arts) and Uzès Dance.
Economy: tourism (Romanesque architecture, Europe's leading marina at Port-Camargue, seaside resorts, thermal baths), wine tourism, agriculture, wood industry, Areva competitiveness cluster, Textile Well, Perrier, CEA Marcoule.
Heritage: three sites listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO: Pont du Gard, the Abbey of Saint-Gilles and agro-pastoralism in Causses and Cévennes. Four "Grands Sites de France": Pont du Gard (also a UNESCO biosphere reserve), Cirque of Navacelles, Camargue and the Gorges of the Gardon. Four "Most beautiful villages of France". Three cities of art and history: Beaucaire, Nîmes and Uzès. And also, the ramparts of Aigues-Mortes, the Duchy of Uzès. Abbey of Saint Roman, the Chartreuse and the Saint-André Fort in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Websites and social networks: www.gard.fr / www.tourismegard.com / www..climattitude.gard.fr / https://fr-fr.facebook.com/legard30/ / https://fr-fr.facebook.com/GardTourisme/
Barjac (Pop: 1,620)
Small village on a plateau at 170m altitude. Speleologists recently discovered an exceptional cave in the village, filled with many rare concretions (notably some of the largest cups in the world) and immediately decided, with the agreement of the town hall and international specialists, to place it under "total protection", i.e. to prohibit access to the public.
Construction: started in the 11th century, refurbished at the end of the 15th century. Rebuilt after the peace of Alès (1629).
Style: classical medieval stronghold
Characteristics: architectural ensemble comprising 3 buildings, grouped around an inner courtyard.
Current use: numerous summer festivities such as the Chansons et Paroles festival, which takes place every year at the end of July.
Classification: listed as a historical monument in 1993
2 km from Barjac
Aven d'Orgnac and the City of Prehistory
Labelled a Grand Site de France, the site brings together the Cité de la Préhistoire and the cave with its underground landscapes.
This modern and entertaining museographic space, which spans 350,000 years of human adventures gives visitors the opportunity to see authentic objects in showcases. Completely renovated in 2014, it explains the prehistory of Western Europe. Game tables, demonstrations of fire, flint and dagger shooting and other prehistoric activities offer a new look at the remains on display, which come from excavations in Ardèche and northern Gard.
The cave, which adjoins the Cité de la Préhistoire, surprises with its gigantic volumes and the beauty of its underground landscapes. Giant palm trees, translucent fistulas, eccentrics, candlesticks, organ cases, columns, ochre-coloured draperies, clay fir trees... coiled in balance under ceilings up to 55-metres high.
Lussan (Pop: 500)
Labelled the most beautiful village in France. Perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the garrigue. As the majority of the population is Protestant, the village was hit hard by the Camisard war which followed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The 15th century château de Lussan now houses the town hall. Inside, one can admire the beautiful 17th century painted ceiling of the former ceremonial room, listed as a historical monument.
Castle of Fan
Construction: 16th century
History: it is said to have been built on the site of a temple dedicated to the Fanum nymphs. On his return from the Italian campaign in 1550, Gaspard d'Audibert, who had admired the Italian residences, had this castle built near the source of a stream, Le Fan. During the French Revolution, it became a hostelry and was sold in 1795 to Théophile Gide, a resident of Lussan and great-grandfather of the writer André Gide (1869-1951).
Current use: sold in 1920 to the municipality, it became a police station and then a residential building.
Classification: listed as a historical monument in 1972
War of the Camisards
The Cévennes were the scene of this war between the supporters of the Reformation (Protestants) and the troops (Catholics) of King Louis XIV (the dragoons) between 1702 and 1704-1705 (in fact, the repression lasted until 1787, the date of the Edict of Tolerance). From the 16th century onwards, the dioceses of Nîmes, Alais and Uzès were troubled by religious wars. Protestants were numerous when the Edict of Nantes was revoked. Forced to convert, a large number hid in the Cévennes scrubland to avoid being sent to the galleys or thrown into prison. The Cévennes peasants armed themselves with scythes, pitchforks and rifles. From the mountains of the Gard, the revolt spread to the Alais region, guided by intrepid leaders, including Jean Cavalier. Thus began the War of the Camisards (1702), mobilising the Protestants of the Cévennes, part of the Lower-Languedoc, and even Provence against the royal power. Almost all the villages we pass through were affected by this revolt.
Vallérargues (Pop: 150)
Vast limestone promontory culminating at 629 m, crowned by a chapel housing a Virgin (the "admirable mother of Mount Bouquet", a place of pilgrimage) as well as a large TDF (Télédiffusion de France) antenna 60 m high. A popular site for paragliders.
No less than 360 climbing routes, open to rock-climbing enthusiasts, are available on the cliffs of Seynes, the village overlooking the mountain. With more than 10 km of routes, for all levels, this approved site is a must in the region.
Uzès (Pop: 8,500)
Main town of the Uzège, where garrigues, vineyards and fields alternate. It is labelled as a town of art and history. Its town centre is listed as a protected area.
Starting point of the Roman aqueduct of Nîmes, of which Pont du Gard is the worthy representative, which used the waters of the fountain of Eure (group of ten perennial sources, on the left bank of Alzon) to feed Nîmes (work which ceased to function definitively in the 6th century). Marked by the Wars of Religion, Uzès did not experience the industrial revolution. In the 16th century, Uzès was the fifth Protestant town in the kingdom. In the 17th century the cathedral welcomed new converts, when Protestants lived their faith in secrecy at the risk of being imprisoned or going to the galleys.
The former 17th-century Cordeliers convent on the esplanade became the new temple in 1791, replacing the one destroyed during the Wars of Religion.
Along the pedestrian and cobbled streets and alleys, you will see superb facades from the 16th and 18th centuries, numerous private mansions, a beautiful town hall (more than 40 buildings listed or classified as Historical Monuments), the Place aux Herbes shaded by plane trees, surrounded by arcaded houses, with a large cast iron fountain, the Place Albert I (formerly the wheat market square) also with a beautiful fountain and the Capuchin chapel, now the Tourist Office, which was the burial place of the Dukes of Uzès until 1789.
Uzès was several times a stage town for Paris-Nice, the GP du Midi-Libre and the Étoile de Bessèges.
Sainte-Théodorite Cathedral and Fenestrelle Tower
Construction: from 1090.
Style: neo-Romanesque facade added in 1873 to the old building
Characteristics: inside, galleries were built after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 to house the "new converts". Much of the furniture disappeared during the French Revolution, except for the organ, one of the most beautiful in the region. Paintings by Simon de Châlons, master of the Avignon school (1550), reliquary of Saint Firmin, bishop of Uzès from 538 to 553.
History: partially demolished during the Albigensian crusade in 1177, rebuilt at the beginning of the Wars of Religion, it was destroyed again (1621), only the Fenestrelle Tower remained standing (two floors down). A new reconstruction took place from 1642 to 1663.
Special feature: the Fenestrelle Tower is one of the symbols of the city of Uzès along with the ducal palace. It is 42 m high and dates from the 12th century. It is a vestige of the old cathedral and was restored in its original style in the 17th century. It is similar to the Italian Lombard bell towers and is the only example of a round bell tower in France.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1862 and 1963
Duchy of Uzès
Construction: 11th to 19th century.
Style: Medieval, Romanesque, Flamboyant Gothic, Renaissance, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian
Characteristics: composite architectural ensemble remarkable for the varietý of its styles and periods of construction. Dominated, on the south, by a powerful medieval tower, the Bermonde Tower (11th century), the former keep. Its decoration is of extreme Renaissance refinement, with the superposition of the three architectural orders: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Two other towers within this complex: the polygonal tower, covered with a pointed roof of glazed tiles in the 19th century, and the round tower of medieval aspect.
Special features: the furnished rooms are decorated with multiple portraits, accessible by a very beautiful and exceptional Italian Renaissance grand staircase, ramp on ramp, vaulted́ in coffers and with diamond points.
SAINTE-ANASTASIE (Pop: 1,700)
Construction: 1245 to 1260
Style: arch bridge
Characteristics: links Nîmes and Uzès. Length: 120 m.
Particularity: restored under the Second Empire, in 1862, to avoid the passage in front of the former priory of Saint-Nicolas de Campagnac.
The Gardon, in fact, is the Gard (whose name, today, is less used). 127-km long, it rises in the High Cevennes. Associated with a town or village, its name is used generically because most of its tributaries are also called Gardon. So it was necessary to put things in order. For the purposes of its classification, French water authorities decided that the main river would be the Gardon, which rises at 1,050 m, at Saint-Martin-de-Lansuscle near Prat Reboubalès (1,082 m). For the locals, it begins, strictly speaking, at the confluence of the Gardon d'Alès and the Gardon d'Anduze (page 383) upstream of Ners between Cassagnoles and Vénénobres, where the river finally takes the name of Gard, to confluence on the right bank of the Rhône, in the commune of Vallabrègues.
Its gorges were carved out in the space of six million years, creating a 150-m gap in the limestone, offering a marked landscape contrast between the plateaus and the river (a spectacular landscape with medieval villages). During the hottest months, the river goes underground for the first part of its course, only to re-emerge a few kilometres downstream (this is how it is always cool, even in the hottest weather). In autumn, major floods are caused by intense rainfall (Cevennes episodes). The Regional Nature Reserve of the Gorges du Gardon covers an area of 492 hectares. On 9 June 2015, the gorges were designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
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