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The Romans - Part 2
We liked the arena at Nimes and loved the Pont du Gard, but there are traces of the Romans nearer St. Chinian too (those Romans DID get around…).
We drove into Narbonne, parked next to the Canal de la Robine and walked a half block to the Musee Archeologique. Narbonne (Narbo Maritus), founded in 118B.C. was for many years the capital of the Roman Narbonnaise provence, which covered nearly all of southern Gaul. Nothing remains of the old Roman buildings, as their stones were used in the building of the town wall in the middle ages. Recent archeological excavations however have filled the Musee Archeologique with a wonderful assortment of artifacts from the Roman 'rich and famous'. Like all museums there is a lot to see and my theory about museuming is that you don't try to see it all! The 'must see' are the paintings and mosaics of hunting and pastoral scenes, genies and gods restored from fragments to their original size (huge!). Fantastic.
We meant to just saunter through the "Prehistoric Room" but an attendant, an elderly man dressed all in black and leaning on a thick walking stick, insisted that we watch the audio-visual presentation. He firmly pointed us to the small, dark enclave. Curious we watched a bit of it and discovered that we had come in toward the end, but no matter, we weren't really interested, just trying to be polite. However, when we came out the man insisted we stay and watch it from the beginning (he gestured, pointed, shook his head, all the while speaking in a stern voice)! We did and he looked pleased and satisfied. As we were leaving we saw him admonishing another hapless tourist to watch the film and she scurried inside the small room…
A walk along the canal is colorful, peaceful and lovely. It is well kept, clean, tree-lined. The small canal boats look so tiny, it makes you wonder how anyone 'lives' in one. But the laundry, plants and ladies cooking at the tiny galley stoves (it's difficult to resist a quick peek in as you are passing…) gave proof that they did.
Hearing that we liked 'museuming', Andreas suggested the Museum Amphoralis in Salleles D'Aude. The museum is built in a long rectangle above the excavations. In it is displayed pottery and a site model of a kiln, showing you how the kiln was stacked before firing. Footbridges take you out over partially unearthed kilns and broken pottery in-situ. Around the kilns were habitats for the workers and clay quarries.
We watched a video, which was surprisingly fascinating. Although in French, it was easy to understand as it was mostly an 'action' film. It showed museum workers and volunteers recreating a kiln, using only the tools that were used during Roman times. The kiln was then filled with pottery and fired. When the pottery was cooled, it was removed from the kiln (amid big fanfare and a large crowd!) and sold to the spectators. It must have been an interesting project to volunteer for and fun too as the film showed more than one mud fight between the volunteers…
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