Uzès

682km (424 miles) S of Paris; 39km (24 miles) W of Avignon; 51km (32 miles) NW of Arles

 

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This scenically beautiful village is set on a limestone plateau that straddles the line
between Provence and the Garrigues region, the severe though charming countryside
along the foot of the ancient Massif Central. It is famous for the long-standing House
of Uzès, home of France’s highest-ranking ducal family, who still live in the ducal
palace of Le Duché that dominates the town.
Jean Racine lived here in 1661, sent by his family to stay with an uncle, the vicar
general of Uzès, in hopes that his dramatic ambitions might be dispelled. They
weren’t, and he went on to claim his place as one of France’s great dramatists/poets.
More recently, Uzès was the setting of Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s version of Cyrano de
Bergerac, in which Gérard Depardieu played the part of the soldier-poet.
In 1962, the village was named one of France’s 500 villes d’art and has since taken good
advantage of preservation funds set aside for restoration of its historic district. However,
the designation has been viewed as a mixed blessing since many visitors, notably Parisians
taking a break from city life, have since discovered the charms of the village.

      

GETTING THERE There’s no rail station in Uzès. Train passengers must get off at
Avignon or Nîmes (both are a 1-hr. bus ride away). For rail information and schedules,
call Rail Europe & 800/387-6782. There are about eight buses a day from both
places. For bus information, contact the Gare Routière d’Uzès, avenue de la Libération,
through the tourist office (&04-66-22-68-88). By car from Avignon, take N100
west to the intersection with D981, following the road signs northwest into Uzès.

Office de Tourisme is on place Albert-1er
(& 04-66-22-68-88).

 

SPECIAL EVENTS The well-attended Nuits Musicales d’Uzès draws musicians of
many stripes and talents from all over the world to a series of musical concerts performed
at various venues throughout the town. The event takes place during the second
half of July, with tickets costing from 8€ to 35€ ($10–$46) per performance,
depending on seating arrangements. Tickets for these events along with announcements
of concerts are available at the tourist office.

SEEING THE SIGHTS
In the old part of town, every building is worth a moment or two of consideration. A
pleasant square for a stroll, the asymmetrical place aux Herbes is defined by the
medieval homes and sheltered walkways along its edges. The Cathédrale St-
Théodorit, place de l’Evêché (& 04-66-22-13-26), still utilizes its original 17th-century
organ, a remarkable instrument composed of 2,772 pipes. The cathedral is open
daily from 8am to 7pm. If you’re lucky enough to be here during the last 2 weeks of
July, you can attend one of the organ concerts that highlight the Nuits Musicales
d’Uzès festival (see above). Adjacent is the circular six-story Tour Fenestrelle, all that
remains of the original 12th-century cathedral that was burnt down by the
Huguenots. It’s closed to the public.

Le Duché The palace is a massive conglomeration of styles, the result of nearly
continuous expansion of the residence in direct correlation to the rising wealth and
power of the duke and duchess. The Renaissance facade blends Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian elements. Easily seen from below is the Tour de la Vicomté, a 14th-century
watchtower recognizable by its octagonal turret.

Large segments of the compound, most notably its sprawling annex, are occupied
by the Duc and Duchesse de Crussol d’Uzès and cannot be visited. You can climb the
winding staircase in the square 11th-century Tour Bermonde for a sweeping view over
the countryside from its elevated terrace. The 11th-century cellar, noted for its huge
dimensions and vaulted ceilings, contains casks of wine from the surrounding vineyards.
Tours of the site end with a dégustation of the reds and rosés of the Cuvée
Ducale. The building’s showcase apartments include a dining room with Louis XIII
and Renaissance furnishings, a great hall (Le Grand Hall) done in the style of Louis
XV, a large library that includes family memoirs, and the 15th-century Chapelle
Gothique. Visits are usually part of an obligatory French-language tour, but you can
follow the commentary with an English-language pamphlet.
Place du Duché.&04-66-22-18-96. Admission 11€ ($14) adults, 8€ ($10) students and teens 12–16, 4€ ($5.20)
children 8–11, free for children 7 and under. Mid-Sept to late June daily 9am–noon and 2–6pm; late June to mid-Sept
daily 9–6pm.

 

 

WHERE TO DINE
If you’d like to dine in town, consider the Jardins de Castille, the restaurant of the
Hôtel du Général Entraigues (see above). However, the area’s best place to dine is in
the hamlet of St-Maximin, 6km (31⁄2 miles) southeast of Uzès. To reach it from Uzès,
follow the signs to St-Maximin.

Les Fontaines MEDITERRANEAN In a 12th-century building in the heart of
Uzès, you can enjoy thoughtful service and a well-seasoned roster of mostly Mediterranean
dishes. Menu items include roasted breast of duckling with cherry sauce; a brochette of scallops served with braised leeks and cinnamon sauce; thin sliced
chicken cutlets cooked in a salt crust flavored with cocoa; and roasted monkfish
served with a fennel flan. The selection of cheeses offered from the trolley is wide and
comprehensive, and a particularly succulent dessert is a frozen white-chocolate soufflé
served with a whiskey-flavored cream sauce. The courtyard contains a scattering
of summertime tables and a pair of verdant fig trees.
6 rue Entre les Tours.&04-66-22-41-20. Reservations recommended. Main courses 19€–33€ ($25–$43); set menus
20€–24€ ($26–$31). AE, MC, V. Mar–June and Sept–Jan Tues–Sun noon–2pm and 7:30–10pm; July–Aug daily.