October 19, 2010

14| Nant

Much of my ride was through parkland, though the borders were not obvious. Nant is located in the Regional Park of the Grands Causses, south of, but quite close to, the National Park of the Cévennes. Located in a fertile valley where the Dourbie and Durfor rivers meet, Nant was, I think, settled first by the Celts, at least its name derives from their language. In the 7th Century, monks transformed this wet area into an agricultural haven, though in the 8th  or 9th century its monastery was destroyed. The Benedictines who were here rebuilt, and I wondered if the church still in the center of town, dates from their community.

The village was surveyed in  1774 by Deslongchamps, who later invented the portable barometer; if I carried one (or more modernly, a GPS) I could judge the changes in altitude as my days go along, and I imagine it was also the first forerunner of bicycle computers that show altitude. 

The Romanesque church, , Sainte Pierre, was open and I spent some time there, among its over 100 columns. Many of the details include images of sheep; sheep were then and still are now, important to the area's culture and economy. They provide leather for the glove-making industry in nearby Millau, and milk for chèvre, the little round fresh cheeses that I often buy. The visitor’s bureau also houses a small, informative museum about the history and culture of Nant and the surrounding area. The farmers market in front of Les Halles (the building dates from 1706) in the square provided more provisions, and I ate an early lunch on that square at one of the bistros. 

This was close to my original idea – morning cycling, substantial mid-day lunch breaks in cafés or bistros, afternoon cycling and simple dinners at my tent in the campground. While eating I saw a group of 10 or 15 cyclists eyeing my loaded bike and I wondered if they were a  local club. Before leaving this pretty town, I walked across the 14th century bridge, Le Pont de la Prade, which crosses the Dourbie River. 


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