A little secret called Uzès

A street in Uzès

Uzès is a small provincial town seemingly yet to be discovered by American, English or Asian tourists. Since my blog following is still quite small (Hi Mom!), I think it’s ok for me to share this little secret. If you come to Provence, come to Uzès.

Uzès is the kind of town that forces you to just stop. There is nowhere else you need to be. There are no tour guides, walking tours or “must-see” attractions. Its allure is in the food, wine and the town itself.

I had nearly five days here, and most days went like this: As I left the house in the morning I would go to my first patisserie. Then on to a cafe for an espresso, followed by a morning run exploring the countryside. Afterwards, I would walk a little around the town to find a restaurant for lunch. Then more walking around to choose my next patisserie, then either more walking or back to my room to rest. In the evening I would go for a glass of wine, then find a place for dinner. Yes, that is all. Eat. Run. Eat. Walk. Rest. Eat. Repeat.

One of the many wonderful patisseries

There are a few tourist sites to see, and Uzès does seem to be a tourist destination for the French. Uzès history starts with the Romans (as does much of this part of the world), and the building of a 50km aqueduct in 50 AD to carry water from the source in Uzès to Nimes. The Pont du Gard is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts and one of the best preserved.

Pont du Gard

Uzès is also home to the First Duke of France, who according to Discover Uzès has precedence over all the nobles except the royal princes, and was the only prince entitled to say the ritual motto “Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi” (The King is dead, long live the king), which was the expression of the durability of the royal power. The First Duke of France also had to assist the king at war: 21 Dukes of Uzès were killed or injured on battle fields. The current Duke often resides in Le Duchy d’Uzès, which was an interesting (although non-English) tour and great views from the tower.

Le Duchy d’Uzès

The markets on Saturdays and Wednesdays are lively and full of all varieties of meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruit, as well as some of the popular dried lavender and provencal herbs. This would be a bit more fun if you have a kitchen to use, but nice to experience just the same.

Wednesday market in the town center Place Aux Herbes

I did my best to try every patisserie in town, but couldn’t quite get to them all. Every one had wonderful pain au chocolat and various pastries. La Nougatine may have been just a small cut above the rest.

A sweet from La Nougatine. I made it about five steps out of the bakery before sitting on some stairs and eating this. The next time I went I ordered to stay and eat there, the more civilized approach.

The many cafes offer different ambiance. La Vieux Cafe d’Aniathazze became my favorite for the warm cozy interior. Another notable mention is Cafe L’Esplanade, which feels like a blue-collar bar with mostly men that smell of cigarettes. Its an interesting atmosphere of feeling like a seedy bar where instead of booze they’re drinking coffee.

Cafe de L’Esplanade

There are many great restaurants to choose from, and in small towns like this I recommend walking around and seeing which one seems to call to you. But if you are short of time, I can highly recommend Le Bec à Vin, which served the best Foie Gras I’ve ever had, and thankfully is open on Sundays and Mondays when many other restaurants in Uzès are closed (therefore I ate there twice, both times incredible). Le comptoir du 7 is pricier and fancier but delicious and well-worth the price. Le Pieton d’Uzès is a great option for less money. Here is where I had my one and only English conversation, where the woman there took at least five minutes explaining every one of the 30 or so tapas they serve. I’ll never forget the calamari salad and eggplant tapenade.

Foie Gras at Le Bec a Vin

Uzès is romantic, quiet, true local Provence, and I highly recommend it to anyone that can settle in and enjoy the French life.

For more photos of Uzès, see the Photo Gallery.