One has to remember a tour guide might not always have been a tour guide nor might not be only a tour guide. Pierre (and his wife) were ranked #5 in France in Latin Ballroom Dance competition. Then night shift nursing hours for her ended that, and Pierre took on morning tour guiding to have time to spend with her. Pierre was a hoot.
Viviers got its name from the Roman vivarium that was here. The vivarium was a dammed off section of the river in which fish were kept alive and cultivated to feed the Legions stationed in this part of Gaul. Because it was mostly earthen, very, very little of it can be identified since this part of the Rhone used to flood tens of meters deep before the river was canalized. Even since then it has flooded badly as you can see from the picture. Click to read the water levels. This pillar is about 100 meters from the normal river bank.
Viviers is on the list of towns one cannot change without government approval. So, walking through this town is a form of time travel. And a lot of its story is the same king-of-the-hill saga that pretty much scopes history. This “hill” was larger than it looks because of the fertility of the land involved, and its strategic position on this narrow turn in the Rhone (la défilé). Viviers is the center of the Ardeche region known as Vivarais. It had the misfortune to be on the path of the German retreat and Allied advance at the end of WWII. The place wasn’t much damaged, but the Nazis took out their frustration on the people, murdering citizens right up to the moment of Allied arrival. Pierre’s uncle was one.
The gallery that follows conveys a sense of durability. Most of these buildings are over 500 years old. Single family mansions have become apartment buildings, and apartments house more than one generation. The day we were there people were having to drive to another town for bread — the baker had taken a vacation at a different time than the rest of the town — GASP! Or is it Zut Alors!?
As noted, Pierre was a hoot. Bon chance, Mon Ami.