Though the majority of the day was spent travelling on the bus, we did have the opportunity for some sightseeing. Our first stop was the ancient medieval French city of Carcassonne. It is one of the few, and the most complete, of the French fortresses still in existence, parts of which date back to 100 B.C. Jesus led us through the narrow, winding cobbled lanes as he gave us the history of the city.
Kendra, Jenn and I led the kids to a small café for lunch. The owner was very sweet and let us make our Nutella and peanut butter sandwiches and eat inside. Though many of the kids had never eaten Nutella before, they are all hooked now! Everyone got a drink, ranging from soda and lemonade, to hot chocolate and cappuccinos. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace, and a beautiful bullmastiff that a local guy claimed was the town’s guard dog, but it was clear he was too sweet of an animal for such a job. We warmed ourselves by the fire before venturing back into the cold and rainy streets to shop and explore. Once again, we split up into several groups. Marcelo and I went into a few small gift shops looking for patches. We both found ones we liked – I think he taken up my habit of collecting a patch from each place I visit.
After our stop, we spent more quality time sleeping and listening to iPods on the bus. The rain lulled most of us to sleep pretty quickly. Though not ideal, the weather really wasn’t as bad as it sounds – the mist is actually rather calming.
We arrived a bit late to our next stop, Pont du Guard, but luckily we still got to see this incredible Roman Aqueduct. It was phenomenal! It is the largest surviving aqueduct from the Roman Empire. Though just 275m long, it was originally part of a 32-mile stretch. It is thought that it was constructed during the 1st century. Amazingly, the entire bridge was built without mortar!
As we walked across the lower bridge to the other side, I came across some stone stairs. Though most of the group proceeded to the banks of the river to take pictures, Kate, Kendra, Liz and I decided to take the path less taken and climbed the stairs.
We soon found ourselves at the second level, and finally, the top of the aqueduct! We stood in the very place through which water once flowed on the bridge. Behind us was a long tunnel, about 50m long, carved out of the stone hillside. Though the sky was darkening, we decided to brave the walk to the other side. Once through, we snapped some pictures and followed a trail through the woods to get back to the aqueduct. It was an awesome 20-minute hike! We were all sad that we couldn’t continue through the trail – but dinner reservations awaited us, cutting the trip short.
After dinner, Jesus led a small group to an old Roman forum. Sadly, I could not go because I had to finish a paper. The call of grad school always beckons :)