From Toulouse we made our way east towards the walled city of Carcasonne – a UNESCO World Heritage site. We have played the board game, Carcasonne, so the kids were familiar with the name, but I don’t think they ever quite anticipated how truly magical it is. Walking along the walls and ramparts was absolutely wonderful, but as many others before us have pointed out, the central part of the city is completely overrun with tourist shops selling all manner of things. The kids were highly critical of this, but when I asked them what should otherwise be there, no simple answer was put forward. We talked about the need for a city such as that to generate revenue in order to maintain itself and there was subsequently general agreement that perhaps capitalizing on the tourist trade might be the only viable option.
I had suggested that we might want to carry our rain coats with us, as the skies looked somewhat threatening in the distance. While we fortunately didn’t need them while walking, no sooner had we climbed back into the car that the heavens opened up in biblical fashion. I don’t think any of us had ever seen anything like it; apparently it was a record rainfall with a half a year’s rain being dumped within a few hours. It just went on and on. And so we crawled along the highway at 20 km/h.
We finally got through and arrived at Avignon where we stayed with our next Servas hosts. Paul and Perrine had visited us in Toronto last year (mom, you met them at the time) and so we were thrilled to be able to spend a most enjoyable evening reconnecting. Paul graciously served as our tour guide the next day. We climbed up onto the Pont d’Avignon and, of course, Eva and I danced a little jig together. We then walked around the Palais des Papes, the residence of the popes when they temporarily lived outside of Rome in the 1300s. For all the time that I have spent in Provence, I had never visited either of these two places and so thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay.
Just before leaving, Perrine showed us a restoration piece she was working on. She is an expert at pottery and ceramic restoration and was working to repair a 4,000 BC Egyptian sarcophagus. It was absolutely stunning – so talented!
We backtracked a little to visit the Pont du Gard which is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site. Part of a 50 km-long aqueduct system built by the Romans to deliver water to Nimes (or Nemausus as the Romans knew it), the Pont du Gard is a huge bridge that forms part of the system. Amazingly, over the whole length of the aqueduct, it only drops 17 m in height and the Pont itself only declines 2.5 cm. Again, another awesome sight and a good learning for the kids.