We woke early to take the bus to Pont du Gard, the nearby Roman Aqueduct. We had bought tickets the day before from a quite blasé ticket girl; she gave us a rehearsed run-down of the bus and aqueduct ticket combo, circled the arrival and departure times on the bus schedule, and took our euros before settling back into her chair, nose shoved into her book. I found myself wanting to make a movie about her.
We stopped at a small bakery on the way to the bus station and Jesse got his first taste of French Café. The cup was so tiny and so cute! The French really do have much smaller portions than we do in the USA. We picked up a plain croissant and a chocolate croissant from two different bakeries to compare… so delicious and moist, very unlike the dry, vegetable-oil filled ones in the grocery stores back home. I wanted to eat many more! I was beginning to fall in love with French food and what I had seen of the French culture.
After eating our croissants on the steps across from the bus station, we headed off to find our platform and board. Our bus driver wasn’t very smiley, but he was helpful to us. He reminded me of a thinner, more handsome version of a middle-aged friend we had back home.
Riding the bus was a nice change from taking the train. It was nice to take the small roads and get a closer glimpse of some of countryside and neighboring towns. We passed a McDonald’s and I tried to take a picture of it, though we were a bit to far away to get a good shot. It still looked like a fast food restaurant, but I thought it looked a little more quaint than the ones I was accustomed to seeing along highways back home.
After about 40 minutes of driving, we got to our stop and hopped off after confirming our pick up times (there were only 2 since it was a Sunday) and pick up location with the driver. The walk from the roundabout to the entrance was a little longer than I thought it would be (~1/3 mile), but it was a beautiful, peaceful stroll, and it felt good to stretch our legs after riding the bus.
Before heading down to the aqueduct, we went through the museum at the entrance, as we wanted to appreciate the history of it before seeing it. We were blown away by the quality of the museum. It was incredible! I wanted to read everything in there. It did a fantastic job of leading us through the history/importance/development/social impact of aqueducts before delving into the science and the history specific to Pont du Gard. The content and layout of the museum was mind blowing; the signage, the artifacts, the stories, the audio/sound effects, displays did an incredible job demonstrating the important role of the aqueduct had while making it interesting and engaging. I felt like I was a part of history, living and experiencing it in person.
We got so sucked into the museum and had made it just over halfway through before we glanced at our watches and realized that it was already 11:30am (~2.5 hours after we arrived) and we wanted to take the 13:20 bus back so we could see the Palace of the Popes. We skipped the rest of the displays and rushed down to the aqueducts, passing by some big, beautiful olive trees on the way. I’d never seen an olive tree before, and now I wanted one of my own. After this, I started noticing olive plants everywhere in Provence, including potted ones near doorways.
The aqueduct was amazing! So impressive and beautiful (I need a larger vocabulary, because I feel like I’m using the same adjectives over and over again). The Romans were geniuses. Seriously. They set out to conquer the world and intended to keep it, so they built big and built to last. They were proud and smart and probably knew more about physics than most of us today. They utilized only gravity/friction/pressure to hold this incredible structure together (no mortar) and it still stands 2000 years later. It’s crazy to think about, really. 2000 years have gone by and the impact the Romans have had on the world is still so blatant and clear. People still know their name, use parts of their language, phrases from their language, their science, calendars, etc. I can’t help but wonder if they knew they were changing the world forever, of if they were more focused on the present/near future. In any case, experiencing a bit of the 2000 year old aqueduct in this way was truly and amazing and humbling experience. To stand where others have stood thousand of years ago, to be reminded that humanity is as old as creative as it is (though this really wasn’t that long ago, in light of how old humanity is), is a wonderful feeling. I am a part of something much bigger than I realize and it is so good to be reminded of that.
After hiking around the base for a bit, we decided to soak our feet in the water. It was cold, but refreshing and made Jesse want to stay and swim, though I was hesitant because the second and last bus of the day didn’t leave until close to 19:00 and I didn’t think we’d be able to stay entertained for that long. I reluctantly ended up giving in to Jesse’s wishes though, and we hiked back up the hill to cross over the aqueduct/bridge and get to the other side where the “beach” area was. As we crossed, a tiny go-cart style ambulance rolled past us to rescue a tourist who appeared to have collapsed from heat stroke or dehydration. I thought it was kind of cute. 🙂
There were a lot of tourists on the bridge and it was fun listening to the conversations and many languages, though on conversation in general stood out to us. There was a middle-aged British couple walking together, necks bent awkwardly as they stared at the structure above. The woman loudly exclaimed in wonder, “How the fuck did they hew those massive stones?!” to which her husband replied in equal wonder, “God knows!” Jesse and I chuckled about that for awhile, and also felt a little self righteous for having gone to museum and now knowing just how the Romans had hewed/moved the stones. Everywhere we’d been, it seemed like the English tourists were the loudest and most obnoxious (we heard maybe one American accent the entire trip). I wonder if they’re the ones giving Americans a bad reputation. 🙂 However, I couldn’t tell if they seemed obnoxious in comparison with the Dutch/German/Italian/French/Spanish etc just because they were the only conversations I could actually understand. Eh. Who knows. Anyway, the view from the top of the bridge was lovely and I was beginning to look forward to plunging into the cool water after doing a little bit more exploring now that we had plenty of time to spare and weren’t rushing to catch the 13:20 bus.