We departed Carcassonne via train to head deeper into southern France and into Provence, the region of our second host farm.
The train ride took us through the coastal town of Montpellier, and deeper into the quintessentially provencal landscape of terraced vineyards, olive groves, and narrow stands of cypress.
In Avignon, we had the opportunity to stay for a few days with friends of Patrick's parents, Jean Paul and Colette, who generously took us in and showed us around the region. We explored Avignon on our own a bit, and enjoyed the narrow streets and dramatic presence of the papal palace.
Colette played tour guide during our stay. A trip to the nearby town of Arles gave us our first introduction to the Roman history of the region, as the town center of Arles is dominated by the ruins of its Roman roots. Built in the year 90 A.D., the bone-white shell of the Roman amphitheater is well-preserved. A modern steel stadium was inserted into the relic, enabling the structure to be used to this day as a popular forum for bullfights, plays, and concerts during the summer season.
Colette also took us to see the Pont du Gard, an ancient roman aqueduct bridge that served as support for a 50k aqueduct system built to bring water to the settlement of Nîmes (Nemausus).
The structure was built from a local sandstone whose rough texture enabled it to be constructed entirely without mortar. Precisely cut stones were inscribed with location and building instructions, leaving marks which can still be seen today.
Pont du Gard is the highest Roman aqueduct bridge standing today, and is a major tourist draw of the region. Indeed, the scale of the structure is most impressive.
One of our favorite experiences of our stay in Avignon was our visit to Carrières de Lumières, or Quarries of Light. These quarries are a beautiful example of post-industrial reuse. For hundreds of years, limestone was extracted here to build the neighboring medieval city of Les Baux, until the quarries were closed to mining activity in the 1930s. In the 1960s and 1970s, the stark, dramatic beauty of the limestone voids inspired French artists, filmmakers, and scenographers to use the space as an integrated, immersive canvas for their work.
Since 2011, the space has been open to the public for a series of exhibits that combine projected images and music for a unique gallery experience. The current exhibit, Klimt and Vienna: A Century of Gold and Colors, explores the work of Gustav Klimt and the artists who were influenced by him.
When leaving the darkened, illuminated gallery, visitors are also able to walk through a portion of the quarry that has been left virtually unchanged. In it's form and scale, it is easy to see that which inspired the early artists.
After four days in Avignon enjoying the company of our hosts and visits to the region, we were happy to get back on the road for a bit of biking. On the 52k trek from Avignon to our second host farm, we enjoyed the hilly roads and our first clear views of Mont Ventoux.
We knew we were traveling through one of France's most celebrated wine regions, and made sure to make the time stop for a bit of wine tasting!
We arrived at La Bergerie in the early afternoon, and were greeted by the two long-term WWOOFers, Suzanne and Alaine. We had a couple days to get to know them before our hosts Jillian and Patrice arrived from Canada. Met with a warm welcome and genuine hospitality, we are looking forward to calling La Bergerie home for the next few weeks.